Updated: Feb 12
As Jesus walked 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?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.
The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
This reading next will be presented in Episcopal churches on March 22, 2020, as the Gospel selection for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. At the present time, when a fear of coronavirus is grabbing the hearts and brains of American human beings that call themselves Christians, it is doubtful that many people will show up to hear a sermon about this reading. It is doubtful that the fear of death from airborne disease will allow a priest the peace of mind to preach well about this Gospel of John choice for the season of Lent. It is doubtful that the symbolism of self-sacrifice (Lent) will be seen in this reading and taught to those who seek the truth, at a time when so many are fearful of self-loss: health, position, stability, etc. So, this lesson will act as a seed waiting for the fertile ground of a seeker of truth to come and welcome this truth be planted within.
As a precursor, what will probably be pointed out by a priest is this miracle is only told in the Gospel of John. Nothing else will be said that explains, “Why only John?” The same lack of explanation will have been offered the two prior weeks, when the story of Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman at the well are stories only found in John. The same “only in John” story will continue in the fifth Sunday in Lent, when the story of Lazarus being raised from death will be told. No one will say why “only in John.” That lack should be realized for what it is.
It should be understood that the priests who lead churches everywhere, in all denominations of Christianity, learned everything they know about Scripture while they were educated at Children’s church or “Sunday School” as children. Their adult education led them to find little more than adults telling the same childish viewpoints, while offering confusing conjecture, with little research for the truth possible. Devotion to a deeper truth leads men (an now women) to seek ordination (thus education for ministry), so they can expand beyond self-led faith and help others in need. After discernment by organizations that restrict ministry to only the chosen, some feel special for being given a right for higher education and being placed on a path to employed priesthood. That leads them to institutions for higher religious learning … but it is not Biblical explanation they find.
Seminaries do a great job teaching about church history, the dogma of liturgy and the secondary books of prayer. They read overviews of Old Testament New Testament Bible Stories, retold from a scholastic viewpoint of superiority that refuses to get bogged down in the details of the written text (none of which was written originally in English). To further muddle the mind of a priest, they throw brains that struggle with language learning after the age of five electives, such as Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. By the time a priest is evacuated from a seminary, none of them have had time to ponder what it is they profess faith from – the Word. They are told to practice delivering sermons that are based on their memories of personal life – with the modern trend having young priests relating how Scripture mirrored their infancy, not adulthood. Therefore, it is important to see that the parishioners and the priests have all been born blind, because the truth is before them every Sunday, pre-chosen by a lectionary that has been prepared with deep thought involved, but they (pastors and flock) cannot see the truth.
This means the value of this lesson from the Gospel of John is that redemption comes to true seekers of truth, as they beg for guidance in times of darkness. It is no different today than it was in the times of Jesus, when the Jews knew nothing, because their teachers only knew meaningless tidbits taught to them at law school. God sent His Son into a world that was blind, thus Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” The leaders and followers of those who were not Jesus were blind. It is the “same ole same ole” all over again, as nothing ever changes when there will always be crafty snakes to produce false shepherds to watch over ignorant flocks.
John, by the way, was the son of Jesus (born of Mary Magdalene) and John accompanied his father to Jerusalem when it was festival time (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, Hanukkah). For instance, in the “only John” reading about the Samaritan woman at the well, why would “the disciples” leave Jesus at a well to go get food, but John was still there, obviously able to tell that story? The simple deduction is that John was not a disciple. He was the one Jesus loved, as his son. Jesus was left alone as far as adult companions were concerned (and women and children did not count in the first century writings). Now, good luck trying finding a priest that will confirm that.
In the first part of this reading, where I placed a map of Old Jerusalem that shows where the Siloam Pool was located, it is always good to get a lay of the land. That visual helps place oneself into the story, rather than keep one thousands of miles and thousands of years away, as a priest stands in an aisle and reads a story that one has heard before. Visualize being there at the time Jesus walked up to the man born blind. That location makes the Tekoa Gate become a probable place where the blind beggar had laid his mat and begged for help. It was festival time (because John is with Jesus in Jerusalem), so the paths were overflowing with pilgrims and residents. From that gate the sound of the water in the pool nearby would be noticeable, making it be a place a blind man could find by sound, after being told “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” By that being followed by John writing, “Then he went and washed and came back able to see,” the blind man did as instructed without assistance. That is important to grasp.
The accompanying Epistle, from Paul’s letter to the Christians of Ephesus, he wrote, “Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light.”
