As I have said before many times, that every miracle in the gospels is presented to teach us a spiritual parable. It is important to understand that. Not every miracle that Jesus did is recorded in scripture. John will say later that if everything that Jesus did while He was on earth was written down, that all the books of the world could not contain them. But John said in chapter 20 verse 31 that the signs that he did record, are written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life in HIs name.
So the miracle we are looking at today has spiritual significance and symbolism that goes beyond the mere physical healing of blindness which I would like to examine this morning. Yes, Jesus has compassion on this blind man and 5 other blind men that we know of. But no where in scripture do we see that Jesus healed every person of every disease. Jesus also raised three people from the dead. But never in scripture do we read that Jesus raised every dead person. So while compassion may be one of the lessons we can learn from this text, it is certainly not the primary lesson.
The primary lesson deals with an important theological question regarding the origin of sin and then the response of God to that spiritual condition. It deals with spiritual blindness and all that represents. But to fully comprehend this text though I want to remind you of what has just proceeded it in the previous chapter. Because I think this event is tied to the the teaching that Jesus gave in the last chapter.
You will remember that in the running dialogue that Jesus had with the Pharisees during the Feast of Tabernacles, there were some claims made by the Pharisees concerning their father, who they said was Abraham, and an insinuation that Jesus had been born of fornication, and as such was similar to the Samaritans, who were Jews that had intermarried with pagans and produced offspring who were outcasts from Israel.
So on the one hand, the Pharisees were holding onto their pedigree as sons of Abraham, and thus they considered themselves righteous in the sight of God. But Jesus repeatedly said you don’t act like sons of Abraham. He said you don’t do the deeds of Abraham. You don’t have spiritual discernment like Abraham. And in fact, you do the deeds of your father the devil. That didn’t go over too well with those guys. So they got angry. And they picked up stones to kill Him. But Jesus disappeared into the crowd and slipped away.
Now this chapter opens with Jesus and His disciples as they were leaving the temple, and they pass by a blind beggar sitting by the gate of the temple. That was a popular spot for beggars. They knew people were coming into the temple to offer alms to God, and one of the ways that they were taught you could remove sin from your life was by giving alms to the poor. So the poor, the infirm, the blind, paralyzed and sick people who had no other recourse but to beg for their income found the temple gates a lucrative spot.
John writes that this man was blind from birth. And that phrase has given commentators fits. They go to get extremes to explain how that should be interpreted. Many of them say that meant that some Jews believed in reincarnation and so the disciples thought that this man perhaps had sinned in a past life and consequently was blind from birth. But I think that misses the obvious interpretation, which is that John is writing this almost 60 years afterwards. And from his historical viewpoint he is able to say, this man was blind from birth. The disciples did not necessarily know that. They assumed that he became blind at some point in his life due to committing some grievous sin, or that if he had been born blind, that his parents must have committed some terrible sin. But I believe that it is simply that John is writing long after this event, and he is letting us know at the outset that this man had been born blind. That indicates the totality of this man’s condition, the hopelessness of this man’s condition.
So I believe that based on the dialogue found in the last chapter regarding the nature of the father exhibited in the sons, Jesus’ disciples seeing this blind man by the gate, ask this question; ““Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” That’s kind of the logical assumption, isn’t it? When we see someone suffering, someone having physical problems, it’s tempting to think that somehow they brought it on themselves.
Job had that happen to him. His friends came and ended up accusing him of some hidden sin because all this tragedy had happened in his life. They argued that God blessed those that were good people and cursed those that were bad people. And I think that kind of thinking exists today, even within the church. The prosperity doctrine preachers teach that God just wants to bless you and give you all kinds of things to prosper you and make your life fulfilling and enriched. That is the promise of the prosperity gospel. That if you belong to God, He will bless you and won’t hold any good thing from you. And so we believe that a new car is a good thing. A new house is a good thing. A great job is a good thing. So we equate physical success with spiritual blessing.
And the opposite also is often true. We see someone who is addicted to drugs, and they are looked upon someone who brought the ravages of that kind of life upon themselves. We see someone poor and destitute, and we think that it’s probably because they aren’t good workers, they must have brought their poverty upon themselves.
But I think that is far too general a categorization. The fact is that there are plenty of healthy sinners and a lot of sick saints which contradict that view. However, the Bible does teach that sickness and death are the result of living in a fallen world. Romans 5:12 says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” So original sin is the origin of death. But there are multiple examples of suffering in the Bible that show that not all suffering is a direct result of sin. Again, Job is the foremost example of a man that God declared was righteous. God pointed Job out to Satan as someone who lived an exemplary life. And yet Job suffered more than most of us could ever imagine. Joseph was another man who suffered for years and yet was innocent. Paul was yet another who suffered imprisonment and beatings, as well as the other apostles. There are many examples of saints who suffered without cause.
