1.  Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.

This passing by was the very passing by mentioned in the last verse of chapter 8.  He was passing through the crowd of hostile people who had been taking up stones to throw at Him.  One might expect that our Lord would have been in a hurry to get away from this crowd, but the Lord behaves as if He is perfectly safe, and calmly considers the case of this man who was blind from birth.

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

The Lord wasn’t the only One Who was passing through the hostile crowd.  It seems that His disciples were also passing through with Him.  They seem to get their attitude from their Master, and do not seem overly worried by the crowd either.  Thus, seeing this man, they use the opportunity to ask the Lord a question.  It was generally believed at that time that anyone who had an infirmity had to have it because of some sin.  The argument that the disciples were bringing up, however, was whether or not the sin was the sin of the parents or whether it was the sin of the child himself.  Some believed in pre-natal sin, and that the child could have committed such a sin prior to birth.  Others did not hold with this idea.  So it seems that the disciples use the opportunity of seeing the blind man to bring this argument up to the Lord to see how He will answer it.

3.  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.

The Lord answers their question in a way they did not expect.  He tells them that neither this man nor his parents had sinned to cause his blindness!  Rather, this man was born blind so that the works of God could be revealed in him.  This is what the Lord was about to do when He healed this man.  His blindness had been for a purpose, but not the purpose of punishment as the disciples (and all who argued about pre-natal sin) had supposed.  Thus, their whole argument was based on a false premise.  Alas, many religious arguments in our day are likewise based on wrong ideas, and would disappear if the truth was really understood.

This is the sixth sign that we will see the Lord performing in the book of John.  Remember, these signs are the special miracles picked out of the many that the Lord did to be recorded in this book and to aid in the great purpose of the book: to produce people who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing have life through His name.  This sixth sign corresponds with the third sign in several ways.  First of all, they are both connected with some sin that the man had committed (in the case of the third sign and the lame man) or had not committed (in the case of this blind man.)  Both healings were at the instigation of the Lord, and not at the request of or as a result of the faith of the man being healed.  In both cases the Lord left the man and so he did not know who had healed him when he was questioned by the religious leaders.  In both cases, the Lord looked the man up later and revealed Himself to him.  In the case of the lame man, however, we see no sign of the man showing faith or gratitude to the Lord, but rather he informed on the Lord to the Pharisees.  This blind man, however, responded far differently, defying the jealous Pharisees at great personal risk and worshipping the Lord in faith when he found out Who He was.  This man is a great example to us, and shows us what a gracious act like this healing could do to produce faith in a man’s life.

4.  “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.

Although the Lord was passing through a hostile crowd that wanted to kill Him, He nevertheless makes it plain that even now He must be concerned with doing the works of Him Who sent (Greek pempo) Him.  If that means healings a blind man on the edge of a crowd of people who want to kill Him, then that is what He must do.  Such was our Lord’s devotion to His Father’s will!

Notice the strange statement He makes here.  He must work the works of Him Who sent Him while it is day.  Why is that?  Because the night is coming when no one can work.  This statement must have seemed very strange to His disciples.  When would the night come when no one could work miracles?  If the Lord had come to set up His Kingdom on earth, then surely miracles must continue throughout that period, mustn’t they?  Yet the Lord was speaking prophetically of what He knew was soon to come: the day in which we live.  In our day, no one can work miracles.  The miracles of healing such as the Lord and His disciples worked were worked in the day when the light of the Lord was shining out freely to the world through such acts of miraculous power.  Now, however, the veil of night has fallen on all such mighty signs.  No longer does the Lord do works that might show forth to the world the truth.  Now those works have ceased, and we live in a night period as far as direct revelation from the Lord is concerned.  Light no longer shines out of heaven, and we are tied down to only that light which shines forth from His Word.  How thankful we can be that we have that Word and that Light in a time when all the light of miracles such as these has gone out of the world!

