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The Healing of the Blind Man

 

The Healing of the Blind Man

Excerpt from: The Gospel According to St John – A Patristic Commentary – Part 2

Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty

 

This gospel is read on the ‘Sunday of Baptism’ as it is associated with the mystery of baptism which represents inner insight and enlightenment.

 

“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.”

 

In the previous chapter (John 8), the Lord Jesus Christ passed through the crowd of Jewish leaders and disappeared as they picked up stones to throw at Him (8:59). We then see Him passing by the poor blind man who looks at the Lord. The Lord looked at him in a manner that is different from the way the other people looked at him. He looked at the man with love and compassion. This is a living picture of the Messiah whom the Jews rejected. They took pride in the temple, while the Lord went through the streets seeking the Gentiles. They were disabled to see Him for they had no knowledge of the prophecies, the Divine law, or the symbols. They were like the man born blind whose place was on the roadside and who was poor and begging in a state of misery. Accordingly, Job says “Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery and life unto the bitter in soul;” (Job 3:20).

 

The Evangelist does not provide the name of the place through which the Lord was passing by or where He was. However, He was passing by as the Bearer of sufferings and He saw this man begging. The man was sitting in a place where charitable people could give him something to help him survive.

 

The man was known in the city as the one born blind. No one around him, not even the Lord’s disciples, asked or prayed that his eyes would be opened. May be this was because no one expected that it could happen.

 

The Lord looked at him so that the poor blind person would find Him. Accordingly, the holy Word states in Is. 65:1: “I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, ‘Behold me, behold me’, unto a nation that was not called by my name.” He first loved us, and He loved us before we knew Him. The apostle says in this context: “when ye knew not God,” (Gal. 4:9).

 

* The Lord truly loves mankind and is concerned with our salvation. He wishes to bridle the mouth of the stupid and will not cease from working even though no one listens to Him. The prophet knew that and said, “that you might be justified when you speak, and be clear when you judge,” (Ps. 51:4). Consequently, in this chapter, we find the Lord leaving the temple and healing the blind. He does so after the Jews had rejected His words, accused Him of being possessed by a demon, and had tried to kill Him. He did the miracle to pacify their cruelty and violence and to underline the facts. He did a supernatural miracle that had no precedence. Listen to the healed person who states: “Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind,”. May be some physician had opened the eyes of someone who had become blind, but this never happened to one born blind. Upon leaving the temple, the Lord intentionally went to work. This clearly indicates that it is He who saw the blind man and not vice versa. The Lord looked at him jealously and the disciples understood His compassion.

St. John Chrysostom

 

* This blind man represents the human race. Such blindness found a place in the first man through sin. We all have our origins in this first man and therefore have inherited not only death but evil as well. Now if lack of faith constitutes blindness and faith is enlightenment, then who is the believer that the Lord will find at His coming? The apostle, who traces his origin to the family of prophets, states: “…were by nature the children of wrath, even as others,” (Eph. 2:3)… since evil has found roots for itself within us, then every person has been born mentally blind. For if a person could really see, he would not have needed a mentor: but since he needs someone to guide and enlighten him, then he has been blind ever since his birth.

St. Augustine

 

“And his disciples asked him, saying,

Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”

 

The Lord left the temple (Jn. 8:59) accompanied by the disciples who did not forsake Him during His trials. They enjoyed getting acquainted with Him and they were having tremendous new experiences. They noticed how the Lord turned His eyes to the poor blind man. He did not look at him in the usual manner for His eyes were full of love. They too, therefore turned their eyes to the blind man. Yet instead of praying the Lord to heal him, they questioned Him for the reason why he had been born blind.

 

* We might wonder: where did this question come from? Our answer would be: when the Lord healed the paralytic man earlier, He told him “Look, you have been made well, sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:14). Therefore, the disciples remembered that the man had suffered paralysis due to his sins. However, this could not be applied to this blind man for he was blind since birth. So, had his parents sinned? This too cannot be concluded because the child does not suffer punishment due to his parents … the disciples here wondered because of their own confusion and not because they searched for information.

St. John Chrysostom.

