Read John chapter 9.
In our last post from the book of John, Jesus’ disciples ask him why a man was born blind from birth. They open a dialogue about an age old question: Why is there suffering? (See Whose Sin Caused This (And does suffering prover there is no God?))
Concerning this man’s particular situation, Jesus answers his disciples directly: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” He then went on to say, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Night Is Coming
Jesus identifies himself as “the light of the world.” But he also told his followers that they too are the light of the world. (see Matthew 5:13-16) Are you a follower of Jesus? If you are then Jesus is speaking to you when he says, We must work while it’s day; night is coming. This has been on my mind a lot lately. Moses wrote that the years of our life are seventy, or maybe eighty at the outside. I have friends and family in their seventies and I’ve seen what happens when they arrive there. Their capabilities to work the works of God are seriously diminished. Life is short. After identifying the length of life in the seventy to eighty range Moses goes on to say that our years are soon gone, and then we fly away. (see Psalm 90:9-10) Night is coming, Jesus said. Night is coming for you, and night is coming for me. Night is coming for all of us. “Night is coming when no one can work.” So we must work the works of God while we still can. (see previous post Henry Rollins is Afraid to Die)
The next thing Jesus does is spit on the ground. He spits on the ground and makes some mud from the dust. He smears the mud on the man’s eyes. Then he tells him “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent, according to John 9:7).
Jesus The Creator
It’s strange that Jesus uses the dust of the earth to heal this man. When he heals other blind men, he does so without dust. Because this guy’s blindness was from birth, it makes me wonder if he was missing a few parts necessary for vision. Maybe Jesus needed to create some of those parts. I’m reminded of how “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground” in Genesis 2. I’m reminded of what John says about Jesus in chapter one of his book: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3) According to John, Jesus was and is the Creator. And the way he heals the man blind from birth, it would seem that he’s creating again.
A Blind Man’s Journey
So Jesus tells the blind man to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Imagine with me what this man is experiencing. The mud in his eyes had to be an irritation. And think of the journey he made, with his eyes burning all the way to that pool. Remember, he was still blind at this point. Maybe he didn’t have a guide. Maybe he had to find his way over there himself. So he’s feeling his way. And in his haste to rid himself of the irritating mud, he’s bumping into people, bumping into things. He’s walking right into obstacles because he can’t see. He’s blind.
But then he gets to where Jesus told him to go, and he does what Jesus told him to do. He washes in the water of the pool of Siloam, the name of which means Sent. Now imagine the difference this man feels as he walks away from that pool. The darkness is gone. Light floods everything around him. He once was blind but now he sees! Jesus, the light of the world, literally flooded this man’s world with light, because the man did what Jesus told him to.
Jesus A Man
The neighbors who knew him were saying: Isn’t this the guy who used to sit and beg? Others said, He looks like that guy, but it’s not him.
But the man kept saying: Hey everybody, it’s me!
So people are asking him: If it’s you then how were your eyes opened?
And he tells them: The man called Jesus made some mud and smeared it on my eyes and told me to go wash in the pool of Siloam. So I went and washed and now I see.
The people asked him: Where is this man Jesus?
Jesus A Prophet
He didn’t know where Jesus was, so the neighbors bring the healed man to the Pharisees. Unfortunately the Pharisees have a problem with what happened. It’s the Sabbath and they feel that one of their many rules was broken by whoever healed this man. After all, kneading dough was one of thirty-nine classes of work forbidden on the Sabbath, so, kneading clay mustn’t be permitted. They ask this guy how he received his sight. (Keener)
The guy says, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”
Some of the Pharisees said: The man who did this healing isn’t from God because he doesn’t keep the Sabbath.
But others said: How can a man who’s a sinner do such miracles?
There’s division among them. So they ask the formerly blind man: What do you say? You’re the one whose eyes he opened?
And the man answered: “He is a prophet.”
This is a real problem for most of the Pharisees because it doesn’t fit with their narrative about Jesus as someone who’s not from God. So they decide to see if they can make the facts fit their narrative. They decide they don’t believe that this is the man who was born blind. They summon the parents of the blind man with the hope that they’ll identify the man who now sees as someone other than their son. Today we see this all the time in politics. Some of my conservative friends look for facts that will support their narrative and ignore truth that contradicts it. And some of my liberal friends do the same. But the truth is, we should never be afraid of the truth. These Pharisees are afraid, afraid of the truth. They don’t like the way things are shaping up so they’re hoping for a means of leaving their narrative about Jesus undisturbed. And the blind man’s parents are the key to that hope.
