This post is the fourth in a series that explains the seven signs in the gospel of John.
In the gospel of John, there are seven signs of Jesus:
- Changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11);
- Healing the royal official’s son (John 4:46-54);
- Healing the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem (John 5:1-15);
- Feeding the 5,000 (John 6:5-14);
- Walking on water (John 6:16-21);
- Healing the man born blind (John 9:1-7); and
- Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45).
Important in this series is the difference between a sign and a miracle. See this previous post to understand that difference. To summarize, a “sign” is something that has the elements of an analogy or a metaphor. While analogies and metaphors are verbal parallels to an outside reality, signs involve tangible parallels to an outside reality.
This one is about the healing of the man born blind.
The Courtroom Drama in the Bible and in the Gospel of John
A big theme in the gospel of John is whether or not Jesus will judge the world. We see Jesus address this many times in this gospel:
For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:22-24)
I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. (John 5:30)
So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:16-24)
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. (John 8:12-16)
And not only is this in the gospel of John, but it is also reflected in the Old Testament. Specifically, the idea that the “judgment” of Jesus does not come from his own experience is also described:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
In other words, the prophesy being explained is that by the breath of the lips of Jesus, the wicked shall be killed. It is in this context that the miracle of the man born blind happens.
Therefore, in that context of the gospel of John, notice the following argument that happens between Jesus and the Jews in Jerusalem:
The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:48-59)
That phrase “Before Abraham was, I am,” is grammatically very strange. It seems it should be “Before Abraham was, I was.” But it is not very strange whenever you realize that “I am” is the name that the God of Israel gave to Moses:
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)
In other words, immediately before the healing of the man born blind, Jesus tells the Jews EXACTLY who he is. And in response, the Jews want to kill him.
In other words… …they are blind.
The Healing of the Man Born Blind
Immediately afterwards, we get the story of the healing of the man born blind. But it does not happen randomly. It happens in the midst of a question and answer. Look what we read:
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 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 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
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?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 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.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
Notice that the disciples try to get Jesus to tell them who is at fault for this man born blind. The man born blind is a parallel for the Jews who were quite “blind” in trying to kill him.
As such, the disciples are trying to get Jesus to pass judgment on this man. What they probably don’t realize is that they are implicitly asking Jesus to pass judgment on unbelieving Israel, as well.
The Reason Jesus Gives His Strange Non-Answer
Now, it traditional evangelical Christian circles, the answer to the disciples’ question has a simple answer. Why is there suffering in the world? That is because of the fall. But… ….whose fault is the fall? It’s Adam’s fault, right? And Adam is our first parent, and so the sin of Adam is the reason that pain exists in this world… and therefore, the reason this man is born blind is because of his parents… …his FIRST parents, that is. Right?
Wrong. You see, if Jesus were to give that answer, Jesus would be putting the blame of sin and pain in the world on Adam. And he refuses to do that. In fact, Jesus never gives judgement of mankind. He never even does it in other gospels, when it seems like he should. For example, remember Jesus’s words on the cross:
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. (Luke 23:32-34)
And there is a very important reason why Jesus does not accuse mankind. That is because of the divine courtroom scene that is playing out throughout the Bible. And in this divine courtroom scene, we need to remember who the prosecutor is:
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers [footnote: or brothers and sisters] has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
In other words, the prosecutor who “accuses” Adam and Eve and all of humanity is Satan himself, who is described as a dragon in the heavenly places:
He is the accuser and adversary of humanity, in the context of a courtroom proceeding, and the “courtroom” is in the heavenly places. In fact, that is what the word “Satan” means. Satan is the “accuser” and “adversary.” And God is the judge.
That is why it is so important about what Jesus says in response to this question. If Jesus judges humanity for their blindness, it will affirm the accusation of Satan against the world.
The Meaning of the Man Born Blind
What we need to remember about the healing of the man born blind in John 9 is that it happens immediately after the confrontation between Jesus and the Jews at the temple in John 8. Jesus told the Jews who he was, and the Jews did not believe. And Jesus explicitly connects this idea to light that cures blindness:
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” . . . Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. . . . They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” . . . He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” . . . So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” . . . They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” . . . Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” . . . The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” . . . Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. . . . Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (Excerpts from John 8:12-59)
Notice that Jesus states that those who follows him walks in “the light” and those who do not walk “in darkness.” In other words, they are BLIND.
