Ha-Sefer shel Yochanan John 9: Here’s Mud in Your Eye (Recently Healed Beggar Schools a Group of Religious Leaders)
It’s important to note that Yeshua utilized miraculous signs, He did not venerate them. Every miracle He performed was done to point people to salvation through Him. Any miracle that does not point people to Yeshua and reconciliation to God is not of God.
This miracle (sign), found only in John’s gospel, is unique in many ways: the young man has been blind from birth, Yeshua uses inanimate matter (earth) in the healing process, and the healing generates a wide range of responses from observers and an argument over halakhah (application of Torah principles) that involves the parents of the recipient and the religious leaders--P’rushiym (Pharisees). John is concerned with revealing the Davar[H], logos[G] (Word, essence, substance) of Adonai made flesh, and also uses terms like light, dark, day and night, to show the stark contrast of the Messiah’s light against the dark night of this world (figurative of blindness and hidden deeds of evil). Thus, conveying the deeper meaning in the metaphor of light and its relationship to sight and revelation (lifting of a veil) throughout his gospel. John is clearly intending to make the Deity of Messiah plain for all to see. He wants us to understand what it truly means to behold Immanuel (God with us), literally “Imanu (He is with us) El (God)”. All this happens following Yeshua’s last words in John 8: “Before Avraham was born, I AM!”
There are also aspects of this miraculous sign that affirm the cultural and spiritual miss beliefs of some of the first century Jewish people and their leaders. However, before we become too critical we should remind ourselves that we continue to hold many of the same miss beliefs in the modern Christian Ecclesia (Church) to this day. In our text the disciples suggest by inference that personal or parental sin is the cause of the young man’s blindness, some of the Pharisees again accuse Yeshua of working on the Sabbath (the added action of mud making helps to fuel their zeal), excommunication (possibly cherem, indefinite cutting off from the community) is threatened against the young man’s parents and so the list goes on.
Yochanan (John, the writer of this gospel) tackles a wide range of issues in this concise but diverse account. If we are to understand it well, we will need to ask both the obvious questions regarding the healing itself and the deeper questions of religious culture and colloquial presumption. My hope is, that having studied this passage, we will be able to avoid the conclusion, “It’s clear as mud.” Though on second thought, perhaps in this case at least, the idiom denotes significant clarity.
1 As He (Yeshua) passed by, He saw (eido[G], va’yare[H]) a man blind, sightless (tuphlos[G], iveir[H]) from the day of (miyom[H]) his birth (genete[G], hivaldo[H]). 2 And His disciples (mathetes[G], talmidim[H]) asked Him, “Rabbi[H] (My Great One, Pastor, Teacher), who is the sinner (hamartano[G], ha’chote[H], missed the mark set by God), this man or his parents, in order (hina[G]) that he would be fathered (gennao[G]) blind, sightless (tuphlos[G], iveir[H])?”
“He (Yeshua) saw…” Note that this account begins by stating that Yeshua “sees, perceives”. This in contrast to the one born blind, sightless. The figurative meaning is that Yeshua, Whose origin is from above, sees and imparts sight, whereas the man (human being) is born of the earth, into a sin affected creation and is therefore blind, sightless from birth (Psalm 51:5). The opening verse essentially conveys the core premise for the Gospel’s purpose, to give sight to the spiritually blind and set them free from bondage to the deeds of darkness.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Messiah Yeshua:
25 Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believe in Yeshua.” -Romans 3:23-26
“Blind from birth.” This statement is significant, as testified to by the healed man himself in verse 32 of this same chapter. This is intended to set up the many Messianic overtones of the healing. For years prior Israel had been awaiting a Messiah for Whom one of the significant signs of His validity would be the giving of sight to the blind (Yeshayahu/Isaiah 29:18, 35:5, 42:7).
“On that day the deaf will hear d’variy My word, essence, substance, a sepher scroll, book, and out of their gloom and choshek darkness the eyes of the blind will see.” -Isaiah 29:18 (Author’s translation)
“Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.” -Isaiah 35:5 NASB
Notice that Isaiah uses the Hebrew word “Davar”, the same word Yochanan uses to describe Yeshua (John 1).
“To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the dungeon
And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.” -Isaiah 42:7 NASB
“Who sinned?” This question is not without foundation. There are clear examples both in Scripture and in life, of personal sin that results in illness. In the case of humanity’s fall, sin entered the world and death with it, therefore sin can be linked to all sickness to some degree. However, this does not always mean that personal sin has caused illness. Therefore, the disciples’ question can be seen as presumptuous, given that not all cases of illness are the direct result of personal sin.