So Jesus answers His disciples’ question by saying, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” So what Jesus is affirming is that this man’s blindness was not a direct result of either his sin or his parents. Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that sickness is not the result of original sin. Sin caused all life which was perfect when God created it, to become corrupted. And that corruption has permeated every fiber of creation.
I believe that is what Romans 8:22 is talking about which says, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” Paul said that the creation was subject to slavery from that corruption, and was anxiously awaiting the day when God would bring freedom from that corruption of sin that is in the world. In fact, I think the argument could be made that the further we get from the initial perfection of creation, the more subject to corruption not only creation becomes, but also our bodies. Our cells are more susceptible to cancer and other illnesses because we are further removed from the original creation. Now I cannot be dogmatic about such things because I am not a scientist. But there are some that do suggest this to be the case; that contrary to the theory of evolution, all biological life is breaking down, not getting better.
But back to our main point, Jesus dismissed the idea that this man’s blindness was a direct result of individual sin. Instead, He asserts that this particular man was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
The theologian Ellicott said, “There is a chain connecting the sin of humanity and its woe, but the links are not traceable by the human eye. In the Providence of God vicarious suffering is often the noble lot of the noblest members of our race. No burden of human sorrow was ever so great as that borne by Him who knew no human sin.” He is saying that Jesus Himself through His sinless life disproves the principle that sin equals suffering. And that it is not in our purview to determine the cause of human suffering.
In fact, the Bible indicates that more often than not, the opposite is true. It is not the judgment of God that brings people to repentance, but according to Romans 2:4, it says the kindness and tolerance of God is intended to lead people to repentance. Over and over again the scriptures declare that “the Lord is slow to anger, compassionate and gracious.” He will one day judge every man according to his works, but for the most part, that judgment is postponed until the day of judgment and for now God is patient, not willing that any should perish without salvation. In an agrarian age when rain was considered to be a blessing from God, Jesus said in Matthew 5:45, “for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” God is merciful, and patient, and long suffering, and does not reward us according to what we deserve, but is merciful, that perhaps we might turn to Him and be saved.
So Jesus said, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Now what are the works of God that would be displayed in this blind man? Notice that works is plural. It is not a singular work of God. It is not therefore, simply that God would heal him from blindness. It is much more multifaceted than that. But as we look at the complete chapter, what began with the compassion of Christ for physical healing, results in seeing eyes, which produces faith and obedience and culminates later that day with spiritual healing. The work of God is salvation. This is the real goal of Christ’s work. It is not God’s will that all men would be healed of every sickness, but it is true according to 2Peter 3:9, that “the Lord is… not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” This is the primary work of God through Christ. Christ came to reconcile men to God through His substitionary death on the cross.
So then to some extent, evil actually furthers the work of God in the world. It is in conquering and abolishing evil that God’s great attributes are manifested. The question for us then is not where suffering has come from, but what we are to do with it.
And the Lord answers that concern as well in vs.4, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” Note first of all, that we are included in Christ’s work. The KJV had interpreted that as “I must work the works,” but most translators later determined that the best manuscripts indicate “we”, and not “I.” And that is an important principle that we need to emphasize. We are saved to do the works of God. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” So we are co workers with Christ. He is the head, and we are the body. We are supposed to be His hands and His feet, doing the works of God, even as He did the works of God on the earth.
This is our purpose now that we are saved. What a contrast that is to most modern conceptions of Christianity. We have this idea that God just wants to help us achieve our goals, and wants to help us enjoy this life, to be happy here on earth. That may or may not be a side effect of doing God’s work, but it isn’t the goal. The goal is to do the works of God.
This phrase, “while it is day, and the night comes” what does it mean? Well, He’s talking about our lives. The day symbolizes our life, and the night symbolizes death. It is very likely that it was Saturday afternoon at that time, the Sabbath evening. And the sun soon setting was the illustration for the analogy that our lives are short, and so we must make full use of the time we have left. Let me emphasize that this morning. Life is short. I had someone tell me that this week. Unfortunately, they made the wrong determination based on that. They determined that since life was short they had better live for today. That is the world’s view. The Grass Roots in 1967 sang “Sha la la la la la live for today!” That was the theme song of my generation. And that’s still the mantra of the world, to live for today. Life is short, live it up.
