Summary: Jesus never walks by us, and when He stops our faith will grow if we retell the stories of His touch.
Introduction: Jesus has traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Booths, which was one of the three festivals when faithful Jews would travel to Jerusalem. The other two are Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost). During the Feast of Booths which is seven days between late October and late November, Jews are instructed to build a temporary structure in which to eat their meals, entertain guests, relax, and even sleep. The sukkah is reminiscent of the type of huts in which the ancient Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt, and is intended to reflect God’s benevolence in providing for all the Jews’ needs in the desert.
In the story there are four sections. Verses 1-5 are the setting. Verses 6-7 tell of the miraculous healing, which is quite a short section. The blind man and his parents are interrogated in verses 8-34. In verses 35-38, Jesus leads the blind man to spiritual sight and faith.
I want you to notice three important lessons as we go through the story. First, notice that faith grows progressively—it’s seldom an instant thing. Second, Jesus sees us as we could be, not just as we are. Third, we understand and grow in faith when we remember and repeat the stories about when Jesus healed us. If by chance you don’t remember any of those times, pray and think about it today and through the upcoming week. I believe you will remember a time or two when you have felt God’s presence in a crisis or a joyful moment.
Prayer: Open my eyes that I might see glimpses of truth thou hast for me; place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free. Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see. Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!
1-2 Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?"
Notice just how quickly, the topic goes from the needs of the blind man to judgment of his situation—from the practical to the theoretic. That’s one of the ways we distance ourselves from the problems of others. The idea that sin causes suffering was prevalent in Jesus’ time. To place the correct blame, there was even the idea that a person born blind had sinned in the womb! Although we are much more sophisticated, we still fall into the habit of looking for a reason to explain suffering. I know I’ve asked, “What have I done to deserve this?”
Blindness from birth is John’s theological commentary on the state of humanity.
3 Jesus said, "You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. 4 We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines…
Jesus immediately explains to the disciples that afflictions and suffering are opportunities for displaying God’s grace.
Another thing to note is the phrase “the One who sent me.” John uses this phrase to define and explain Jesus 51 times in his gospel. God is the One who sent Jesus.
One more note: Jesus doesn’t see the blind man as a beggar, he sees him as a child of God who deserves God’s healing touch. When we are in trouble, God sees us not as bad or sinful. God sees us beloved.
When night falls, the workday is over. 5 For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light."
Fred Craddock has a good observation: When you turn on the light, shadows are created. In the dark, we are all equally blind. [Fred Craddock and M. Eugene Boring, The People’s New Testament Commentary, (Louisville, KT: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 318]
When Jesus talks about the day and the night, He is talking about his earthly life, which will end. The end is coming. There is an urgency to complete His work. [Ibid.]
6-7 He said this and then spit in the dust, made a clay paste with the saliva, rubbed the paste on the blind man’s eyes, and said, "Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam" (Siloam means "Sent"). The man went and washed—and saw.
As Barclay explains, Jesus uses the methods and customs of his time. [William Barclay, The Gospel of John, Volume 2, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 42]
In The Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John, Malina and Rohrbaugh explain, “[Jesus’] use of saliva reflects the widespread belief that saliva afforded protection, especially from the evil eye (which many would have assumed the blind man possessed. Even today in Mediterranean societies saliva is often used to protect children from the evil eye.