Scripture reading – John 9

John 8 marked a dramatic shift in Jesus’ life and ministry. He had enjoyed a great following among the Jews, and great crowds received Him with joy as news of His teachings and miracles traveled throughout Israel and beyond. Many wondered if He was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. For the religious rulers, the following Jesus enjoyed was intolerable. They revealed their hatred when they picked “up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:59).

A Theological Portrait of Compassion and Grace (9:1)

As He departed the Temple, Jesus passed a blind man who became the central figure of a theological showdown between Jesus and His enemies (John 9). Evidencing the compassion and grace of a loving Savior, “He saw a man which was blind from his birth” (9:1).

There are 54 references to physical blindness in the Scriptures. Blindness was a common malady in Jesus’ day for several reasons: Environmental (poor diet and the brightness of the desert sun); physical injury (irritation of desert sands, accidents, or a victim of violence); disease (especially sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea, a result of promiscuous behavior, but also contributed to infant blindness); and genetic birth defects. 

A Theological Problem: “Who Did Sin?” (9:2-7)

With no social or welfare programs, the blind were dependent on family and charity, and often reduced to begging. The presence of blind beggars in prominent places, such as near the Temple, was a common sight. Because Jews in the first century culture often believed physical maladies were a consequence of personal or familial sin, the blind were commonly treated with disdain. Thus, seeing the blind man, the disciples asked Jesus: “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2).

A Theological Purpose (9:3-7)

Jesus’ answer must have stunned the disciples, for He stated, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (9:3). Jesus continued, and explained the man was born blind, but not as a punishment for sin. He was blind so that his life might serve as a backdrop for God’s miraculous works through His Son (9:4). The LORD then stated, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (9:5). Then, Jesus made a poultice of His spittle mixed with clay, and “anointed the blind man’s eyes” (9:6). He then sent him to “wash in the pool of Siloam” (9:7a).

An Inquisition (9:7-15)

Imagine the joy and excitement when the blind man “went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (9:7b). His neighbors were astonished he could see! Knowing he was blind from birth (9:8a), they questioned among themselves, “Is not this he that sat and begged?” (9:8b)

There are many things about the healing of the blind man that arrest our attention. For instance, there were some who were so bewildered, they debated whether or not he was the blind beggar. “Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him” (9:9). Exasperated with the debate, the man declared, “I am he” (9:9). In other words, I was that blind beggar!

Some asked, “How were thine eyes opened?” (9:10) The man “answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight” (9:11). Rather than rejoice that he had received sight, the people took him to the Pharisees who questioned, “how he had received his sight” (9:15). He again answered, “He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see” (9:15).

An Accusation (9:14, 16-34)

The Pharisees refused to see the blind man’s healing as a miracle, and a sign Jesus was the Christ. Instead, they accused Jesus of violating their interpretation of the Sabbath commandment (for Jesus had “made the clay, and opened [the] eyes” of the blind man on the Sabbath, 9:14; Exodus 20:8). They railed against the LORD, saying, “This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day” (9:16a). Still, there were others who asked, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?” (9:16b)

The sentiment of the people was divided, and they turned to the man that had been blind, and asked, “What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet” (9:17).

The Pharisees’ disdain for Christ moved them to ignore the evidence of the blind man’s healing (9:18-29). They questioned his parents who affirmed, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: 21But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself, 22These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (9:20-22).

Refusing to betray or deny the One who had given him sight, the man declared, “Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see” (9:25). He went on to declare what no man could deny, if Christ “were not of God, he could do nothing” (9:30-33). Vindictive and spiteful, the Pharisees condemned the man, saying, “Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out [i.e. out of the synagogue]” (9:34).

Closing thoughts – The disciples saw a blind, beggarly soul who was dependent upon charity, and was the object of contempt (9:2). Jesus, though, “saw a man” who had never seen the smile of his mother, or the beauty of a sunset (9:1). The Pharisees made the blind man an object of disdain, but Jesus saw his affliction, and an opportunity to glorify His Heavenly Father (9:3-4).

Think about it: If God can use spittle and clay to glorify Himself, surely He can use you and me to serve and glorify Himself (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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