What we are saying here is that a blessing will be shown. He is blind, but Jesus is about to do the works of His Father and that will manifest a blessing. But, it depends upon how you translate that text. As I say, if we said, “So that the work of God might be displayed in his life, we must do the work of Him who sent Me,” then there is not that immediate connect.
As I go on here, Jesus says in verse four, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” What He is alluding to is that we have a short window of time. We must recognize the very short window of opportunity that we have on this planet. I am fond of saying to people that there are many things we will do in heaven but two of the things we will never ever be able to do again is share the Gospel with people who do not know Christ and secondly to help people in desperate need. We will never have that opportunity again.
So, it is important to realize that you have an arena of influence and an opportunity now to become a manifestation, an agent, an ambassador, of the King and to be one who is a “harbinger of reconciliation,” as it says in 2 Corinthians five. Jesus goes on to say, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Again, it is that same theme we saw in chapter eight, verse 12, “I am the light of the world.”
We can imagine at this point, then, the whole festival, focusing on light, is something He is really leveraging and using. Continuing, “When He had said this, He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and applied the clay to His eyes.”
I have a couple of thoughts on this. One thing is that blindness was a good deal more prevalent than you might suppose. They didn’t cure, and they didn’t have treatments that we have today and also it would be easy to contract a disease through dirty water and pollutants. Blindness, then, was much more prevalent than it is now, but secondly, it was also much more debilitating.
Today, if a person is blind there are resources. You have Braille, for example, and other things to be used that can help them, seeing-eye dogs for example. In that culture, however, you did not have work, you did not have a position and it was almost like an assignment of death. You were worse off than if you were a paralytic. It was an awful condition in that culture. You had to be completely dependent and, in this case, with his parents. So, Jesus takes this spittle and applies it to His eyes.
I find that to be interesting because this spittle was actually associated, by the way, with renowned people. There was enormous superstition surrounding the spittle of a renowned person. It was regarded as having magical properties at that time. There was a lot of superstition. Think about this. Without any medical aid, it would be easy to form superstitions about which a person could be healed, especially if you could find something that was an authenticated healing like this can be authenticated.
He spits down on the ground, made clay from that spittle and applied it to His eyes and then, in verse seven, “Said to him, ‘Go wash in the pool of Siloam’, (which is translated, Sent).” This is significant here because Jesus, by the way, is described as the One who is sent by God. Chapters four, five, seven and eight all say, “Here is a man sent by God.” So, the One who was sent sends him to the Sent.
You see the idea? He sends him to the place called Sent. There is a play on words going on here. A blind man is told to wash in a place called Sent by the One who was sent by God. The point is that Jesus is the source of his healing, not the pool. This pool of Siloam, by the way, was the only internal spring of water that they had in the city of Jerusalem and it was made possible after Hezekiah redirected the Gihon spring, which was outside the city wall at that time.
They dug this tunnel, Hezekiah’s water tunnel, through into the city. It was almost a mile long, which was an amazing feat. Has anyone ever gone through that tunnel? It is a very strange experience I’ve heard. The tunnel is not big and sometimes you have to crouch as it really narrows. In any case, this was a brilliant undertaking because it made it possible for the people of Jerusalem to withstand a long siege. A water supply was absolutely critical in that kind of culture.
So, we have this portrait, then, of a man who goes, and it says, “He went away and washed, and came back seeing.” Now, remember that he hasn’t even seen Jesus yet. “He went away, washed and came back seeing.” It reminds me of the story of Naaman and Elijah. Remember that Naaman comes down and Elijah didn’t even bother to come out and meet him. Instead, he sends his servant out there and tells him to dip in the Jordan River seven times. The guy was outraged. He was a powerful captain of the Assyrians. Naaman at least thought Elijah would come out and wave his arms around and heal him as if by magic.
Here is the point. The servant merely told him to try it out. Can you imagine the first time he dips himself? He probably felt like a fool. Even the fourth, fifth or sixth times, too. Nothing happens, but the seventh time he comes out and his skin is like a baby’s. He then goes back and tries to pay Elijah for healing him. Elijah refused, of course, and told him, “Grace cannot be purchased.”
