I suppose that many people have a favorite Bible story. I do. It is from the Gospel of John, Chapter 9, It is the story of Jesus and The Man Born Blind.
This is a Bold Story, one that I can relate to, my whole family relates to it actually. No one in our family was born blind, well not quite. I am legally blind in my left eye, that is because its lazy, although I don’t like that description much. My family relates to this story because of what happened to the blind man after his encounter with Jesus. I should say his first encounter.
When I read this story, it is like I am reading a screen play. I see it visually.
I can see Jesus walking down a narrow, dusty, Jerusalem street with his disciples tagging along. A couple of them are walking a bit in the back. They are nervous and in recovery mode. Earlier in the day Jesus had another somewhat caustic encounter with a group of folks called The Pharisees. Emphasis on the word THE.
The Pharisees would appreciate that, being that they thought themselves THE most important group of guys in the Jewish world at the time. They enjoyed their important position which provided them with much power, power of the law and the power to make money, lots of it. I think the second was the one they cared most about. They used the first to benefit the second.
This is where Jesus and the Pharisees crossed words, fortunately it wasn’t crossed swords, not yet anyway.
You see, the Pharisees had a real good thing going for them. Their job was to get all the Jewish people ready to meet and greet the coming Messiah. This meant that they enforced Jewish law, and operated under the premise “If you Romans leave us alone to go about “God’s” business, we will leave you alone. We will help get rid of any so called prophets or zealots, anyone, who could be a lunatic leader of those who dislike you Romans enough to make trouble.”
Getting “rid of” was as bad as it sounds, it meant just that, ending any trouble makers, if the need arose.
The Pharisees were beginning to think that Jesus was a big trouble maker.
Jesus questioned the authority of the Pharisees, he questioned their authority to enforce Jewish law, even the law to stone an adulteress to death (stoning an adulteress to death was good for some of the Pharisees, after all, dead prostitutes tell no tales) Jesus forgave one such woman and told her to go and sin no more. The Nerve of this guy!
Jesus encouraged his disciples and followers to break Jewish laws. He once told them pick wheat on the Sabbath and eat it just because they were hungry. He also healed a man’s hand on the Sabbath, a day you are supposed to do nothing. Jesus had too many dirty, poor people and worse yet, too many Samaritans following him all over the place. There was a rumor going around that he fed a crowd of thousands, who showed up to hear him teach, some kind of leftover fish and stale bread he got from from somewhere. Some say it was the best fish and bread they ever ate! Either way, every law abiding man in Judea knows that big crowds make the Romans nervous. The man was getting way to popular and no trap to get the Romans to haul him away ever worked. The Pharisees might have to resort to using their own Temple guards again, to arrest Jesus using some charge like heresy or something. This would not be politically expedient considering his popularity. Not yet anyway. The political atmosphere could soon change however.
On the day that Jesus encountered the blind man, he, while visiting the temple, bumped into the Pharisees and had a little discussion about that fact that they did not know the truth. Jesus told them they were enslaved to their own sins. They were on their way to hell, were children of the devil, and could not see the Messiah even though he was standing in front of them. The Pharisees in turn called him a Samaritan (a very big insult!) and said he was possessed by a demon.
It got pretty ugly. Jesus hit them with a big fact (he knew it to be a fact but they did not). He said “any one who believes in me and keeps my word will NEVER SEE DEATH!”
At this point the Pharisees had enough, they said to him “Now we know you are demon-possessed!! Abraham died and so did all the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word they will never taste death. Are you greater than our Father Abraham? He died and so did all the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
Jesus came right back at them. “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you don’t know him, I do know him. If I said I did not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and he keeps his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day, and he did see it and was glad.”
This really ticked off the Pharisees
“You are not even fifty years old yet and you say you have seen Abraham?”
“I tell you the truth” Jesus replied “BEFORE ABRAHAM I WAS!”
This made the Pharisees blood boil, so they and their henchman in the temple crowd. picked up stones to kill Jesus, on the spot, but he simply vanished.
Later as Jesus was walking along his way you can see why the disciples (after they caught up with him) were a bit nervous and wanted to change the subject away from religious leaders throwing rocks at the Son of God. (Something that still happens today metaphorically speaking). When they saw the blind man, a constant figure, begging in the neighborhood, they asked Jesus a simple question, one with a complicated answer they were not ready for:
“Rabbi, this man is blind, so who sinned and caused him to be born this way, him or his parents?”
