“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened….”
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened….”
Upon reading and studying the bible it is becoming clear to me that I need to pay as much attention to what is not written down in this collection of books, as I do to what is. Information not written, perhaps, because the readers are assumed to have a certain amount of knowledge already. They would have had knowledge of the culture and practices of the times that we have now lost. So then, we have to do a bit more work than the writer originally intended for his readers, to find out the Bible’s true meaning.
Passages which require this are often obvious when we read them as they raise just as many questions as they do answers. Or sometimes just one big question!
One example I have been studying recently is in John 9. It is the healing of the blind man, by a pool:
“I am the light of the world.”Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing”. (Vs 5b-7)
Why does Jesus do it this way? Why bother with the mud and the spit when He could have just told him to see and it would have happened? And why, when John is so helpful to explain other practices to do with Jewish culture and Jesus’s actions, does he leave an explanation of this out?
Was it that Jesus, in one sense, was doing something so obvious to the witnesses at the time and so obvious to the intended readers of John’s Gospel that it needed no explanation?
The blind man was blind from birth, so it was assumed at the time that he or his parents must have committed a sin for which they were being punished by God.
Jesus puts them straight on this declaring that the blind was this way from birth….
“So the works of God may be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)
And then the “works of God” are displayed in the man’s healing.
What has struck me from studying this passage, concentrating on what Jesus does, is that we see pointers to the bigger picture, to God’s great plan right from the beginning. The mud takes us back to Genesis 2:7…
“Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils, life and the man became a living creature.”
The spit: is this is an allusion to the breath of life? Is Jesus wetting the dust of creation itself so that it can be moulded, re-making an imperfect man back into God’s own image? (Gen 1:27) This is an explanation that an Israelite might have picked up on, but what about those in the crowd who knew nothing of Israelite teaching? What about the many pagans that John was reaching out to when he wrote down his Gospel? What might they have seen? Perhaps just a miracle, or perhaps something else. New Testament scholar Brian Watts argues that there was a practice at the time, of pushing mud into the eyes of an idol to make it see, to bring it to life to put the god into the idol. If that is the case then a pagan watching Jesus do the same to this blind man could not have missed the parallel. That this man was blind and the mud made him see, brought him to life, put God into him.
The idols in pagan rituals were placed around an area that was to be claimed by that god.
So would a pagan have assumed that wherever this man now walked, he was reclaiming ground for his God?
We can only guess at what was going through the minds of people at the time but what we do know is that few things Jesus did were without deeper meaning. Everything he did was to glorify God and to teach us about our Father God, revealing day by day more of the Father’s heart in his own life, actions and words. Studying scripture deeply helps us to see that.
And what of the blind man? After being blind for so long one of the first people he saw was God himself, Christ, the light of the world (9:5) standing before him. I wonder if at that time all the hardship and struggle of his life up to that point dropped away as that light flooded into his life. It is clear, from his conversation with the Pharisees and Jesus himself later (9:27-37), that he was not only physically seeing but spiritually seeing too. What a revelation to know then, that his life had purpose and that purpose had always been (even before he was healed), and would always be, to glorify God.
Is that not the task then of all of us who have had our eyes opened by the light of Christ in our lives?
“Everlasting Joy shall be upon their heads, they shall obtain gladness and joy” (Isaiah 35:10)
No doubt the blind man now understood just what Isaiah was referring to when this prophecy was written down so many years before.