And so, there is an analogy here. Here is a man who at least went away and did as He said. That is the first part of the narrative, then, the healing of the blind man. Then the second part of the narrative is found in verses 8 through 34. This is the interrogation and here we see four basic moves. In verses 8 through 12 their neighbors are involved. Then in 13 through 17 it is the Pharisees and then the parents are called in, in verses 18 through 23. Then, after his parents, we go to the man himself and he is interrogated before the Pharisees. Again, each of these things makes the case stronger and stronger.
The natural question would be, is this the same guy that was born blind? Secondly, was he really blind to begin with? His parents authenticate this. Who is this Jesus? After all, He healed on what day? The Sabbath, that’s right. If He were of God, why would He heal on the Sabbath? Actually, as we have seen, that was not a violation of the Torah. It was a violation of human tradition. But they were so wrapped up in their human traditions that they virtually elevated that above grace and were more concerned that He violated their particular tradition than the fact that a man was healed. We have seen this before in the Gospels, where He is challenged again and again.
Chapter five is reminiscent of that discourse. Let’s take a look at the neighbors, by going back to verses 8 through 12. “Therefore, the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, ‘Is not this the one who used to sit and beg’?” It is a question of identity. Is this the right guy? We have seen him all his life. “Others were saying, ‘This is he’, still others were saying, ‘No, but he is like him’. He kept saying, ‘I am the one’.” You can just see the doubt; is this a setup here? The poor guy kept saying, “I am the one,” but they are completely ignoring him. “So, they were saying to him, ‘How then were your eyes opened’? If you are the one, how could your eyes have been opened? You were born blind; how could it be that your eyes were opened? “He answered, ‘The man who is called Jesus made clay’.” At this point that is all he knows about him. Remember that he has not seen Jesus yet. All he knows is the name. “He made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed and I received sight.”
I would have loved to have been there. Wouldn’t it be great to see a man who was born blind and suddenly could see? We have heard about people who have lost their sight and regained it, but here is a man who has never seen at all. It reminds me of the Mark chapter eight healing. Turn back to that for a moment and we see a two-stage process that took place.
Really, in a way, it would require two miracles. “When they came to Bethsaida,” in Mark 8:22, “they brought a blind man to Jesus and implored Him to touch him. Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes,” and here we have that spittle imagery again, “He asked him, ‘Do you see anything’? And he looked up and said, ‘I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around’.”
That is the first stage. Actually, it is quite possible because if a man were truly blind, he would be able now to see, but his problem would be his cognitive perception. The brain has not been attuned to see and shape those forms. It would be simply chaotic. So, there is a second stage in this miracle. “Then again, He laid His hands on his eyes and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. And He sent him to his home, saying, ‘Do not even enter the village’.”
I know of one ophthalmologist who came to faith by reading that text because there is no way the ancient world would understand that two-stage procedure. What are your thoughts about that? Do you find it to be intriguing? I just find it to be astounding. In any event, this is a marvelous image that we have, the miracle is not only of the ability to see but then there is the cerebral functioning that is required to make sense out of what you are seeing. That is exactly what happens.
So, going back to our text, “They said to him, ‘Where is He’? He said, ‘I don’t know’.” He has no clue as to where Jesus is. The first thing that we see here is that they are asking the wrong question. Instead of ‘how’, it should have been ‘who’. Who is this One? They were focusing more on the manner of the healing and missing the message of the healing. You know, Jesus did it in different ways. He healed two blind men by touching their eyes and on by putting spittle on his eyes. Though the healing power is the same, He can vary His message and methods. God has a way of doing things in unique ways.
Let’s continue on to the next part and look at what the Pharisees say. “They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind.” Now John raises this point, “Now it was a Sabbath on the day Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.” That is their focal concern, the violation of their particular law. “Then the Pharisees were also asking him again how he received his sight.
And he said to them, ‘He applied clay to my eyes, I washed, and I see’.” He is giving the same answer over and over again. “Therefore, some of the Pharisees were saying, ‘This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath’.” So, we see that there is going to be a division here. “But others were saying, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs’? And there was a division among them.”