But that cannot be the theme of a true disciple. Because we don’t live for today, we live for eternity. We live for the day our Savior will return and take us to be with Him. That’s when we will get our reward for the work that we have done here on earth. But this person that said to me that life is short is afraid to live for tomorrow. They are afraid because this life is all they can see, all that they feel they can be sure of. In regards to eternity they are blind. And so they cannot let go of today, they can’t let go of the world, they can’t let go of what they think can give them happiness. And as such, they stand to gain the whole world and lose their own soul.
Disciples must work, Jesus said, they must work the works of God. The day is fleeting, and the night is coming when no man can work. And when that night comes, we shall then find ourselves standing at the throne of God, awaiting our reward, awaiting our judgement for what we have done with this life that God has so graciously given us. I saw a video the other day of Francis Chan, and he was illustrating the position of so many Christians who were afraid to step out and work for God, by balancing on a balance beam that he had set up in his church. And as he illustrated the fear of following Christ he crouched down on all fours on the balance beam as one might do who is afraid of falling off. As he illustrated the life of this Christian, he ended up laying down on the beam, holding onto it with both arms and wrapping his legs around the beam. And then he showed the end of the life of this person, as they jumped off the balance beam and lifted both arms in the air like a gymnast might do at the end of their repertoire, and taking a little bow. And Francis then describes God’s reaction to this life, this Christian performance as one of surprise and incredulity, like He doesn’t know how you expect Him to judge such a performance. You didn’t do anything. You just held on to the balance beam. You held onto the world, and failed to do anything for eternity.
Well, what exactly is the work that we are to do? It is to do as Jesus did. Jesus said in the next verse, that as long as He was in the world, He was the light of the world. He came to shine the light of God, the light of God’s truth to a world that was in darkness. Darkness and blindness in this case being synonymous. That was His purpose. Isaiah 60:1-3 speaks of the day of the Messiah coming to Israel, saying “Arise, shine; for your light has come,And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earthAnd deep darkness the peoples;But the LORD will rise upon youAnd His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
Notice in that Old Testament prophecy that it says their light has come, that is the Messiah. But there is also the instruction for the church to arise and shine in response to that light. We are to shine the light of the Son even as the moon reflects the light of the sun. That is our purpose. Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
How do we do we reflect then the light of Christ? Well, I believe that is illustrated in the spiritual healing that Jesus does with the blind man. This man who had been in darkness since birth. That is the situation the whole world is in. Ephesians 2:1 says we are born already dead in our trespasses and sins. Since birth we have been blind. And if not for the love and compassion of God we would die in our sins.
Ephesians 2 continues, saying “you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
So first of all we see illustrated here the grace of God. John 9:6-7 “When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.” Notice that Jesus initiates this divine act of grace. God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son. The world was hopeless, in darkness, lost, trapped in their sin. But God. But God so loved the world, that He sent Jesus to be our Savior. So the first part of our work is to share the grace of God with a world in which is in darkness.
This process that Jesus uses to heal this man is interesting. There is much that could be said about the process of how He healed him. But I would point out that out of six recorded times when Jesus healed the blind, this is the only time He spat on the ground and made clay. So there is no formula here that we might use to heal people. There is no supernatural essence in spittle. So I wouldn’t advise spitting on sick people. You might end up really suffering for Christ.
However, I think that we can learn some things from Jesus’ method. First of all, as I already mentioned, we see the sovereign grace of God. The Lord chose to heal this man, and not visa versa. We are told to believe, we are told to receive, but at the same time, it is necessary for God to take the initiative if the blind are to see. Secondly, we see a correlation between the first act of the creation of man, and this act of recreation. Salvation is a new creation. Not a reformation, but a creation. We are new creatures. 2 Cor. 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is]a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
In the first creation, God made man from the dust of the ground. In this new creation, taking dead eyes and making them new, the Lord again uses the dust of the ground. I don’t know for sure why God chose to make man from dust. All the other creatures that God made He simply spoke them into being. Even the sun and stars were spoken into existence. But for man, we see God take clay into HIs hands, and mold it, and make it in His image. To me, that indicates that the creation of man was an act of love. It reminds me of an artist, a sculptor, a potter, who shapes an inanimate object with his hands and in so doing instills in it the love of the artist. It bears the image of the one who shaped it. And so we see in the touch of Jesus, the love of God. He could have healed with just a word. But He chose to use His hands, to touch, and shape as an illustration of His love.
I also see in that mixture of spittle and dust, a symbolism of the need for God in man. Christ was fully God and fully man and thus was uniquely able to be our Savior. And so the divinity of Christ is symbolized by His saliva, the water, the living water that He said in the previous chapter would flow from your innermost being, this He mixed with common dirt, symbolizing man. And that perfect mixture, the God-man, was the formula God used to save the world from darkness.
