Ask The Rabbi, Who Sinned?

The man was well known because he had been blind since birth. They would have passed by but were curious to know what caused his blindness, the disciples enquired of their Master, "Was it because he had sinned, or was it because his parents had sinned?"

Yeshua replied, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him." (John 9:3)

Contrary to community perception, the man's blindness was not caused by his sin, or the sin of his parents. In fact, he was born blind so "that the works of God should be revealed in him." (John 9:3). The God of Israel planned to reveal in him a sign for His people. They would recognize it and affirm it because it would be a work of God.

Isaiah prophesied that when the Messiah comes He would show astonishing signs. His signs would have a polarizing effect on the consequences of sin – the blind to see; the lame to walk; the deaf to hear; the prisoner to freedom. "The Spirit of the LORD GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound . . . " (Isaiah 61:1)

The works of God in this man who was born blind was exactly what Isaiah foretold – the blind would see! Moreover, the LORD had determined that the miracle would reveal the Messiah. His people, Israel, would recognize the miracle, and know that Yeshua was the Sent One.

"I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:4-5)

Yeshua then stooped down. He spat on the ground and mixed clay and spittle together. Then He anointed the eyes of the man born blind with the clay mixture. He then told the man to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The man did so, and when he returned, he could see.

Undoubtedly, this was a miracle of divine proportions – it was a work of God. The people who knew the man marvelled and asked how he came to see. He told them. Since the miracle was so significant it needed validation from Israel's spiritual leaders, and so the man was taken before the rulers to explain what had happened.

"Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, 'He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.' Therefore, some of the Pharisees said, 'This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath. Others said, 'How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?'" (John 9:15-16)

The miracle took place on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was given to the children of Israel and etched in law. It was further confirmation that this was a sign from Israel's God. Moreover, a miracle of such magnitude – healing a son of Abraham, taking place in the land of Israel, and in the holy city, Jerusalem, and on Sabbath – the evidence clearly pointed to the hand of God.

Similarly, the appearance of moisten clay being used to open the man's eyes pointed to the God of Israel working with His people. Just as the potter works with moisten-flexible clay so also the LORD works with His people, Israel, as Isaiah the prophet confessed. "But now, O LORD, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you our potter; and all we are the work of your hand. Do not be furious, O LORD, nor remember iniquity forever; indeed, please look – we all are your people!" (Isaiah 64:8)

Caution prevailed in their deliberations, and the Pharisees then asked the man who was formerly blind, what he thought of Yeshua. He told them that he thought Him to be a prophet, but the Pharisees were not yet convinced, and objected strongly. Looking for further explanation, they turned their attention to his parents. But the man's parents only referred them to back to their son.

Again the Pharisees questioned the man about Yeshua. "Give God the glory! We know that this man is a sinner. He answered and said, 'Whether he is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.'" (John 9:24-25) Sadly, the Pharisees would not see God's handiwork in this miracle, their hearts were hardened, they had already concluded that Yeshua was a sinner. Yet in truth, a sinner could not do such work. Subsequently, they believed there was some other explanation.

"Then they said to him again, 'What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?' He answered them, 'I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?'" (John 9:26-27)

The Pharisees claimed devotion to Moses. "Then they reviled him and said, 'You are his disciple, but we are Moses' disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow; we do not know where he is from." (John 9:28-29) But Moses was a man of faith also, and a step of faith was required. Head knowledge was not enough. An open and honest assessment would have affirmed that the God of Israel, who had performed signs and wonders in Moses' day, had also worked a miracle in this man who had been blind since birth.

"The man answered and said to them, 'Why, this is a marvellous thing, that you do not know where he is from; yet he has opened my eyes!" (John 9:30) The man who was formerly blind was convinced that Yeshua could only be from God. As far as he was concerned, the miracle had God's handprint all over it. "Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshipper of God and does his will, he hears him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing." (John 9:31-33)

The Pharisees could not agree. Tradition told them that only those who came from good family background could be trusted. They would reason, all the great teachers and leaders of Israel came from reliable upstanding families. As far as the Pharisees were concerned, neither this Yeshua, nor his follower, were from good stock. Indeed, this man was born blind, he had to be a sinner, they thought. As far as the Pharisees were concerned the man and his rabbi were part of a deception, and therefore, a potential danger to the community of Israel. Both were sinners who could not be tolerated. "They answered and said to him, 'You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?' And they cast him out." (John 9:34)

Wisdom stood at the gate weeping. The moment was lost as faith struggled to find " . . . one who calls on your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of you . . . " (Isaiah 64:7); unbelief again robbed the leaders of Israel from experiencing His glory.

When Yeshua heard that the man had been cast out, he searched for him, and when he found him, He said to him, "'Do you believe in the Son of God?' He answered and said, 'Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?' And Yeshua said to him, 'You have both seen him and it is he who is talking with you.' Then he said, 'Lord, I believe! And he worshipped him." (John 9:35-38)

Faith beamed from a most unlikely source, the man who had been blind since birth. In contrast, sadly, faith was rejected by an unexpected house, a group of highly respected spiritual leaders of Israel. When faith is living, the Spirit of God can work, just as a potter with his clay, even blindness from birth is no obstacle.

Initially, when the disciples asked Yeshua about the man born blind they were expecting clarification on who had sinned; instead they witnessed a powerful miracle. It was a sign pointing to the God of Israel and His Anointed. It was profound and awesome. It was generous and merciful. In the midst of deep darkness came light. Yeshua, the Messiah, was that light. Indeed, He is the light of the world, and all who trust in Him will walk in the light.