There is substantial evidence indicating that the commonly held perception at that time, regarding illness, was that those who were severely ill had committed some great sin or had parents who had sinned and therefore were reaping the curse of the four generations as outlined in the Torah. To this the rabbis added arguments such as those regarding the ante-natal behaviour of Esau and Jacob (these rabbinical conversations are found in extra-Biblical texts which record the oral traditions and debates of the first century CE, e.g. Bereishit Rabbah 63:6 on Gen 25:22), some suggesting Esau’s sin in the womb as being the reason for his later loss of birth-rite. Needless to say, the question of the disciples was not unwarranted, given the social and religious connotations associated with severe sickness as understood by the Judaism of the first century CE.
“…fathered (gennao[G]) blind” This phrase infers something different from simply having been born (genete[G]) blind. To be “fathered blind” denotes blindness passed on by the father. In short, the disciples were inferring that the father (parents) were responsible.
Therefore, in this context “fathered blind” denotes that the “sins of the father” have been “visited on the son” (Exodus 20:4-6). The Torah text that explains this idea is associated to idolatry and therefore, infers that the one suffering under generational sin is reaping the fruit of an idolatrous forebear.
However, the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 18), speaking the Word (Davar) of the Lord (YHVH) explains that each person is judged according to their own actions. This is consistent with the Torah because the Torah explains (Exodus 20:6) that the one who loves God and obeys His Instruction will see perpetual (everlasting) blessing (the number 1000 is a figurative Hebraism meaning “everlasting”). Therefore, at any point in the generations of the wicked a son might turn to God in repentance and reap blessing, thus cancelling out the curse of the four generations and redeeming the family line. Ezekiel’s words do not oppose the words of Exodus, rather they illuminate them. Yeshua has come to illuminate them further, and to add the need for discernment in all such situations so as to leave room for the redemptive works of God.
3 Yeshua[H] (YHVH Saves: Iesous[G], Joshua, Jesus) answered, “Neither this man sinned (hamartano[G], chata[H], missed the mark set by God), nor his parents; this has occurred (but) in order to manifest, display, make visible (phaneroo[G]) in him the business, occupation (ergon[G]) of the God (ho Theos[G], El[H]). 4 We must labour in (ergazomai[G]) the business, occupation (ergon[G]) of Him who sent Me (pempo[G]) as long as it is day (hemera[G], yom[H]); night (nux[G], halaylah[H]) is coming when no one can labour (ergazomai[G]). 5 While I am in the world (kosmos[G], ha-olam[H]), I am the uncreated Light (phos[G], Or[H]) of the world (kosmos[G], ha-olam[H]).”
Yeshua illuminates the small view of His disciples and shows them the big picture, the meta-narrative of redemption. He is explaining that individual sin is a symptom of the sin affected creation, and that God has made a way for all, parents and children to be delivered from their inherent blindness. “The works of God” which Yeshua is displaying are intended to point all to the King Messiah and redemption through His vicarious sacrifice.
Yeshua never performed a miracle (sign) simply for the sake of healing a person or as a display of His prowess. After all, what good is temporal healing if that same person fails to receive Yeshua and thus ends up in perpetual torment for all eternity? Yeshua is no magician, He’s not a doctor, nor any other kind of crass performer of temporal cures. He is God with us. He need not gain an audience.
“Neither… but this happened so that the works/signs of God might be displayed in him.” Yeshua is not saying that it’s impossible for personal sin to result in severe sickness. He is simply saying that it’s not the only option, that there are times when people get sick for other reasons. In this case the reason is that the purpose of God be made manifest. That is, a sign, work, action, that reveals the true identity of the Messiah as one who causes the blind to see—in fulfilment of the afore mentioned Messianic passages of Isaiah.
“As long as it is day…” It is here that John begins to juxtapose concepts of light and darkness, right action and sin, day and night. These themes become a metaphor for the stark contrast between blindness and sight. The conclusion will be that spiritual blindness is the greater danger. Only Messiah can act in this world to bring sight to that kind of blindness, and only those who are willing to accept that they are blind are able to receive sight. While Yeshua is with them, He is the Light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5).
“The occupation of God..” mirrors the language in Yeshua’s accusation against the religious leaders regarding the fact that they claimed to be children of Avraham and yet did not walk in the occupation, business of Avraham (John 8:39).
