He was born blind so that the works of God might be revealed in him.
Whenever I have read the story of the man born blind (John 9: 1-39) I have focussed on the unusual details of the miracle itself, its aftermath, its significance as a sign, the blindness of the Pharisees, and the declaration of Jesus that He is the light of the world: the stuff of countless sermons. But I have never really thought much about the man’s blindness. When the disciples asked Jesus who had sinned to cause it, the Lord’s answer was, as we probably know: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.“
How long, O LORD ?
The thought that struck me when I read the story this time round was simply this: how long has he been waiting in the darkness for the works of God to be revealed in him? As we know from the account of water being turned into wine, John sees the miracles of Jesus as signs, and his gospel is structured through a progression of signs that bring an unfolding revelation of the deity of Jesus. The work of God that is revealed in this man is centred on Jesus as being the light of the world. The man born blind stands for all mankind, living in darkness until we see the light. Was he aware of God’s plan and God’s timing as he sat begging for scraps by the roadside? I think not. If he prayed, it probably would have been “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1)
Transformed to follow
Once God’s purpose was fulfilled his life was totally transformed, and not only was he now able to physically see, but from being a type of Man born in darkness, he becomes a type of Man born again into the Light: he values his testimony above his acceptance by the religious authorities, he is excluded from their system, and he worships Jesus. And from being a nobody by the roadside he becomes probably the best-known man in all of history who ever saw the Light.
Sitting in darkness
God’s ways are so much higher than ours. In His plan, the nations are a drop in the bucket, Isaiah 40:15) and “the glory of a man as the flowers of the grass.“ (1 Pe 1: 24-25) However in the dimension of the Spirit God has plans for us that are of eternal consequence; even though, like the man born blind, we may have absolutely no idea what they could be, and are living off scraps in darkness and uncertainty, unable to see God’s purpose and feeling void of purpose ourselves.
The moment of revelation
Yet the blindness and the scraps were also part of this man’s calling, as they are of ours: the purpose we were born to was that the works of God should be revealed in us. That roadside is where He has put us, the scraps we receive are from His hand, and that transforming moment of revelation is heading in our direction, walking down the road in Christ.
Caked in mud
With an understanding that God hasn’t just left us in the dark to beg for the rest of our lives but that He has put us where we are for a purpose, it becomes possible to find peace by the roadside. But then the question for all of us is this: when our moment arrives, what will be our response? For the man born blind, an encounter with Jesus began the process of transformation, but it didn’t complete it. After the initial meeting, Jesus put mud on his eyes. Not only were his eyes useless, but now they were caked in dirt as well, and they probably stung. Everything in his flesh would have urged him to wipe it off immediately. Things got worse before they got better. But with the mud came an instruction: “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” Jesus said of His words, “Blessed are you if you do them,” (John 13:17). So the man didn’t try and wipe the stinging mud off his eyes, but he did as he was told.
Sent from the pool
First the encounter, then the mud, then the walk to the pool. The transformation only happened after he had walked and washed. What do we do when God finally turns up after have been praying “How long, Lord?” but then we just get mud on our eyes? 1 Thess 5 16-18 says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.“ Do we get up and walk in joy and thanksgiving and recognition of God’s will, or do we stay by the roadside and wait for another encounter?
Walk and Wash
The man’s life changed when he walked to the pool and washed, not when Jesus first met with him. Siloam means “sent.” The pool of the One who was sent is the pool of forgiveness (His blood) and the pool of the Spirit (the Water). For God’s works to be revealed in us we need to get up and walk, and to be washed in them both.
The roadside, the encounter, and the mud are steps in the preparation of God’s purpose for us; but it’s by walking that we get to Siloam, and it’s from there that we are sent to bring the light.