Someone led him to his usual spot on the side of the road in Jerusalem. He made himself comfortable on this Sabbath morning and prepared to do the same thing he’d done every day for years. The same thing he expected to do every day for the next thirty years, maybe longer. It was his penance. For what, he did not know. He groped at his side for his bowl and cleared his throat. “Some alms for the blind? Can anyone spare a half-cent or a quadran?”
Sometimes people were generous, especially on holy days, when more people passed and more of them gave alms. Sometimes a wealthy man would put his hand in the bowl and rattle it but the weight of the bowl didn’t change. Strange that the poorer people never did that sort of thing. Rarely, someone would stop to talk to him; those were the best days.
He shifted his weight, sensing a large group coming toward him. They slowed as they passed. He sat up a little straighter and leaned forward hopefully, trying to look agreeable and worthy. But how could he know what “agreeable” looked like when he’d never seen a human face?
“Rabbi,” he heard—ah, it was a teacher—“who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2)
The question he’d asked himself since he was five years old, since he didn’t go to study in the temple with the other boys.
The question his parents invariably asked at least once a month, usually when he tripped in the yard or knocked over a pot of soup.
It was the question
God had yet to answer.
The question suggesting someone must be blamed for his disability.
The question God had yet to answer.
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned” (John 9:3a).
Wait. What? The man dropped his bowl and turned toward the voice. A few coins jingled across the dirt at the edge of the road.
Not only were the words unexpected, but the authority with which this teacher spoke…it was startling.
“This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3b). Then there was something about day and night, light and darkness—things the blind man couldn’t understand because he knew only darkness.
His blindness wasn’t punishment. It had purpose. The idea bounced around in his head until he felt dizzy. All these years, he’d been duped, lied to, guilt-ridden without cause. The blind man had been bluffed.
The Teacher’s presence
was charged with peace.
The teacher bent beside him and spit in the dirt. Now that this teacher was so close, he could feel the charge in the air around Him. Most people wouldn’t notice it, but the blind man’s other senses were heightened by his lack of sight. It wasn’t a tense charge, though. The teacher’s presence was charged with peace. Without explanation, He knew his best response was trust and obedience.
No one questioned the teacher’s unusual action. In fact, the others fell silent. When his hand stretched toward the blind man’s face, smelling of mud and maybe a little garlic, the blind man turned toward him instead of pulling away.
The teacher smeared His mud concoction across the blind man’s face, covering his eyes. “Go,” the teacher told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (John 9:7). He didn’t need to ask why.
By this time, other people had gathered around them. One of the blind man’s acquaintances helped him up and led him toward the pool. He didn’t bother about what other people thought as he walked through town with mud dripping down his face.
The man walked confidently beside his friend on their way back. He could see! After convincing his neighbors and friends that he really was the same man, he learned the teacher’s name was Jesus.
Jesus hadn’t waited around for congratulatory high-fives and some pats on the back though. He went on to wherever he was going.
The Pharisees kicked the healed
man out of the temple.
The man’s neighbors didn’t know what to think, so they took him to the Pharisees, who typically had an explanation for everything, but the Pharisees were bumfoozled as well. (I like that word, don’t you?) When the Pharisees couldn’t understand something, they got angry and offended. After a couple of exchanges, they kicked the blind man out of the temple.
Think about the sad irony: He can finally participate in a full Jewish man’s life, but he is rejected before he even begins.
Jesus heard the man had been thrown out of the temple and tracked him down again. I imagine Jesus smirked just a little at the man’s attitude toward the Pharisees. He had quipped, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” (John 9:27)
There is so much fun in the man’s exchanges with the Pharisees and so much depth in his later interaction with Jesus, but let’s just dwell in the miracle scene. Consider a few things with me:
- The man went to “work” that morning with the same expectations as any other day. He didn’t ask to be healed but Jesus walked up to him and healed him anyway—like the widow of Nain. I may meet someone today who isn’t expecting Jesus to enter his or her life, but He can radically change that person’s future nevertheless. He’ll use me to do it.
- Both the blindness and the healing were for God’s glory. Our difficulties always have purpose…usually multiple purposes, but we can be sure of one thing. We can lean on this one thing when it feels like we’re crashing: God intends to be glorified through this difficulty. If we seek His glory even in the middle of it (not just after we’re delivered), we’ll have an easier time working through it.
- The blind man trusted Jesus and obeyed before he even knew Jesus’ name. His obedience meant he looked foolish in front of his neighbors as he walked to the Pool of Siloam, but he didn’t care. We are called to no less. Am I willing to do whatever Jesus asks?
- Jesus met the blind man at his current (seemingly nonexistent) state of belief and led him toward faith from there. In the same way, He doesn’t expect us to make these big leaps of faith before He’ll start leading us. I can look for Him in my now.
- When He found the formerly blind man later, Jesus spoke to him straightforwardly and not secretly. We see this repeatedly with Jesus (e.g. the woman at the well). Simple people, willing to believe, get simple answers.
The disregarded, the hopeless cases: that’s who Jesus chose–and still chooses–to use. I’m so thankful.
I love to dig into these stories of Jesus. What do you take away from this miracle story? What connections is the Holy Spirit making in your mind? Do tell in the comments below!
Related: Glass Slippers and Pharisees