Now I don’t know how the man could sin in the womb in order to make himself blind, even if sin were the cause. Makes no sense to me, but it doesn’t matter because Jesus put this question and its answer on a whole different plane.
“He did not sin and neither did his parents” said Jesus. “This happened so that the work of God could be displayed right now. As long as the sun is shining I must do the work of him that sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am here in this world I am the light of the world.”
Then he bent down, picked up a handful of dirt and spit in it. He mixed this concoction together. I suspect that the prim and proper Pharisees, who were spying from the shadows, must have thought this was disgusting, especially when he leaned over and rubbed his hand made mud on the blind man’s eyes. Not the prettiest picture to be sure.
Now the blind man, who could hear the disciple ask the question and also hear Jesus answer it, must have said something when he felt this wet stuff being gently rubbed on his eyelids.
“What are you doing?” the blind man asked.
“Go,” was Jesus’s response. “Go, and wash your eyes in the Pool of Siloam.”
The Blind man got up and with help, went to where he was sent. I suspect he went as fast as he could go, with a crowd following him, including a couple of the Pharisee’s spies.
Now I have to wonder what the man born blind was thinking and feeling. Did he run to the pool because he didn’t like this drying muddy mess stuck to his eyes or was he anxious to see for the first time in his life? I think it was the second, his stomach and mind, in modern terms, was riding to the top of the first hill of a very divine roller coaster. He, with a stomach full of butterflies, could not get to the water fast enough.
“Please, can we go faster….please!”
He pushed his guide along the walls, his fingers brushing the stones as he passed them.
He found himself at the top of the narrow stone steps, the smell of fresh water wafting up from below.
The Pool of Siloam also called the pool of Shiloah was a very ancient spot near the Jerusalem Temple wall. The word Siloam means “Sent”. Ironically, or prophetically, it was also known as the Messiah’s pool. It was the only source of fresh water within the walls of the city. It was built by King Hezekiah many, many years before the Man born blind was born. It was built down below the walls where it would be safe to get water even in wartime, during a battle or a siege. It is spring fed from a tunnel built under the wall to the outside of the city. It was a plain looking pool but during the time of Christ, King Herod decided to make it look a bit more Roman, so he added marble columns all around it. A lot of small stone steps, that led down to the pool, had to be negotiated, and then one could kneel at its edge and drink, fill up a water jug, or in the case of the Man Born Blind, wash dried hard mud off ones eye lids.
I believe that it is very possible that the Man Born Blind suffered from Anophthalmia. The Greeks called it ανόφθαλμος, “without eye”. The man born blind could have been noticeably blind, because he may have been born without either eye.
God formed man out of the earth so Jesus could create a couple of eyes out of a bit of mud.
It is no wonder that so many people followed this poor soul to the pool where he was sent by the Messiah. The ones already there, hear his arrival and look up to see a man they knew, a fixture in the neighborhood. He looks mostly the same, his beard and hair are the same, same sandals, same ragged robe, but his eyes, or the place where his eyes would be if he had any, is covered with brown mud.
“Let him pass or move out of his way!” said his guide. The man born blind, trying not to rush, makes his way down the steps as people make way for him. He crosses the small stone courtyard to the edge of the pool and kneels.
He leans over and cups his hands. He dips them in the pool and slowly rises them to his face, water dripping between his fingers and starts to wash his eyelids..
Just then a shaft of sunlight, dust particles floating in the beam, slowly moves down one wall, across the pool and shines on the man’s head.
He starts to tremble and sweat as he cleans all the mud off his face. He tilts his head back, he flinches, the sunlight is warm on his face. He shakes harder. The light hurts, it hurts because, because, it is so very bright!
He squints at the sky, then quickly raises his hand to shield his eyes from the sun and sees blue sky, fluffy white clouds.
With tears running down his face from joy and from the bright light, he turns his head and looks around at the blurred images in front of him. Slowly the images focus and take shape, he sees people, for the first time in his life.
The People gasp, the man born blind now has eyes, bright brown ones!
“I CAN SEE,….OH, I CAN SEE!”
The man no longer blind stands, turns, and runs up the steps. He wants to go home now!
“I can see….I can see, I was blind but now I can see!”
He tells everyone he meets on the way back home.
Not all the folks he sees and who see him, believe him. He can’t be the same ragged beggar. This man has eyes, the other man did not, he only looks like that guy.
“No, no I am he” the man born blind insisted.
“Then how in the world are your eyes open now?” they demanded.
“The man they call Jesus made some mud, put it on my eyes. He told me to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. So I did, and now, now I can see!”