 

There is a popular rabbinical saying (quoted allegedly by the rabbis) ‘There is no death without sin and no pain without evil.’ This saying was justified by them as they based it on the words cited in Ezekiel 18:20, and Psalm 89:32. These words were imprinted in the minds of the Jews, including the Lord’s disciples who did not ask if this blindness was due to sin or not. In their opinion, this matter did not need to be questioned or debated. So, the question they asked was: ‘who was the one who had sinned and therefore brought this terrible calamity on that person.’ What confused the disciples was: ‘how could the man have sinned before birth and was consequently born like that? Could this be the result of his parents’ sin?’

 

Some believe that the soul of a person could sin before it is embodied in the flesh. Origen the Scholar believed that some suffer pain before they act wrongfully after birth. Others have depended on human logic to explain Divine Justice and how some are born poor while others are born rich, or why one person is born with sharp intelligence and another could lack it altogether; or why one is born physically strong while another is suffering many ailments. Besides, some have depended on affirming the potential to commit error before birth based on the story of Jacob and Esau when they were still in the womb: “…the children struggled together within her…’ (Gen. 25:22).

 

In the writings of the rabbis they deal with what befalls the sons due to the mistakes of the parents. In the context of the need for a man to avoid gazing at a woman, one rabbi states: ‘A man who gazes at the heel of a woman will have a handicapped son born to him.’ Another rabbi says that this happens to someone who approaches his wife during her impurity. Still another says that a man who has a marital relationship while his wife still has menstruation would have children who would suffer of epilepsy. There are numerous sayings similar to these and which underline the conviction of the rabbis that the sins of the parents are punished by appearance of flaws in their children and of which the children suffer throughout their lives.

 

This clarifies that what the disciples said was not inspired by their imagination, for it was the result of teachings strongly imprinted in the minds of many Jews. These ideas were the result of the rabbinical writings and teachings.

 

Some believe that the disciples had heard about the Pythagorean ideas. These claimed that the soul pre-exists the creation of its body. The Pharisees might have adopted that line of thought too. This is evident in their words to the man born blind: “… you were completely born in sins”.

 

Jesus answered: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,

but that the works of God should be revealed.”

 

Rather than condemn the man born blind or his parents, the Lord directed the disciple’s attention to the supreme care of God and His hidden plan. God had allowed this blindness in order to grant that person spiritual insight. Consequently, he would testify to the Divine truth before the violent Jewish leaders and would glorify God.

 

The Lord Jesus Christ did not say that the man born blind or his parents had not sinned. All mankind had fallen into sin. What this blind man was suffering from was not related to any particular sin. What the disciples and all believers should do is to be preoccupied with God’s works and His plan for man. He wants us to enjoy inner sight, to get acquainted with the mysteries of God, and to receive fellowship in His eternal glory.

 

God’s hand works incessantly and through hard and happy times. Under all circumstances, He seeks our salvation. Believers have not been promised a life with no trials or sufferings that afflict all other beings. On the contrary, they are faced with more tribulations. However, what comforts them is their understanding that God has a plan for everything. Besides, because they enjoy Divine Grace they feel they are fully content. This is what God has promised us through St. Paul’s words: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

 

The believer does not complain in the midst of trials. His eyes are fixed on God his tender Father; and his heart is receptive and comprehends God’s plan for him.

 

* The Lord Jesus Christ is the Savior and He mercifully does what He has not granted in the womb. Surely when God had not given eyes to that blind person, it was not due to some error He (the Creator) did. Rather, the plan was to postpone it until the time would come to do a miracle…… “Neither this man nor his parents sinned…” God did not grant what He could have granted. He did not grant what He knew He would grant when the time would come for that need.

The blindness was not due to sin committed by the blind man or his parents; ‘but that the works of God should be revealed in him.’ For when we were born, we were all bound with the original sin. Yet in spite of that we were not born blind. Nevertheless, search carefully for we have been born blind. So who has not been born blind? I mean blind in the heart. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ, who has created both heart and body, heals both of them.

