A study on John 9
The central characters within John 9 involve Jesus Christ, the man born blind and the Pharisees or the Jewish Religious Leaders. The story began with Jesus and His disciples leaving the Temple area (8:59). He then passed by the man born blind (9:1). The disciples, seeing the blind man, then asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, the man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
From the flow of events, this question appeared to have been prompted by a common belief connecting inborn disability with sin. Albert Barnes, on his commentary on John 9:2 said: “It was a universal opinion among the Jews that calamities of all kinds were the effects of sin.” Perhaps he was right; at the time of Jesus Jews do believe there is a correlation between inborn ailments and sin. ‘Cause in John 9:34, the Pharisees did expressed that exact idea against the man born blind, saying: “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?”
Here is a clear example of a tradition (Jewish) that may not necessary be supported by Scripture. Or if the Bible did have some quotes seemingly expressing such an idea, it could have been misunderstood (Examples like: Psalm 51:5; Job 15:14-16; Job 25:4). Verses of Scripture have its context, flow of narrative or utterance, that must first be considered to rightly interpret the meaning of the verse within the Scripture.
At the time of Antiochus Epiphanies (145 B.C.), the Seleucid king of the Third Gentile kingdom of the Book of Daniel, three Jewish religious sect came to exist – the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes. Only the first two were clearly mentioned in the Bible. It was suggested that the Essenes, a secluded Jewish sect, might be regarded as the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Sadducees, another Jewish sect known for their denial of the doctrine of resurrection, perhaps only on face value, claimed belief only in the Torah, the First Five Books of Moses (Genesis to Deuteronomy). Sadducees mostly came from the prominent Jewish families – the priests, merchants, and aristocrats. The high priests and the most powerful members of the priesthood were mainly Sadducees (Acts 5:17).
Unlike the Sadducees, the Pharisees do believe in the resurrection. They also embraced all the books of the Old Testament Scripture. Yet, they have creeds or traditions that were not founded in the Scripture. See Matthew 15:1-3; the Bible said,
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do Your disciples break the traditions of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” [The Pharisees were referring to ceremonial washing of hands.] He [Jesus] answered them, ‘And why do you break the commandments of God for the sake of your traditions?
Adam Clarke, on his commentary for John 9:2 said, “The doctrine of the transmigration of souls appears to have been an article in the creed of the Pharisees.” The influence of the Pharisees on the masses cannot be denied. It was not surprising then that even the disciples of Jesus, Jew as they are, also had a notion that inborn physical defects are consequence of sin.
Now back to verse 3 of John 9, Jesus corrected the common Jewish notion that sin was connected vis-a-vis with inborn disability, saying: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
I don’t believe Christ was suggesting the idea that disability was by divine design. Rather, he was pointing out it was not due to anyone’s sin that the man was born blind; also, despite his misfortune, God had meant to display His works through him. To prove His point, in verse 6, Jesus spat on the ground and made mud with saliva, anointed or applied (NASB) the mud to the blind man’s eyes.
We should not see this as a formula or recipe for the miraculous healing, since Jesus did heal many other blind people without doing the same ritual. In Matthew 9:27-29, Jesus simply touched the eyes of two blind men, then pronounced, “It shall be done to you according to your faith.” While in Mark 8:22-25, Jesus did both, spitting on the two blind men’s eyes, not on the ground to make mud, and later He touched their eyes. Rather, the reason for making mud and applying it on the eyes of the man born blind was to create a scenario for Jesus to tell him, “’Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ which means Sent.”
Again, Albert Barnes suggested two reasons: First, the instruction appeared to be similar to that of 2 Kings 5:10, Elisha instructed Naaman, the Syrian, saying: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.”
The story in 2 Kings later revealed that the healing was occasioned for the Syrian to recognize and believe in the LORD God of Israel, whom Elisha served.
Second, it was also suggested that the word “Siloam” is from the same verb as Shiloh in Genesis 49:10 (“The scepter shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh – that is, the Sent of God: the Messiah – come.”).
The second idea should excite us to see the connection between “Shiloh” and “Siloam,” but I have no way to prove the connection. The Strong’s Definition for Hebrew Words has Strong # H7886 for “Shiloh,” while “Siloam” clearly was from the same Hebrew word found in Isaiah 8:6 – “Shiloah” which has Strong # H7975. That was translated by John in his gospel as “Sent”.
It should be noted that throughout the Gospel of John, the Greek word “Sent” was used several times in reference to Jesus Christ – the One Sent by God the Father. Therefore, if we apply the idea that “Siloam or Shiloah” refers to Jesus Christ, Sent by the Father, we can then translate Isaiah 8:6 as actually saying, “Because this people has refused the waters of ‘Sent’” – that is Jesus Christ. He in turn had now appeared in Israel, asking the blind man, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam or Sent; again, that is, Jesus Christ, the Messiah,” therefore, advertently announcing the arrival of the Messiah, as prophesied in Genesis 49:10.
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a Lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come. And the obedience of the peoples to him” (Gen 49:10 MKJV).
In Isaiah 7-8, with the imminent invasion of the combined forces of (Northern) Israel and Syria against Judah or Jerusalem, the LORD God asked Ahaz, king of Judah to trust Him. Assuring Ahaz of His divine providence, the LORD God provided him a sign, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” That Old Testament promise came to be fulfilled with the announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ; see Matthew 1:23-25. Incidentally, Isaiah 8:6 was uttered against Judah, ‘cause instead of trusting the LORD’s deliverance, King Ahaz turned to Assyria for alliance and protection.
Therefore, we have to understand that verse 7 was one of the highlights of John 9. Then connecting it to the introductory rhetorical question of Jesus Christ to present Himself before the man born blind, whom He had healed, He asked: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Indeed, it was clear that Jesus, in John 9, meant it for the blind man to experience the works of God. Just as Jesus had told His disciples in John 9:3, “That the works of God might be displayed in him.”
But what is the “work of God”? Was it about the miraculous healing of the blind man? That question was answered by Christ in John 6:29. The Bible said: “This is the work of God, that you may believe in Him [Jesus] whom He [God the Father] has Sent [Christ].”
The man who was born blind did not only experience restoration from physical blindness, but more importantly – spiritual blindness.
To be continued …
P.S You may want to read the first posting on this topic for context.
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