John 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him,
“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” — which means Sent —.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.
His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said,
“Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is, “
but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”
He said, “I am.”
They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
“He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”
So some of the Pharisees said,
“This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the sabbath.”
But others said,
“How can a sinful man do such signs?”
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again,
“What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?”
He said, “He is a prophet.”
They answered and said to him,
“You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?”
Then they threw him out.
When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered and said,
“Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus said to him,
“You have seen him, and
the one speaking with you is he.”
“I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.
Cure of the Blind Man – Transcript
It’s a beautiful Gospel and one I took great delight in studying. You might know and recall that in
John’s Gospel, which we are studying today, he never refers to miracles strictly speaking as
miracles; he always refers to them as signs, because there is so much more that they signify.
Beyond the appearance of what happens on the surface, they signify that something more
spiritual is happening in our lives. We have to ask ourselves: What does this healing of the blind
man signify for us?
Scripture scholars suggest that it signifies how the early Christian community tried to recall what
we all need to go through in our baptismal commitment to Christ. Scholars further suggest that
this was used and interpreted as a baptismal catechetical teaching in preparation for the Easter
vigil where catechumens entered into the baptismal waters that would give them true
enlightenment of faith to see who Jesus was. The man born blind, whom Jesus healed, was a
model for all catechumens and Christians demonstrating our own conversion process.
That being said, in the opening lines of the Gospel Jesus walks along and sees this man who has
been blind from birth. There is something right there, “blind from birth.” He has nothing in
himself that would provide the necessary ingredients for vision. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi,
was it his sin or his parents’ sin that caused him to be born blind?” In the Old Testament, the
prevailing belief was that any illness came from God since they believed everything came from
God (both good and bad; health and sickness). They imagined that if God allows a person to
have a sickness or disease, then that person must have done something wrong.
In that view of God’s justice, they believed either the person, or his/her parents had sinned. The
disciples are just presuming what their contemporaries presumed: somewhere along the line, this
man did something wrong and that’s why he is blind or perhaps his parents did something to sin
against God. Jesus loudly, clearly and emphatically refutes this thinking. He says: “Neither his
parents, nor this man have sinned.”
Even today we need to hear this because there still lingers the thought that when something bad
happens we must have ticked God off. We must have done something bad if an ill fortune falls
our way. I’ve heard it said of people with AIDS “their sin has brought this upon them.” This sets
up a very bad theology of God who is a persecutor. I don’t believe in that and it’s one of the
distortions that needs to be healed. We need to have a greater vision of who God is—and God is
not a God who hurts us, but a God who heals us. Jesus comes to say this. Earlier in another part
of the Gospel he says, “I have not come to condemn the world. I’ve come to save the world.” We
see in Jesus the perfect vision and revelation of God. Moreover we see him at work in this very
Then Jesus says: “I am the light on the world.” I highlight that short phrase because I believe
that’s the theme of this Gospel story and one of the many themes of the whole Gospel of St.
John: Jesus is the light of the world. Apart from Him, we live in darkness and all that the
darkness suggests. That is where the evil one lingers and lives but in the light we have love and
peace and joy. Jesus brings that light into the world and into all of our lives.
People who have had near death experiences talk about coming into that light; a light that’s
indescribable; a light that’s more than any florescent light bulb could ever suggest; a light that
infuses warmth and love and an almost indescribable life energy. That is what Jesus means when
we says, “I am the light of the world.” He wants to just shine that light upon us.
Back to the Gospel scene: Jesus spat on the ground and made mud with his saliva and smeared
the man’s eyes with that mud. That sounds revolting doesn’t it? It’s repulsive to us today that
Jesus would use his own spittle. In ancient times they considered a person’s saliva to have certain
curative elements. Further, they believed that fluids such as blood and saliva carried the person’s
spirit. It is Jesus’ spirit that has such healing power as he anoints him and blesses him on the
Then Jesus says to him, “Go. Wash in the pool of Siloam.” Siloam means: “One who has been
sent.” The man then goes and washes and comes back, able to see. Wow. He had never been able
to see all his life. John here is making a subtle but beautiful connection between the name Siloam
(meaning one who has been sent) and Jesus who he refers to throughout his Gospel as the one
who was sent from God who comes to wash away our sin so that no longer blinded by our sin he
could give us a vision of God’s love. It is in that love that we discover everything is new; a new
creation of God.