St. Augustine

 

The Lord’s words about the blind man: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned”, do not clear his parents of sin. He did not just say, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned”, for He added “but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” Indeed, this man and his parents had sinned; however the blindness was not a result of that. It is not valid to punish a person for a sin committed by someone else. This fallacy has been rejected by Ezekiel the prophet who says: “The word of the Lord came unto me again, saying, “What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die,” Ezek 18:1-4. In this context, Moses the prophet also says: “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin,” (Deut 24:16).

 

If someone says: How did God tell Moses the prophet “for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;” (Ex 20:5)? Our response would be:” Because this cause cannot be generalized; for it was said of people who had come out of Egypt. This was what it meant: When the Jews left Egypt; they became more experienced through many miracles and wonders. In spite of that, they became more evil than their parents and grand parents who had not seen such miracles. Therefore they were to suffer the same calamites that their predecessors had suffered if they followed the same course of action.

 

* The Lord says these words not as someone who wants to indicate that they have not sinned since both that person and his parents have sinned. However, his blindness is not the reason of that…. But it is intended for the proclamation of the Glory of God through him. Someone may say: ‘Why should that person suffer for the glory of God? How unjust, explain to me? Then what if God had never created that man?’ Our response is: ‘The man has benefited from his blindness for he received the healing of his inner vision.’ What benefit do the Jews enjoy as they have eyes yet their condemnation has become greater. They saw yet were incapacitated. What is the harm that befell that man as a consequence of his disability… indeed, because of it, his eyes were opened? Therefore the evils of this present life are not evil, neither are the blessings beneficial. Only sin is evil, whereas disability is not evil.

St. John Chrysostom.

 

St. Jerome wrote to Castrutrus of Pannomia to comfort him due to his physical blindness and said:

* I write to ask you not to consider the physical calamity that has happened to you as the result of a sin…do we not see many idolaters, Jews, heretics and those who adopt different thoughts just wading in the mud of lust. They swim in a sea of blood and violence and are worse than savage wolves and stealthy hawks. In spite of that, they have not been inflicted with this epidemic. They are not inflicted like others and they grow in their arrogance towards God, raising their faces up to heaven. Conversely, we see the saints afflicted with sickness, pain, and need …If you imagine that your blindness is due to sin; and that your sickness which doctors are often capable of healing are proof of God’s anger, then you seem to consider that Isaac is a sinner. You think that is why he was afflicted with blindness, was deceived, and gave the blessing to the one whom he had no intention to give. We accuse Jacob of sin when his eyesight weakened so much he could neither see Manasseh nor Ephraim (Gen. 48:1).Yet, with his inner vision and prophetic spirit he could foresee the distant future, and that the Lord Jesus Christ would come from a royal line (Gen. 49:1)

St. Jerome

 

It is not appropriate for believers, having comprehended the supreme mysteries of God, to condemn anyone or to consider that matters that befall others are divine punishments inflicted for some hidden sin. If we do so we belittle others even though their sins are apparent. The Jews fell into this error as they considered the righteous One who is without sin, as deserving to suffer and be crucified for some evil or blasphemy he had committed. The Psalmist says: “For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded” (Ps. 69:26). Isaiah the prophet also says: “… we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement for our peace was upon him and by His stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:4-5)

 

I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day;

the night is coming when no one can work”

 

These were critical moments when the Lord turned His eyes to the man born blind. They were moments dedicated not only to heal the man born blind but also to reveal the person of the Lord Jesus Christ: He is the light of the world and the giver of inner vision. In spite of that, no one could discover what lay behind this blindness. Until these moments, even the disciples could not read or understand the book of Divine care. However, the time came later on when it became possible to comprehend this Divine mystery and the supreme Divine work.

 

The Lord did not perform works in order to underline his power to do miracles. Rather He did so to perform the works of His Father who sent Him. However, He does not say I do the work that My Father has commanded Me to do but He just performed the same deeds of His Father. We notice here the following:

 

First: The Lord came into the world on a mission. He came in the form of the Son of man to fulfill His Father’s will and in complete obedience to Him. The Father’s will is identical to the Son’s will. That is why any person who is obedient shares the feature of obedience with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Second: The Lord performs the same works as the Father. This is what He affirms in the Gospel of St. John: the unity of Divine work. This will become evident in the rest of this Gospel.

