Summary: The difference between life and death is not religion but Christ!
Jesus has just left the temple where the people wanted to stone Him and now we come to chapter nine. We can understand the main point of this passage if we read the first verse and then the last. Here is a man who is born blind. He cannot see. In the last verse we read about some men who can see fine in the natural sense but spiritually they are as blind as if they had never been able to see.
This contrast is presented throughout this chapter: the man who was born blind actually sees quite well and He worships the Messiah. The leaders say he is steeped in sin since birth but Jesus has set him free and he is righteous. The leaders, on the other hand, seem so healthy and rich yet are blind and poor. They are indeed born into sin and shall die that way.
The difference is Christ. And this is what John shows us so that we may believe and live. Let’s begin with verse one:
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
This isn’t just a silly question; it can actually be supported by Exodus 20:5. Not that it’s being applied correctly here but that was the prevailing cultural perspective. Later the same man will argue with the leaders and they will say, “You were born altogether in sins, and do you teach us?” They believed that if something was wrong with a person that it must be because of sin. And if you think about it there’s no shortage of people around us who think the same way. If things aren’t right it must be because God is angry.
They want to know whether he was blind for his own sin or whether a blind child was punishment for his parents. It shows how badly they misinterpreted Moses and makes me wonder if they’ve ever read the story of Job.
3Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
We don’t have to look far in John to find God’s sovereignty and it shows well right here. Why was the man born blind? Did someone do something wrong? No. The man was born this way because God wanted to do something with him. And God has that right as the Potter. He chose to make this man blind from the womb so that he would later be healed. And we can imagine the parents when they first realized; they thought it was awful and begged and cried and asked God why. But there never was an answer and there never was a cure. They just learned to live with this terrible handicap and with the stigma of being sinners.
And then Jesus comes along with His disciples and for whatever reason they ask the question and Jesus says, “No. No one sinned to make him blind. He’s this way because it’s what God wanted, and I’m finally about to show you why:”
4I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
Notice that he once again calls Himself the Light of the world. Knowing the way to the Father and receiving salvation comes from being able to see clearly. Jesus is the Light and He lights every man that comes into the world. We are in the world but not of it and at the right time He opens our eyes and shines.
And so He says, “I have to do the works I’ve been sent to do before my time comes to leave. I’m only in the earth for a short season, and I’ve got a list of things to get done before I go.” And this blind man is on the list.
6When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, 7And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
I don’t know why Jesus chose this method and I don’t think there’s anyone who really knows the meaning of any symbolism, but there’s one main point: Jesus is the Messiah and He makes the blind to see (Is. 35:5). And that’s what this man will learn for himself; he feels Jesus rubbing clay on his face and then he’s away to a place called “Sent.” He washes the mud away and suddenly realizes that the darkness is light! When he has a second to focus he realizes he can see! All the things around him that were so hard to understand, things he didn’t even know existed, are so plain to him now!