I see my friend Dave here. I’ll never forget, for whatever reason Dave never had his eyes checked
for years and years and years. Betsy took him one time to the doctor to have his eyes checked
and they gave him a long overdue prescription for glasses. That first day Dave said he came back
and said all day long: “Wow, I can’t believe everything I’ve been missing all these years.” Can
you imagine what this man in the Gospel must have felt since he had never seen anything?
Now can you see what the Lord wants to reveal to all of us? We have hardly a fraction of the
vision of all that God is and all that we could be. This world is a reflection of God’s great
goodness. This is what the Lord is trying to open us up to see. As we look at this man, we might
see ourselves, hopefully, and this desire to see through the eyes of Jesus in the light of the Lord.
As we follow the rest of this story, we will see that the man is not only healed physically but,
more importantly—especially for John’s community—he is healed of his spiritual blindness
giving us the greatest insight into who God is.
There were four encounters he had with four different people that gave him new insight just as
we might imagine our encounters and experiences with people and events in life give us new
insight through hindsight. The first people who encounter this man born blind (but who can now see)
are his neighbors. His neighbors are people accustomed to see him. When you think of the
neighbors, think about how we categorize people and make assumptions and have prejudice
about them. They asked of him, “Isn’t this the fellow who used to sit here and beg?” Finally the
man himself said, “Yes. I’m the one all right.” And then they said to him, “How are your eyes
opened?” And he answered, “That man they call Jesus healed me.”
At this point we see that the blind man saw Jesus only as a man—an extraordinary man but a
human. From this point, his faith will grow but not easily. He grows as often our faith grows:
through a struggle of encounters with other people that will challenge him and contest everything
he states and believes. This is especially true for the next people he meets called the Pharisees.
Keep in mind that the Pharisees were the religious lay group of the day who were the enlightened
ones because they studied the Scriptures and they thought they knew the truth. They saw it the
way you should see it, called a spade a spade, and a sin a sin. They were a righteous people but
unfortunately, as we will learn, they were self-righteous than God-right.
They took the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees who began to inquire how he
recovered his sight. Some of the Pharisees asserted, “This man [Jesus] cannot be from God
because he does not keep the Sabbath.” Notice now the Pharisees are the blind ones who do not
see Jesus for who he truly is. Then the Pharisees addressed the blind man, “What do you have to
say about him?” The blind man now can see that he is a prophet. We can see the man’s vision
improving, he now calls Jesus a prophet from God. John is setting up this contrast between the
man born blind (who can now see) and the Pharisees who thought they could see so perfectly but
were just growing increasingly blind through the cataracts of their own pride and prejudice. We
have to be aware of the Pharisee in you and me; the tendency to think we see it so perfectly and
fail to recognize our own blind spots.
The man is led to his parents and the Pharisees ask them, “how do you account for the fact that
he can now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son. We know that he was
blind at birth but how he can see now or who opened his eyes, we have no idea. Ask him!” In the
Scripture commentaries we’re told, as John writes, his parents answered in this fashion because
they were afraid of the Jews who had already agreed that anyone who acknowledged Jesus as the
Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue.
In fact not at the time of Jesus, but later in the early second century when John’s community was
writing and reading this Gospel, we know that the Christians were being expelled from the
synagogue if they proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. Do you see how they are reading their own
circumstances into this Gospel understanding? If we had that same perspective we might wonder
how this applies to us. We have to see that sometimes, like the parents of the blind man, we are
afraid to look at truth as it truly is and what it calls us to see and say; to be and become.
But the man himself—again he was a model disciple—has no fear for what he has seen and even
under the criticism of the Pharisees, speaks boldly and says, “If this man [Jesus] were not from
God, he could never have done such a thing.” With that, the Pharisees threw him out bodily. He
represents those Christians that saw Jesus as Messiah and spoke out the truth, professed their
faith boldly and were expelled from the synagogue.
Now keep in mind, it wasn’t just a matter of being kicked out of their “church” but out of their
whole family and their whole community. They would have been totally alienated from any
sense of their economic security and well-being; they paid a great price for truth. For the man
born blind, not only does he recognizes Jesus as a great prophet, but he himself is becoming a
prophet: one who speaks the truth and tells it as he sees it and says it as it is.
The fourth encounter is the most beautiful encounter: the blind man with Jesus himself. When
Jesus heard of the man’s expulsion, Jesus sought him out and asked him, “Do you believe in the
son of God?” And the man answered, “Who is he sir that I may believe in him?” Who is Jesus?
