Journey Through John – Ch 9


Unlike many chapters in the gospels, which may include a variety of events, John 9 centers upon one event, where Jesus heals a man born blind. Throughout the chapter, we see a number of “blind spots” if you will from those who respond to this miracle.

This is the sixth sign in the gospel of John.

Bruce Milne, says that this chapter is one of the most unified in the entire gospel because it revolves around one miracle and it maintains a continued focus on light  throughout the entire pericope (Milne, The Message of John. 136, 137).

In summary (yes, before we even begin!), we see two results of Jesus being the light of the world (John 9.39):

  1. He brings salvation to “those who do not see.”
  2. He brings judgment to those who believe they see, but are really blind.

I. The Miracle (9.1-7)

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 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.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

Blind Spot #1 – Suffering is a direct result of personal sin.

Since this is a theological error, allow me to challenge this error and let’s think theologically for a moment.

“They say in verse 2, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” In other words, what is the cause of this blindness? The man’s sin? Or the parents’ sin? Is this blindness a punishment for the parents’ sin or a punishment for his own sin — some kind of inherited sinfulness already in the womb? Jesus says, in effect, specific sins in the past don’t always correlate with specific suffering in the present. The decisive explanation for this blindness is not found by looking for its cause but by looking for its purpose. Verse 3: Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John Piper.*

I would argue that in some cases, personal suffering is a direct result of sin, but we cannot generalize this principle to cover all circumstances. However, even if suffering is the direct result of personal sin, it does not change the purpose of suffering. It should all point to God’s work being displayed through the suffering.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Pet. 4:12–13

THEO: Although experiencing suffering is not a comforting thing in and of itself, we can find hope and comfort in knowing that our suffering is not pointless. There is, for believers, purpose in it.

THEO: We live in a broken world. There is no aspect of creation that is not affected by the rebellion we see in Genesis 3. Thus, we live in a world of suffering.

THEO: All of us are born in sin, not just those that suffer from disability.

THEO: Jesus will, one day end suffering for those who trust in Him. He will fix what is broken.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21.3-5a)

Verses 4 and 5 point to a limited time in which Jesus would be able to “do the works of God”. Jesus uses the illustration of light and darkness and its relation to physical work to emphasize the importance of his performing such deeds.

Verses 6 and 7 give the details in which the miracle was performed. Why all the spitting and traveling to receive healing? Couldn’t Jesus just speak and the man receive sight. Most agree that there is some symbolism within Jesus’ spitting and the man being told to go to the pool of Siloam. There are several theories suggested by scholars. We do know that healing on the Sabbath, making mud on the Sabbath, and anointing the man’s eyes on the Sabbath all were religious violations. The symbolism John wishes us not to miss is that the pool of Siloam, means “sent.” In this story, Jesus is the one who has been “sent” to accomplish the works of God. And, as Jesus “sent” this man to the pool to be made well, he was also going to be “sent” to give testimony to others about the man who made him well.

II. A Testimony to Neighbors (9.8-12)

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

We see the continued building of how individuals respond to the work of Jesus in John’s gospel.

A blind man receiving sight was an unheard of event, and we see the attempt of some trying to understand this event. It must be a case of mistaken identity.

Notice the blind man’s faith increase as the chapter continues – “the man called Jesus”, “He is a prophet”, one who believes in the Son of Man.

III. A Testimony to the Pharisees (9.13-17)

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Naturally, this nature of this event causes such a stir that the religious circles now have become involved.

Just as with the neighbors of the man, the Pharisees have a divided opinion about who Jesus may be. His power seemed to contradict his ability to keep the rules.

To consolidate their division, they seek the healed man’s opinion.

IV. With Parents Like These…(9.18-23)

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

Once again, the theory of mistaken identity begins to circulate. Perhaps this was not a real healing at all. Perhaps it had been orchestrated to build popularity as a wonder worker.

The parents confirm the identity, but do not want to risk being ostracized within the religious community and refuse to validate that it was indeed a miracle by Jesus. They pass the buck back to their son.

APP: As a practical point of application, social acceptance continues to hinder the testimony of many who follow Christ.

V. The Proof Is In The Pudding: Testimony 2 (9.24-34)

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

Verse 24 could not be more ironic. The Pharisees wish to glorify God, by a testimony that would deny Jesus as the Messiah. In actuality, the Jews used the statement, “Give glory to God” in the same way our judicial system says, “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Although they ask him for a sworn testimony, it is clear that they are not interested in fairness, but in affirming their own opinions.

Verse 25. No one can argue against a personal testimony.

Verse 27 contains both solid theology and sarcasm. “I have told you already, and you would not listen.” The man’s statement echoes statements made by Jesus earlier in the gospel. The prophets also described Israel by the same manner in the Old Testament. Paul argues the same in Romans 1. The man’s question, “Do you also want to become his disciples?” could be rendered, “If he’s a phony, why are you guys so interested in him?”

Verses 30-33 – The formerly blind man argues that for something like this to happen, it is obvious that the healer would be from God. We must understand verse 31 to be a popular theology of this man’s day akin to many who associate with the prosperity gospel of our day. If healing does not take place, God is still present. And we must not press the issue that acts of wonders are true signs that God is with us.

VI. A Correction By The Christ (9.35-41)

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

The man pays a price for refusing to change his testimony about Christ and he expelled from temple worship. To be sent into the world often means our opinions about Christ and God’s Kingdom are different than others would have them to be.

“believe” – “not the mere acceptance of signs, but the active commitment of himself to the Son of Man, who brought God’s hope and forgiveness to the world.” (Gerald Borchert, NAC: John. 324).

The only appropriate response to true belief is true worship.

Jesus makes a play on words in verse 39. The man, who was once physically blind, now has spiritual insight and understanding. The Pharisees, who claimed to have spiritual understanding would become spiritually blind. Our judgment depends on how we respond to Jesus. We must all recognize our need for salvation through Him.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Cor.4.3-6

*One of the most meaningful personal messages I’ve ever heard for those who have children with disability.