John 9:1-12
So The Work Of God Is Revealed

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1.  The person [in our story] was born blind.  His parents made a beggar out of him.  But that was probably the only way for him to go on living.  He was even at this time sitting on the sides of many streets amid the pedestrian traffic.  Many people passed by before him at a fast pace.  He was taking up collections but no one hardly paid him any attention.  But, the Lord Jesus stopped his steps by the side of such a man as this.  He paid attention to him.  The Lord focused his eyes on him.

2.  But, he couldn't see the Lord back.  Though he was near he didn't know it.  He had no idea the Lord was concerned for him.  As usual the words from this world were resounding in his ears.  "Rabbi, who sinned so that this man was born blind?  Did he himself or was it his parents?," (verse two).

3.  I suppose he had heard this same thing so many times..... in the voices of the many people who happened to pass by, in the voices of the old men with accumulated life experiences, or in the voices of the simple doubtings of children, and in the theological questions of the religious.  They were all voices from this world.  He must have even asked himself this same question over and over.  "It's probably because of my sin that I am bearing such a sorry misfortune as this, [isn't it]? Or maybe it's my parents' sin?  Whoever in the world's fault is this?"  This unanswerable question circulated through his head.

4.  But, then he came to hear something he had never heard yet.  The One who was standing there [right in front of him] spoke as follows.  "It's not because this person himself had sinned or because his parents had sinned.  It is so the work of God is revealed in him," (verse three).  That wasn't the voice of this world which he had come to hear so many times so far.  It wasn't a voice from this world, but one resounding from beyond [this world].  It was a message which resounded from heaven through this One -- it was a word from God.

The Eye Directed On The Future And Not The Past

5.  "Who sinned so that this man was born blind?"  I suppose this question is very familiar for those of us here.  Hardly anyone can put up with suffering for no reason.  Therefore, within people there is a universal desire to "want to explain in one way or another the reason for a misfortune [or accident, or disaster]."  Therefore, the concept of a karmic retributive justice [you get what you deserve] has existed through out all times and all places.  Since to ask for a reason is to ask for its origin, such a perspective always looks to the past.  We think we have to explain current misfortunes and sufferings from something from the past.

6.  Of course, not everybody laments over bad things saying, "This is punishment from God."  But, the actions of those who take away the superstitious element and who have a rational way of thinking are basically the same [as those with a religious mentality].  They look into their past for something to match up with their current sufferings.  "Oh, if only I hadn't done such a thing..."  "If only I had not met him..."  "If only I had not put my hand into such a thing..."  How many times do we mutter such things?

7.  The disciples also turned their eyes on this man's past.  But, there is One here who turns his eye in a completely different direction.  He turns his eye on the future of this blind man.  He is not interested in "Why is he in this present situation?, (What caused this whole thing?)"  But, rather he is thinking "For whatpurpose is this man's present situation?"  So, the Lord says, "It's so the work of God is revealed in this man."  The important thing was not what had been in his past or in his parents' past.  [The important thing] is what is he to become.  That's it.  What is definitely important for a person is that the work of God be revealed in his or her life.

8.  So what is the work of God which the Lord was speaking of?  Please look beginning in verse six.  "After he thus spoke, Jesus spit on the ground and mixing the earth with the saliva he smeared it on the man's eyes.  'Go to the pool of Siloam -- which means a sent person -- and wash,' he said.  Whereupon, he went to wash and after it came to pass his eyes could see, he went back," (verses six and seven).

9.  Well, as we read this portion, we run into a number of things we might just wonder about.  First of all, [we might wonder] about what the Lord Jesus did.  We might think this isn't a very nice story.  Why did he have to make mud with sputum and then smear it on him?  If the healing of his eyes itself were the [Lord's] purpose and if he had performed it as a miracle, we would end up thinking of the extra action as a very ostentatious way of doing something.

10.  In addition, a very big problem is this matter of how this particular healing among others might really be "a work of God" as the Lord said.  Is the Lord speaking of "a work of God" as a divine miracle which resolves suffering?  Is the Lord teaching that different types of hardships are opportunities in which to experience a miracle of God?  But, if that were true, what happens in the case of a sick person, for example, who not only is not healed but goes on to die?  Does that mean the work of God was not revealed [in him or her]?  What kind of person is it that is blind until the end and remains unhealed?  Does it mean the work of God has not been revealed?

Faith As A Work Of God

11.  Then, [upon thinking over those questions], we notice that a comment is deliberately added to the name of the pool called "Siloam" in verse seven.  The text says that it means "a sent person."  It seems there is significance in this narrative that he washed at a pool with the specific name of "Siloam."  Also, the comment of "a sent person" obviously has a connection to verse four.  In verse four the Lord spoke as follows:  "We must perform the work of him who sent me while there is still day."  The one who did the sending is God the Father of Jesus Christ.  The one sent is Jesus Christ.  Therefore, this pool, we come to understand, symbolizes Christ.

12.  To be brief, this narrative is not merely a story in which the eyes of a man whose eyes can't see are healed, but is a story that symbolizes that a single individual was washed by Jesus Christ.  Thus, we are able to understand why Jesus spat, made mud, and then daubed it on. There is no meaning in the saliva itself among other things.  This was for making mud.  Neither does the mud itself have any special significance.  This was something for the purpose of causing the eye to be washed.  All the actions of the Lord were to cause this man to head for a washing at "Siloam."

