‘Here’s mud in your eye’ (John 9:1-41)

That silly expression is usually spoken nowadays with a wineglass raised to propose a toast. But our Lord could have addressed it quite literally to a man born blind, because that is exactly how Jesus prepared him to receive his eyesight. Let’s follow his journey through John chapter 9.

  1. His Oppression. (a) He was begging (John 9:8), because in the local culture of those days no one would employ him since (b) he was blind from birth (John 9:1). Not only would he often fail to notice such dangers as deep ditches and wide obstructions, but miss out too on such delights as colourful clothes and beautiful scenery. And to add to his troubles, (c) he was blamed: ‘who sinned,’ the disciples asked Jesus, ‘this man or his parents that he was born blind?’ (John 9:2, 28). And let’s be frank, people who are still experientially blind to the reality of Christ, tend only to offer up the rare emergency begging prayer, and excuse their faults by playing the blame game.
  2. His Opportunity (John 9:3-5). Jesus minimized the problem and seized the opportunity for God to act. ‘While I am in the world, I am the light of the world,’ said Jesus (John 9:5). He would soon leave planet Earth, but still continue his enlightening ministry through his disciples. He had informed them in their earliest weeks of training: You are the light of the world‘ (Matthew 5:14), as a visible community, ‘a town built on a hill’ That is why he now tells them: We must do the works of him who sent me (John 9:4), and demonstrates how they could grasp the occasion to launch the blind on a pathway of progressive spiritual enlightenment.
  3. The Operation (John 9:6-7). (a) First, Jesus did something – he smeared mud on the man’s eyes. It was no mere earthly mud, but was manufactured from the Saviour’s own saliva (compare Mark 7:32-35); embedded in earth’s dust it symbolized the incarnation of the Son of God. Then, (b) the man also had to do something in response‘Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam.’ He ‘went and washed, and came home seeing.’ This resembled believer’s baptism; the apostle Paul was told straight after his own conversion, ‘Get up, be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
  4. His Openness to learn (John 9:10 – 41). Following this instantaneous conversion, his revelation about his healer same in stages. ‘The light of the world’ does not disclose himself with a neon glare or a piercing laser beam, but through incremental shades of clarity. So Solomon had noted in Proverbs 4:18, ‘The path of the righteous is like the [slowly dawning] morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day [at noon].’ And Paul affirmed this in 2 Corinthians 3:18, ‘And we all [as disciples of Christ] who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory [‘displayed in the face of Christ’, 4:6], are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory … from … the Spirit.’

Note this man’s gradual stages of illumination about Jesus: (a) The man they call Jesus (John 9:11); (b) ‘He is a prophet(John 9:17); (c) ‘this man [is] from God(John 9:32); (d) ‘the Son of Man[=Messiah]; “Lord, I believe“, and he worshipped him(John 9:35, 38); (e) ‘Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world’’ (John 9:39-41). That’s some enlightenment!

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