By Malcolm Cox

On the day of writing it's our 37th wedding anniversary. If there's one thing I know, it's that my wife is the best thing that's ever happened to me other than Jesus washing my sins away! We enjoyed a celebratory breakfast made by myself this morning. She gave me a selection of world beers one of which I shall try tonight. I am a lucky man!In this week’s newsletter we take a look at our fourth ‘one thing’ passage found in John 9. The passage is too long to quote in full, but the key verse is, ““Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”” (John 9:25 NIV11)


As you read the passage, enjoy the drama. Only two ‘characters’ are on stage at any one time, emphasising the discussion, dialogue and argument. Use your imagination to place yourself in Jerusalem. What does it look like if you were the blind man, Jesus, the Pharisees, the neighbours or the family?

Who sinned?

It was a common belief that a person born with a disability had sinned, or was in that state due to the sins of others. Such attitudes were based on passages such as Deuteronomy 5:9. It is somewhat akin to Hindu thinking. You might remember the English football coach Glenn Hoddle was dismissed from his job for holding similar views.

John 9:3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Jesus is not commenting on the theology of sin and suffering, but on this situation.

I am the light of the world.

His statement here is a reinforcement to John 8:12. You will find a number of allusions to light and darkness in this passage, both literal and metaphorical.

Wash in the Pool of Siloam

Is there an allusion to Genesis 2:7? “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” It's the kind of illusion that would've been picked up by the people of Jesus’ day. See similar occasions in Mark 7:33 and Mark 8:23.

The washing has parallels with the story of Elisha and Naaman in 2 Kings 5:10-14. The water did not heal him, but the power of God did heal - working through Elisha and Naaman’s obedience.

Shiloh means send, probably because the water was moving, in other words it had been sent from somewhere and was being sent somewhere else. We are reminded that Jesus was ‘sent’. Perhaps there is a messianic allusion from this passage below?

““The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (Genesis 49:10 NAS95)

“Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said.

I love the humility of Jesus here. He does not stick around for notoriety, glory or reward. He loves to help, heal, save, and move on doing the will of his Father. A great inspiration for us.

The day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath.

Healing on the Sabbath makes this an offence, not just a curiosity. Was he ‘working’ by making mud, or opening a blind man’s eyes? Kneading was prohibited by tradition. The Pharisees were depending on oral tradition, not Scripture. Jesus is threatening their world. They are afraid. Fear does funny things to our ability to see clearly. The Pharisees themselves are divided, caught between two impossibilities. If Jesus performed the miracle he ‘cannot’ be a sinner. Yet, if he is not a sinner, what is he doing ‘working’ on the Sabbath? That is the crucial dilemma.

“Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

‘“Give glory to God” is a command to the man to confess his sin, i.e. the sin of lying as to his blindness and subsequent healing by Jesus, and to admit that the authorities are right and that Jesus is a sinner. The formerly blind man obliges: he gives glory to God—not by denial, but by fearlessly reiterating the truth that he knows and has experienced.’ WBC

“Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

The language of witness is powerful in this narrative. It would have been an inspiration to the early church and all who came after. The man’s joy and courage are powerful. He is persistent and bold. He has his own convictions - not swayed by parents’ hesitancy or the Pharisees’ obstinacy.

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”.. “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him…he is the one speaking with you.”

Jesus’ compassion is revealed in his desire to help a man vulnerable twice over. Once as blind, and now as seeing, but under threat. He comes back to help the man answer the question as to his identity. The question is not one of intellectual belief, but, “Do you trust in the Son of Man?”. His 'knowing' was experiential. He has seen Jesus twice. Physically and spiritually. He was blind to both, but Jesus has made it possible for him to see clearly in both dimensions. The sadness in this passage is that many who have seen him physically will not ‘see’ him spiritually due to their stubbornness.

“Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

The woman ran to the village (John 4), the man falls to worship. Both are appropriate. ‘Worshipped’ here means to fall before and kiss the feet. The man does not yet recognise him as deity, but as a redeemer from God.

‘The [blind man] gains first his sight, and then increasing insight as he progresses from referring to “the man called Jesus,” whose whereabouts he does not know (vv 11–12), to declaring him to be a prophet (v 17), then one sent from God (v 33), and finally confessing him as Son of Man and kurios (“Lord,” vv 37–38).’ WBC

For Reflection

  1. How much of your ‘knowing’ Jesus is experiential? What could you do to develop this side of your relationship with him?
  2. Can you testify to the work of Jesus in your life? What would you share with a sceptic?