1 As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 Having said this, He spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. 7 “Go,” He told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
8 His neighbours and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded.
11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
12 “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don't know,” he said.
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man's eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided.
17 Finally they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about Him? It was your eyes He opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
18 The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man's parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
25 He replied, “Whether He is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
26 Then they asked him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?”
27 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?”
28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where He comes from.”
30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don't know where He comes from, yet He opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does His will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”
34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when He found him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 “Who is He, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in Him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen Him; in fact, He is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped Him.
39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
40 Some Pharisees who were with Him heard Him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” 41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
It’s always important to understand the Bible in context, so in order to better grasp the deeper message in the story of the blind man being healed in John 9, we actually need to go back a bit first.
In 8:12 it says “When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
He spoke these words in the temple at Jerusalem during the time of the Feast of Tabernacles when the temple court was crowded with people. The Feast of Tabernacles was to commemorate a chapter in the life of the Hebrew nation when the Israelites wandered for forty years in the wilderness. It was held at the close of the harvest season, and people from everywhere came to Jerusalem and made little booths to live in that week, recalling the lifestyle their fathers had lived in the Arabian desert.
Two characteristic features of the feast were: Each morning water was brought in a golden vessel from the pool of Siloam and poured onto the altar of sacrifice. The water reminded the people of the miracle at Meribah where water poured from the rock, and pointed forward to the spiritual water which Jesus offered.
Then in the evening in one of the courts of the temple were two great lamps that are said to have cast their light all over Jerusalem. These recalled the pillar of fire that had guided the Israelites in the wilderness, and they pointed to the “Son of righteousness” who would arise with “healing in his wings.”
And it was here, in the crowded city one night during the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus declared that He is the “light of the world”.
Of course, as we know, these kinds of things did not go down too well with the Pharisees, but it’s important for us to understand that the healing of the blind man happened during this festival.
So Jesus gave a man born blind physical sight to point out the spiritual truth that He was and is the Light of the World. This is not just a story of Jesus feeling sorry for a man with a physical disability.
The man was born physically blind, just as we are all born spiritually blind. Remember, there is always a deeper spiritual message in Scripture.
The disciples thought the man’s blindness was caused by sin, but Jesus explained that God’s power over both physical and spiritual darkness was about to be shown because of this man. Again Jesus explained that He is the Light of the World and proceeded to give a rather dramatic demonstration of this truth. He spat on the ground and began to make some mud. He applied the mud to the man’s eyes, and when the man went and washed the mud from his eyes, he could see clearly. Whenever we wash the mud and filth from our eyes, we, too, can see more clearly. It is difficult to see the finer things in life as long as we look at the worldly. We will always struggle to see and understand the true light while we remain confused by the murky darkness of the material world.
But of course, the healing of the blind man is not the end of the story – it’s really only the beginning.
As we know, this miracle caused an uproar among the religious leaders. They could hardly believe that the man now walking around was the one who had been blind. They asked him about it, and he gave them the last answer they wanted to hear: “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
So he was called to appear before the taken to the Sanhedrin, the highest ruling body and court of justice, and asked to explain himself.
They warned him that he had not been cured by God and asked him to deny the miracle, but he could not. He said simply (and profoundly), “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
The man’s logic was too powerful for them, so they took the defeatist attitude and chased him out of the temple. Jesus found the man and asked him if he believed in the Son of God. The man did not know who Jesus was talking about at first, but once Jesus revealed Himself to him, the man believed and worshipped Jesus as the Light of his spiritual life also.
But what is light really? I haven’t tried, but I’ve often wondered how I would explain what light is to someone who was born blind, and has no idea what light is.
To put it into a spiritual context, how do we explain what faith and salvation is to someone who is not a Christian and who really has no interest in finding Christ?
It’s no wonder that His words ‘I am the Light of the World’ confused and annoyed so many people. They still do today.
But Jesus’ words point back to the pillar of fire that led the Hebrews through the wilderness, the light that assured them of God’s presence. Now Jesus is that Light and is in their midst. The guidance of that light was uninterrupted and unerring. It was never mistaken for an ordinary cloud, and each night the flame burned brightly and assured the people that God was with them.