Who is Jesus? This is what always leads us to greater insight, to greater spiritual vision. Jesus
said, “You have seen him.” I think there is a reason he uses these very words: “You have seen
him.” You have experienced him. You know him. He is speaking to you now. And the man said,
“I do believe.” Believing is seeing and he bows down to worship Jesus and that’s the proof of his
recognition. He saw Jesus as truly the Son of God for he bowed down to worship him.
There is the great insight of this Gospel. His sight leads him to stand before Jesus. We too want
to see Jesus and to see through the eyes of Jesus how he looks on us, looks on others, and looks
on our life. Ironically the Gospel ends with the Pharisees asking the question—and pay attention
to the use of irony here that John the evangelist loves to use. They asked Jesus, “Do you think
that we are blind?” And Jesus in effect says, “You’re worse than blind because you even refused
to see.” It’s one thing to be blind, but it’s even worse to refuse any insight to see at all.
Remember the Gospel began then by the disciples asking the question, “Is this blindness caused
by sin?” John ends his Gospel by saying, “No, this physical blindness is not caused by sin, but
spiritual blindness is.” Spiritual blindness is caused by sin and this is the sin that Jesus wants to
cure. This is the blindness that Jesus wants to heal. What a great story!
I offer for reflection three insights to help us see. My first insight and suggestion is that we admit
that we are all a little blind; that none of us can claim to always see the full picture or have the
full understanding. We all work from limited viewpoints. Just as when we drive a car there are
blind spots and we must compensate for that by looking over our left shoulder before changing
lanes. If not we might crash!
The same is true in life! Unless we make allowances for our blind spots we will come crashing
down, colliding with other people and worse yet with God and God’s will for our life. Let me use
other names for blindness to understand this in different ways. One synonym for blindness is
stubbornness…closed or narrow mindedness. We all know people who are blind to their piece of
the truth but can’t hear anybody else’s. Arrogance. Pride or prejudice. Isn’t that one of the worst
ways of not seeing people as God sees: prejudice or pride. Pride makes us feels superior. Worse
yet, one of the most common causes of poor vision today is a sense of inferiority blinded to our
self-worth and blinded to how God sees us so wonderfully and lovingly.
Perhaps worst of all is a lack of faith that alone gives us God’s vision. Jesus is the light. Without
that light, we are in total darkness and only able to see this life in human terms, not with eternal
perspective. That perspective puts everything into a very clear light. This faith is what we must
come to grow in, much like the man born blind.
I ask the question, do you recognize your own blind spots and do you make compensation for
them? Where do you go for insight? I believe we need to ask Jesus—who says he is the light of
the world—for his insight. Jesus will give us this insight as true as he gave it to the man in the
Gospel. We are that man born blind. We’re born with a handicap—a human condition—of
needing God’s divine intervention to show us the way through life. We look for God’s guidance
as much as a blind man would need the guidance of another to walk him along.
The Bible is that guidance—that’s why we study the Gospels. We are most enlightened. We see it
and receive it through prayer and we ask for God’s light to come to us. We see it and receive it
through many various inspirational people and material. The resources are as wide as this world.
I find that Jesus gives us insight through significant people in our lives, especially our family and
our close friends who know us and love us and see us from an objective perspective. I believe we
need to seek them out and ask for their honest feedback and for their critical suggestions. We
need to go to them to ask and trust that God will speak to us through them. I would like to
encourage that if you are making any decision about anything, stop and ask first for Jesus’
insights. Believe me, he wants to give it to you just as he gave sight to the blind man. He will do
this in a very simple way through insights, intuitions, and realizations. Most especially, he will
speak through the people who know us and love us.
Finally, this last point important but hard to hear and to do. Look at the parents in this Gospel.
Their mistake was that they did not have tough love. They didn’t speak the truth as they knew it.
To not cause waves or make any difficulties—and worst yet, to save themselves from trouble—
they backed off and kept their mouths shut.
These parents represent many of us—if not all of us from time to time—when in our own family,
in our workplace, and in our own world we fail to speak the truth to one another in love. We need
to speak the truth honestly with humility and always with charity and sensitivity in love. The
only exception I would make is sometimes we can foresee that to speak truth could only be
counterproductive and in such a case I think we are better off not speaking out. But more often
than not, I believe the truth sets us free. It certainly did for this blind man.