13.  Moreover, one more clear thing is that this narrative doesn't conclude with only the healing of a blind person.  The eyes which could not see were opened but it wasn't "all that wonderful" for him.  It was the least bit wonderful for him because by getting healed he got entangled up in a mess of trouble.  He was driven out to the outside after being interrogated by the Pharisees.  This is what it says in verse thirty-four.  "They answered him back, 'Even though you were born completely in sin, are you attempting to teach us?,' and drove him out to the outside."  This phrase "drove him out to the outside" suggests an excommunication from the synagogue, that is, that he was driven out from the Jewish community.  Thus, his getting healed was not described simply as a joyous [occasion].

14.  Well, how will this narrative conclude then?  Let's read from verses thirty-five to thirty-nine.  "Jesus heard that he was driven out to the outside.  When he met him, he said, 'Do you believe in the son of man?'  He answered, 'O Lord, what kind of person is he?  I do want to believe on him though.'  Jesus said, 'You have already sin him.  The one speaking with you is he.'  He said, 'O Lord, I believe," and when he kneeled down, Jesus said, 'I came into this world to judge it.  Thus, those who can't see become able to see and those who can see become unable to see,'" (verses thirty-five through thirty-nine).

15.  In this way the narrative regarding this person comes to a conclusion with not the healing of his eyes but a confession of faith when he said, "O Lord, I believe," and when he knelt down and worshipped the Lord.  We understand surely that this was "the work of God" which was supposed to be made manifest through him.  Therefore, one could say that everything that happened to him was symbolic of the faith ultimately given to him and [his] worship.

16.  However, on the other hand, the Pharisees spoke like this as they happened to be present there with the Lord Jesus.  "Are you saying that we are the ones who can't see?"  Jesus gave the following answer to that statement.  "If you were unable to see, you would not have sin.  But, now, you say 'We are able to see.'  Therefore, your sin remains," (verse forty-one).

17.  These Pharisees thought the blind beggar was definitely a different kind of person from [what they were].  "His eyes can't see.  Our eyes can see."  "He was born entirely in sin, but we weren't."  But, the Lord Jesus didn't see it that way.  The former figure of this blind man was nothing but their own state.  Yet, they never perceived that they themselves were beings who could not see and humans who were not in God's light.  For that reason [Jesus] said, "Your sin remains."

18.  The question asked of us is how do we read this narrative?  Is the begging of the one who could not see about [some] "pitiful" person different from us?  Was his healing something that belongs to other people and not us?  Are we standing at a [different] place at the outside [of where] this blind man [is] and looking at him?  If so, it means our sin remains as well.  Make no mistake.  The narrative of this person is my story and your story.

19.  He was born blind.  He had never experienced light.  Similarly, people live being born into spiritual darkness.  What is obstructing the light, yet in a meaning entirely different from what the disciples had wondered, is our "sin."  It is the problem of sin rooted within which clings to the very existence and ontology of humanity.  It is not doing something bad which makes one a sinner.  It is because humanity is a sinner that bad deeds are produced.  We often experience the darkness of human life and also the darkness of this world.  But, true darkness is not caused by sickness, undeserved oppression, troubles in human relationships, the recession, or chaos in society.  There is darkness because God's light has not come into [us].  Because God's light is obstructed by human sin.  Therefore, this darkness is not particularly a problem due to "a sorry unfortunate person."  It is everybody's problem.  In other words, everyone is a sorry person due to his or her being in spiritual darkness.  It wasn't just the ex-beggar that was sorry, but the Pharisees too were in sorry [shape].

20.  Yet, Christ the light of the world stood beside this man who had been in darkness.  Christ was the one who came to bring God's light to the world.  However, because his eyes were shut, Christ the light of the world was not visible to him.  Though the light was near he still was in darkness.  Christ stands beside our dark lives in a similar way.  But, if sin remains unchanged and obstructs God's light, the light will still not come into a person.  Darkness keeps on in darkness.

21.  In the text then, he had heard a voice say, "Go and wash in Siloam."  He obeyed the voice.  He didn't wash because he knew what might happen after washing.  He went to wash because [Jesus] had smeared the mud on him.  But, when the mud was washed off, his eyes were opened.  Light shone in.  With his opened eyes, he saw Jesus.  Similarly, Jesus is smearing mud on us as well.  He is making plain the sinful reality of our condition which must be washed.  His grace is leading us to acknowledge our sin.  His grace is making us realize our uncleanness.  Furthermore, the one who is able to cleanse our sin is Christ "the one sent" by the Father.  He is the savior sent by the Father, the one who accomplished the redemption of our sin on the cross and having resurrected lives right now.  We too hear his voice say, "Go and wash in Siloam."  We are proceeding to the One who cleanses our sin.  When our sin is washed away the light shines in.  The light shines into the darkness.  People can live in the light.

22.  The healing of the eyes of this blind man did not simply make his life comfortable.  But, he did worship the Lord and obtain true light.  Also, this truly is the work of God which is given to us.  Thus, the work of God indeed which is given to us is to confess the faith, "O Lord, I believe," and to live a lifestyle in worship of the Lord.  So [we've seen that] through this, the work of God is actually that we be made into persons who continue to walk in the light.  Everything is for the purpose of revealing the work of God.  Our sorrows, troubles, miseries, sickness, poverty, even our fear of death, all of it, is for the purpose of showing forth the work of God.  We no longer need to question and wonder about the causes [of suffering].  The important thing is not what lies in a person's past or in his or her parents' past.  [The important thing], in fact, is what a person is becoming.  That's the principal thing.  What is consummately important for a person is that the work of God is revealed in his or her life.

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