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The sixth sign that Jesus performed in order to manifest the glory of God is found in John 9, with commentary in John 10. This sign correlates with the third sign, where Jesus healed the invalid at the pool of Bethesda in John 5.
John 9:1 begins,
1 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.
Like the invalid in John 5, this blind man represented the Israelites whose blindness remained upon them throughout their wilderness journey. So Moses told them in Deuteronomy 29:4, 5,
4 Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear. 5 I have led you forty years in the wilderness….
The slight difference between these two prophetic types is that the invalid represented Israel in the 38 years following their refusal to enter the Promised Land at Kadesh-barnea. The blind man represented Israel from the beginning of their 40-year journey from the time they left Egypt. Healing both of these men prophesied of the coming of Christ, when the situation would be reversed.
Once again, the sovereignty of God takes precedence in both of these stories, for both were helpless to do anything about their situation. So we read in Exodus 4:11,
11 The Lord said to him [Moses], “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”
While this may not seem fair, God has the right as the Creator to make whatever serves His purpose. Paul reminds us in Romans 9:21 that the Potter has the right over the clay to make whatever type of vessel He chooses. And yet, because He is a just God who loves His creation, Paul tells us in Romans 8:18,
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
He says further in Romans 8:28,
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Those who focus only on the sovereignty of God in Romans 9, without first understanding the love of God in Romans 5 or the good result for “all things” in Romans 8, will not really know the heart of God but will make Him out to be an unloving tyrant. It is only when we understand God’s love for creation and His plan to reconcile all things to Himself in the end that we will be able to accept and appreciate His sovereignty.
The Spiritual Cause of Blindness
John 9:2, 3 says,
2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
The rabbis had speculated on this question for a long time. A story was told about a pregnant woman who complained that her unborn baby was kicking her unreasonably hard, and this was taken as an offence that could make the baby liable for divine judgment. Such a baby might be born deformed or deficient in some way—such as being born blind.
Another story is told of a pregnant woman who passed through a pagan temple and made the mistake of eating food sacrificed to idols. Quoting from a Talmudic treatise, Lightfoot says,
“The child in the womb grew hot, and swelled into blisters, as in the womb of a serpent” (Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Vol. III, p. 340).
So the rabbis debated whether the mother or the child was at fault when born handicapped. There were also other speculations about karma, where a man who was wicked in a previous life on earth might be born defective in his next life on earth. Such ideas came from the influence of the Greeks and Persians, who had received such beliefs from further East a few centuries earlier.
When things go wrong, religious people tend to think that God is judging them. It was the same with Job, whose friends urged him to repent of his secret sins in order to be healed. But that was not the answer, even though God has indeed judged some with disease. Miriam, for example, was smitten with leprosy for a short time (Numbers 12:10), and King Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:19, 21).
The man who was born blind was an intercessor representing Israel, which nation had been blind from its birth from its Egyptian mother. God was not being vindictive toward the man but had called him to intercede on behalf of the nation itself. By taking on Israel’s problem of blindness, he also saw the end of that problem when Jesus healed him. His was a difficult calling, but the result manifested the glory of God in the earth as the sixth major sign in John’s gospel.
Jesus’ solution was given in John 9:4, 5,
4 We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
Day and night, light and darkness, is the contrast here. Men normally worked during the day while it was light. Jesus told His disciples that they were to do the works of God while He was “in the world.” As long as He was in the world, it was “day.” The night would come after His ascension when He left the earth. In this case, the work of God was to heal the blind man, because blind people were said to be walking in darkness.
In 1 John 1:5, 6 we read,
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
The blind walk in darkness. The blind man was physically illustrating a spiritual principle. The people were spiritually blind without realizing it, because one of the chief characteristics of blindness is that men do not even know that they are blind. So Jesus said in Matthew 6:23, “If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
To walk in the light is to walk in fellowship with God, the Source of all light (truth). Our measure of truth is the closeness in which we are in fellowship with Him. The difficulty, of course, is that what we perceive as truth is not necessarily the truth. We are fully dependent upon the Holy Spirit to distinguish between light and darkness.
John 9:6, 7 says,
6 When He had said this, He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). And so he went away and washed, and came back seeing.
Whereas the invalid in John 5 was healed at the pool of Bethesda (“House of Mercy”), the blind man in John 9 was healed at the pool of Siloam (“Sent”). Prophetically speaking, God showed mercy to the Israelites after they were required to spend another 38 years in the wilderness. The blind man was “sent” to Siloam, implying an apostolic calling. An apostle is one who is sent. The sequence of the two men and the two signs shows that God must first be merciful (by limiting the time of judgment), so that we may truly be “sent” to implement our callings.
Recall also from our study of John 7 that on each of the seven days of Tabernacles, a priest was sent to the pool of Siloam to obtain water to pour out as a drink offering. In John 7:37-39 Jesus interpreted this as a prophecy of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. So we find later that Jesus told His disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit had come upon them. They could not be “sent” as apostles until they had received the water, as it were, from the Pool of Siloam.
In other words, the revelation (“light”) of the Spirit of Truth, removing their blindness, was necessary for them to be effective apostles. They were, after all, sent out to spread truth to the world, truth which comes, not by the study of books but by the revelation of the Spirit.
Siloam vs. Euphrates
The Pool of Siloam was built by King Hezekiah of Judah, who lived to see the House of Israel sent into exile by the Assyrians. When the Assyrian army later returned to conquer Judah, they took 46 walled cities and deported them as well. The only city they could not conquer was Jerusalem itself, because there the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian troops (Isaiah 37:36).
Earlier, Isaiah 8:6, 7, 8 had prophesied of this captivity and deportation in terms of two “waters.”
6 Inasmuch as these people have rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah [i.e., Siloam], and rejoice in Rezin [king of Damascus] and the son of Remeliah; 7 now therefore, behold the Lord is about to bring on them the strong and abundant waters of the Euphrates, even the king of Assyria and all his glory; and it will rise up over all its channels and go over all its banks. 8 Then it will sweep on into Judah, and it will overflow and pass through, it will reach even to the neck; and the spread of its wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.
In other words, the kings of Judah had allied with the king of Syria in Damascus, rather than depending upon the God of Israel. Since he had placed his faith in Syria, God brought judgment upon Judah, using the people of Syria and Assyria. Isaiah’s metaphor for Assyria was the River Euphrates. The people of Judah should have put their faith and trust in “the gently flowing waters of Shiloah,” i.e., the Holy Spirit.
This problem in Jerusalem was illustrated in the blind man whom Jesus sent to the Pool of Siloam. Whereas the kings of Judah had sought the help from the River Euphrates, Jesus showed them the solution—to go to the Pool of Siloam. Receive the cleansing of the Word of Truth from the Holy Spirit, and receive your sight, so that God may be with you (“Immanuel”) and send you as a beacon of light in a darkened world.