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The Blind Man Of John Chapter 9

INTRODUCTION: I have been drawn to the story of the blind man in John's gospel for many years, and I decided to use this MPN to collect and share some of my thoughts about this story of personal interest to me as a blind man myself. Exodus 4:11 "And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?"

The condition which caused my blindness, is retinitis pigmentosa, and at age 56 I have only an unreliable light perception remaining. Before the severe decline of my eyesight in my late twenties, I wore glasses to correct for myopia and astigmatism. My night vision was always very poor, my field of vision restricted, and when I was old enough to take my driving test, I could not pass the eye exam. I had been able to see colors, assembled electronic kits as a hobby, used a rifle for target practice into my early twenties, was able to read print into my mid twenties, and have been continuously employed since the age of eighteen. This personal detail is provided as backdrop for my perspective of comparison with the man in this MPN, who was blind from birth, in an age which had no sophisticated programs, aids, or appliances for the blind for personal or occupational use. The blind man is not the true "focus" of this MPN, but rather Christ. I hope to provide some "insights" about "blindness" from my "point of view" regarding John chapter nine. Those who have known me for some time, may be able to picture me with my tongue peeking from the left corner of my mouth, signifying that my last comment had perhaps just a bit of irony for humor.

The three synoptic gospels describe a variety of individuals, and numbers of the blind being healed by Jesus, whereas in John's gospel we have only one record. Examples of indefinite numbers include Matthew 21:14 "And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them." Luke 7:21 "And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight." The mode of the healing in the individually described cases in the other gospels took various forms, but John's account has some other very interesting qualities, the nature of which, are characteristic of John's writing style.

John 9:1-2, KJV

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

COMMENTS: As Jesus and his disciples walk away from the temple, he sees a blind man, and apparently his disciples know that this man has been blind from birth, because they make that assertion in their question to Jesus. Their question also reveals that for some reason they believe the blindness is a consequence of a personal sin. It is interesting to note that if they think it may be the man's sin rather than that of his parents, he would have committed it before he was born, since he was born blind; or perhaps they felt his blindness was in anticipation of a sin yet uncommitted by an unborn child. In verse 34 of this chapter, we learn that the Pharisees (leaders who influence religious opinion in the Jewish community) believed the blind man had been born in sin, and therefore are offended that he might be able to teach them something of spiritual matters. The assessment of a punitive quality in the trials and burdens of others has not been lost over the centuries since the time of Job's "friends". The sect of the Pharisees, by the Hebrew root of their name, were separatists. The last three letters of Pharisee in English coincidentally are quite fitting "see", because they saw themselves as separate from others by their own perceived righteousness, and they were very conscious of what others observed them doing in public view. Scripture records that Jesus was very critical of the self-righteous attitude of such Pharisees, and their desire to be seen of men. Matthew 6:1-2 "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward." Luke 16:15 "And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God."

John 9:3, KJV

3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

COMMENTS: Jesus tells his disciples that the blindness is not a direct result of sin by this man or his parents, but in fact, that very blindness will allow the works of God to be shown in the man. Later in this narrative, the blind man will have some important things to say about that work done by Jesus. In my personal case, it is not the healing of physical blindness WHICH God used for his glory. The loss of eyesight, which is generally dreaded, caused me to have fears, doubts, and questions about a loving God. But when I reached the end of my own resources to deal with the difficult issues I faced, I asked God to take control of my life with a most meager faith for a good outcome, and he gave me eternal life! Since that time in 1974, he has sustained me with many blessings, and even some opportunities produced in relationship to the blindness. I am so thankful to have eternal life, which is far better than gaining everything the world has to offer physically or materially. Matthew 16:26 "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Jesus does all things well!

John 9:4, KJV

4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

COMMENTS: This phrase spoken by Jesus, "night cometh when no man can work", appears only in John's gospel, and it adds to the emphasis on God's purposes for the miraculous healing. In earlier chapters of John's gospel, we find these work references: John 4:34 "Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.", and John 5:17 "But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." The miraculous works of healing were part of the verification of his authority as god, to grant the gift of eternal life, which transcends any temporal physical healing. But also, his loving concern for those who suffered physically is a model for Christians, for our works of mercy and compassion while we are still in this world. Another passage reminds us, John 6:27 "Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. The conclusion to our work, and the reward for that which is profitable, will come from our Lord.

John 9:5, KJV

5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

COMMENTS: This statement concerning being the light of the world has a spiritual connotation that eclipses our physical sense to perceive light, and therefore is available even to the physically blind without the need for them first to receive eyesight. Jesus said the Christian also gives light, Matthew 5:14 "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid." Christians should bear witness of the light we have, as did John the Baptist because it is not our light, but John 1:9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. All men begin in darkness, but remaining in that darkness is condemnation. John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. Receiving the light -- is far superior to only receiving sight. John 8:12 "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." John 12:46 "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness." 2 Corinthians 4:4 "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."

John 9:6-7, KJV

6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, 7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

COMMENTS: There are parallel accounts in the synoptic gospels of the healing of a few blind men, however, John's gospel records only this one instance of the healing of a blind man, and it does not seem to be paralleled in the other gospels. This account is also distinctive because it is the only one in all four gospels, of a man stated to have been born blind, and there is no indication that anyone asked Jesus to heal this man, including the man himself.

Apparently the discussion between Jesus and his disciples has taken place very near the blind man, as they refer to "this man". Also, from verse 11 below, the blind man knows his healer is named Jesus, but from his further comments, he does not seem to have previously concluded Jesus to be the Christ. Jesus applies the clay, the man goes to wash as instructed, and then returns with his eyesight. Having been born blind, the man may have developed good mobility skills in familiar areas with good "trailing" layouts, as a crowded city would contain. He may also have touched many surfaces within his reach over the years, thus gaining some mental picture of his closest surroundings. The return trip from the pool would have been quite different, and possibly a little confusing as he saw many sights high and low which he had never seen or touched before, including glorious color, which totally escapes the experience of one born blind.

However, this was a miraculous healing, and it is possible that he instantly adapted to having this precious sense, as if he had always seen all of the varied sights, which surrounded him. The man of John 5 who had been bed-ridden for 38 years, immediately took up his mat and walked with no gradual strengthening of his muscles, and no protracted learning of the balance and coordination skills necessary for walking.

John 9:8-14, KJV

8 The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? 9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. 10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? 11 He 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. 12 Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not. 13 They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. 14 And it was the Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.

COMMENTS: Neighbors, and others who had seen this man beg as a blind man, were very surprised that he now had sight. There even was some disagreement among them whether this was the man who had been blind, but the blind man spoke for himself, to say he was the man. They then asked how he was able to see, and he related what a man named Jesus (not referring to him as Lord or Christ) had done. The fact that those familiar with the blind man had to question him about the means of his healing, may indicate that the transaction between Jesus and this blind man had been very low-profile, which was a manner Jesus used in other accounts when he told the healed party not to spread the word. The healing also did not take place until after the blind man had left Jesus and made his way to the pool as Jesus had instructed.

When the blind man could not tell them where Jesus was, they took the man to the Pharisees. The gospel writer tells us that the healing was done on a Sabbath, and the blind man describes the application of clay by Jesus, in his explanation to these people, as he will also do when he speaks to the Pharisees.

John 9:15-16, KJV

15 Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. 16 Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

COMMENTS: When the FORMER blind man explains the steps leading to his healing, the major point raised is that the Sabbath was broken, probably by the simple act of making and applying the clay. It is likely that those who brought him to the Pharisees, had the Sabbath question in mind. The one who "spoke" the world into existence possibly made the clay salve, not for curative properties, but specifically to raise this issue since the critics were not witnesses of the healing. The gospels record a number of healings on the Sabbath, but some of those are with no physical work by Jesus as part of the healing, yet still the healings drew objections. The man at the pool of Bethesda, in John 5, did carry is bed after being healed in response to the word of Jesus, and the man was criticized for that action on the Sabbath.

Some "Sabbath healings" are in Mark 1:21-27, Luke 6:6-11, Luke 13:10-17, Luke 14:1-4, and then there is expanded teaching about healing on the Sabbath, in the verses which follow in Luke 14. This issue causes a division among the Pharisees, but those who hold the "strict Sabbath" view seem to control the rest of the interview with the "former" blind man. The topic of Jesus today still causes sharp division, and often those with more power or influence are on the wrong side of the issue.

Such division should be expected because our Lord said, in Matthew 10:34-36 "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." and Luke 12:49-51 "I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:".

John 9:17-23, KJV

17 They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet. 18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. 19 And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? 20 His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: 21 But 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. 22 These 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. 23 Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.

COMMENTS: The Pharisees may be showing just a little frustration with this interview, as they now ask the blind man for an opinion about the identity of Jesus, and then seek further proof that he had actually been blind, by calling for his parents. They also try to bring the parents into the discussion about how he received his sight, and apparently the blind man is not present during this discussion (se verse 24). The gospel writer provides the motivation for the approach taken by the parents. They are very factual, verifying that this is their son, who was born blind and now sees; but they do not want to be part of any discussion about how it came about for fear of synagogue sanctions.

John 9:24-29, KJV

24 Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. 25 He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. 26 Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? 27 He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? 28 Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples. 29 We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.

COMMENTS: Now the frustration is heating up as they call the former blind man back again, and put pressure on him through their strong statement from their position of authority, to speak against Jesus. The man is not intimidated into agreeing with their charge that Jesus is a sinner, and replies with the simple truth that he was blind, and now he can see. They told him to give God the praise, and that is precisely what he does with his claim that Jesus healed him! They have no real charge against Jesus, but they press again at the same point of how the healing was done. The man is somewhat sharp with his reply, perhaps indicating a little frustration of his own, as he puts a question to them. Now the Pharisees are getting really hot, as the term "revile" indicates they begin to denounce this man in abusive, bitter words, accompanying their actual recorded comments. Then they state their reverence for Moses, and discount Jesus.

John 9:30-34, KJV

30 The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. 31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. 32 Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33 If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. 34 They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

COMMENTS: The FORMER blind man solidifies his position of support for Jesus, before these religious leaders, as he expresses his incredulity at there inability or unwillingness to see or acknowledge the obvious. He considers his healing as quite unique; stating that it has not been heard since the beginning of the world, that one blind from birth had been given sight. Here is a man who has no hesitation to engage learned men in debate about spiritual matters, and he is one who many would believe would not have such ability because he had been blind from birth. He had courage as well as clear thought. The final response by the Pharisees demonstrates another poor judgment on their part as they declare that he had been born altogether {wholly, completely} in sin, and then they cast him out of the synagogue. If only they could grasp the truth that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, they would be better prepared to receive their spiritual sight through the light of the gospel.

John 9:35-38, KJV

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? 36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? 37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. 38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.

COMMENTS: These four verses contain some important emotional exchange between the shepherd and one of his lost sheep. When Jesus heard that the man had been put out of the synagogue, he sought him out, because he had something more precious than eyesight to offer. When Jesus asks whether he believed in the Son of God, the man asks who that is, and Jesus replies that he has both seen him, and is talking with him. This is a clear-cut claim of Jesus to be the Messiah, as the term son of God, designates for the Jew. This is now the first time the former blind man has seen Jesus face to face. The man then confesses with his mouth, believes in his heart, and outwardly worships him. There is no indication of a concern on this man's part that he has been put out of the synagogue; or that he now is not a blind beggar, and has no trade to make his living.

John 9:39-41, KJV

39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. 40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? 41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

COMMENTS: Jesus has said in another place, they that are whole do not need a physician, and again, that he had come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness; but if we say we have no sin, we make him to be a liar! A strong religious affiliation, or long heritage, does not save anyone. Romans 11 "7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded." 2 Corinthians 3 "4 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ." So, the answer for those who ask if they also are blind, depends on what they will do with Jesus. And apparently some did believe, even though it was hard for them to make a clean break from their religious group.

John gives us some summary thoughts about light, sight, and personal response, in a later chapter of his gospel. John 12:36-43 "While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."

So, whether you have eyesight or not, we all need the "light of the world" to guide us to the healing of our souls by faith in him alone. Since the light of truth has come into the world for all to see, those who do not believe that they are spiritually blind, will therefore fail to receive their sight from the giver of light and life, and will remain in their sin.

--- Reflections in prayer ---

Lord, there is so much I do not understand about the affairs of men, and the work of the Holy Spirit in this fallen world. Thank you for the light of the gospel of Christ to help my understanding, as in similar manner, a man once said, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief." You have said you desire mercy, not sacrifice, and I fall in adoration before you Jesus, asking for continued mercy in my life, wholly independent of my works, except that I do your will. As it is written, "it is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saves us." Guard my heart from unholy judgments about the conditions and circumstances of others, and guide me daily into any acts of mercy or compassion, which you provide for me to do for others, as I wait for the coming of the LORD. Amen.

Published 2 June 2004, first issued 2 February 2003