“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” “How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded. 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.” “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said. They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided. Finally they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.” The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. (John 9:1-21, NIV)
The reaction of the disciples to the man who was born blind should seem unusual to us as we read. Did you notice that they didn’t even ask Jesus if He would heal the man? Instead, they questioned Jesus about the sin that caused his blindness.
The concern that it could have been the sin of his parents was likely related to the Mosaic Law where the sins of the fathers were passed down from generation to generation. (Ex 34:6-7) But if the man was born blind, how could it be his own sin that caused his blindness?
The disciple’s question reflected a teaching of the Pharisees which suggested that a fetus inside the womb had two inclinations – one to do good and one to do evil. In the case of a man born blind, he had chosen the evil inclination and the blindness was a result of his rebellion in the womb.
The response of Jesus denied all possibilities given by the disciples. It was not a particular sin that caused his birth defect. Instead, it was God who allowed the blindness so that Jesus might be glorified in the healing.
And so Jesus makes mud and smears it on the man’s eyes. Now, chances are, it was at this moment that the man could see. The problem was that he didn’t know it because he couldn’t open his eyes. They were covered with mud! And so, the man born blind never saw the person who healed him. Instead, he was instructed to go down to the Pool of Siloam. Again, this is unusual because it was not the nearest pool of water. In fact, it was a good distance away and the path was steep and difficult. But Jesus knew that since this was the feast of Tabernacles, the priests of the Temple and others involved in the celebration would all be at the Pool of Siloam filling jars with water. It was here that the greatest number of Jewish people would be present to witness the miracle. And so while they are filling jars, in walks a man with mud on his face and all eyes are on him.
He removes the mud and his blindness was washed away. But instead of rejoicing, the religious leaders begin an interrogation. And when they didn’t get a satisfying answer, they steal the man away and present him to the Pharisees.
Did you notice the focused attention on the fact that the man was born blind? The Pharisees even went as far as to interrogate the man’s parents about this fact. “Are you sure this is your son? Can you validate that he was born blind?”
And here is the reason this was such a big deal…this was a Messianic miracle! There were those who became blind who regained their sight but never had a man born blind been healed. That miracle, as the religious leaders well knew, had been reserved for the Messiah. They must validate the miracle and then they had to find the one responsible for the healing. But they had a problem. The healing had occurred on the Sabbath and the Pharisees had determined that this was not allowed.
Thus the dilemma: If they accept the miracle, they must admit the falsehood of their manufactured law to do so. If they reject the miracle, they must find something to discredit the healer because their own teaching made it clear that only one man could do what Jesus had done. In either case, they would have to relinquish control and allow humility to replace pride in order to accept the truth about Jesus. That is no accident. Jesus knew what He was doing.
And for you and I, the choice is the same. We can only follow Christ when we relinquish our own control and allow humility to lead our way. Pride will always prevent us from seeing the miracle of His redemptive work.
“Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33)