In other words, if this man were a sinner, God could not do such an amazing thing. The question now becomes, is this the right guy? Was he certifiably blind and if so, how can we authenticate that? Now, “They said to the blind man again, ‘What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes’? That is an interesting thought, isn’t it? People were divided among themselves, so they asked him what do you conclude? So, “He said, ‘He is a prophet’.” First, He was a man called Jesus.
Now he concludes he is a prophet. In other words, there is no way that a man who is a sinner could have done what He did. Now, they didn’t go for that either, but the point is that it was an upsetting and challenging concept to the religious leaders, but they were blinded by their bias and they sought to discredit the miracle, assuming that somehow Jesus had switched beggars.
And so, it goes on to say, “The Jews did not believe it of him that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who received his sight.” Now they want to prove that this is not the real ‘McCoy’ and “They questioned them saying, ‘Is this your son who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?” His parents were smart enough to know that they were being put into a box because they are afraid of being thrown out of the synagogue if they say something that is displeasing to the leaders. “His parents answered them and said, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind.” You notice how cautious they are? These are irrefutable statements. “But how he now sees, we do not know. Ask him, he is of age, he will speak for himself.” So, they put it right back on their son, because “His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be the Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.”
You see the problem we have in the Scriptures, again and again, is the problem of fearing other people. Isn’t that true? Go back with me to chapter seven, verse 13. Look at that verse, it says, yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews.” Then jump ahead to chapter 12 and verse 42 and you will see this same motif: “Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue.” So, there was a tremendous power that they wielded over people, the power or the authority to more or less ex-communicate them and bar them from fellowship in the religious community.
You know though, as Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare.” I love Jeremiah chapter 17 because there it tells us that, “Blessed are those who fear the Lord, but cursed are those who fear men.” Those who fear men will stumble. It is a good thing to fear God, and that is why I tell people that you cannot seek to be pleasing to God and impressive to people at the same time. You see what I am saying? You will either play to an audience of one, or you will play to an audience of many that are invisible. So, we are called to decide the audience to whom we play.
It makes all the difference in the world. If you are doing it to be pleasing to God, and that is your fear and that is your hope, that will be a far, far more powerful thing because the focus of your heart is on the spiritual need and the eternal. But, if you are doing it to impress people, the fear of man will snare you and you will live just for the present moment and you do not have the fear of God.
The problem we have and let’s be very frank about this, don’t we in practice often have a greater concern about what people will think if they caught us doing something than in what God would think? Think about it. We look around before we do something stupid. The fact is that at least we gave intellectual lip service to the idea that God is omniscient in the present and knows our thoughts through and through.
But, we don’t act upon that. That is why there is a power, by the way, in the idea of confessing your sins to one another or having accountability. There is something powerful about that because if a person invites another to hold him or her accountable and they have given that person freedom to do that, there can be a greater concern about that because at least that is visible and palpable.
That is why accountability can be an effective thing.
Yes, it keeps coming back to the man’s testimony at the end of the day. But, here is the important point. The Pharisees are now at the point where the parents have demonstrated the truth and they can no longer say he is a look-alike. They cannot also now say that this guy was not always blind. Now it is certifiable and now they have the problem of putting it back on him and he will give testimony and he will not deny what he knows. In spite of the fact that there is a great fear, the man will stand firm on what he knows to be true and not waver.
But, that was a test for him. Here is the thing; when you commit yourself to Christ there will be potential consequences of persecution and so forth. Jesus makes this clear in John 15. So, there is always going to be, in your life and in mine, a period of testing to see if we will confess Him before other people. That is part of the idea. He stands firm and will not deny what he knows to be true.
The point is that the Pharisees can no longer write this off; now they can’t just say the guy was a sinner and couldn’t have been a prophet. Let’s continue in our story. In verse 24, “A second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him,” and this establishes the fact that they have the right guy and that he was blind, but here is what they do. They put words in his mouth: “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” In other words, agree with us. This is what you must confess. In other words, if you don’t say this, you are out of here. You see the point? They were effectively asking him to deny this man.