6 When He (Yeshua) had said this, He spat on the ground (chamai[G], ha-aretz[H]), and made clay (pelos[G], tiyt[H]) of the spittle, and applied, spread (epichrio[G]) the clay on his eyes (ophthalmos[G]), 7 and said to him, “Go, wash, ritually purify yourself, bathe (nipto[G], ashiyg[A], ur’chatz[H]) in the pool of Shiloach[H] (Siloam[G])” [which is translated, Sent]. So he went away and washed (nipto[G], ashiyg[A]), and came back seeing.
“He spit on the ground and made mud and put it on the blind man’s eyes.” If, as is clear from Scripture (Mark 10:51-52; Luke 18:41-43; John 4:50 etc), Messiah Yeshua did not need to use anything other than the word of His mouth or the intention of His will to heal, why did He make mud? Was He emulating an occult practice as some foolishly claim? Certainly not, He’s the Author of the Torah, which forbids such practice. Was He using a microbial herbal healing technique, perhaps knowing that the mud and saliva somehow combined to become a natural healing balm? Extremely unlikely. It is noteworthy that Yeshayahu/Isaiah—the prophet Yeshua quotes most—healed Hezekiah with a fig poultice, however there is no real correlation here, except to validate the authenticity of Yeshua as a prophet of God. Why then, did Yeshua act out this show of ritual in full view of those observing the miraculous sign? The most obvious answer is that it was intended as a living parable, like those performed by the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 4:9-12).
So, what exactly is Yeshua saying through this action? Firstly, we should ask, “What is the gospel writer’s agenda in writing?” John is concerned essentially with the theme of God’s coming down and dwelling among us. John uses the terms, Word and Light to describe Immanuel (God with us), the King Messiah Yeshua. He begins his gospel with the words, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” He goes on to emphasise that, “The Word (God’s very essence/intention/breathe/saliva) became flesh (Adam) and dwelt among us.” Yeshua (God with us) is the person who embodies the very intention/essence/saliva of God, He is a physical symbol of the issued mouth essence of God (Ruach—breath), combining this essence with the soil (adamah—earth, ha’aretz—ground, land) is a recreation (a figure) reflecting the creation of the first Adam (human-being), and pointing to the last Adam (Yeshua). After sinning and allowing sin to enter into the world, the first Adam was unable to heal in this way but Yeshua is not the first Adam. We are told by Rabbi Shaul (Paul the Apostle) that Yeshua is the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). This physical parable then is most likely meant as a sign/work of Divine creative power and a figure alluding to the Messiah, a representation of His physical being and His status as God with us. He is the Shiloach (Sent One) Who Yeshayahu/Isaiah prophesied would open the eyes of the blind. He has come down as the essence (Saliva) of God and has been joined to the adamah (earth/soil) and has become the last Adam (Fully God and fully man), God with us, Immanuel. Only He is capable of a miracle of such significance.
“‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (Shiloach),’ (this word means “Sent”). So, the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” In order to fully understand this statement of Yeshua we must first gain an understanding of the Hebrew word Shiloach, which John chooses to transliterate into Greek as Siloam, explaining that it means sent. This is the same pool from which the water was drawn for the ritual libation offering of Sukkot (see my previous article on John 7:25-53).
This pool gains its name from the Hebrew Shalach (go or send) and is closely related to the Hebrew Shiloh meaning sent one. Hebrew readers will recognize this word from the title to the Torah portion B’shalach (In going forth). We should begin with the term Shiloh because it was known in ancient Judaism to represent the Mashiyach (Messiah). We find the first reference to this term (which is a Proper Noun/name) in Bereishit/Genesis 49:10:
“The sceptre shall not depart from Y’hudah, nor the rulers staff from between his feet (that is from his issue, children’s children) until Shiloh (the sent one) comes: and the people will be obedient to Him. (Shiloh)”
Without knowledge of the proper noun/name Shiloh, this account (John 9) is difficult to understand.
The meaning then is grounded in the fact that Shiloh, the One Genesis 49:10 speaks of is the Sent One, the Mashiyach/Messiah, Yeshua. Once we understand this we move to the next key text, this text mentions the derivative term shiloach (Siloam), Yeshayahu/Isaiah 8:9
“This people have refused the softly flowing waters of Shiloach (the sent one) and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son. (Meaning the false ruler and his false deities)”
Israel are seen here as both presently and prophetically rejecting the cleansing (waters) of the Sent One (Shiloach) Who is the Messiah Yeshua (God with us).