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

The Lord reveals a truth here that was a dispensational truth for the period in which He was on earth.  As long as He was in the world, He was the light of the world.  If one wanted an audience with God, he would have to go to the Lord Jesus Christ.  If one wanted to find out God’s thoughts on a matter, he must ask them of the Lord Jesus Christ.  If one wanted to learn what God’s will was for him to do, he must ask the Lord Jesus Christ.  He was the light of God’s revelation on earth at that time.  Now, however, this is no longer true, and the light of revelation is not found in any man (or Man) on earth, but solely in God’s written Word, the Bible.

6.  When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.

Now the Lord does a strange thing.  Rather than just heal the man, He spits on the ground and makes clay.  Why would He do this?  I believe that the answer is that this takes our minds back to the time of creation.  Remember in Genesis 2:7, which reads, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”  There we had the Lord’s mouth interacting with dust of the ground to produce a man.  Now the Lord takes of the dust of the ground, spits on it from His mouth, forms clay from the dust, and places this clay on the eyes of the man who had been born blind.  This man’s eyes were descended through many generations from the eyes of Adam whom the Lord had made out of the dust.  Yet, his eyes did not work as the Lord had intended.  Now, the Lord was using the dust of the ground to place on his eyes and to restore them to their original state and use.  What greater proof could there be that this One Who could take out of His mouth and from the dust of the earth and use the result to heal a blind man was the very Creator Who had made the eyes in the first place?  This miracle is a great sign indeed, and proves to us that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, the very One Who was the Creator of the world, as John told us in 1:3.

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

Although this blind man had not requested healing, the Lord now requests something of him.  He asks him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam.  Siloam means “sent,” which in the case of this translation is the Greek word apostello.  When apostello is used of an inanimate object rather than a person, it means not “sent with authority,” but rather “authorized.”  This pool, named Siloam, had now become the place authorized by the Lord Jesus Christ for this man’s healing.  Thus, the pool was apostello indeed.

This scene reminds us of the story of Elisha and Naaman in II Kings 5, and how Naaman was healed of leprosy by washing seven times in the Jordan.  The Lord Jesus has the same power that Elisha did, although He is the source of the power!  And, as in the case of Naaman, when this man goes in faith to the authorized pool and washes, he is healed and comes back seeing.

8.  Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?”

This man who had been blind was now walking around confidently as one who has his eyesight.  And receiving his eyesight like this caused enough of a change in this man so that those who were his neighbors and those who had seen him before when he was blind were unsure if this was indeed the same man.  We probably have all experienced this sort of thing when seeing someone who has just recently shaved off a mustache or beard, for example, or some woman who changed her hairstyle.  At first we do a double-take, not certain if this is indeed the same person we know.  Imagine how much greater and harder to grasp a change this would have been.  For being blind is not the sort of thing one expects someone to change like we might change a hairstyle!  Thus, these people had to ask if this was indeed the man they knew.

9.  Some said, “This is he.”  Others said, “He is like him.”  He said, “I am he.”

Some were able to recognize this man in spite of the amazing change of his regained sight.  Others, however, could not believe that this was the same man, and concluded that he must only be like him.  Indeed, a change like this would be a hard one to believe!  But this man did not leave them in the dark, and positively affirmed that he was the same man who had been a blind beggar.

10.  Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”

Having established that he is indeed the same man, these astonished onlookers now want to know how it was that he had regained his sight?  Their amazed question is probably what anyone would have asked when faced with the same situation.  And the answer to such a question could be enough to change a person’s life!
11.  He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’  So I went and washed, and I received sight.”

The blind man again answers the question accurately and honestly.  He repeats the facts exactly as they had happened, and does not try to embellish them.  He does not exalt his part in the whole matter, or try to play the whole thing up.  Instead, he repeats the simple story of a Man called Jesus Who made clay, anointed his eyes, and told him to wash in the pool.  This was how he received sight, and so this is what he tells them.

Many there are today who try to greatly embellish things that they believe that God has done for them.  It seems they think that the more they exaggerate the story, the more glory they are giving to God!  They are all eager to tell us how they felt, or what they think God was trying to do or to communicate to them.  These people really do not do God the service they think they are doing for Him.  If we really wish to honor our Lord and Savior, the best way we can do so is to repeat the simple story of how we were washed, healed, and made clean.

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

Those in the crowd who are questioning this man desire to know where this man Jesus is who had told this blind man to do these things and had healed him.  What their motivations were for seeking Him we cannot say for certain.  Perhaps they simply wished to meet a Man Who could open the eyes of the blind.  The blind man, though, cannot help them.  The Lord was leaving the area as He encountered the blind man, and now He has long since disappeared into the crowd, so the blind man has no idea where He is.

13.  They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees.

These people bring the formerly blind man to the Pharisees.  Perhaps they simply did not know what to make of what had happened.  Perhaps they were concerned that this had happened on the Sabbath Day and wanted to know what the Pharisees would do about it.  Or perhaps they thought that this was such an important and significant event that the men who were considered the leaders and spiritual guides of Israel should be in on it and know all about it.  At any rate, they conduct this man to the Pharisees.

14.  Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.

The making of clay was something that would have been considered unlawful to do on the Sabbath Day at that time.  Thus, this event will bring our Lord once more into conflict with the Pharisees.  If the formerly blind man was expecting to amaze and excite the Pharisees by his story (which he probably was!) he would be sorely disappointed by their actual reaction.

15.  Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight.  He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”

No doubt those who brought the man to the Pharisees repeated to them the story that the blind man had told them about how he had received his sight.  Now the Pharisees seek to cross-examine him, asking him to repeat again how he had received his sight.  Once more, the blind man answers simply and honestly, not changing or embellishing the story at all, but rather repeating exactly what had happened and what the Lord Jesus had done for him.

16.  Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.”  Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?”  And there was a division among them.

This sign, instead of thrilling the Pharisees at the wonder of God’s working amongst them, throws them into disagreement and division.  Some of them insist that the Lord cannot be from God because He does not keep the Sabbath.  Others judge more wisely, and point out that a sinner could not do signs like this.  Yet there is no agreement among them, and they are divided and upset at the thing that the Lord did.  In spite of the blessing of this great miracle, it seems obvious that the Pharisees would have been much happier if the Lord had never healed this man at all!

17.  They said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?”  He said, “He is a prophet.”

Finding no answers among their fellows, they turn once again to the formerly-blind man, asking him what he thinks of this Man Who opened his eyes?  He responds that he believes He is a prophet.  A prophet is one who speaks and acts on behalf of God.  The Lord was indeed a prophet, and yet He was much more than that.  He was the Image of God Himself!  Yet this man does not yet know that, and he makes his guess based on what he does know.  And certainly he is not far wrong in assuming that one who could do such a thing must have come from God!

18.  But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight.

Like those in the crowd who had concluded that this must be a man who merely looks like the man who was blind, these Jews also conclude that this cannot be the same man.  Thus, to prove his true identity, they call the parents of the man and ask them to reveal if this is indeed their son.  They reasoned (and rightfully so) that a person’s parents should know him enough to identify him, whether anyone else does or not.

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

The Jews, still unhappy with the entire situation, issue their question to the man’s parents in more the form of a challenge than anything else.  They almost seem to blame them for having this son who was born blind.  Is this your son who was born blind, they ask them?  If so, how is it that he is now able to see?  They seem to imply that the parents must be somehow to blame for this situation they are in, since they claim that their son was blind and yet now he can see.  Thus, they demand an explanation from the parents of their son’s new-found ability to see.

20.  His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;

The parents, of course, recognize their son, and positively identify him as the one to whom they had given birth.  They also positively affirm the fact that he had been born blind.  Again, as his parents, there can be no doubt that they are qualified to say this.  After all, who would know whether or not he was born blind more than his parents?
21.  “But by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know.  He is of age; ask him.  He will speak for himself.”