Third: In a spirit of love for humanity and in obedience and union with the Father, the Lord finds pleasure in accomplishing His work. Committed by love, the Lord says:” I must work….”

Fourth: The Lord works while it is day; and before the Jews move to kill Him as they are driven by envy and hatred. The period of His service is an opportunity to work openly even if that is done on the Sabbath. This is an invitation for us to move and work and to seize every hour of our lives; lest our work remains unfinished when the day of our lives comes to an end. The Lord has granted us the day so that we may labor (Ps. 104:22-23). Therefore it is appropriate that we do not spoil and idle away the days of our lives. Indeed, we should struggle in obedience to God our Father so that when the night comes we could rest.

Fifth: The Lord invites us to work through Him and with Him. The apostle says accordingly:” For we are fellow workers…” (1 Cor. 3:9). For in working with Him, we find peace, honor, and glory. We share with Him in service as long as we are alive and before the night sets in.

 

* What do these words convey? What are the ultimate conclusions based on these? So many. What the Lord says implies this: ‘As long as there is light, the nation could believe in Me; and as long as this life goes on, I need to work.’ The night is coming: that is, ‘it is bound to come in the future when no one would be able to work.’ The Lord did not say: ‘I cannot work’ but rather ‘When no one can work.’ This indicates that there will not be any more time for faith, or service, or repentance.

St. John Chrysostom

 

* Why had St. Paul called this life ‘the night’ (Rom. 13:12)? But here the Lord calls it ‘the day’? St. Paul is not contradicting the Lord for he is saying the same thing. Even though the words are different, yet the meaning is the same. He says: “the night is far spent. The day is at hand.” St. Paul calls the present time ‘the night’ since he compares it to the forthcoming day. The Lord called the future ‘the night’ as no time will be left to perform acts of repentance, faith or obedience in the next world if we neglect any sin done in this world. As for St. Paul, he called this present life ‘the night’ because anyone who persists in evil and disbelief exists in darkness. Therefore he directs his speech to believers saying: ‘The night is far spent, the day is at hand.’ Believers need to enjoy that light, and St. Paul calls the old life as darkness: ‘Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armor of light’.

St. John Chrysostom

 

In this manner, the Lord directs His words to unbelievers. Their lives here are considered to be ‘day’ if they are compared with their lives in the world to come. Now, they could enjoy the light of the sun of righteousness in the inner hearts, through living faith and true repentance. As for the world to come, they will be enveloped in darkness where there is no way they could return to the Lord and offer repentance. In contrast, St. Paul directs his words to believers. He considers their previous lives as ‘darkness’ since they performed acts of darkness. Now, the time had come to travel into the future world where they would enjoy the eternal light of the Lord Jesus Christ. Coming into His presence, our present life appears as the darkest night.

 

* Dear brothers, if we always bear in mind the condemnation we have inherited, then we will know that the whole world is blind. Now the Lord Jesus Christ, who grants enlightenment, has come. Satan causes blindness and he has caused all mankind to be born blind, as he is the one who deceived the first man. Let all run to Him who grants light. Let all run and believe and receive the clay made of spit…..let all wash their faces in the pool of Siloam …This is Siloam: wash your face, be baptized. In this manner you will be enlightened and see while you could not see before.

St. Augustine

 

* First: Open your eyes to Him who says: ‘I must work the works of Him who sent Me’ (Refer to John 9:4). A follower of Arius would immediately respond: ‘As you see, the Lord did not perform His works but rather the works of the Father who sent Him.’ Are these works not His works? What does He say who is Siloam and the Messenger Himself, the Son Himself, the only Son, the one to whom you complain and belittle His status? What is the response of the Lord? ‘All things that the Father has are mine’ (John 16:15)… He did not say: ‘all that the Father has, He has given Me.” Yet, had He said that He would also have revealed His equality with the Father… Hear His words in another verse: “and all Mine are yours, and yours are Mine” (John 17:10). So the doubt ends here: for what the Father and the Son have are in harmony and consist of the same thing. Therefore there is no conflict: what the Lord calls ‘the work of the Father’ are His works too since all that are ‘Yours are Mine’… “For whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner (in the same way) (John 5:19).

