The Miracle of a Man Born Blind
The miracle of the man born blind is a deep mystery to me. Why did Jesus use a mud poultice formed by his saliva to heal the man born blind? Secondly, there seems to be an implication that the man was made blind from birth by God in order display the glory of God. Did God really blind the man from birth in order for Jesus to show his glory? Let's first look to see if this man's blindness was a 'set-up' by God. This issue has by far the most profound theological implications. The answer to this question will change what we know about the character of God.
Healing of a Man Born Blind
|Material:||A person, spit, mud, pool of water|
|Formal:||Blind man can see|
|Efficient:||"Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam" (obedience)|
|Final:||"[T]his happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him." (Glory of God)|
|Aristotle's Four Causes|
I do not believe that God makes bad things happen to people for his personal glory. But there is one in this world that wants to lure us away from Jesus. He likes to make seemingly-good things happen to God's beloved and he lusts to drive fear into the heart in order to paralyze us for his false-glory. When Satan fell from the heavens, he was given temporary jurisdiction in the world and his fury precipitates throughout all of God's creation through his hate. Revelations 12:9 makes that clear: "The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him...He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short."
In Romans 8, Paul explains that all of creation "groans and suffers" but will also be set free from its slavery under the corrupting forces of Satan. But let's read about the miracle to put this idea in context.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
This passage never says that God blinded the man in his mother's womb. We can't make that assumption. But in context with what we know about suffering creation and the temporary fury and dominion of Satan, I feel that we can properly assign the blame of this man's blindness to Satan himself. The man born blind was blinded by a glory-lusting angel, not by the God who "so loved the world." With all of creation babies cry out. With all of creation the unborn children are crippled. With all of creation, God's beloved people are blindsided in agony. But we can't say God did that to this person because he is a sinner or his parent's were sinners or his nation sins. It may very well be that, with the crippled man at the Bethesda pool, Jesus tells us to "Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you." But the fact that we are all sinners and that sin affects us physically, mentally and emotional doesn't mean that our sin causes all of our suffering. Our suffering may be caused by Satan or our suffering may be caused by our sin. We can barely tell which is the case in our own lives, and certainly not in the life of another.
When we sin, we specifically allow Satan jurisdiction over our hearts and there he can damage us as well as those in our domain. But our body is not our heart. Satan can hurt us and he will do so until the kingdom of heaven is restored in full. But when Jesus is in us, Satan does not have a home in our heart. While he can still can hurt our body through suffering, we don't need to think that the suffering is because of our sin, though it certainly may be. We all will sin and when we do, we must learn to immediately ask for forgiveness. This is why Christians have for ages said the Jesus prayer, "Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner." With a contrite and humble heart, Jesus restores us.
Paul explains in more detail in Romans 8: "For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body."
With creation our body groans as we await redemption of the world. I must also add that our minds groan. We sometimes think that our heart is our mind, but it is not. Satan has access to our minds. He plants ideas, thoughts, desires and even dreams that are not of us, nor of God. The mind is tainted with the sin of Adam as much as our bodies are. But we allow evil spirit into our hearts only when we allow him to animate us—when we act upon sin.
The rest of the story of the healing of the man born blind is a back-and-forth between the Pharisees, the healed man, the man's parents and Jesus. They are trying to trap Jesus as we see played out throughout most of Jesus ministry. They become deadset on ridding themselves of their Christ, until they finally bring him to the cross on Calvary.
But John concludes the story for us:
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
When Jesus in his perfect holiness comes on the scene, he changes everything. Just the presence of Jesus is convicting. As the author of creation, his word and his presence, when listened to, looked at, or even touched restores everything. In all of Jesus' holiness and righteousness, he shines a bright light. Through faith, people who see him are convicted of what is true. Although the world attempts to hide all that is lovely and true and masks what is false as what is true, Jesus breaks that pattern when he enters our lives. This is why the righteous will live by faith. Because we see him in his word. We see him in his people. We see him in the sacraments. Because of the all-pervasive influence of sin, it takes faith to see him in our lives.
It is impossible for Jesus to be removed from the heart of his beloved. Satan is furious about that. The Pharisees are furious as well, for they believe they are born into the class of chosen ones. But their hearts look inward and not toward Christ. But in the light of Christ, the Pharisees stumble. Satan stumbles. As Jesus explains in verse 41, they even convict themselves saying, "I am not blind." And it is true, they are not spiritually blind to sin. They see it with wide eyes and lust after every bit of it. And their hearts dwell ever-inward and never toward Christ.
We must be that light of Christ. We must draw God's children into the fold, as well as shining on the darkness. The darkness will scatter. But, as Revelation 12 warns us, "So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus." As long as Satan has dominion, he will cause us to suffer.
Though we can't see Jesus today in the flesh, we can hope for him. Hope is that formal cause. Paul explains further along in Romans 8: "For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." Hope is our vision of God's righteousness, goodness and love that will take us home to our Beloved Jesus.
Now what about the mud poultice. Why did Jesus spit in the mud and have the man wash in the Pool of Siloam? I'm not sure. But I do know that Jesus used common elements to perform miracles. In the miracle of the feeding of 5,000, he started with bread and fish. In the miracle of the water into wine, he started with water. Baptism uses the element of water and restores us to God.
We live in a physical world and it is a part of God's creation. Jesus came in the flesh in the womb of Mary. He began with Mary. He could have just poof and appeared. Some false-prophets want us to believe that it's only the spiritual world which is what counts. The body does not matter. But it does. When we are fully in the kingdom of heaven, we will have real bodies. We won't just float around like the wind. Christianity is about God manifest in the flesh as the physical person of Jesus.
We learn in Genesis 2:7: "Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." The poultice was the same. Jesus took the dust from the ground and consecrated it with part of his body and remade the man's eyes, just like God did in the beginning. Just a guess, but I expect the man could see when the mud was applied. Washing in the pool was to get the mud out of his eyes. But the name of the pool Sent was clearly not a coincidence. "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." God sent his son to restore the world, so that we the blind will see.