A Bible Lesson on John 9

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

John 9 is one of the most attractive narratives in Scripture.  It is a story about a strong, attractive, humble personality coming to Christ.  It is also loaded with symbolic significance as Jesus reveals Himself as the light of the world.  In John 8:12, Jesus has made that claim for Himself.  John said that about Him in the prologue (see John 1:9).  Here he proves and illustrates that claim.

This is one of the signs of Jesus, one that has its full effect of bringing one to faith and causing others to choose darkness.  It is in line with John’s purpose statement in writing, given in John 20:30.  The purpose of these miraculous signs is that people will come to believe in, cleave to, trust in, rely upon Jesus.

John 9:1  As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.

This “from birth” is important on a couple of levels.  Symbolically, our condition is blindness from birth/by nature.  And it makes the sign especially startling.  Even with the physical apparatus to see, the guy would have no idea of what things ought to look like!

2  And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3  Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

This was a favorite point of speculation/argument among the rabbis.  What is the origin of suffering?   The majority opinion of the day was that suffering came in response to specific sinful acts.  Some rabbis even held that it was possible for babies to sin inside the womb and that the sin of a mother could harm a child within her womb.  The disciples are probably inquiring here as to who’s to blame in the case of this pitiful beggar.

Jesus refutes the notion that all suffering is the direct result of specific sinful acts.  I don’t know that He’s really saying that the man was in advance caused to be blind for the purpose of God’s glory at this point, but He certainly is saying that God can be glorified through suffering and that the result, if not the cause of the man’s blindness will be the work of God being seen in his life.

4  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.

Jesus says “work the works”  This is a matter-of-fact, everyday-activity kind of statement.  What Jesus does here on a physical level and we understand as a startling miracle, He is always doing on an eternal level.  And the import/magnitude of it is far greater.

“Night is coming” is an allusion, to the crucifixion.  This is the third year of the ministry of Jesus.  He is acutely aware of the urgency of completing the Father’s mission for Himself, and the looming cross.

5  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Jesus says this again, because He’s about to give a visual aid on this point.  He says, in effect, “Here comes an illustration to help you grasp this point.”

6  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

7  and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

Notice how little ink John spends describing the miracle, compared to the ink spent on showing its consequences in the lives of men.  The importance of the miracle is in what it shows about Jesus and the effect that it has on drawing them to faith or confirming them in their self-chosen darkness.  It is not in having an unusual story to tell.

Jesus spit on the ground.  This is perhaps not so wild in the context of the time as it sounds to us.  Spit was felt to have medicinal value, and the notion of making a poultice out of it and dirt was not unheard of.

Jesus “anointed” the man’s eyes.  Christ, the anointed one anoints the eyes and the man (and we with him) see!

Notice that the man went.  He was told to go, and he didn’t question Jesus wanting to know why, but obeyed.  In line with that humility, he was healed.

8  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?”

9  Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”

People aren’t sure if they recognize the man.  That’s no real surprise.  On top of the fact that they know it’s not possible for one born blind to be walking around seeing, there is the virtual certainty that he’s carrying himself quite differently than before.  Instead of moving about tentatively, he can see!  He’s probably walking with a spring in his step!

The man was a beggar.  So are the rest of us.  The man insisted.  This guy has some real spunk.

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.”

Notice what he calls Jesus at this point.  His understanding of who Jesus is pretty rudimentary.

12  They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

Remember that Jesus sent the guy off to Siloam to wash.  He hasn’t seen Jesus, nor does he have any reason to know His whereabouts.

Now begins the a series of interrogations of the man and his family by the Pharisees.

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.

The rub here is going to be the Sabbath rules that the Pharisees had invented to interpret the 4th Commandment in their effort to spell everything out so that a man could try to establish his own righteousness by keeping the law perfectly.  They believed that making mud on the Sabbath and healing were both work.  (Some even went so far as to hold that one could only spit on the Sabbath if the spittle hit a rock.  If it hit the dirt, then one was working.)  Jesus hasn’t violated the intent of the commandment, only the Pharisees’ interpretation/amplification of it.

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.”

The beggar hasn’t got the full ramifications of the whole thing sorted out yet, but he’s sticking to the reality of his experience/encounter with Jesus.  Ryle observed that the proper question was “whether, in fact, he had been cured, and not in what way”  The proper issue is the fact, not the mode.

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.

The Pharisees are all over the map at this point.  They are all confused, but at least some recognize its reality and the fact that what has happened is good.  Note that some use the word “signs” and see such as inconsistent with the work of anyone but God.

There are things that make this sign particularly worrisome for them.  This is completely unprecedented.  There is nothing comparable in the Old Testament record, and yet there are the Messianic passages of Isaiah that promise that Messiah will bring sight to the blind.  See Isaiah 29:18, Isaiah 35:5, and Isaiah 42:7.

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.”

Notice what the beggar has now called Jesus.  He’s making progress.  A prophet is pretty much at the top of the list of holy people (as far as he could see), certainly above a Rabbi or Pharisee.

Now we get the interrogation of the parents.

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

The powers that be call in the man’s parents to browbeat them.

19  and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”

The first 2 of these questions are sensible.  The last one clearly is not.  How in the world are they supposed to know how it is that their son can now see?  They give the officials a browbeaten, groveling, deferential reply.

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.”

Now begins the second interrogation of the man healed.

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.”

The Pharisees say “Give glory to God.”  They are clearly not saying “Well, bless God. Praise Jesus.  Thank Him for healing you!”  The Old Testament instance of the use of this phrase is in Joshua 7:19 where Joshua is telling Achan to come clean about his sin of taking the things devoted to God and the disaster that the sin caused.  The meaning is “Fess up!”

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.”

The beggar bravely sticks to what he knows has happened to him.  He doesn’t understand all the details, BUT HE KNOWS THAT HE SEES!  All their theory doesn’t change that.

26  They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

Again these are not sensible questions.  They are instead simply meant to browbeat.

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?”

The man is losing patience.

28  And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.

The inquisitors are reduced to frothing at the mouth, and the irony is, of course, that they are NOT acting as true 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.”

This verse contains an interesting irony.  Indeed they don’t know where He’s from.  They don’t recognize He’s from God.  Yet in John 7:27 they’ve ruled out the possibility He’s the Messiah on the grounds that they do think they know where He’s from.

9:30  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.

9:32  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.

9:33  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

Through the heat and pressure the beggar is coming to see spiritually as well as physically.

34  They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

As the beggar is moving toward Jesus/light and seeing ever more clearly, the Pharisees have gone to the point of ignoring the wonderful work of God and essentially saying “A pox on you!  You deserved your blindness!”

Jesus hunts the beggar down and brings him to faith in Himself.

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?”

This is strongly reminiscent of the woman at the well in chapter 4.  This guy is by now ready to trust in, rely on, believe in, cleave to the Savior.

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.

This is the proper response to the revelation of Jesus to us.

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.”

As always in John, the judgment is one that people choose for themselves.  It is an implied judgment, that people given light either move towards it or away from it and thereby condemn themselves.  See again John 3:19-21.  That’s what has been illustrated so graphically here in this account.  The beggar, exhibiting substantial humility has moved progressively towards

Jesus (see verses 12, 25 and 36).  The Pharisees have moved away from Jesus (see verses 16, 24 and 29).

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.

Human pride and refusal to admit our wrong is at the heart of our guilt.  The Pharisees denied their blindness.  So do we.  The result of denying our wrong/blindness is to plunge deeper and deeper into ignorance with self-confident wrong statements.


Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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