And immediately after this argument and threat on his life, Jesus is asked who is responsible for a man BORN BLIND. And his response is quite shocking and unexpected. He does not give an answer:
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 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 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. (John 9:1-7)
But his miraculous sign is an image and illustration of blind men – like all of us – being born again and being made into a new creation by the power of the Holy Spirit:
then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Do you see why the “mud” was so important? The mud was an image of “creation” in this new act of creation. Additionally, the washing is an image of baptism. And it is only after the washing that the man sees.
Importantly, the baptism is associated with being “sent,” and Jesus after he rose from the dead gave clear instructions sending all of us out to the nations in the Great Commission, described in Matthew 28.
As such, the healing of the man born blind is a picture of healing those people who hate their God because they are blind. Jesus will heal those people who hate God – and therefore hate him – by making them SEE. And what do they see? They see JESUS, because he has opened their eyes.
The Persecution of the Man Born Blind
But that is not the only thing that happens to the man. After being healed, the man is persecuted by those whose eyes are still blind. After this healing, there is something else that happens to the man. He is put on trial. He gives his testimony about Jesus, saying this:
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 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.” 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. 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.”
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 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 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.” (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.) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
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.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 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?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 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. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. (John 9:13-34)
And so this man is cast out of the temple (just like Jesus). And this is a fact that Jesus actually addresses in the gospel of John:
Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. (John 15:20)
The man born blind spoke the truth. He called Jesus a prophet from God. For that, he was condemned and thrown out of the temple. But Jesus heard that he was thrown out of the temple, he came to him. Then, the following interaction comes, where Jesus explains his own sign. In explaining his sign, he explicitly references “judgment,” a big theme in the gospel of John, as we’ve previously discussed:
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. (John 9:35-41)
So the healing of the man born blind is a picture of what Jesus is doing in the world. He is letting us see who previously could not see.
The Prophetic Importance of the Man Born Blind
However, to get the full picture, we need to remember that “blindness” is not some physical or medical condition alone. In scripture, blindness is not restricted to that, but also concerns a general condition of the world. That’s because “darkness” is a cause of “blindness.” For example:
But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:11)
This is the context of Old Testament prophesies about Jesus Christ:
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
It is this “light” and “life” that Jesus brings that is a big theme of the gospel of John, which plays out in this miracle as well:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
That is the meaning of the sign of the man born blind. While Jesus was in the world, he was the light of the world. Now that he has ascended to heaven, it is his spirit that is the light of the world, and that light is in us. As such, now Christians are the light of the world. Read this post for more on that.
The Righteous Judgment of the World in the Gospel of John
So, the man born blind is not judged, neither him nor his parents. However, Jesus did come into the world for judgment. So who is he judging?
At the end of the event, the Jews claim that they can see, and Jesus says that if they can see, they have guilt. So… can they see? Is Jesus judging the Jews? But if the man born blind stands for Israel that is blind, what is going on here?
The answer to this conundrum is actually given in the gospel of John. It is not the individual man who is judged. It is not the Jews themselves who are judged. Instead, the judgment lies elsewhere:
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. (John 12:31)
Who is this ruler of the world? Well, he is described elsewhere in the Bible, and his description is explicitly connected to “blindness”:
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
In other words, the person upon which Jesus lays his judgment is not us, instead…
IT IS SATAN, THE ACCUSER IN THE COSMIC COURTROOM DRAMA.
As such, the condemnation of our sin will only remain on us if we continue to follow Satan. If we wish to stop following him, we will have to turn and follow Jesus Christ. We must acknowledge him as the rightful God of this world, rather than the one who leads the entire world in sin:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)
And when we walk, we will not walk as though we were blind. Instead, we will have light. And this light will be what finally casts out Satan. By this light, Jesus states in the gospel of John, that while we will not be judged, the world that is following Satan and Satan himself will be judged by God on the last day:
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:7-11)
Once again, if you want more information on that idea, see this post I wrote earlier. The amazing story of the gospel is not only that Jesus Christ has defeated Satan, but that by following Jesus Christ, we become his hands and feet, accomplishing his purposes in the world. So while it was Jesus who defeated Satan, we are joined with him to finish the task:
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27)
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (Romans 16:20)
And that explains the sign of the healing of the man born blind.
The seventh and final sign of Jesus in the gospel of John is the raising of Lazarus from the dead. That is the next post in this series, and it will be a doozy. If you like what you read here, please like and subscribe. Also, please tell people what you read here, because this site ain’t free for me, and word of mouth is the only advertisement for this blog.