St. Augustine

 

Thus, the Lord offers Himself as a model. Indeed, He acts on our behalf so that when we disappear within Him we are enabled to perform the same deeds through His Spirit. He did not have to struggle since He performed His Father’s work with inner joy, and in spite of the constant resistance of those around Him. He will continue to act even through our union with Him. Therefore, we should not cease to struggle and we should be committed to serve. We need to do so before the night of death comes upon us and the days of our lives come to an end on this earth.

 

“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

 

The Lord Jesus Christ works as long as it is daytime. That means that He works as long as we are able to enjoy His redeeming deeds. For when the day ends and the night of the grave prevails, it will be impossible to benefit any longer of His service. The opportunity to repent and return to Him will have passed away. During the days of our lives, He shines upon us, as He is ’The light of the world’: The light of righteousness who gives light to our souls, our minds and all our inner depths.

 

Earlier, the Lord had proclaimed that His mission involves bringing His light to those sitting in the darkness (John 8:12). As He is the light of righteousness, He grants enlightenment and healing through the rays of His love or with the scope of His wings. As the Head of the Church, He transforms his believers into ‘the light of the world.’ They just have to be fervently fired by divine love to serve others.

 

* The Lord said these words so that we may believe that He was speaking about the incarnation; and that it was valid as long as He was a human being. He was in the world for a while, yet as He is God and therefore He is present at all times. In another context, the Lord says: “… I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Matt. 28:20).

St. Ambrose

 

* Here the Lord reveals that even after His crucifixion, He will grant His tender care to the wicked and attract many to Him because it is still day. However, when the day is over, He will abandon them completely. He proclaims this by saying: ‘As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” He also told others. ‘…while you have the light, believe in the light…” (John 12:36).

St. John Chrysostom.

* The only incarnate Son is the light of the whole heavenly creation and not only of the whole world.

St. Cyril the Great.

* He is called “The light of the world” due to His act of giving light to the world: what lies within Him is the light.

He is called the resurrection since He tears away that which is dead and sets up the fullness of life within all those who come earnestly to Him.

On account of other acts, the Lord is also called ‘The Shepherd’ (John 10:11-12); ‘The Teacher’ (John 13:13); ‘The King’ (Zech 9:9; Matt. 21:5; John 12:15), ‘the chosen Arrow’ (Ps. 44:6; Is 49:2); ‘The Slave/Servant’ (Is 49:3); ‘the Mediator and Sacrifice’ (1 John 2:1-2; Rom 3:25) He is also called the ‘Logos’ as He strips away all that which is illogical ‘alogon.’ He truly transforms us into wise beings acting always in a manner that glorifies God even as we eat and drink (1 Cor. 10:31) Due to such wisdom, we are enabled to fulfill completely and generally all our acts in this life to the glory of God. Through fellowship with Him, we are enabled to awaken and be enlightened. Besides, He watches over us and directs our lives. Clearly, we walk wisely and divinely as He destroys every irrational and deadly matter within us since He is the Word and the Resurrection (John 1:1; 11:25).

Origen the Scholar

 

* What is this night in which no one can work as soon as it sets in? Listen to what ‘the day’ stands for; then you will comprehend the implication of ‘the night’…let the Lord tell us: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”. See how He Himself is the day. ‘Let the blind wash his eyes in the day so that he might see the day… Then the night, in a certain manner, corresponds to a person’s lack of recognizing Me. Thus, when the Lord is no longer there, no one can work’.

St. Augustine.

 

* It is the night of the wicked. The night of those to whom it will be said at the end of time: ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.’

Now faith works through love. Therefore if we now work- then it is now daytime for the Lord is present now.

Listen to His promise and do not imagine that He is absent; for He Himself has said: “I am with you.” Until when? May we, who are alive, never experience anxiety. As long as we have full faith that His words stand throughout all generation, this is possible.

The Lord said:” I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Matt 28:20). There is a time to work, and a time to collect wages. The Lord will reward everyone according to his deeds (Matt. 16:27).