They ask the parents: Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How is it that he sees?
But the parents are afraid of the Pharisees because they have the power to put someone out of the synagogue. Out of the synagogue means you’re on the outside. You’re social support is gone. You’re ostracized from friends and family. And there was no fifth amendment right in ancient Israel. These Pharisees could compel you to testify, whether you wanted to or not.
So the parents say: We know this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we have no idea. And we don’t know who healed him either. You should ask him. Legally he’s an adult. (Kathy says, the healed man’s parents threw him under the bus.)
So the Pharisees call in the healed man for a second time around. They say to him: Give glory to God because we know this man is a sinner.
The man answers: “Whether he’s a sinner I don’t know. What I do know is that though I was blind, now I see.”
They say to him: What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?
Jesus From God
The man says: I already told you but you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?
The Pharisees become agitated and say: You’re his disciple, but we’re disciples of Moses. As for this man, we don’t know where he came from.
The formerly blind man says: Isn’t that amazing? You don’t know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshipper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man weren’t from God, he could do nothing.
This answer is a serious problem for the Pharisees because all the religious leaders of the day, including the Pharisees themselves, taught that God heard the pious but rejected the prayers of the ungodly. (Keener)
The Key To Sharing Jesus With Others
In the end, the scholarly Pharisees know nothing, and the healed man who knows only his experience with Jesus proves irrefutable. (Keener)
What we see here is the key to sharing Jesus. No one was more of an expert on the healed man’s experience with Jesus than the healed man. For you, no one is more of an expert on your experience with Jesus than you are. Whenever you’re sharing with others, focus on that. Let your personal experience with Christ be your default. The healed man said: “Whether he’s a sinner I don’t know. What I do know is that though I was blind, now I see.” You can say, I don’t know about what you said, but what I do know is that, though I was that way before Jesus, now I’m like this.
Jesus, Lord And God
When the Pharisees find that they have no answer, when they realize they have no place left to go in the discussion, they do what people often do when confronted with truth that messes with their narrative. They resort to name calling.
They say, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?”
And they cast him out.
So now he’s on the outside. His social support is gone. He’s ostracized from friends and family.
It’s at this point that Jesus finds him.
Jesus hears that they cast him out. He finds him and he asks, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
The cast out man says: Who is he? Tell me who he is so I can believe in him.
Jesus says: You’ve seen him, and it’s he who is speaking to you.
The cast out man says: “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him.
Here we see Jesus as Lord and God, because in scripture, when angels or men are worshipped, they tell the worshipper to stop, because they’re just a servant of God, the same as the worshipper. But Jesus doesn’t stop the healed man from worshipping. Even as he didn’t correct Thomas when Thomas no longer doubted and said to Jesus: “My Lord and my God!” (see Luke 4:8, Acts 10:26, Revelation 19:10, Revelation 22:9, John 20:24-29)
Then at this point in our passage Jesus says: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
Some of the Pharisees near him overhear this and they say, “Are we also blind?”
Jesus says, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
On Being Cast Out
Some of us are so afraid of being cast out that we hide our relationship with Jesus. I used to be that way. I downplayed my faith depending on who was in the room. I felt awkward and embarrassed about it. There were times I was so embarrassed about my faith, I thought I would die. But the funny thing is, it wasn’t until I died that I found the abundant life Jesus talks about in scripture. I didn’t die physically but I died to the idea of maintaining certain appearances socially. And like the man in our story it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
As soon as the man is cast out, Jesus finds him. This man starts out blind, but because he’s cast out, he ends up seeing the face of Jesus, worshipping him, and he’s blessed for eternity. That’s how it was for me. When I decided to risk being cast out, when I let go of my social self, that’s when Jesus found me. That’s when I started experiencing the joy and abundant life Jesus spoke of. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full,” Jesus said in John 15:11. And he said, “The thief comes only to steal and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Finally Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
It wasn’t until I stopped trying to save my life, socially, that I found my life. It wasn’t until I died, socially, so to speak, that I found the joy Jesus talked about.
Or maybe like the healed man, Jesus found me.
Maybe if you decide to risk being cast out, he’ll find you too.
(You might also like: Pastor Offers to Die: “Your supreme weapon is killing, my supreme weapon is dying.”)
References and Resources:
Genesis 2:7–God formed man from the dust, GodRunning.com, July 31, 2010
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, InterVarsity Press, 1993
Is it wrong to be a Christian secretly in order to preserve your own life?, GodQuestions.org
Eye wash image via Pixabay-Public Domain