By J.R. Miller
The narrative of the opening of this blind man's eyes is given only in John's gospel. It is recorded with much minuteness, not merely because of the greatness of the miracle--but also because it was a sign of the spiritual enlightening which Jesus came to give to men. The cure seems to have been performed without request, either from the blind man himself or from any of his friends. The thought of it arose in the compassionate heart of Jesus. The case was pitiable enough. No other physical calamity is sorer than blindness. It shuts a man away in the darkness so that he cannot see anything of the beauty of God's world about him. Besides, blindness made this man helpless. He had to depend on others for everything. Another's hand must lead him wherever he went, another's eyes must see for him, and he must get through another's mind--only dim ideas of form, color and beauty.
The case was still sadder, because this man was born blind--and never had seen. Those who have their eyes for a time and then lose them, may cherish the memories of the beautiful things they once looked upon. But this man never had seen. He could form no conception of colors, nor could he understand anything about the appearance of objects. The world was a great dark blank to him. The blindness of this man was incurable. He was absolutely hopeless in the darkness. His poverty was an added element of distress in his condition. He sat and begged for alms, receiving only such pittances as passers-by grudgingly gave him. No wonder that when Jesus saw him sitting there with his blank, sad face, knowing all that lay behind it, and beheld his hand outstretched, He pitied him.
There is another blindness, which is still worse than natural blindness. It is the blindness of the soul's eyes. There are those who see well the beautiful things of nature--but who see nothing of the still more beautiful things of God's love and grace. They have no eyes for the loveliness of righteousness and truth. They do not see the divine Hand that moves everywhere in providence. They never behold the face of Jesus Christ, in which shines all the glory of God. There is a whole world of spiritual beauty lying around them, of which they see nothing--the love of God, the divine promises, the hopes of heaven, and all the joys of salvation. Men of the world hear devout Christians speak with rapture of the joys of Christian faith and of Christian experience, and say, "I cannot see any such joys in Christ." It is because they are blind.
In those days the belief was almost universal, that every trouble was due to special sin in the person. The friends of Job insisted that the patriarch must have been a great sinner, to bring upon himself so much of the disfavor of God. There is much of the same feeling found yet in the world, even among Christian people. Misfortune is associated in many men's minds with sin. We often hear it said by those who have had some trouble, "I wonder what sins God is punishing me for now." The disciples, when they saw this poor man sitting in his blindness, imagined that sin either in him or in some ancestor, was the cause of his calamity.
It was a very instructive word that Jesus spoke in reply to the question, "Master, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" He said, "neither has this man sinned, nor his parents." He did not mean that the man was sinless--but that his trouble had not been produced by sin. Of course, suffering may sometimes be traced to sin. Sometimes the connection is so obvious, that no one can doubt it; but sometimes it is so obscure that no one may certainly seek to trace it. But in the case of this man's blindness, there was no such cause, and our Lord meant to warn the man's neighbors against the tendency in their minds to look into his life suspiciously and uncharitably seeking some sinful cause in himself of his ancestors, for his misfortune.
We never should ask, in any case of suffering, "Whose sin is the blame?" Rather, we should set about giving what help it may be in our power to give. Jesus said that the blindness came upon this man "that the work of God might be displayed in his life." His misfortune now became an occasion for the display of divine mercy. Whatever the cause of the man's blindness, it called now for human sympathy and every possible effort to relive the trouble and do good to the sufferer. It is interesting also to notice, that the man's blindness became a blessing to him in the end--in that it brought him to Christ and resulted in his spiritual awakening, as well as in giving of sight. A case of trouble of any kind should not set us to gossiping about who is to blame--but rather should call us to prompt efforts to give help or relief.
Before curing the man, Jesus spoke of the necessity of promptness in doing God's work. He said, "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." There is no time to lose. Even Jesus felt the pressure of the shortness of the opportunity and the need for doing promptly what had been given Him to do.
There are two suggestions in the words: The first is that every one of us has a task to do, and it must be done in our brief day--or it never can be done at all. The other thought is that there is a certain time during which our deeds must be done--or they never can be done at all. We must sow in the seedtime--for when this is past, there will be no use in our scattering the grain upon the fields. We must teach the child while he is young, for when he is grown up there will be no opportunity to put the lessons into its heart. It will then be too late. We must visit our sick friend while he is sick--there will be no use in coming with our kindness when he is well--or when he is dead. We must show sympathy to those who are in trouble, while the trouble is upon them--it will not be worthwhile to try to help when they lie defeated in the dust. The disciples slept in the Garden during the hour when they should have been watching, and then Jesus said to them, with infinite pathos, "Sleep on now, and take your rest." There was no use in waiting and watching now--for the traitor was already at the gate!
A strange thing in this miracle, was the use of the means to which Jesus resorted. "He spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes." Jesus did not need the help of any means in working His healings, as human physicians do--for He had all power. Evidently the means were used for the effect their use would produce upon the man's own mind. The blind man had not thought of the possibility of receiving his sight. He seems never to have heard of Jesus as one who could open his eyes. There was in him, therefore, no expectation that he might be cured. Hence the first thing to be done was to arouse his hope and start faith in him. This Jesus did by beginning the process of healing, spitting on the ground, making paste, and putting it on the sightless eyes. This must have started expectation of cure and faith. Then the man was bidden to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.
This seems strange, too. Jesus by a word could have healed him, not requiring of him the long walk across the city. Why did He require him to go away and wash? The answer is that the act still further encouraged faith and obedience in the man. We have a similar instance in the case of Naaman. Elisha bade him go and wash seven times in the Jordan (see 2 Kings. 5:10). There was no specific virtue in Jordan water--it never had been known to be a cure for leprosy. But the man must obey, thus showing his faith and his submission to the will of God. If he had not washed in Jordan--he would not have been cleansed. A similar test of faith was required in the ten lepers whom Jesus sent to the priests (Luke 17:12-19). The journey itself would not cleanse them. Yet, if they had not gone--they would not have been cured. "As they went--they were cleansed." This blind man would not have been cured of his blindness that day--if he had not obeyed and taken the journey to the Pool of Siloam. He must cooperate with Christ in his healing. Some people wait for the evidences of salvation, before they will fully accept Christ. But the salvation will not come--until they take the step which proves their faith.
The blind man obeyed promptly and eagerly. It was not easy for him to take this long walk through the town. On his eyes were the unsightly patches of clay, and people would laugh at him as they saw him groping along the street. But he did not mind this--he would not be laughed out of the cure which was now so near at hand. Perhaps his friends told him it was all foolishness--that mud never yet had been known to cure anyone's blindness, and that Siloam water had no power to open sightless eyes. Still the man pressed on, amid the laughing people, until he came to the pool. There he washed, and behold--his eyes, which never had seen before, were instantly opened.
When the man's old neighbors saw him going about with his eyes opened, they asked him how the wonderful transformation had come to him. They could scarcely believe that it was the same man they used to know. When a man's life is changed from evil ways to good, people are amazed. In every life conversion works a change. If a man is not in some way better, sweeter in spirit, kindlier, truer, with a more radiant face, and new light in his eyes--his conversion has not made much impression.
The man's prompt and simple confession of Christ as his Healer, shows his sincerity and earnestness. When the people asked the man how his eyes were opened, he answered, "A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes." He was not afraid to tell how he had been cured. When Jesus has saved us--we should never hesitate to confess Him before the world.