Go on working as long as you are alive…. For the terrible night will come when all the wicked will faint. In the present, every unbeliever who dies enters into the night where it is impossible to do any work. In this kind of night the wealthy one keeps burning, suffering, and repenting. However, he could not get any relief. He tried to be good when he told Abraham: “Father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father’s house…that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment” (Luke 16:27-28)

What a sad person! When you were alive you had time to work. Now you are in the night where no man can work!

St. Augustine.

 

“When He had said these things, He spat on the ground, and made clay with the saliva; and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.”

 

The manner of healing the man born blind is unique. It is well known that mud would damage a healthy eye. So how does the Lord make mud with His saliva and anoint the eyes of that man? And why did He not heal him in secret in order to avoid arousing the hostility of the religious leaders? Besides why did He not wait till after the Sabbath and then heal him?

First: The Lord confirms that He performs His work in accordance to His Divine thought and not according to our wishes and human means.

Second: His prime concern is to grant the blind man sight to his eyes and insight to his heart. He is not concerned with the resistance of the Jewish leaders against Him.

Third: He did not wait until the Sabbath had ended because it was as a day of rest. Therefore, the Spirit of the Lord finds rest in doing Divine acts and in granting enlightenment and rest to others.

Fourth: He sets an example so that we may not postpone doing good works to the next day. Indeed, we should seize every chance to hurry in doing good deeds lest the opportunity is no more there tomorrow.

Fifth: The Lord made clay out of spit and anointed the man’s eyes with His hands. In doing so He confirms that the secret of that power lies in Christ Himself and in the work of His hands. Everything that proceeds from the Lord Jesus Christ possesses power, life and enlightenment. Indeed, His arm is almighty.

 

* Notice that when the Lord sought to heal the blind man, He did so in a manner that could make his blindness even worse, as He applied mud.

The Lord took earth from the ground and that is just the same thing He did when He created Adam. It would have been true if He had said: “I am the one who took soil from the ground and formed man.” But this would have been very hard on His hearers, as well as too unbearable and repulsive to them. Therefore He chose to reveal His identity through a practical event, which nothing could hinder. By taking earth and mixing it with spit, He proclaimed His hidden glory. Indeed, it was not easy for the crowds to comprehend and believe that they stood before the glorious Creator Himself.

If you wonder: ‘Why did the Lord not use water in the mud but rather used spit?’ Our response is: ‘So that the spring of water would not be considered the source of healing. Besides, it is intended to indicate that the power evident in His mouth is responsible for creating the eyes of the blind man and opening them.

St John Chrysostom

 

 

* He granted him new eyes.

St. Paulinus

 

* He formed eyes from clay. Light emanated from the soil. This is how it happened in the beginning … He ordered that there be light, and it was born out of darkness. Similarly, here too.

He made clay out of His spit, and he offered perfection to that which was lacking in nature and that was the case since the beginning.

This was intended to reveal that what He held in His hands was the power to bring perfection to what was imperfect in nature … As they refused to believe that He was there before Abraham came, He proved to them, through His deeds, that He is the Son of the One whose hands had shaped the first Adam out of the earth.

St. Ephraim the Syrian

 

He made clay out of the spit and anointed our eyes with it (John 9:6, 7). He made us see clearly (Mark 8:25). He opened the ears of our hearts (Mark 7:33-35) so that we could hear. Therefore, we could smell His sweet fragrance (Eph 5; 2 Cor 2:15), and distinguish His name as the aroma of a spilled sweet ointment (Song of Sol 1:3; Phil 2). Now we could taste and see how great the Lord is (1 Peter 2:3; Ps 34:8). Now we can touch Him in the manner that St. John describes: ‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the work of life’ (1 John 1:1). Consequently, we have become enabled to kill the Lamb, eat it, and as a result come out of Egypt.

 

‘And He said to him, “Go; wash in the pool of Siloam (which is translated, Sent).

So, he went and washed and came back seeing’

 

‘Siloam’: It is also known as Shiloh, Silo, and Shilooh. This is a natural spring that lies beneath the strong citadels on the east of Jerusalem, in between the city and the waters of Kidron. Some consider that Siloam is the same as En Rogel, which is mentioned in Joshua 15:7; 18:16; 2 Sam 17:17; 1 Kings 1:9. The waters of this spring were gathered in a great storage for the consumption of the city. A stream flowed out of it that fed the pool at Bethesda.

 

The pool of Siloam got its water from a spring that originated in mount Zion thus the waters of the Tabernacle “were streams that make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle the most high” (Ps 46:4). These are living and healing waters (Ezek 47:9).

 

(Which is translated Sent): The name is derived from the Hebrew ‘Shalach’and means ‘Sent.’ This was due either because they considered this spring as a blessing granted by God in order to water the city; or because its waters were channeled through canals or pipes to different regions. Some believe that the name refers to a prophecy by Jacob to Judas that the Messiah would be his descendant: “Until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people” (Gen 49:10). Thus it is a symbol for the Lord Jesus Christ, sent from the Father to enlighten and heal souls.

 

The Lord Jesus Christ is called “the Messenger” for He is the carrier of the covenant (Malachi 2:1). He repeatedly says in the Gospel of St. John that the Father had sent Him. Thus when he tells the blind man to go to the pool of Siloam or Sent, He is calling every soul in need of enlightenment to go to Him. He is the messenger who purifies man from sin, and shines with His light upon him. Consequently, he/she enjoys heavenly understanding, and darkness can no longer have a place in him.

 

* Just as the Lord Jesus Christ is also the spiritual rock (1Cor 10:4), so is the spiritual Siloam also.

St. John Chrysostom

 

The Lord Jesus Christ underlined the obedience of the man born blind. On the one hand, he submitted himself to the Lord, whom he had never seen, and let him put clay on his eyes without any objection or even asking how the Lord could use clay to heal eyes? On the other hand, he obeyed, went and washed in the pool of Siloam. He probably had gone and washed there previously but had not recovered his sight. Besides, surely many others had washed in the pool yet had never heard of any blind person being healed by its waters. Consequently, the Lord proclaimed the virtues of that poor blind man which were evident in his assurance, confidence, and calm.

 

* Note the mindset of the blind man: he was obedient in every way. He did not say: ‘If the mud and spit will truly heal me, why do I need to go to Siloam? Or, if I need to go to Siloam, why is there a need for clay? Why does He anoint me with (clay)? And why does He command me to get washed?’ He did not think of these matters, as he was ready to do one thing only: he was prepared to obey completely the one who commanded him and he was not inclined to do anything to oppose Him.

St. John Chrysostom

 

The man born blind came to enjoy the light of which he had been deprived before. It is as though he had been granted a new birth that differed from his previous birth. The pool of Siloam represents the baptismal waters that grant inner vision besides purification and redemption from sin. The waters refer to the Messianic age or the Kingdom of the house of David: “In as much as these people refuse the waters of Shiloah that flow softly” (Is 8:6)

 

The blind man returned with his sight restored. He could see intangible things and he praised with all his might the One who had granted him enlightenment. Accordingly, Isaiah the prophet says: “your watchmen shall lift up their voices, with their voices they shall sing together; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord brings back Zion” (Is 52:8).

 

* The Lord told the blind man to go and, wash in Siloam. If you were to ask: ‘Why has the Lord not done the miracle immediately? Why did He send the man to Siloam?’ Our response would be: ‘To test the blind man’s faith and in order to silence the arguments of the Jews.’ Besides, it was necessary for all who met him to see him going there with his eyes covered with clay. Such a strange sight would attract everybody’s attention, whether they knew him or not. Everybody would notice him in every detail. It would not be easy to recognize the blind man after his eyes were opened (for his features would be changed). That is why the Lord intended to have many witnesses testifying in different ways by creating a strange sight that would be definitely remarkable. In this manner people would be unable, after the miracle had been done, to deny that it was the same person.

St. John Chrysostom

 

* The man washed his eyes in this pool whose name is translated as “sent.” He was baptized in the Lord in a manner that granted him enlightenment. When the Lord anointed him with clay He made him become a believer.

St. Augustine

 

St. Augustine believes that in making the clay with spit, the reference is to the Word being incarnated.

 

The dialogue between the Neighbors and the Blind Man

 

The neighbors, who were eyewitnesses to the miracle, knew the blind man very well. Due to the miraculous healing and their great astonishment, they went through three stages of doubt, leading to three questions:

The first stage: their doubts in the person of the blind man, therefore he assured them he was that same blind man they had known.

The second stage: Who had made the miracle? And the answer was “A man called Jesus”

The third stage: “Where is He?” And the answer was: “I do not know”.

 

The blind man was completely accurate and faithful in answering all the three questions and according to what he knew at that time.

 

Therefore, the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?”

 

The neighbors were astonished as he had been born and had grown among them. They were accustomed to seeing him blind. Often, he would sit and beg in misery. Suddenly now he could see and his sight was whole for he was walking joyfully everywhere. He had not been able to work on account of his blindness and his damaged psyche. His parents had been unable to support him; therefore, he sat by the roadside and begged most of the day. Even his manner of speech and words had become different. Instead of beggars’ words that would were intended to let people give him alms; his words were now full of praise and thanksgiving. All this made his miraculous healing a public event rather than a hidden matter! In spite of that, some were suspicious concerning his identity. There were conflicting views since the healing of a person born blind is something hard to accept. Indeed, according to human knowledge, healing appeared to be impossible in such a case.

 

* How tender is God! Wherever He went, He tenderly healed even beggars. In this manner, He silenced the Jews. He did not give special attention to famous or outstanding persons or to rulers. Rather He attended to those who seemed unworthy to receive His attention. Indeed, He had come to save everyone.

St. John Chrysostom

 

Some said: “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.” He said: “I am he.”

 

Probably, those who said: “This is he” were the ones who had witnessed what had happened to him for everything had been done in public. As far as the others, they did not believe and said:” He is like him.” This was also because his opened eyes made him look different than how he used to look. By saying: “I am he” he testified that he is the same one who had been begging people; but now he was enjoying God’s supreme blessing.

 

* He was not ashamed of his former blindness; and he did not fear the anger of the crowd. Moreover, he did not conceal his identity for he wanted to testify to the One who had been kind to him.

                                                                                                              St. John Chrysostom

 

Therefore they said to him: “How were your eyes opened?”

 

When the blind man testified that he was the one who received the blessing of healing, the neighbors asked how it happened. They wanted to know and find the Maker of the miracle. The Psalmist accordingly says:” The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them,” (Ps 111:2).

 

He answered and said:

“A man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes, and said to me:

‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight”

 

He presented the truth simply and according to his experience. He said: “A man called Jesus made clay. “He had not seen Jesus before, but had heard of Him. He heard the Lord’s voice when He commanded him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. He felt that the Lord’s hand put something over his eyes. He discovered it was clay after he had been healed; and that the Lord had made it Himself and anointed his eyes with it.

 

* Look how he became a preacher through grace. Look how he preaches the Gospel. Having received insight, he became a confessor. This blind man became a confessor and that agitated the hearts of the wicked. This was due to the fact that they had not received in their hearts what this man had received in his eyes.

St. Augustine

 

Then they said to him: “Where is He?” He said: “I do not know.”

 

Their second question was “Where is He?” Was this question raised due to their doubt in the person who had made the miracle and had broken the law and incited breaking it?

On one hand, the Lord had made clay and anointed the eyes of the blind man. On the other hand, He had commanded him to walk to the pool and get washed. May be some asked the question out of curiosity and to find out who was that one that could do such an act; while others could have asked out of a sincere desire to meet Him.

The blind man answered: “I do not know” as the Lord seems to have withdrawn immediately after He had commanded the man to go to the pool of Siloam. He did not wait until the man would return to thank Him. This reveals that the Lord finds joy in giving freely and without expecting a word of thanks or praise. When He reprimands on account of ingratitude it is intended to teach others who need to be grateful, to rejoice, and to give praise just as the angels do.

 

* Notice the Lord’s humility. He did not stay with those whom He healed as He did not seek to gather a reward. Neither did He want to boast nor draw the attention of the crowds.

St. John Chrysostom

 

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