Be Changed: The Miraculous Healing of the Man Born Blind
Sunday School Lesson for November 3, 2002
Jesus and the Disciples Encounter the Man Born Blind (9:1-5)
The sign recorded here by John occurred in Jerusalem near the “Pool of Siloam” (v.7) in the southern section of the city. John indicates that Jesus and His men were apparently on their way to the temple on the Sabbath (v.14) and happened to notice “a man blind from birth.” What distinguished this individual from other blind men was that they somehow knew his blindness was congenital. While instances of blindness were very common in the orient, this is the only example of Jesus healing such blindness from birth (note Mark 10:46-52 where Jesus cured another blind person).
The question posed to Jesus by the disciples—“Rabbi, who sinned? —reveals that the situation presented a theological problem for the disciples. They wanted to know one thing, whose sin caused the man’s tragic condition—“this man or his parents?” (v.2). The disciples were like many at this time who believed that behind every form of physical suffering or distress there was a specific sin involved as the direct cause. It followed, then, that this man’s parents must have sinned and caused the blindness, or the man actually sinned while still in the womb (something many Rabbis taught as a distinct possibility!). Yet, notice how Jesus’ reply rules out either of the two options—“Neither this man nor his parents sinned” (v.3). The purpose for the blindness was in order that “the work of God might be displayed in his life.” In other words, the man’s blindness had occurred as a means to the glorification of God. Thus, this man’s present physical suffering had something to do with the secret plans and purposes of God that ultimately serve His sovereign intentions.
In verse 4 Jesus proclaimed to His disciples that while it is “day,” the work of the Father must be accomplished—“we must do the work of him who sent me.” By means of this seemingly accidental encounter with the blind man, the redemptive work of the Kingdom of God was being done. Yet, God’s work must be engaged in expeditiously since the nighttime is coming “when no one can work.” The categories of night and day, often employed in a metaphorical sense in John’s Gospel, bring the urgency of Christ’s mission to the forefront. This indicates that there is a specified time in which to accomplish God’s will. Following this “window of opportunity” the night will come and the time for working will end.
In verse 5, Christ makes the staggering claim that “I am the light of the world.” This provides a glimpse into the true significance of their encounter with the blind man. Note that this theme is repeated several times in this Gospel: 1:4; 8:12; 12:46. The point is that this man’s physical blindness represented a far greater blindness, inflicting not just one man but all of humanity as well. It is the blindness of the soul that characterizes all men and women apart from the saving grace of God (2 Cor. 4:4). Therefore, what Jesus was about to do for this man would display, in some glorious and mysterious way, what He can do for all those who believe in Him. In other words, Christ’s claim to be the light of the world will be powerfully verified by the miracle soon to come.
For purposes of application, several points may be highlighted:
The Healing of the Blind Man (vv.6-7)
At this point, Jesus proceeded to miraculously cure the blind man by making clay to apply to his eyes—“he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes” (v.6). This unusual action should be understood in light of the common belief held among Jews that saliva was efficacious for eye trouble. However, such medical intervention, which involved the making of clay, was interpreted as a violation of the Sabbath restriction against kneading dough. Nevertheless, Christ smeared the mixture on the man’s eyes and commanded him to “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (meaning “sent”), a water source located in the southwest corner of Jerusalem (compare this to the healings described in Mark 7:32-33 and 8:22-23 where Jesus also employed saliva). Apparently, this specific command was given in order to test the man’s faith—a common component of the New Testament miracle stories.
Verse 7 notes that the man followed the orders of Jesus and journeyed to the pool where he “washed.” Miraculously, the man “came home seeing.” It seems, then, that the connection between the healing and the journey to the pool is that it displayed the man’s simple faith in the Word of Jesus. Yet, as D. A. Carson reminds us, the power for the healing “came not from the obedience, nor from a pool called ‘Sent,’ but from the ‘sent one’ himself” .
From this section, two key points of application are noted: