Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE HEALING OF A MAN BORN BLIND”

John 9.1-7 

Please open your Bible to John chapter nine. As we approach our third year of Sunday morning sermons taken from John’s Gospel, it is likely that anyone who has heard most or all of my messages from John has noticed some differences between John’s Gospel, written some six decades after the Savior’s earthly ministry ended with His exaltation to the Father’s right hand on high following His resurrection from the dead, and the three other Gospel accounts that were written about thirty years earlier.

First, John includes far less of the material in his gospel account that Matthew, Mark, or Luke included in theirs. John has no narrative parables, no direct mention of Christ’s baptism, no mention of His temptations by the Devil, no mention of His transfiguration,[1] no mention of the Lord’s Supper, no mention of casting out demons, and but brief mentions of the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God.

Second, only John makes mention of Christ’s first miracle of turning water into wine. Only John provides an account of Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus. Only John records our Lord’s interactions with the woman at the well in John chapter 4 and the woman caught in the act of adultery in John chapter 8. Only John forcefully identifies the Lord Jesus Christ with God, records the “I am” statements made by our Lord, and includes a series of strong contrasts such as life and death, from above and from below, light and dark, truth and life, and sight and blindness, to name but a few.

Third, in John’s Gospel account the Lord Jesus Christ was twice identified early on as the Lamb of God and was almost immediately recognized by one of His first disciples to be the Messiah,[2] while in accounts in the three other Gospels there seem to be rather late recognitions by other disciples that He was the Messiah, along with a rejection of His mission to die for sins.[3]

Fourth, John reported at least three Passovers while the other three Gospel writers chose to refer to only one. John also chose to give a great deal more attention in his Gospel account to events in Judea, leaving it to the other three gospels to record more events in Galilee. Does this reflect John’s more intimate knowledge of Jerusalem and Judea than the other disciples possessed, while they were more familiar with Galilee than he was? Or does it reflect that John might have been related to one of the religious leaders in Jerusalem?[4]

The point that I seek to emphasize is that John’s Gospel has for 1,900 years been recognized to be significantly different than the other three Gospels. None of the Gospels are biographies in the strict sense. None of the Gospels are histories in the strict sense. The four Gospels have long been recognized to be their own kind of literary genre, unlike anything else known to man. And yet, among the four Gospel accounts, John’s is most unique.

Now for some facts to establish the immediate context of John chapter nine, perhaps four to five months before our Lord’s passion. After Christ’s departure from the Temple in chapter eight, and before the events of chapter nine happened, our Lord spent two or three months that are unaccounted for. The events recorded in John seven and eight took place at the Feast of Tabernacles, in September. But the events reported in chapter nine and ten took place at the Feast of Dedication in December. Our timestamp is John 10.22, which reads 

“And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.” 

With this geographical location and time frame fixed, I plan to preach five messages about the miracle that gave sight to the man born blind and the aftermath of that miracle in chapter nine. My text for today’s message is verses 1-7, followed next Sunday by a message from John 9.8-12, with a third sermon from John 9.13-34, a fourth message dealing with verses 35-38, and concluding with a fifth sermon dealing with the brief conversation our Lord had with Pharisees in verses 39-41. All of these plans, of course, as the Lord permits.

Two questions to provoke your thoughts. Would you expect someone sent from God to fulfill prophecies made centuries earlier? Would you expect someone sent from God to be able to work miracles? Those are easy questions to answer, are they not? In John 9.1-7 we read of the Lord Jesus Christ doing both: 

1  And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

2  And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

3  Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

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

6  When 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,

7  And 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 will pursue three lines of thought related to this sixth miracle John has chosen to include in his gospel account: 

First, THERE IS THE PREDICTION OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH 

If you were a devout Jewish person and truly concerned about the coming of Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, there are some things you would be prompted by God’s Word to look out for: 

These are a few of the things an interested Jewish person could reasonably be expected to look out for up to this time in our Lord’s ministry in John chapter 9. Later, of course, His entrance into Jerusalem on a previously unridden donkey colt would be another stunning fulfillment of prophecy, Zechariah 9.9.

There are many more prophecies of Christ’s first coming, some 125 in all.[6] However, I want to call to your attention three predictions of the Messiah who would come giving sight to the blind made seven centuries earlier: 

Isaiah 29.18:

“And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.” 

Isaiah 35.5:

“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.” 

Isaiah 42.7:

“To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” 

Is it so difficult to imagine a Jewish person with a familiarity of Messianic predictions in the Hebrew Scriptures being aware that the Messiah, when He comes, will among other things give sight to the blind? A miracle worker who gives sight to the blind is understandably significant as a credible and convincing identifier of the Jewish Messiah’s identity. Would you not agree? 

Next, THERE IS THE PROCLAMATION OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST 

We know the Jewish leaders were expecting the Lord Jesus Christ to come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, which He certainly did. We also took note of His loud proclamation in the Temple courtyard at a moment when the multiplied thousands present were observing a moment of silence: 

“Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”[7] 

We also read in John 8.12, with a crowd that included Pharisees gathered around Him the very next day in that same Temple courtyard, the Lord Jesus Christ: 

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” 

Most of the time readers will consider this verse and automatically, without much thought, decide to interpret the Lord Jesus Christ’s words metaphorically, which is to say figuratively. But what about the literal meaning of what He said? Who, literally, walks in darkness if not the physically blind? What if the Lord Jesus Christ was announcing that not only would He provide spiritual illumination to those with a darkened understanding, but also physical sight to those who were shrouded in darkness under the noonday sun due to blindness? 

Finally, THE PERFORMANCE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST’S MESSIANIC MIRACLE 

Consider the events as they unfolded:

First, the Savior’s passing by, verse 1: 

“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 

Three things here: First, there is the providence of God. If providence refers to the unseen hand of the invisible God working in the lives of men to accomplish God’s plan, then we have a clear example of providence here. How did the man come to be blind from birth? Providence. How did the blind man come to be where he was when the Son of God passed by? Providence. Next, there is the mercy of God. If you consider the verse immediately before this one, in which Jews took up stones with which to stone the Savior, it is quite remarkable that the next thing John records is the Lord’s encounter with an utterly helpless man who will soon become the beneficiary of an astounding miracle.

Granted, John 9.1 likely did not occur moments after the events of John 8.58-59. But the previous chapter ends with religious leaders seeking to kill the Lord Jesus, while this chapter begins with the Lord Jesus preparing to extend grace and mercy to a man who can do Him no good, being not only an undeserving individual but also utterly incapable of returning any favor.

Second, the disciple’s presumption, verse 2: 

“And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” 

Notice how very quick the disciples of our Lord are to assign blame for the man’s blindness; it is either his fault or his parent’s fault. They want to know which of the parties to blame. But this is presuming there was a direct cause of his blindness owing to evil deeds that are immediately punished, a very wild presumption. To be sure, all physical ailments are ultimately related to the contamination of the human race by sin, but this does not by any means require that any physical ailment is directly attributable to someone’s conduct, or another person’s conduct.

Third, the Savior’s pronouncements. There are three pronouncements made by our Lord in verses 3-5: 

3  Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

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

Verse 3 records the Lord Jesus Christ’s correction of His disciples’ presumption. And keep in mind that everything they said and He said could very well have been said in the hearing of the man born blind. Am I right, Isaiah, that people are frequently so inconsiderate that they will talk about a blind person in his hearing rather than talking to him? Perhaps our Lord’s response resolved a long-standing issue in the blind man’s own mind and heart about what caused his blindness. He was not blind as the result of his sin or his parents’ sin. Christ’s first pronouncement is that God allowed this man to be born blind to prepare for the events that are about to unfold, “that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

Christ’s second pronouncement has to do with what we sometimes refer to as a window of opportunity. In other words, there are times you can do what you are sent to do and then the time when you can do those things passes. Just like you can perform certain tasks only during daylight hours, and when nighttime arrives, that type of work ceases. Thus, the Lord’s earthly ministry would not continue forever. And, indeed, it did come to an end, as will your ministry and mine, as will your life and mine.

Verse 5 is where the Lord Jesus Christ, by proclaiming Himself to be the light of the world just as He did in John 8.12, is connecting what happened in chapter eight with what He is about to do. As physical light dispels the darkness so that men might see with their eyes, so the Lord Jesus Christ will not only remedy this blind man’s physical blindness, but He will also dispel the spiritual blindness by saving the wretched man’s soul.

Fourth, the Savior’s performance, verse 6: 

“When 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.” 

Why do I refer to what the Lord is recorded as doing in this verse as a performance? Because, what else could it be but a performance? After all, what does the Lord Jesus Christ need to do to restore a man’s sight? Consider what He did as He approached Jerusalem for the final time when He gave sight to blind Bartimaeus near Jericho, Mark 10.51-52: 

51  And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.

52  And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way. 

With Bartimaeus the Lord Jesus Christ just did it. No actions were needed. No intermediate means were employed. He just worked a miracle and there was nothing to see. All the bystanders knew was that blind Bartimaeus could suddenly see after the Lord said to him, 

“Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.” 

But here in John 9.6, the Lord Jesus Christ made two mud balls from spit and dirt to make clay, and then He put them in the man’s eye sockets. Why did He do that? Why did our Lord make use of means, the spit, and the dirt to make clay? Why go to that trouble when He could have given the man sight without visibly doing anything? Could it possibly be that the Lord Jesus Christ was acting out an object lesson in front of men whose minds would immediately have remembered what they had read so many times in Genesis 2.7? 

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground.” 

Though I cannot prove what I am about to say, I am of the opinion the Lord Jesus Christ is showing onlookers a visual that will remind them of Genesis 2.7 and will also associate the Lord Jesus Christ with the creation of Adam. Adam’s body was formed the way the blind man’s eyes were formed.

Finally, the Savior’s prescription, verse 7: 

“And 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.” 

By prescription, I do not suggest the Lord gave the blind man medicine to make him well. By prescription, I mean that the Lord Jesus Christ prescribed something the blind man was to do. As the blind man obeyed, and notice that he obeyed without objection or complaint in a manner quite the opposite of the Syrian general Naaman when Elijah told him to dip in the river to be healed of leprosy, he received his sight.[8] The fact that He sent the blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam is important if for no other reason than John makes a point of telling us the meaning of the pool’s name, sent. Is this a means of showing that as the pool’s name means sent, so the Lord Jesus Christ is one sent by the Father? Perhaps. This is what we know for sure; the man believed the Lord Jesus Christ enough that his confidence in the Lord was translated into compliance with His directive. I am of the opinion the man born blind was not yet saved from his sins, and that would not happen for a while. In verse 11 the man born blind described our Lord as a man. In verse 17 his estimation of Him had changed so that he referred to Him as a prophet. But by verse 38 he became a believer and worshiped Him. 

To be sure, there are intentional parallels made by John in his Gospel between the miracle that produced vision for a man who had been born blind, just as spiritual vision is imparted to a sinner who comes to Christ who was spiritually blind from birth. Even though we recognize that the man born blind was not converted to Christ when the miracle performed by Christ gave him sight, it was a precursor to the even greater miracle performed by Christ that resulted in the forgiveness of the man’s sins and new life in Christ.

So, why did the Lord Jesus Christ engage in that performance with the spit, the dirt, and the clay in the man’s eye sockets? We see from the miracle that Christ worked to give sight to Bartimaeus in Mark chapter ten that a great miracle does not require that anything visible to the naked eye take place for onlookers to observe, other than the result that the guy could see. I am persuaded our Lord’s performance art in John 9.6 was a lesson acted out to show His audience that he is the God Who created Adam, Genesis 2.7, and using the same materials built this man a pair of eyes that worked perfectly. Over time the man began to connect the dots in his mind and eventually recognized who this miracle worker must be. Then he became a believer and worshiped Him.

I conclude this message with an appeal to you who do not know the Savior to trust Him straightway. I strengthen my appeal to you to come to Christ by asking you to consider two questions: First, does the miracle have to be experienced by you to be convincing, or is it okay with you for Christ to give someone else sight? Second, when you stand before God on the Day of Judgment to give your account to Him, will He accept your reasoning that a miracle is only believable if it happens to you?

I urge you to consider these questions as you plan your response to the Savior’s directive that you trust Him. Not that His directive will necessarily be voiced to you in an audible voice. His directive to the man born blind was communicated using events he experienced and Scriptural truth he was aware of from the Lord’s declarations. And the same is true of you. The combination of providential experiences and being made aware of Gospel truth is how the Savior has directed you to turn from your sins to trust Him.

Therefore, my friend, perform the doing of it.

__________

[1] Though allusion is made to Christ’s transfiguration in John 1.14.

[2] John 1.29, 36, 41

[3] Matthew 16.16, 21-22; Mark 8.29, 31-32

[4] John 18.16

[5] Genesis 17.9; 21.12; 22.18; 35.10-12; 49.10; Numbers 24.17; 2 Samuel 7.16

[6] Tim LaHay Prophecy Study Bible, (AMG Publishers, 2000), pages 1415-1419.

[7] John 7.37-38

[8] 2 Kings 5.10-14

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