Although they are able to answer the Jews’ first question, they refuse to even speculate regarding the answer to their second questin.  How had he now regained his sight?  They have no idea.  Rather, they encourage the Jews to question their son himself.  After all, he is an adult, and can speak for himself.  With these words they hope to let themselves off the hook, so to speak, and to put the ball back in their son’s court to answer this angry council of Pharisees about his own healing.

22.  His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue.

The parents did not say this to try to seem smart or to taunt the Jews.  They well knew that these powerful men had the authority to ban them from Jewish life and the community of Israel.  This would have been a terrible fate for any Israelite to endure.  Since they were so generally hated and looked-down-upon by the Roman society in general, the Jews were reliant on their fellow Israelites and on their Jewish communities for help and support in the difficulties of life.  Without connection to the synagogue, however, a person would be considered as being cut off from the community.  No one would buy from or sell to a person who had been thrown out of the synagogue.  They would have been far too frightened that they too might be cast out of the synagogues to ever risk it.  No one would allow their children to marry the children of one who had been cast out.  No one would be likely to even want to talk with or have anything to do with a person who had thus been removed from the daily life of Israel.  Moreover, one who was kicked out thus would more than likely be cut off from his family, unless the entire family chose to leave the synagogue with him.  And being cut off from your family would be even worse.  In a day where clothes were made from scratch, even down to the raising of the sheep to make the wool, and when food was made by hand, even down to the growing of the grain from which bread would be made, interdependence in a family was the order of the day.  To be cut off from your family would put you in a state of poverty that would be almost unbelievable to us today.  Such a thing would be an awful fate indeed, and enough to make anyone quake at the very thought.

Now there was no backing down when one was cut off from the synagogue.  Those people who displeased the Pharisees to this extent were without any recourse or any hope of mercy or reestablishment.  Once one was kicked out, that was all there was to it, and he was now no longer a part of the life of Israel for the remainder of his existence in this world.  The excommunication was total and permanent.  No wonder the parents of this man were frightened to find themselves subject to the wrath of these powerful men who had the power to take their lives away from them!  That is why they answered the Jews’ question thus, and sought to turn attention from themselves back unto their son.  They had no desire to ever challenge the Pharisees about anything, and if their son did, well, then he would have to face the consequences himself, but they were not about to have anything to do with it!

Remember, the “Jews” who had made this decision were, in fact, not the common people of Israel, but rather their leaders and those who were in power.  The hatred the Jews had developed for Christ because of His challenging them on the issue of healing on the Sabbath is seen in this passage.  No one had dared to challenge them in a long, long time, and this challenge of our Lord’s was not to be tolerated by these men, who were used to total, unquestioned power.  Thus, it was only a loosely guarded secret that they had agreed that anyone who confessed to believing the idea that He was the Messiah would suffer this fate of excommunication.  Now notice that, in spite of this threat against anyone confessing Him, they had not dared to make such a declaration about the Lord Himself or to attempt to excommunicate Him from the community.  Perhaps they were afraid that if they forced the people to choose between them and the Lord, that many of them would have chosen the Lord!  In this fear, they were no doubt not far from the truth.  After all, when had these jealous Pharisees ever offered anyone healing from their diseases, or when had their teaching ever been full of the authority and compassion of the Lord, as Jesus’ teaching had?  So, in fear for their position as leaders of the people, they threaten anyone who dares to follow the Lord, yet do not dare to do anything against the Lord Himself.  Thus they made this threat, and no doubt would not have hesitated to carry it out.  The parents of this man have heard this threat, and thus want nothing to do with making a statement one way or another about the Lord Jesus.  That is why they are so anxious to extricate themselves from the situation here.

23.  Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

Again it is emphasized that it is out of a fear of the religious leaders, not out of a lack of concern for their son or amazement at the truth of his healing, that causes this man’s parents to answer in such a guarded and non-committal way.  They know that something amazing has happened to their son, but at the same time they want nothing to do with something that could get them excommunicated from the community!