“And where is this man?” they asked.
“I don’t know.” he said.
This was a bit too much for some folks, it made no sense, something was wrong. Somebody in authority should know, so they took this, now seeing joyous fellow, to the temple to see the Pharisees.
" Tell us now, just how did you recieve your sight?”
“He put mud on my eyes, told me to go to Siloam to wash, I did, and now I see.”
Once again the Pharisees felt that they had a problem. It was obvious to anyone who knew this man, that he was blind, and now can see, but the method of his cure was a bit hard for them to swallow. It was the Sabbath (again) and not a day for making mud, as little effort as that would have taken.
“This man who did this can not be from God, he did not keep the Sabbath.” said some of the Pharisees.
“But a sinner could not do such miraculous signs.” said other Pharisees.
These guys were obviously divided.
So they asked the man who was blind what he thought. After all, it was eyes that were “opened”.
“He is a prophet” was his thoughtful reply.
Well, this just could not be, so he must not have been blind at all. Maybe he faked this whole thing. Or maybe this is not the same man. They sent for his parents.
Not having a lot of choice, they reluctantly showed up. I suspect they knew what was going on, and like many other people, were more concerned about their social position than anything else.
“Is this your son?” The Pharisees asked. “Is this the same one you say was born blind? Explain to us how he can now see.”
“We know he is our son”, the parents answered. “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we have no idea. Ask him. He is old enough to speak for himself.”
Mom and Dad were afraid of this bunch of fancy robe wearing folks. If they said what they really knew, that Jesus had healed their son, well they would be kicked out of the temple for good. So they pushed this off on their own poor son.
So the Pharisees sent for the son to return, who had left to see his friends and neighbors, and lots of other things. He saw his way back to the temple.
“Now we know you can see, but give glory to God for this miracle. This Jesus fellow is just a sinner.” they said.
The man who used to be blind replied.
“Whether he is a sinner or not, well I don’t know about that. One thing I do know for sure, I was blind but now I see.”
“What exactly did he do to make you see? How did he open your eyes?”, they impatiently asked him again.
“I have already answered that question and you did not listen to me. Why do you want to hear it again?" He asked. “Do you want an explanation because you wish to become his disciples too?”
Now that was the wrong thing to say to these guys. They hurled insults at him (I can’t imagine what they might be, but I suspect it had to do with his parents and his IQ and who knows what)
“Look here you idiot, You are this fellow’s disciple, not us. We are disciples of Moses. We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this Jesus fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from. “
The man, who used to be blind, pondered this for a second or two before he responded.
“Now isn’t that something remarkable. You guys don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes and made me see. We all know that God does not listen to sinners, but to godly men who do his will. Nobody has ever heard of anyone opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man Jesus were not from God he could do nothing!”
The Pharisees, who thought they knew everything about everything had just about enough of this guy’s mouth. Their pride was far more important to them than any blind guy who could now see or how he came to be that way.
“Hey you were born in sin, seeped in it at birth, how dare you lecture us! Get out of here, Now! And do not come back ever again!”
They threw him out, new eyes and all.
In effect they excommunicated this man, obviously a man who received a miracle, from the temple. In effect they said “Go to Hell.” In my humble opinion anyway.
The story is not yet over. Jesus heard that the now seeing man had been thrown out of the temple so he went and found him.
As soon as they were face to face, Jesus had a question for the man who used to be blind.
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
“Who is he, sir?” he asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
Jesus answered with the most appropriate words.
“You have seen him. In fact, he is speaking with you now.”
“Lord, I believe,” said the man now seeing and he worshiped Jesus with his whole heart and soul.
Jesus had more to say, not just for the one with new eyes but for a couple of fellows hiding, as usual.
“For judgment I came into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
From the shadows a Pharisee remarked “What? Are we blind too?”
Jesus answered “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin, but now that you claim to see, your guilt remains.”
This story of the man born blind is two thousand plus years old, yet is as relevant to the human condition now, as the day it took place.
“There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.”
When it comes to believing in the Messiah and why he came to this earth, many folks have mud on their eyes and refuse to wash it off. I am not one of those folks, not any longer. I used to be.
I said that this is my one of my favorite Bible stories. I also said that my family relates to it. That is because we too were kicked out of our temple, our church, for the same reason as the man born blind. A miracle took place, one that could be seen. The leaders of our church didn’t like what happened when people in our church could see it, so they told us to leave. I wrote about it many years ago. It was a hard story to write about then and is still a long hard story to tell now. Here is where it starts: