John 9:1-41

Jesus heals the blindman.

 "Jesus heals the blindman." 
Reprinted from Icon: Visual Images for Every Sunday, copywrite© 2000 Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission.


Jesus had been at the Temple since John 7:14. The providence of God is quite apparent here. It is all by plan. In chapter 8 Jesus had told the Pharisees that HE is the Light of the World. Again and again He offered Himself to them as Savior. But they rejected Him.

And so He arranged to meet and heal this blind man on the Sabbath day to heal him, to further him in his faith, to prove that He is the Son of God, to confront the Jews with their obduracy which grew ever deeper. Even the involvement of Siloam, a type of Christ from Isaiah 8:6, has meaning here. The symbolism is deliberate, not a later embellishment by John the evangelist. God sent His son for a dual judgment, verse 39. He is the great Siloam, the One sent from God.

An outline of the entire chapter:

1-12: The healing of the man born blind

    a) Jesus meets this man, 1-5, by deliberate plan

    b) The act of healing, 6-7

    c) The effect on his neighbors and acquaintances, 8-12

13-34: Jesus' adversaries and the healed man:

    a) Because of their presupposition that healing was prohibited on the Sabbath, the adversaries (called Pharisees in verse 13 and Jews in verse 18) deny Jesus' divinity, argue among themselves, deny that the man had been born blind and received his sight, grill his parents, put the man under oath, revile the man, claim a fictitious Moses as teacher, are lectured by the man, vilify him, and throw him out.

    b) On the other hand, the healed man consents to be brought to Jesus' adversaries, states the facts of the healing, is called a second time, testifies to the facts again, grows impatient, intimates (ironically) that they want to become Jesus' disciples, is amazed that they don't see the significance of the miracle, by a carefully thought out syllogism (32-33) shows them how ridiculous they are, but renounces nothing.

John 9:1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.

Very likely in the Temple, look at Acts 3:2.

John 9:2 His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

That they asked Jesus, shows that they believed in His omniscience. Evidently this individual case must have been a topic of conversation. Look at verse 34. People believed that this man was born blind because of a specific sin. The disciples believed it too. They merely ask: "Who is responsible?"

John 9:3 "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

Of course, all imperfection results from sin. But Jesus is saying: "Don't ask backward, but forward." The disciples thought as at Luke 13:2 and 4, but Jesus was thinking as at John 11:4.

Bengel: When one work of God is know, all are known. From His works shine forth the power, the glory, the grace of God.

Jesus came to save human beings, not to punish them.

John 9:4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

Verse 4b is an axiom, understood by all. Work must be done while there is opportunity. 4a is specific about Jesus and His disciples. Jesus and His disciples do saving work. It must be done while there is opportunity.

Jesus is stressing His mission and its urgency. He does not say that after His ascension He was no longer the Light of the world. He is about to prove that He is the Savior. By the way, the blind man evidently heard what Jesus said.

John 9:5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." 6 Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. 7 "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

In verse 6 Jesus acts. He did what He did to impress on the man that He was the source of healing. In verse 7 Jesus commands: "Go, wash yourself." It was some distance from the Temple to the pool, which is there to this day. Siloam is clearly a reference to Isaiah 8:6. The little pool of Siloam was mightier than the Euphrates River. It was a type of Christ, as John explains in parenthesis. Christ was the One Sent. That he went and washed himself (his face) shows that he believed. He returned "seeing." Evidently he went home, as is apparent in the next verse.

John 9:8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, "Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?" 9 Some claimed that he was. Others said, "No, he only looks like him." But he himself insisted, "I am the man." 10 "How then were your eyes opened?" they demanded. 11 He replied, "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see." 12 "Where is this man?" they asked him. "I don't know," he said.

In verse 8 those close to the man attest that he had been a beggar, implying that he had been blind. Verse 9 gives three opinions:

  1. He is;

  2. He only looks like him;

  3. I'm the one.

Bengel: Human reason invents and supposes anything, sooner than it will believe a miracle has been worked. Look at verse 18 and Acts 2:13.

They just can't believe it. In verse 11 the man simply states the facts, what he knows. He calls Him "the man called Jesus." He sticks to what he knows. In 12 he says "I don't know." Jesus had purposely left the man on his own. More on this later.

