9 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
(John 9:1-12 NIV)
John begins chapter nine by telling us that Jesus has moved on from the temple courtyard episode and those who wanted to stone Him for claiming to be God. John devotes an entire chapter to this interaction between Jesus, His disciples, the nameless blind man, and another run-in with the religious rulers, the Pharisees.
While John does not give their precise location, we know that Jesus and His disciples are in or around Jerusalem. We know this because Jesus tells the blind man to wash in the Pool Of Siloam, which is just outside the city walls of Jerusalem.
After Jesus’ last interaction with the religious rulers, Jesus could have easily stayed hidden or gone back to Galilee where life was simpler, safer, and out of the constant scrutiny and condemnation of the religious leaders. Jesus faced the adversity and continued to minister undeterred to those whom the Father pointed out.
John uses this story of the blind man to illustrate a common belief in Jewish culture: sickness equates to sin. If you’re sick, then someone has sinned. Jesus’ disciples ask Him a pertinent question about this man. Since the man had been blind since birth, how is it possible that it was his sin? Would it not have to be the man’s parents who had sinned?
Jesus surprises His disciples by explaining that it was neither the man nor his parents who had sinned. There is a third possibility – that innocent people suffer. In this case, Jesus says, this man’s blindness from birth allowed God’s goodness to be displayed. Jesus repeats His earlier statement that He is the light of the world (John 8:12).
Jesus then proceeds to spit on the ground, make some mud, then apply the mud to the man’s eyes. Jesus then instructs the man to go to the Pool of Siloam and wash the mud off. Jesus could have healed the man just by speaking to him, or by touching him. Jesus chose to test the man’s faith by telling him to wash in the pool.
As we contrast this story with the story of the lame man in John chapter 5, we see this man being obedient to Jesus’ instruction and not making any excuses. Also, there is no prerequisite of the pool waters needing to be stirred up by an angel for healing to take place. Also, Jesus healed this blind man in absentia versus the lame man in person.
Verses 8 -12 record the reaction of the ones who had known this blind man before Jesus healed him. John makes a point of some of his friends and neighbors not recognizing the man because of the enormity of the miracle. Nothing of this magnitude had ever been done before, so some were skeptical – this had to be another person because people blind from birth just don’t get their sight back. It was a physical impossibility in their day.
In verse 9, John picks up on the humor of the situation. While all the man’s friends and neighbors debate about whether this man was the same guy who was blind, the man is essentially saying, “Hey guys, I am right here – and yes, it was me and is me. I am one and the same man.” Just like Jesus’ testimony about Himself was ignored (John 8:12-13), this man’s testimony about himself is being ignored.
When the crowd finally gives up, they ask the man to tell his story. He says what he knows because he has not seen Jesus, the one who healed him. The man can only tell his story by faith and hearing, not by sight.
And so our story is like the blind man’s story – we believe by faith and hearing, not by sight. One day we will see Jesus, but for now, we walk in obedience and by faith. And like the blind man who now sees, we can share our testimony of what God has done for us. We might not have physical healing like the blind man, but we can experience spiritual healing and eternal life that God offers us through Jesus Christ.