This chapter and scene are divided into three sections:
1. Jesus heals the blind man – vs. 1-12
John describes another miracle that Jesus performs, this time the healing of a man born blind. This act will set the stage for a debate that will be carried on away from the presence of Jesus this time.
2. The debate – vs. 13-34
John will describe a debate that rages between the Pharisees and the people concerning the miracle that Jesus has done. He will also describe the questioning that the man and his family undergo at the hands of the Jewish leaders.
3. Jesus declares His deity – vs. 35-41
Jesus will once again confront the man he healed but this time reveals His person to him. The chapter will close out with a final debate between Jesus and the Pharisees over what He has done and what He has said.
Chapter 10 will also include a discussion between Jesus and these very same Pharisees and more declarations of His deity, and we will see the chapter end when Jesus will leave this area and continue His ministry in another geographic location.
The first part of chapter nine deals with the actual miracle that Jesus performed on the man who was born blind.
Vs. 1-2 – 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 would be born blind?"
The question by His disciple sets up a teaching opportunity for Jesus. The Jews of those days believed that there was a direct correlation between infirmity and sinfulness. The questions the disciples were asking stemmed from the fact that he was born blind. If he was already blind at birth, then who was responsible for this infirmity, the sins of his parents or was it his own sins?
Vs. 3-5 – Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world."
Jesus does not answer this particular question because He would have explained to them that being born blind or becoming blind is a result of the fallen nature of man. Sickness, infirmity, accidents and death stem from the fallen nature of humanity which finds its source in the first sin of Adam. Jesus chooses not to explain this theological fact to His disciples but rather uses this opportunity to again focus their attention on His divinity. He tells them that in this particular case, the blindness is there to provide an opportunity to display the power of God.
They assume that He will be there for a long time and continue His ministry for a long time. Jesus understands that His ministry among them will be short lived and He must accomplish many things in a brief period of time. Note that He builds again on the theme of light and the fact that He is the light of the world. The miracle that He will perform will demonstrate that He is the light of the world and His words about this are indeed true.
Vs. 6-7 – When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.
A lot is said about the fact that Jesus made the clay mixture and applied it to the man's eyes and gave him instructions to go wash his eyes. He could have as easily said, "Open your eyes and see" and the miracle would have been completed in this way. Most scholars believe that the reason Jesus went through this process is probably because He wanted the man to participate in his own healing.
Having never seen, the man now is made aware that a miracle or an effort is being made to restore his sight. Putting the mud on his eyes has no medicinal purpose other than to give the man something to do as a response of faith. (In the same way, baptism has no medicinal effect.) And we see the man going to the particular pool to do exactly what Jesus said, and as a result his sight is regained.
The point here is that the miracle is done through the power of Jesus, but the man does make a response of faith in obeying Jesus' word to go wash the mud off his blind eyes in the particular pool of Siloam. As far as the man is concerned, there is no doubt who has performed the miracle because he has been touched by Jesus, he has heard Jesus speak to him, he has responded to Jesus in obeying His command to wash his eyes.
Vs. 8-12 – Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, "Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?" Others were saying, "This is he," still others were saying, "No, but he is like him." He kept saying, "I am the one." So they were saying to him, "How then were your eyes opened?" He answered, "The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash'; so I went away and washed, and I received sight." They said to him, "Where is He?" He said, "I do not know."
In this particular passage, John describes the reaction of the neighbors of the blind man to his miraculous healing. It is not a question of believing or disbelieving, they clearly see that he now has his sight, they simply are not sure who has performed the miracle. Obviously, a great miracle has been performed among them and they wish to make this known to their leaders, and so in the next section we will see the people bringing the blind man to the leaders of the nation.
Debate among the Pharisees
We will see here that this miracle will create controversy because it was performed on the Sabbath. John describes the debate among the Pharisees in terms of two witnesses that the blind man makes about Jesus when he is brought before them.
Vs. 13-23 – They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind. Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, "He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see." Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, "This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath." But others were saying, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, "What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?" And he said, "He is a prophet." The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, and questioned them, saying, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?" His parents answered them and said, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself." His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, "He is of age; ask him."
In this passage the Pharisees question the blind man about his miraculous sight and he acknowledges that he was blind and was healed. There is great doubt about this and so the leaders of the Jews want to question his parents to see if this is some kind of a trick. His parents are brought forward but refuse to make a testimony because they are afraid of the Jews. In the end, they simply tell the leaders to question their son who is an adult and who can speak for himself.
Vs. 24-34 – "So a 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 then answered, "Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." So they said to him, "What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?" He answered them, "I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?" They reviled him and said, "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 is from." The man answered and said to them, "Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing." They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?" So they put him out."
In the beginning, they suggest that he may be lying. When they say, "Give glory to God," they are saying "Tell the truth now." They want him to acknowledge that Jesus is a fake and a sinner because He has performed this miracle on the Sabbath in violation of their rules. In his second witness, the healed man is much bolder with the leadership in challenging them about the miracle that Jesus has performed for him. The leaders claim superiority because they are disciples of Moses and they claim to know the Law. The man responds that whether they know the Law or not, the fact that Jesus healed his blindness trumps all of their "so-called" knowledge. In the end, unable to resist his cold and clear logic, the Pharisees simply insult him and throw him out of the room.
Jesus affirms His deity
Until this point in the story this man has not yet actually seen Jesus. He has heard Him, has responded to Him by obeying, but once his eyes were opened, he did not actually see or know what Jesus looked like. In this final passage however, John describes the face-to-face meeting that the man does have with the one who healed him.
Vs. 35-38 – Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?" Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you." And he said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped Him.
In this passage, there is a dialogue between Jesus and the man. Notice that Jesus calls on the man to believe in Him and the healed man not only acknowledges his faith but John says he worshipped Jesus. The fact that he worshipped Him demonstrates that his faith was sincere.
Vs. 39-41 – And Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, "We are not blind too, are we?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains.
In these few verses, Jesus uses several play on words that summarize well the condition of those who believe and those who disbelieve.
A. He equates those who believe with those who are able to see. Whether they are physically able to see or not, the fact that they believe means that they are able to perceive the truth.
B. Those who disbelieve are compared to those who are blind. Whether they are able to see or not, the fact that they disbelieve demonstrates that they are truly spiritually blind because they cannot grasp the truth.
In the end, Jesus hurls an accusation at the Pharisees because they were complaining that His condemnations were directed towards them. Jesus tells them, "At least if you acknowledged that you did not know the truth, then you would be innocent in this matter but because you boast that you are the guardians of the truth and yet deny me, then you are charged and found guilty of this sin of disbelief."
In this final passage, we see Jesus not only declaring His divinity, but also attaching to His declaration the accusation that those who do not believe in His divinity are subject to condemnation. In this way Jesus is raising the stakes as far as the importance of believing in Him is concerned. For those who believe, there is great reward and now, for those who disbelieve, there is condemnation at hand.
Jesus will continue His dialogue with the Pharisees in the next chapter and will continue to assert His deity. For now, He leaves them with yet another uncontestable miracle that points to His divinity. And once again, the Pharisees are quibbling over the issue of when the miracle was performed rather than the power and the meaning of the act itself. The irony, of course, is that the person who was blind was able to clearly see the meaning of what had happened to him, and those who claimed to be the leaders and the visionaries of society were clearly blind to what was there before them.