Dirt and Spit
There was a man who was born blind, reduced to beggary, and walking along one day; the disciples ask Jesus who sinned that he should be blind, he or his parents. Jesus corrects their false premise telling them that no one sinned, but this man would give glory to God through his condition. Then Jesus did an odd thing; He spit into the dirt and made a muddy paste which He rubbed on the man’s eyes, then He told the man to wash his eyes off in the Pool of Siloam and he would be able to see.
Yet just before doing this odd thing, He had something else to say to the disciples:
As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
As we will see, John will use day and night, light and dark, to illustrate Jesus’ presence or absence. As we continue to move closer and closer to the time of His arrest, Jesus will continue to say things like “while it is still day” and “the night is approaching.” In fact, as we will see later in the book, Jesus describes the period from His arrest up until His resurrection as “night” or “darkness”. So, at the point of this story, it is still day and there is work to be done to glorify God.
There is some very interesting imagery in this account, there must be since spit and dirt are seldom known as a restorative for sight; if they were I’d have tried them myself! When Jesus spit into the dirt, that saliva came from His mouth, as does His Word. Recall the Word in the beginning that was with God, and which was God, and then which became flesh and made its dwelling among us? That is what is being pictured here. As for the dirt, do you recall what God made Adam from? Ah yes, it was dirt! So, the Word comes from the mouth of Jesus and is combined with the soil which represents humanity and is applied directly to the part of the man that isn’t whole. Then the man, who has never seen Jesus, does what Jesus has commanded him in perfect obedience, and is made whole again, in this instance receiving his sight for the first time. In fact, we wouldn’t be far off track if we said here that the man had seen the light.
Did you notice verse 7? The Pool of Siloam “which means sent.” Think about this for just a moment: Jesus combined His Word with humanity and then they are sent out on a mission. What happens when we receive Christ? His Word combines with our humanity and we are sent to make disciples, and when we respond in obedience, we are made whole. Now in saying this, I don’t mean just that our sins have been forgiven, for that is only the first step in life’s adventure with Christ. For it is within the adventure of following Him, over time you might say, that we are made entirely whole, as we see the light of His Truth at work within us… and so it was with this man.
What an amazing little story this is!
The man’s neighbors had lots of questions, and so do our neighbors when they see Jesus at work in us, but unfortunately, the Pharisees are about to weigh in on this, and that is a whole different story, just as it is for us when the modern-day Pharisees get involved…
Jesus’ giving sight to a blind man came to the attention of the Pharisees; an official investigation of this lawlessness has been opened.
What’s that you say- what’s lawless about healing a blind man?
Oh sorry, didn’t I mention it? Jesus healed the guy on the Sabbath, and we know how they feel about that don’t we?
Look at this text; can’t you just see these Pharisees who have already decided the outcome, trying to get the answers they need to justify what they have already decided they are going to do? Those Pharisees might even make a Congressman blush!
They question the man, but not satisfied, they question his parents, after all how can they be sure he was ever really blind? The parents say he was blind and he is their son; they should know. Yet when asked who had healed their son, they are afraid to be associated with Jesus, for the corruption of their leaders is well known; they throw the question back to their son. The Pharisees question him a second time.
They ask him again to tell them who did this, only this time, they want the truth:
He answered, “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?” (v. 27)
This is one of those times I wish I could see their faces; would you like to become His disciple too?
Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” (vv. 28-29)
If you have been following along, then you will remember that it was only a couple of chapters back that the Pharisees were sure Jesus wasn’t the Messiah because they knew where He came from; a tangled web indeed!
The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (vv. 30-33)
The parents might have been afraid of the Pharisees, but this guy is on fire! If I were advising the Pharisees, I would tell them to end this interview in a hurry before they screw it up even further… and they did:
To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
Like any other group of mediocre politicians, they avoided the truth by calling the guy some names and having him tossed out. After all, isn’t that what you do when the issue becomes too hot to handle?
We’ve already seen the way that the issue of healing on the Sabbath plays out between the Pharisees and Jesus, yet the Pharisees just know they can trip Jesus up so they will have an excuse to murder Him. Their minds are closed, their hearts are hardened and their backs are turned on God, now it’s just the small matter of doing away with the inconvenient truth. Does this remind you of anything today?
When He next sees the man, the man came to believe in Him and worshipped Him. This brings us to verse 39; why doesn’t anyone ever quote it?
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Of course, He also said that He had not come to judge: Here to judge, or here not to judge?
What shall we say?
This is an unusual context, isn’t it? Jesus is playing on these words to show that the Pharisees have condemned themselves by their ruthless arrogance, for they claim to know all and see all, and yet when confronted with an amazing manifestation of the power and glory of God, as they were when this poor man received his sight, all they can think of is how to downplay the whole thing so they can keep their influence. So, they conjure up their little investigation into the facts of the case, but not before they have already determined its outcome, and in the end, they have kicked the once blind man out of the assembly because he had the audacity to tell the truth.
There were some Pharisees present who overheard this exchange; look at their condescension:
Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” (v. 40)
Can you imagine having that much attitude at that precise moment? Jesus explained:
Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains. (v. 41)
In a simple one-liner Jesus smashes any hope they might have of saving the situation. Have you ever noticed that often it is the very person or persons who should know best, who refuse to accept the obvious if it proves a threat to their position and influence? Since they admit they have the knowledge, that they should know better, they cannot claim innocence, no, not ever.