Skip to content
Aug 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 21, 2010

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 translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. John 9:6-7

INTRO: I came across a folktale this last week in a book written by Simone Weil

A young monk was anxious regarding the salvation of his father, who was a miser and could think of nothing other than money. The Prior of the monastery called for the old man and struck a deal with him. For every time that he would say recite the prayer, “Glory to the Lord of light,” the Prior would give him a penny. All he had to do was show up in the evening and report how many times he had recited the prayer and he would receive his money.

The old man was excited by this offer and devoted all of his free time to reciting the prayer, and in the evening he would arrive at the monestary to be paid. But then one day he did not show up. After a week passed without the old man visiting the monastery, the Prior sent the young monk to check on his father. He discovered that his father had become so engrossed in reciting the prayer, he could not keep track of the number of times he prayed it. The Prior advised him to do nothing and simply wait. Sometime afterward, the old man showed up and reported to the Prior how he had become enlightened through saying the prayer.

Regarding this story, Weil said:

It is to phenomena of this sort that Christ refers in his precept: “Lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven . . . for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Which means to say that there are certain actions which have the virtue of transporting from earth to heaven part of the love that lies in a [person’s] heart.

This is exactly why we spend time in scripture – the Spirit of God gives it an energy that works light into us
– it is also why sometimes God gave people actions to perform (such as we find here, “Go wash”)
– the actions may not make sense to us (cf. 2 Ki. 5:10-14), but the person’s full cooperation in faith is what God is after

Verses 6-7, The Encounter

This is the main event in the chapter and the plot will keep turning back to it (e.g., 11, 15, etc.)
– but this is the first time it is recorded and we get to watch the event as it unfolds
– notice the verbs, “He spat . . . and made . . . and applied . . . and said . . .”

What was Jesus doing through these simple movements?
– the obvious: he was making clay, etc. – but what was the purpose of it?
– was he, like some commentators have suggested, making medicine with his saliva? (!)

  • Jesus was re-enacting the creation
    this is something John repeatedly alludes to in his story
     – compare opening line of Genesis and this gospel, “In the beginning . . .” (Ge. 1:1 & Jn. 1:1-2)
     – compare also, Genesis 2:7 and John 20:21–the breath of God and the breath of Christ (breathing life into the “new man”)
     – so here, from the ground he made clay then gave the command, “Go wash” (the creative word)
  • In Jesus is the hope of the universe’s re-creation (Ro. 8:11, 18-23)
     – the first installment of his re-creation is our new life in him (“born again”)
     – “born again” describes our transformation, but in a sense it will be true of all creation

Why did John translate Siloam for us? Why did he want us to know it means sent?

  • In Jesus’ mind, there was nothing that he did on his own
     – he had been sent by his father and was under orders
    Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner . . . I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (Jn. 5:19, 30)
    For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me (Jn. 6:38)
  • So the blind man was sent somewhere and given something to do
     – so were the disciples (Jn. 20:21) and so are we
     – and there is nothing we can do on our own (Jn. 15:4-5)

That is why John wanted us to know that Siloam means sent–it is integral to the work of Jesus

Verses 8-12, The Miracle

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.”

There are three things I want to show you in these verses:

  1. Receiving sight changed him
      – he knew that he had been changed, but others quickly recognized it too
      – the transformation was so radical, that people who knew him before “as a beggar” could not be sure he was the same person
  2. He wasn’t able to say much about Jesus
     – Jesus did not provide him any religious instruction, did nothing to prepare him for this new situation
    He sent him into a heated conversation that led to confusion and controversy
     – the blind man could not even make an argument to counter the claim that Jesus was a sinner (v. 25)
     – in fact, he was unable to answer any questions beyond retelling what Jesus had done
    The blind man had not become an expert on Jesus
  3. What he did say has profound theological implications
     – this is the first time the man is asked How his eyes were opened (see vv. 15 & 26) and the question leads straight to Jesus
     – his answer, “The man who is called Jesus”

This is Stage One of his enlightenment: The Man

He knew it was not a spirit or angel that touched him

  • Disabled people do not receive a lot of compassionate touch (what they get is professional handling)
    Jean-Dominique Bauby, in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, describes his experience in the hospital after suffering a stroke that left him totally paralyzed (Locked-in syndrome), “At first some of the staff had terrified me. I saw them only as my jailers, as accomplices in some awful plot. Later I hated some of them, those who wrenched my arm while putting me in my wheelchair, or left me all night long with the TV on, or let me lie in a painful position despite my protests.”
  • For these people, a human kindness in an inhumane world can reach the depths of their soul

The touch the blind man had felt was a human touch; the voice he had heard was a human voice

For John, the fact of the Incarnation is central for Christian faith (Jn. 1:14)
[Incarnation: in-flesh, that is, God revealed in a body of flesh and blood]
– it was a source of wonder to John, “we saw his glory”

In the philosophy of Plato, there was a strict, total and permanent separation between the categories spirit and matter
– but in Jesus, the categories overlap: spirit and matter, God and humankind, heaven and earth
– therefore, physical sight can serve as metaphor for spiritual sight and can, in fact, provide a channel through which we receive enlightenment

The Incarnation includes the consecration of human experience

  • Some Christians, having misread Paul, associate bodily functions and senses with a corrupt world
     – that is not Christianity, it is a strain of Gnosticism
  • Do not minimize your physical experience
     – instead, enter into it with greater awareness
     – God uses what we can see to enlighten us to what we cannot see
  • Jesus revealed himself to the blind man through physical sensations
     – and through Jesus’ actions, the man learned how God felt about him
     – we are human and can learn only in the ways that humans learn
     – through human touch, he felt the kindness of God in an inhumane world
  • Sight was not the blind man’s first experience of Jesus
     – before he saw Jesus, he felt him and he heard him–he knew what Jesus had done to him with the clay
     – his first experience of Jesus was through his physical senses
     – you can consecrate your senses to God so that you also experience the touch of Jesus

CONC: Early on in church history, theologians had to hammer out theology

It was necessary to protect Christianity from the weeds of paganism that flourished all around it

  • Their biggest theological challenges had to do with Jesus
  • The two errors regarding Jesus that most frequently emerged were:
     – the denial of the Lord’s deity
     – the denial of the Lord’s humanity

In the Incarnation, God is transcendent, yet he is also present in our normal, human experience
– Jesus, this human person, brings God close to us, makes him tangible
– so even if we cannot understand him–like the blind man–, we can feel him

“The man who is called Jesus” – that is all the man knew at first; he knew only that Jesus was a man
– this is what you must do, you must begin where you can–begin with what you do know and with what you can believe
– if you will walk in the light you have, God will illuminate you with more light

The world is even more beautiful, more wonder-filled, when looked at through eyes that have been touched by Jesus

Place yourself before him, blind as you are; receive his touch and then do whatever he says

Leave a comment