He was a social outcast, dependent upon the good-will of others. Though John tells us that his parents were still living, he also tells us this man was a beggar. Either he was seeking to supplement the family income or his family had cast him out to earn his own bread the best he could.
The society he had been born into was not kind to the sick and the disabled. Provision under the law had been made to care for the orphans, widows and those unable to provide for themselves adequately but like today, there was a tendancy to ignore or even blame the victim if there was that bothersome poking from one's conscience. Don't worry. If you ignore the poking long enough, it will go away.
When Jesus and his disciples encountered him, the disciples voiced the common assumption of the day. The man had been born blind, therefore the judgment of God was upon him. I find it interesting that the disciples, knowing that Jesus had healed a number of people, did not ask Jesus if this man could be healed. They wanted to know why he had been born blind in the first place. Was it because of his own sins or the sins of his parents?
It appears this question was asked within the man's hearing. As rude as this may sound, it is not uncommon for this type of thing to happen even in our supposedly "enlightened" society, let alone in Palestine during the first century A.D. What is even worse, this sort of idea is alive and well even amongst Christians today.
Imagine for a moment that you are that man. You are blind. You are a beggar. You are dependent upon the charity of others. Then in a public place a group of men start discussing right in front of you, what you or your parents might have done or not done to cause God to have struck you blind from birth. How would you feel? Would you be angry? Perhaps but in all probability, especially if you lived in a society that believed that was true, you would feel embarrassed and ashamed as well as hopeless. Perhaps you might even believe that God Himself has rejected you and utterly turned His back on you. Think about it for a moment.
We must not miss Jesus' response to the disciples' question. In fact, whenever we ourselves are suffering and crying out, "Why me, Lord?" we need to remember these words:
It was not because of his sins or his parents' sins, Jesus answered. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.
John 9:3 (NLT)
What an interesting response! This went completely against the accepted idea of that society. God could permit bad things to happen to us so that the power of God might be seen in us. This idea was revolutionary! I cannot imagine what the disciples and anyone else around might have been thinking and what of the blind man? What did he think when he heard Jesus say this? Could it be that at that moment he had a glimmer of hope? Did he understand in this instant that God cared about him and that some way, some how this tragedy of a life could be turned into something amazing that glorified God? We can only speculate about what was going through his mind for the Bible is silent on this matter.
Unlike so many other instances, the blind man does not beseech Jesus to heal Him. In fact, it seems as though Jesus approached him rather than the other way around. It is interesting to note, however, that the man allowed Jesus to do what he would do without any resistance. I mean think about it. If you were blind, would you allow someone to walk up to you and spread mud on your eyes? I don't know about you but I would probably think they were making a mockery of me. I definitely would put up a fuss. Perhaps the man was so used to being persecuted by others that he meekly succumbed to all of this knowing that no one would come to his aid if he resisted. I think though, there is another explanation. I believe that the words of Jesus touched the heart of this man and for the first time in his life perhaps, he had hope. Come what may, he was going to trust Jesus and let Him do whatever He wanted to do.
Now in most of the accounts of healing in the Gospels, people were healed or delivered immediately. In this case, that's not what happened or at least that's what the account suggests. Jesus told the man to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. The word "siloam" means "sent". Here is a short video clip of the Pool of Siloam which was recently discovered in 2004.
John tells us that the man obeyed Jesus. He went to the Pool of Siloam. We don't know exactly how far away he was from it. Perhaps some sympathetic bystanders assisted him. Perhaps he had to try to get there on his own. What we do know is that Jesus did not take him there or help him into the water. The man was faced with a choice. Would he obey Jesus or would he sit there with mud in his eyes? He decided to obey Jesus.
I wonder what it was like to head for the Pool of Siloam with mud covering your eyes. Was he laughed at? Was he ridiculed? Perhaps but that didn't stop him. He was going to trust Jesus and be obedient... . no matter what!
Somehow, he was able to carry out Jesus' command. God does that you know. He enables us to carry out His commands, even if it seems impossible.
What strikes me about this story is faith alone was not enough. His faith caused him to be obedient but if he believed but did not act upon that faith, what would have happened? I suspect he would have spent the rest of his days with mud on his eyes. We must be obedient if we want to see the power of God manifested in our lives.
I am glad John goes into great deal about what happens to the man next. He is so excited and rightfully so. Jesus has done an amazing thing and he wants everyone to know about it. He also refused to be bullied into denying what had happened or backing down and keeping his mouth shut. Despite the hostility and threats which were very real, the man continued to stand by what he knew to be true.
Listen to what John says:
So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.
I don't know whether he is a sinner, the man replied. But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!
But what did he do? they asked. How did he heal you?
Look! the man exclaimed. I told you once. Didn't you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?
Then they cursed him and said, You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses!We know God spoke to Moses, but we don't even know where this man comes from.
Why, that's very strange! the man replied. He healed my eyes, and yet you don't know where he comes from?We know that God doesn't listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will.Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind.If this man were not from God, he couldn't have done it.
You were born a total sinner! they answered. Are you trying to teach us? And they threw him out of the synagogue.
John 9: 24-34 (NLT)
That which was meant for evil (a man's blindness) was transformed into an amazing testimony of the power of God. The challenges we face in our own lives can do the exact same thing when we trust God regardless of our circumstances and walk in obedience. When we do so, those around us cannot help but see the power of God in us regardless of whether our deliverance is visible at that very moment or if we must journey with it for awhile.
Are we a living testimony of God's power or is it just talk?
Photo Credit: Pool of Siloam, Chatham University JKM Library, http://www.flickr.com/photos/jkmlibrary/4177089548/.