Notice in the following verses how the man is abandoned by everyone and thrown out.

John 9:13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind.

The Pharisees were the religious authorities and act as inquisitors.

John 9:14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man's eyes was a Sabbath.

Jesus deliberately healed him on the Sabbath to make them look at their own perverted religion.

John 9:15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. "He put mud on my eyes," the man replied, "and I washed, and now I see."

He had already been asked in verse 10. He answers with a second rehearsal of the facts.

John 9:16 Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided.

Bengel:Either the former, or else the latter, exactly applies as the description of every man.

Some said "He's an outcast because He breaks the Sabbath." Others were reluctant to accept this because the evidence of the miracle was plain, as Jesus had said in verse 3. Jesus' enemies knew. No doubt about it. But these "others" lost out later on. Both admit that He had performed a miracle. The only question was: "Is He from God or a sinner?" This caused a division. They "solved" this in verse 18 by implying that all was a hoax.

John 9:17 Finally they turned again to the blind man, "What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened." The man replied, "He is a prophet."

"What is your opinion about your healer?" The answer shows that this man's faith is growing.

John 9:18 The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man's parents. 19 "Is this your son?" they asked. "Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?"

They desperately try to discount the miracle as a hoax. They want his parents' support. First they put the man on trial, now the parents.

John 9:20 "We know he is our son," the parents answered, "and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself."

They know two things. But now they are lying. They abandon their son: "We don't know." In 21b they speak of anything but pride in his maturity. They are practically saying: "He's in trouble. Let him speak for himself."

John 9:22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. 9 That was why his parents said, "He is of age; ask him."

These two verses are parenthetical. They explain the fear of the parents. The verses imply two things:

  1. It is well-known that Jesus was the Messiah;

  2. The parents knew it too.

Confession of this was forbidden. It was threatened with excommunication, all loss of religious and social contact. "The Jews" were the "great" authorities. For reasons of fear the parents abandoned their son.

John 9:24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. "Give glory to God, " they said. "We know this man is a sinner." 25 He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!"

The Jewish leaders had absolute authority over the people. They say "Give glory to God." He had already done so, time and again by simply stating the facts.

By the way, when they call Jesus "a sinner" they are practically admitting the miracle because His "sin" consisted in "working" on the Sabbath. Throughout the man sticks to the facts.

John 9:26 Then they asked him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?"

Two more questions of doubt.

John 9:27 He answered, "I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?" 28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, "You are this fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where he comes from."

He grows impatient with their foolishness but also bolder. They become more vehement and obdurate. He had told them in verses 15, 17 and 25, again and again and again.

The hearing of unbelievers is deafness and the sight of unbelievers is blindness. They had the evidence of ear and eye, but rejected it.

"Do you want to become his disciples?" is a question that implies irony, exposing their hypocrisy. By the way, they were putting him on trial. Now he begins to put them on trial. He is not afraid. They revile him, but he does not revile them in return. He testifies. His faith is protecting him.

Like modern Jews, these men refuse to use the name of Jesus.

The healed man was a disciple of both Jesus and Moses. These Jews were disciples of neither. Moses, at all times, wrote of Christ, John 5:46, either Gospel to save, see Genesis 3:15 and Genesis 12:3, or Law to lead to Christ, see Galatians 3:24.

They imply that the healed man is an ignorant sinner. "To Moses God spoke." He sure did. But what about? Christ, whom they derogatorily deny in 29b.

They don't know because they rejected Moses who spoke always of Christ.

John 9:30 The man answered, "Now that is remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."

Now the man preaches them a sermon. "The amazing thing" is their ignorance. They, of all men, the leaders. He puts their great learning to shame.

Fahling: Even to the untrained mind of the former blind beggar this willful ignorance in the face of the undeniable miracle was altogether inconceivable. What astounding ignorance!

He sticks to what he had experienced and gave testimony of. That should have convinced them of Jesus' origin.

The godly man constantly does God's will. God does for him what he asks. Had the blind man heard Jesus pray before the miracle? We know not, nor do we need to know. Verse 32 is axiomatic, but is becoming particular.