With this understanding as our foundation we now look at the present text and the rich meaning displayed in Yeshua’s command for the blind man to wash in the waters of Siloam (Shiloach). Yeshua is effectively saying:
“Go, wash in the gently flowing waters of the Sent One.” Yeshua is Shiloh, He is Shiloach and He is sending the blind man to the waters of the Sent One so that he might gain his sight (A sure sign of the fact that Yeshua is the Messiah [see previous Isaiah passages]). Thus, the blind man, in obedience, does the opposite of the people of Yeshayahu/Isaiah 8:6 and so, he receives sight, both physical and, spiritual. The blind man himself is sent by the Sent One to be a tributary, a little sent one. Why? Because “while it is day we must do the works of Him who sent us. Night is coming when no one can work”, unless, the Light of the World lives in us, so that we might become light in the night.
The once blind man now returns home as a sent one who will shine his light in the darkness. This is God’s desire for each of us, we have all been blind and need the Sent One (Yeshua) and His cleansing, so that we might receive true spiritual sight, thus avoiding the deeds of darkness and disbelief. Some see tevilah (baptism) or mikveh in the washing of the blind man, but it is more likely that he simply washed his eyes clean of the mud. Needless to say, rabbinical teaching would have seen the very act of washing as a defilement of the Sabbath (this of course is not a Torah understanding, it is simply a law of men).
It’s important to note that Yeshua utilized miraculous signs, He did not venerate them. Every miracle He performed was done to point people to salvation through Him. Any miracle that does not point people to Yeshua and reconciliation to God is not of God. Many blind guides in the body of believers today place great emphasis on the miraculous. They decontextualize Scripture saying “We’re able to do greater things than Yeshua…” as a basis for their witchcraft, manipulations, invocations and celebrated manifestations. They lack the discernment required to distinguish between manifestation of the Spirit and the manifestation of the demonic and thus place the body of believers in grave danger. The Scripture they often refer to in defence of their idolatry (John 14:12), when read in context, teaches that by the Spirit of the Father and the Son (“because I am going to the Father”), those who believe in Yeshua will enact something greater than the miracles Yeshua performed during His earthly ministry, in that the greater purpose of those miracles was always to point people to salvation through Him. Therefore, our doing “greater than these” (What is greater than raising a person from the dead?) is us working to spread the gospel throughout the known world, something that Yeshua did not physically carry out during His earthly ministry because He had come “only for the lost sheep of Israel”(Matt. 10:6; 15:24). In conclusion, to pursue miracles is idolatry, whereas to focus on the Miracle Maker (Yeshua) is righteousness.
Interestingly, the extra-Biblical teaching of the Mishnah (Oral Law) lists making mud or clay as one of the thirty nine kinds of work that is unlawful (according to the rabbis) on the Shabbat (Mishnah Shabbat 7:2;).
8 Consequently the neighbours (of the man born blind), and those who previously observed (theoreo[G]) him as a beggar, were saying, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” 9 Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He (the once blind man) kept saying, “I am the one (who was born blind).” 10 So they were saying to him (who was born blind), “How then were your eyes opened?”
In religious Jewish thought giving tzedakah “Charity” should produce and opportunity for self-worth. A sitting beggar of the first century would probably have been considered an unworthy recipient because of the appearance that he was not willing to further himself. In addition, if his blindness were considered the result of sin he would have earned very little from begging. This shows the depth of desperation of this man prior to his healing.
When the blind man came home seeing, he was met with a divided response from those who knew him. Some were so confused by this miraculous event that they doubted he was the same man who had been born blind. Others were certain it was the ex-blind beggar they had known for so long. The man himself was adamant, “I am the man!” The people respond, “How were you healed then?” If this was that blind guy, something pretty amazing was happening and they genuinely wanted to know what that was.
11 He answered, “The man who is called Yeshua made clay (pelos[G], tiyt[H]), and applied, spread (epichrio[G]) it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Shiloach[H] (Siloam[G]: sent) and wash, ritually purify yourself, bathe (nipto[G], ashiyg[A], ur’chatz[H])’; so I went away and washed, ritually purified myself, bathed (nipto[G], ashiyg[A], ur’chatz[H]), and I looked up (anablepo[G]), received sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is He (Yeshua)?” He said, “I don’t know.” 13 They brought to the P’rushiym (Pharisees: chased ones) the man who was formerly blind.
“The man they call Yeshua made some mud and put it on my eyes and sent me to wash in the pool of Shiloach, as soon as I had done this I could see.” This is the first in a progression of chronological statements that show the man’s journey to salvation (John, the writer of this gospel, is rightly called the Evangelist by early Church fathers).
Here, the man has not yet seen Yeshua, he barely even knows Who He (Yeshua) is, so he says, “the man they call Yeshua.” This statement shows the relational distance between the man and Yeshua directly after his healing. He is referring to Yeshua, not as an acquaintance but rather as someone that others talk about. This is step one in the man’s journey to identifying and understanding who Yeshua is.
“Where is this man?” The now seeing beggar responds, “I don’t know.” Yeshua has obviously left the location of the healing (the place where the clay was applied). The man upon receiving his sight, is so excited that he goes straight home to show everybody what a wonderful miracle has happened to him. He has not yet seen Yeshua.
“They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees.” There is no need to see this as an act of malice. The people were socially and religiously accustomed to seeking the advice and opinions of the P’rushiym (Pharisees), who were entrusted as leaders of their synagogues and as spiritual shepherds of Israel.
14 Now it was a Shabbat[H] (Sabbath) on the day when Yeshua made the clay (pelos[G], tiyt[H]) and opened his eyes. 15 Then the P’rushiym (Pharisees: chased ones) also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay (pelos[G], tiyt[H]) to my eyes, and I washed, ritually purified myself, bathed (nipto[G], ashiyg[A], ur’chatz[H]) and I see.” 16 Therefore some of the P’rushiym[H] (Pharisees: chased ones) were saying, “This man is not from God (Theos[G], Elohiym[H]), because He does not keep the Shabbat[H] (Sabbath).” But others were saying, “How can a man who is devoted to sin (hamartolos[G]) perform such signs (otot[H])?” And there was a rent, tear, division (schisma[G]) among them.
“The day on which Yeshua made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath.” This Sabbath is either the eighth day celebration Shmini Atzeret which follows the Sukkot week, or it is the weekly Sabbath following Sukkot.
This is obviously important to the discussion that follows. Throughout His ministry Yeshua is criticized by the Pharisees for His actions on the Sabbath (Yeshua keeps the Torah but He does not bow to the wider added traditions of the rabbis’ concerning the Sabbath). The making of the mud in addition to the actual healing was of particular concern to them in light of rabbinic oral tradition (Mishnah Shabbat 7:2).
"it is forbidden to put fasting spittle even on the eyelid on a sabbath day.''
-T. Hieros. Sabbat, fol. 14. 4. & Avoda Zara, fol. 40. 4. & T. Bab. Sabbat, fol 108. 2. & Maimon. Hilchot Sabbat, c. 21. sect. 25.
The Pharisees asked how the man had been healed and upon finding out, they were divided in their opinions of Yeshua and the event itself. Some of them felt that He had broken the Sabbath laws (of course He had only broken their man-made laws), others were convinced that because Yeshua had worked such a great miracle that they should not be so hasty to condemn Him. Neither argument was valid, the Torah warns that false prophets may work great miracles, so the fact that this healing was miraculous was not proof of Yeshua’s standing as a prophet of God.
The working of miraculous signs does not qualify a prophet of God. Rather, miraculous signs that point to salvation (the spiritually blind being given sight) are the fruit of a godly prophet.
“21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons in Your name, and perform many miracles in Your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’” -Mattitiyahu (Matthew) 7:21-23 TLV
It’s worth noting that what follows is a spontaneous and unlawful trial, conducted against both the once blind man and Yeshua.
Our rabbis explicitly forbid courts (trials) to be in session on the Sabbath (y. Sanh. 4:6).
17 So they said to the blind (tuphlos[G], iveir[H]) man again, “What is your opinion of Him (Yeshua), since He opened your eyes?” And he said, “He is a prophet (prophetes[G], navi[H]).”
As is the proper thing to do they turn to the man who had been healed and ask him, “What do you have to say about Him?” To which the man replies, “He is a prophet.” This is the second stage in the development of the man’s relationship to Yeshua. Here he has progressed from speaking of Yeshua as one Whom others speak of, to naming him a prophet. The full impact of what has happened to him is beginning to sink in and he is starting to see glimpses of who Yeshua really is.
18 The religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym) then did not believe, trust, were not persuaded (pisteuo[G]) of him, that he had been blind (tuphlos[G], iveir[H]) and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, 19 and they questioned his parents, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was fathered (gennao[G]) blind (tuphlos[G], iveir[H])? Then how is it that he now sees?” 20 His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born, fathered (gennao[G]) blind (tuphlos[G], iveir[H]); 21 but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not see, perceive (eido[G]). Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaio[G]s, Yehudiym[H]); for the religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Messiah, he was to be cast (ekballo[G]) out of the synagogue (meeting place). 23 For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
Finding it too hard to accept that the man was ever blind, the Pharisees send for his parents to get confirmation.