Jesus then after rubbing this mixture in his eyes, tells him to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. Now first in that command we see the need for obedience and faith, and the fact that they are indivisible. Faith and obedience cannot be separated. Far too many people today think that faith is an emotion, or that faith is an intellectual assent. But faith is trust. And to trust requires obedience. You cannot say that one is saved by faith, but that is only an emotional response to an altar call. Or that you are saved by faith, but that is only believing that God exists. That is not saving faith. Saving faith is exemplified in the life of Abraham, as Hebrews 11:8 states, “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Abraham, obeyed. That was the action of his faith. So this blind man acts in faith. He obeys and goes where Jesus said to go. Some of you today think you are saved because of an emotional response you had during a church service. Some of you think you are saved because you believe in the existence of God. But I suggest that you can know you are saved because you do the works of God. Because you obey the word of God. That is how Jesus said you can tell that God is your Father.
Also, note that the pool of Siloam is the same pool that the priests went to draw water from during the Feast of the Tabernacles. And as they poured the water into the funnels and it gushed down upon the altar, Jesus stood up and cried out in the midst of the temple ceremony, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” So Jesus is reaffirming in His directive what He declared in the temple. That by believing in Him, you might receive the living water which will spring up in your soul, resulting in eternal life. This is the significance of the pool of Siloam.
And then Jesus tells him to wash. And he did so, and was able to see. John records it simply. But we can only imagine the joy that this man experienced. Imagine never having seen colors, or the sun, or light reflecting on water, or the blue of the sky. And suddenly having sight. I read on the news a story yesterday of two brothers who were able to see colors for the first time. And the story said that they cried. I can’t imagine the wonder that this man felt.
Baptism is the symbolic act of washing. But it is a symbol of not the removal of dirt from the body Peter said. But the act of God in providing a clean conscience. 1 Peter 3:21 says “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you–not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience–through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” How do we get a clean conscience? By the removal of our guilt, the forgiveness of our sins. That is the significance of washing.
Listen, that is why repentance is the twin sister of faith. You are saved not only by faith, but faith and repentance. One cannot be saved without repentance. We must be made clean to be holy, and we must be holy to be accepted by God. Paul said in 1Cor. 6:9-11 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” To be washed indicates to receive forgiveness for your sins, to be sanctified is to be holy, that is separated from your sins, and to be justified is to be declared not guilty, freed from the penalty of your sin. That is the whole of salvation. And that happens through faith and repentance. To be washed is necessary. If you continue in your sins, then regardless of what you say you believe, you are still in your sins. To be a true disciple, Jesus said in chapter 8, you are to continue in God’s word. That is the distinction between those who claim to be Christians and those who show themselves to be disciples. One continues in their sin, and one continues in God’ word through obedience.
Well, this man came back seeing. He had been walking in the dark, now he was walking in the light. He came back different than when he left. And as we will see next week, he immediately was kicked out of the temple, he immediately suffered persecution for his faith. Once again showing that suffering is a part of the life of faith, and not as many would teach, that faith exempts us from suffering. God does allow suffering, but so that we might show forth the glory of God through it. Perhaps you are afraid that if you choose to obey Christ you will suffer for your faith. That is entirely possible. God may want to rub some dirt in your eyes so that you might show forth the glory of God. And that might be uncomfortable, even painful. The work of God is sometimes offensive. People tend to get mad when you tell them that all men are sinners, and therefore they are a sinner. The Jews tried to kill Jesus for that, and eventually they succeeded. But even then, God used their evil for good. God brought about salvation for the world through the suffering of our Savior.
But I hope that today’s message has illustrated for you that Jesus suffered so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. That we might turn from darkness and walk in the light. And then that our life should reflect the light of Christ to a dark and dying world. This is the work we have been called to do. I pray that you are going to be about the business of the kingdom of God this week. The day is coming when no man can work. This dark world seems to get darker by the hour. Let us work while it is still day to bring glory to God through our lives.
Perhaps you are here today and you recognize that you are missing something. You have an intellectual basis or emotional basis for your faith, but you realize that you are still very much attached to this world, and have never let go of the things of this world, I would encourage you today to simply call out to the Lord in faith and repentance, and ask Him to wash you and make you a new creation. Jesus said that he who comes to Me I will in no way cast out. Today while it is still day, come to Jesus, call upon Him to save you, and He will anoint the eyes of your heart, that you might see and that you might walk in the light, even as He is in the light.