Notice how the faith of the man grows: 17, 25, 31, 32, 33.

John 9:34 To this they replied, "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!" And they threw him out.

Evidently they mean that the man was born blind because of specific guilt or sin. The blindness has been removed and yet they say "how dare you lecture us." And they drive him out. They have no use for him.

John 9:35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" 36 "Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him." 37 Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you." 38 Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."

Step by step this man had been abandoned or rejected by men, by neighbors and acquaintances (8), by parents (23), by the Jewish authorities (34). Step by step he grew in his convictions. Jesus had purposely absented Himself, but not really. His Word sustained the man, under trial, and thus he grew spiritually. Thus Jesus often does to us for our good. This man withstood every onslaught from unbelievers.

Note the humanity of Jesus indicated by "he heard" and he went to find him. Jesus sought him out, now for the second time. Jesus came to this man, not vice versa.

Not only had Jesus caused the man to see and to see Him in particular, but He's also the very One talking to him. It reminds us of John 4:26. Jesus now draws this believer to Himself personally. It does not mean that he had not been believing. He is strengthened.

Bengel: The worship follows spontaneously the recognition of His Divinity. Jesus nowhere required this worship of anyone. It was the spirit of faith that instructed believers to render it.
Ylvisaker: In the Prophet he saw the Son of God, and in the form of the servant he behold the glory of the Lord.
Kretzmann: The question of Jesus whether he believed in the Son of God, was intended to work this faith in the man's heart, for such is the nature of the Word of God at all times. The healed man was a believing Israelite; his faith was placed in the coming Messiah . . . When he was therefore assured of the identity, he gladly confessed his faith.

He did what the Jews forbade, verse 22. What Jesus told the disciples in verses 3-5 came true.

Ylvisaker: Here He speaks of the results or of the effect of His revelation in the world. The effect is twofold, depending upon the attitude of men to this revelation in Jesus: on the one hand, they who do not see, but recognize their blindness, shall receive their sight . . . On the other hand, they who see, who imagine that they see, and who are arrogant in their wisdom (Romans 2:20), who have taken away the key of knowledge (Luke 11:52) and fancy that they need no light -- they shall be made blind, they shall be given to a greater blindness, so that they may not come to the light . . . He makes the blind seeing, the seeing blind, puts to death those that are living, and restores the dead to life.

John 9:40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?" 41 Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

In verse 13 we read of Pharisees. In 18 it's the Jews. Here in 40 it's the Pharisees again. The Jews had cast this man out, drove him out. Whether verse 40 means that some came back or that Pharisees were still with Him, we don't know. At any rate, they heard what He had said in verse 39. They say: "We too aren't blind, are we?" expecting Him to say "no." Jesus counters with a contrary to fact condition.

Stoeckhardt: In the first half of the verse He indicates the natural spiritual blindness, the congenital inability to recognize the truth. This original blindness Jesus can and wants to remove. He gives men the Spirit and Light so that they acknowledge the truth, recognize the Son. And so they have no more sin. Also the spiritual blindness of natural sin is sin, but a sin which Jesus removes. In the second half of the verse Jesus indicates the seeing as such people, like the Pharisees, who imagine that they can see, they know all and therefore reject Christ and His Light, Christ's Word and Spirit. Such the Lord finally abandons in their blindness to their obdurate spirit and removes from them Light, Spirit and grace. And so they remain forever in their blindness, in their sins and are lost in their sins.

Note that in all four Gospel denial of divinity of Jesus and the charge of breaking the Sabbath always go together. This is the spirit of unbelief. But believers neither denied His divinity nor accused Him of breaking the Sabbath.

Formula of Concord  (Tappert 629): The reason why all who hear the Word do not come to faith and therefore receive the greater damnation is not that God did not want them to be saved. It is their own fault because they heard the Word of God not to learn but only to despise, blaspheme, and ridicule it, and they resisted the Holy Spirit who wanted to work within them, as was the case with the Pharisees and their party at the time of Christ. John 9:16 and 41.

Some interesting syllogisms:

1) The Pharisees in verse 16:

2) The healed man in verses 32-33:

Jesus in verse 41:


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series A, Festival Season Sundays Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1980, Pp. 63-67. Used with Permission.

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