“Is this your son, who you say was fathered (gennao[G]) blind (tuphlos[G], iveir[H])? This is a tacit accusation inferring that the father of this man is an idolater.
The parents acknowledge that their son has been blind from birth but they are as confused as everybody else as to how he can now see. They are not willing to enter the debate, sighting his being of age (that is older than thirteen and showing the signs of puberty [Maimon. Hilchot Eduth, c. 9. sect. 7.]) as reason for questioning him and allowing his testimony to stand for itself. His parents were scared of being kicked out of the synagogue. In the first century it was more common to refer to being cast out of the “Congregation of Israel” when referring to full excommunication from the people and religion of Judaism. The rabbinical equivalent exercised against the messianic Jewish community of the early body of believers was called “cherem” (lit. devote to destruction) The threat of the present text does not necessarily refer to cherem, a form of complete excommunication from the congregation of Israel, meaning they would shunned by the community but not refused entry to the Temple precinct (there was no Great Synagogue at the time because the Temple was the central place of Jewish Worship until 70 CE). However, regardless of the specific intent, it was a significant threat, given that the local synagogue acted as a type of community centre, as well as a subsidiary place of worship and Torah study, and that those who were “cherem” (if this was the implied threat) were only to enter through the mourners (and the excommunicated) gate of the Temple and move to the left contrary to the practice of others, proclaiming the state of their excommunication.
"all that go into the temple, go in, in the right hand way, and go round, and come out in the left, except such an one to whom anything has befallen him, and he goes about to the left; (and when asked) why dost thou go to the left? (he answers) because I am a mourner; (to whom it is replied) he that dwells in this house comfort thee: (or) שאני מנודה, "because I am excommunicated"; (to whom they say) he that dwells in this house put it into thy heart (that thou mayest hearken to the words of thy friends, as it is afterwards explained) and they may receive thee.'' -Mishnah. Middot, c. 2. sect. 2.
24 So a second time they called the man who had been blind (tuphlos[G], iveir[H]), and said to him, “Give (didomi[G], tein[H]) glory, judgement (doxa[G], kavod[H]) to the God (ho Theos[G], leiElohiym[H]) ; we know that this man is devoted to sin (hamartolos[G], chotei[H], has missed the mark set by God) .” 25 He then answered, “Whether He is devoted to sin (hamartolos[G], chotei[H], has missed the mark set by God), I do not see, perceive (eido[G]); one thing I do see, perceive (eido[G]), that though I was blind (tuphlos[G], iveir[H]), now I see with my own eyes (blepo[G]).” 26 So they said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open (anoigo[G]) your eyes (ophthalmos[G], eiyneycha[H])?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already and you didn’t listen, hear, recieve (sh’matem[H]); why do you want to hear (lishmoa[H]) again? You do not want to become His disciples (talmiydayv[H]) too, do you?” 28 They heaped abuse (loidoreo[G]) on him and said, “You are His disciple (mathetes[G], talmid[H]), but we are disciples (talmidiym[H]) of Moshe[H] (Moses: drawn out).
“Give (didomi[G], tein[H]) glory, judgement (doxa[G], kavod[H]) to the God (ho Theos[G], leiElohiym[H]) ; we know that this man is devoted to sin…” There is an interesting juxtaposition here. The “cherem” excommunication possibly referred to in the previous verses literally means “devoted to destruction”. Here, the religious leaders accuse the improperly tried Yeshua of being “devoted to sin”.
The Pharisees, beside themselves with frustration, send for the man a second time (at this point they were conducting what was effectively an illegal trial of both Yeshua and the healed man).
The use of the idiom, “Give glory to HaShem!”—which means tell the truth or in modern terms “swear on the Bible”), literally translates as “Give a judgement of God”. Today we say something similar in Hebrew upon hearing of the death of a Jewish person, “Baruch dayan ha-emet” Blessed is the judge of the truth. It’s a reference to the fact that God is the ultimate judge. Some of the Pharisees are essentially saying, “Stop lying and admit you weren’t blind in the first place and that this Yeshua is a fraud,” or “Admit that this Yeshua is a false prophet!” They (that is the group among them that didn’t accept the miracle) had already decided that Yeshua was a Sabbath breaking sinner despite the lack of real evidence.
It’s here that the once blind man begins to truly find his vision and shine the light he has been given by Yeshua, and not without a good dose of Jewish chutzpah to boot.
