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.
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.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 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.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
There is something important to highlight here about the nature of sin. This passage has often been used (and I made this very argument early on) to say that sin is not the cause of the problems we encounter. It’s fair to conclude, but consider Jesus’ words to the man who He healed at the pool of Bethesda just a few chapters ago: “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (5:14). Taken together, these passages paint a picture of our understanding of sin which acknowledges more than one possible origin point for the sufferings we endure in this life. The disciples recognize only one option: sin leads to struggle. But Jesus highlights another possibility: sometimes what we endure is not caused by anything we did. Sickness is not necessarily because of something we did wrong, although that can be the case; it is also possible, however, for it to be something which God has given us so that we can see His hand at work in our lives.
One of the aspects of this passage which I love the most is that it just before this man is healed, he hears Jesus speak the words, “I am the light of the world.” The last words this man hears in darkness point to Jesus as the light. But these aren’t empty words – they’re then proven by the fact that his eyes are opened!
How often we walk about in spiritual blindness, praying for some word of promise which can offer us a glimmer of hope in the midst of our suffering! I look at this man born blind and wonder what it must have been to hear, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” Did he fear, worrying whether or not the ensuing moments would actually yield the outcome for which he yearned? Or did he lose any hesitation, leaving all behind in reckless abandon as he clung to the promise of sight? What would our response be after a lifetime of being passed by?
We remember that the response of the society to this man and his parents was one of condemnation. Although their sin was not known, it was simply assumed that one party had committed such a heinous act of sin as to warrant a terrible punishment to be brought upon this man. The man born blind had already served a life sentence for a crime he never committed. Finally, from deep within the echoing walls of his imprisonment in darkness, a promise of light emerges and fills his cell with radiant hope.
The man’s testimony of Christ’s work in his life is so unbelievable that all who see him are incapable of even grasping what he’s saying. It’s to the point that they insist he must be someone who simply looks like the same guy!
How Christ enters our lives and transforms us to the point of unrecognizability! How many testimonies could be told in which people would declare, “You wouldn’t even believe it was me if you’d known who I was 5, 10 years ago”? The work of our Savior is so deeply and radically altering as to not only change us in the here and now, but to make us completely anew in the image of Christ when all is accomplished.
Let this be a day of testimony. When you see those who knew the former you, let this be a day to declare, “The man named Jesus made all the difference.” When you encounter those in need of such a change, be the one to say, “I want to introduce you to a friend of mine who made the change in me.”
Our observation of this passage stops rather abruptly for a reason, and it is to reflect on some of the spiritual implications of the man’s final statement here – “I don’t know.” How many Christians have used the “I don’t know enough” excuse in an effort to justify their avoidance of sharing the gospel message? It sounds reasonable at first because we want to make sure we have answers to every question. Yet the man born blind provides us with a helpful model here, as he doesn’t even know where Jesus is. All he knows is who He is (and even that is only to some extent) and, most importantly, what He has done in his life.
Don’t let your ignorance of something discourage you from sharing what you know very well – that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Lord Jesus, the Spirit You sent to us from the Father is not one of fear, but of power, of love, and of sound mind. Today as I walk in the way You have set for me, may I share with boldness and courage the good news of Your work in my life. Help me to be fearless. Help me to be compassionate and gracious. Help me to speak that which is true. Most of all, help me to model You well to all those with whom I come into contact. Let me speak of the things You’ve done in my heart. Thank You for the ways in which You have opened my eyes in those places where I have formerly been blind. Continue, according to Your Spirit, to open my eyes that I may see as You would have me see. Let me see with the heart and not the eyes.