When we truly learn to trust Jesus, His presence is unmistakable in our lives.
There are two things that light does, and it seems that Jesus had both in mind. Firstly, it enables people to see. The man born blind could see with the light Jesus gave him. Walk into a dark room and you see nothing, but switch on the light, and instantly you see everything in the room.
Light also guides us. Harbour lights are there to guide ships. Lights on a runway are there to guide aeroplanes.
And the Light of Christ is there to guide those who love and trust Him. His light enables us to see what is in the world, so that we can determine what is good and what is evil.
But not only that.
In Matthew 5 Jesus says something which can only be described as amazing: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
We are to pass on the light of Christ to those around us. Jesus, by His Spirit has taken up residence in the heart of every Christian, and He expects us to reflect His light in this dark world.
But we cannot do this on our own. Much like a luminous watch, we cannot shine on our own. It takes an outside source of light to make a luminous watch glow.
And in much the same way we need to draw our ‘glow’ from Christ before we are able to reflect His light.
This means that Christ in us lights us up, and we are to help people to see and also offer them guidance.
Among the many things Jesus does for us as the light of the world is that He enables us to see God. Isaiah 9:2 says “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
For centuries before, people had groped around in the darkness in a vain attempt to find God, and they still do today. Some will say that they are quite happy with life, and they don’t need God, thank you very much. But deep down, they know this is not true. God has created each of us with a deep desire to know the God who created us. It’s been very accurately called the ‘God-shaped void’, and until such time as we stop trying to fill that void with anything other than God, there will always be an emptiness inside every human heart.
God revealed Himself to the Hebrews, and they came to know Him as the loving God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as the covenant God who had led their fathers through the wilderness into the Promised Land. He described Himself as “a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5-6)
He also says about Himself in Exodus 34, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7)
All of this, and so much more, is perfected in Jesus. Every attribute of spiritual excellence was brought out into clearer distinction, and every element was enlarged and purified. As we have seen on the Alpha Course this week, if you want to know what God is like, look to Jesus.
It’s important to note that He didn’t say “I bring light and truth,” but “I am Light; I am Truth.” He is the Light of the World because in Him is the glory of God. In Him is everything we will ever need to find our purpose, our meaning and the very reason for our existence.
Paul writes in Colossians 2:8-10, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”
There’s another quality of the light of Christ which we also need to look at today. His light exposes us for who we really are.
We are different from the rest of the animal kingdom in that we are moral beings. We have relationships beyond nature and have wants and aspirations that connect us to God.
After all, we are the reason for and the object of God coming here in human form. As I mentioned earlier, whether we realise it or not, God is the object of our searching for meaning and purpose.
Jesus Himself said in Matthew 6:25, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” And in verse 33 “Seek first His kingdom and righteousness.”
God has made us in His own image and loves us no matter how they may have degraded that image and wandered away from Him. And when we did, Jesus came to find us, to bring that light into this world which we have darkened with our own sin.
And since Jesus has shown us what God is and what we ought to be, He has illuminated the profound abyss that separates us from God, and sadly, it’s not a pretty picture. But in His grace and because of His love for us, He has made it possible for us to span this abyss. “For God so loved the world.”
And He continues to guide us today. As the pillar of cloud lit the way for the Israelites, so Jesus lights our way. Whenever the people moved, the cloud moved; when they stopped, the cloud stopped.
Jesus promises us that if we walk with Him we will not walk in the darkness.
Darkness is the scriptural term for the condition of the human soul without God. And Jesus tells us that to accept Him as the Light would mean that the darkness of sin will be driven out. Light will always defeat darkness. Light drives the darkness back.
Not only is the promise made that we will be led into the Light, but that we will have that Light and become lights ourselves. Christ is our guiding Light.
He guides us to a better life here and now, and ultimately into glory beyond this life.
Just listen to this wonderful promise in Revelation 21: “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.” (Revelation 21:23-25) No more darkness!
That’s the hope which we have, and if you are still groping around in the spiritual darkness today, I have good news for you. Just as Jesus healed that blind man all those years ago, He can do the same for you today. Turn to Christ – allow His light to shine into your life.