“One thing I do know, I was blind and now I see.” In other words, “When you guys are able to exhibit the kind of power and authority that Yeshua does, I might pay more attention to you!” The Pharisees are looking for ammunition so (having just called him a liar to his face) they ask again how it all took place. The once blind man responds, “I told you already, weren’t you listening? Why do you want to know more? Do you want to become his Talmidiym (disciples)?” It’s safe to say that this enraged them. They react by saying, “You are this man’s disciple, we are Moses disciples.” I don’t think the man would have been at all offended by being called a disciple of Yeshua at this stage (though he was not, not quite). What is unusual is the claim by the Pharisees that they were Moses’ disciples. This designation was not common at the time and denotes a desperate scratching at straws on their part. It’s one of those, “No! you are!” type arguments usually used by people who have no idea what to say next.
“Whether He is devoted to sin, I do not see, perceive; one thing I do see, perceive, that though I was blind, now I see with my own eyes.” The use of Greek here is important. Those English translations that translate “eido” as “know” do so without considering the writer’s obvious allusion to perception based on sight. In fact, the more accurate translation of “eido” is “see, perceive”. The context better supports my translation.
“How did He open your eyes?” The Hebrew “Ayin” meaning “eye” is also used to refer to the opening in the earth where a spring of water comes forth. This is interesting given Yeshua’s offer of living water (during the water drawing ceremony of Sukkot) in chapter 7 and the use of water in the healing process of the once blind man. Siloam is feed by the Gihon (Great Bursting Forth) spring.
29 We see, perceive (eido[G]) that the God (ho Theos[G], Elohiym[H]) has spoken to Moses (Moshe[H]), but as for this man, we do not see, perceive (eido[G]) where He is from.”
“We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where He comes from.” What they mean by this is that the Messiah is prophesied to come from Bethlehem and as far as they knew Yeshua was from Nazareth. Of course the truth is that they knew where He came from (the Galilee) they had very little respect for the am ha-aretz (common people of the land, that is, uneducated farmers and fishermen). As I’ve stated previously they probably considered Yeshua to be somewhat of a hillbilly.
30 The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing, wonderful, marvellous (thaumastos[G]) thing, that you do not see, perceive (eido[G]) where He is from, and yet He opened (anoigo[G]) my eyes (ophthalmos[G], eiynayi[H]). 31 We perceive (eido[G]) that the God (ho Theos[G], Elohiym[H]) does not hear those devoted to sin (hamartolos[G]); but if anyone is a worshipper (theosebes[G]) of God and does His will (thelema[G]), He hears him. 32 Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened (anoigo[G]) the eyes (ophthalmos[G], eiyneiy[H]) of a person fathered (gennao[G]) blind (tuphlos[G]) . 33 If this man were not from God (Theos[G], Elohiym[H]), He could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were fathered (gennao[G]) entirely in sins (hamartia[G]), and do you presume to teach us?” So they cast (ekballo[G]) him out.
The sardonic rebuke of the man is a delight to read, perhaps being born blind and suffering all his life had birthed in him an immunity to the fears and obligations of Israel concerning her hypocritical religious leaders. On the other hand, maybe he was just a sarcastic guy? If so, he probably had some kiwi (New Zealand) blood in him from the diaspora.
The healed man draws their attention to the catalyst for understanding the Messianic significance of this miracle, he says, “Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of one born blind. If this man were not from HaShem He could do nothing.” This is a pointed observation that reveals the sign of God regarding the opening of the eyes of the blind, something that would alert Israel to the Messiah’s presence (as prophesied by Yeshayahu/Isaiah: see verse 1 and note). This is also the third step in the man’s journey into relationship with Yeshua. Here, he says Yeshua is, “from God.”
The disbelieving group among the Pharisees, who are not used to being disagreed with by commoners, are more than insulted by the man and resort to name calling, “You were born from sin and are soaked in it, how dare you lecture us!” Actually the man had been following proper halakhic protocol with his well-argued rebuttal, they were just sore because his argument was more convincing than theirs. Had this been recorded in the Talmud, the man’s argument would have been sighted by future rabbis as the dominant view. Seeing that they were not going to win this argument the Pharisees cast him out (probably out of the synagogue, the threat under which all religious Jews of the first century lived in order for the false shepherds to keep people in line). I’m not sure that this would have worried him too much, he had been spending a lot of time on the streets begging for food up till now and may not have found much solace in the synagogue at any rate.
35 Yeshua heard that they had cast (ekballo[G]) him (the once blind man) out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe, trust, are you persuaded, confident (pisteuo[G], hata’amiyn[H]) in the Son of Man (B’ven-haAdam[H])?” 36 He answered, “Who is He, Adoniy[H] (Lord: kurios[G]), that I may believe, trust, be persuaded, confident (pisteuo[G], ve’a’amiyn[H]) in Him?”
After hearing that the man had been thrown out Yeshua found him (this means Yeshua had sought him out, an intimate and thoughtful gesture). The man’s father and mother had forsaken him and he had been kicked out of the local synagogue, this is a pivotal occasion in his journey into God’s light. Yeshua asks, “Do you believe in the Son of Man (a Messianic title).” The man responds, “Who is he Lord, tell me so that I may believe in him.” This is the fourth stage in the journey of relationship, the man calls Yeshua (Whom he is seeing for the first time) Adoniy, My Lord, Master, a term of respect and ownership. The Greek Kyrios is used and can be translated lord or L-RD, there is no Greek equivalent for YHVH—L-RD, so the same Greek word is sometimes used to denote the Holy Name. Here however, “Adoniy, Lord, Master” is the correct translation, given the context.
37 Yeshua said to him, “You have both seen (horao[G]) Him with your own eyes, and He is the One Who is speaking with you.” 38 And he (the once blind man) said, “Adoniy[H] (Lord: kurios[G]), I believe, trust, am persuaded, confident (pisteuo[G], ma’amiyn[H]).” And he worshiped, prostrated himself before (proskuneo[G]) Him (Yeshua).
“Yeshua said, ‘You have now seen Him, in fact, He is the one speaking with you.’ Then the man said, ‘L-RD I believe.’ And he worshipped Him.” Remember, the man is seeing Yeshua for the first time, both physically and spiritually. This is the final stage of the man’s journey into saving relationship. He has been blind, he has been washed in the life-giving water of the Sent One, he has known of Yeshua, he has identified Him as a prophet, he has realized that Yeshua was sent from God, he has respectfully called Him Lord and now he sees Him for who He really is, “L-RD”. The Greek word kyrios is used here by John (a Jew) to represent YHVH. We must not put more weight on the Greek language than we do upon the cultural religious psyche of the writers of the gospels. The fact that the Greek language is unable to convey the nuances of the Hebrew designations for God does not mean the deeper meaning was not intended by the writer (inspired by God). A beautiful picture of what has just occurred between Yeshua and the healed man appears in the words of the Psalmist:
“Though my father and mother forsake me, the L-RD will receive me.” Tehillim/Psalm 28:10
39 And Yeshua said, “For a decree, judgment (krima[G]) I came into this world (kosmos[G], ha-olam[H]), so that those who do not see with their eyes (blepo[G]) may see with their eyes (blepo[G]), and that those who see with their eyes (blepo[G]) may become blind (tuphlos[H]).”
Yeshua sums up this living parable of healing by clarifying for those present that He has come to fulfil the words of Yeshayahu/Isaiah (Isaiah 6:10, 42:19). This is an opportunity for those studied in the Tanakh (Old Testament) to recognize His claim to Messianic authority and repent, but He knows that they will remain blind, while those who realize their blindness will receive their sight through Messiah just as God had prophesied through the prophet.
40 Those of the P’rushiym (Pharisees: chased ones) who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind (tuphlos[H]) too, are we?” 41 Yeshua said to them, “If you were blind (tuphlos[H]), you would have no sin (hamartia[G]); but since you say, ‘We see with our eyes (blepo[G]),’ your sin (hamartia[G]) remains (meno[G]).
It continues to be made clear by the gospel of John that some Pharisees were following Yeshua (not necessarily the same ones that interrogated the healed man). They realized He was warning them of spiritual blindness and in pride wanted to show themselves spiritually insightful, so they asked, “Are we blind to?” Yeshua’s response is a harsh rebuke, “If you were blind you would not be guilty of sin; but because you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” Yeshua is saying that only those who admit their blindness/sin can be freed from it and given spiritual sight. Those, who in pride, claim that they can see are in fact still blind and are unable to receive sight from Yeshua. Without humility no one can come to God.
We live in a world that Messiah Himself has called night. While He was here physically He was the light, now He is here metaphysically by the power of Gods Holy Spirit, living in every believer. The Sent One has filled those of us who believe, in order that we might be sent ones who shine His light in this dark world. If we claim we have not been blind, then we, like the Pharisees are unable to see. However, when we admit our blindness the Sent One will restore our sight by coming to us and then sending us out to be the softly flowing waters of Shiloach to a parched and hopeless world. May He bare light in us, that we might be light to others, shining our light in order to reveal the path that leads to Him.
Copyright 2020 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.