As Saul, he was made blind for three days. He became aware of his darkness. He came out of that blindness with a new way of seeing what he had been blinded from seeing before. Paul was a changed man from becoming a child of light, just as the man born blind suddenly could see. The same ability to see the truth of the Word comes to all sinners are who are reborn as Jesus Christ. But, Jesus is not going to come to a sinner and magically do everything the sinner wants, so the sinner does not have to do anything for redemption – anything more than say “I always believed Jesus died so I could sin and be saved.”
Saul had to go to the place that made him Paul. He had to do that on his own. All sinners have to find their own way to the Pool of Siloam and wash the sin off their eyes, because we are all sinners born of sin in a world of sin. We each, individually, must take those first steps to redemption and we must take them alone. Jesus is later said to have “heard that [the Pharisees] had driven [the man born blind] out,” so Jesus had to go find him to talk with him. That says he put mud on his eyes, told him what to do and then left. Perhaps he left with his disciples, leaving his son John to watch what happened? The point is Jesus heard a prayer for help, answered that prayer, and then left for the prayer’s answer to take effect. It is always up to sinners to do what is necessary to stop sinning, before Jesus comes back to us for good.
John made an aside that says Siloam means “Sent.” According to Abarim Publication’s Biblical Dictionary: ”The verb שלח (shalah) means to send; to send whatever from messengers to arrows. It may even be used to describe a plant’s offshoots or branches.” Siloam is then the past tense of shalah, as “sent,” but using the dictionary’s assessment, the man born blind was “sent” to wash his own sins away. John wrote that aside for our benefit, not to let us know he knew what Siloam meant. If we are to become offshoots or branches of YHWH, we must receive that direction to go to the living waters and be made clean. We are “Sent” to that pool.
The Greek word written by John that makes that aside translation of Siloam is “Apestalmenos,” which is rooted in the word “apostelló,” meaning “I send forth, send (as a messenger, commission, etc.).” (Strong’s) According to HELPS Word-studies, “This verb is used of closely connecting the Lord (the sender) to the believers He personally commissions.” Here, it should be recognizable that “apostelló” is the root word for the noun “Apostle,” as those who are sent by God as His messengers – His “offshoots and branches”. The capitalization of the Greek makes this a spiritually increased meaning, not a low-level one. [Notice how God is the sender of Apostles sent, not a prestigious seminary?]
Prior to Jesus acting upon the man born blind, he was asked by his disciples, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” That says Jesus was not only with his son John, but with some number of disciples. It then becomes important to realize the disciples heard Jesus’ response, but after hearing his response they went their separate ways. The disciples who were taught, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world,” then left Jesus without grasping what that meant. They did not say, “Master, please tell us what that means,” or one of them would have written about an amazing lesson taught by Jesus. Since they did not, they left at that point.
The disciples asked their question because they had been taught a person with a disease or a deformity was visibly projecting his or her inner sin. They had been taught that by Pharisees leading synagogues, who had little more than their childhood teaching to go from. The questions they asked were never answered; so the disciples did not know how to interpret a man born blind. Was he responsible for his defect at birth? surely not! So, then, did his parents’ sins cause him to be born showing sin? How many Christians have similar question that they would love to ask their priest or pastor, only to not ask because they have never been given the pleasure of having a friendly conversation about religion with a professional teacher of religion. [What? You think I know these things?]
The disciples were just like Episcopalians who listen to Scriptural readings and then a sermon (maybe or maybe not about the readings), but thirty minutes after church is over could not tell anyone anything about what they had heard – in one ear and out the other. [Although, those political sermons that have nothing to do with Scripture do get so mangled and twisted into a personal viewpoint that some listeners with either love or hate a sermon, which is remembered longer.]
On the other hand, one finds John repeatedly telling of Jesus saying, “I am the light of the world” (variations in John 1, John 2, John 3, John 8, John 9, and John 12); but nary a word from his other disciples’ Gospels. That lack says it is more typical to hear light and think of daytime, nothing more. That would confuse the disciples further, when they heard Jesus say, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” That might have come across like Jesus saying, “Come on guys, daylight’s burning. We got things to do and people to see.”
This departure of the disciples should be seen as due to two reasons.
First, the only reason Jesus would be in Jerusalem was because of a festival. A festival was not a time of ministry, as it was a time of commitment to the Covenant to YHWH. All Jews traveled to Jerusalem, meaning the families of all Jesus’ disciples were also there. All were staying at different places, either with extended family or in rented rooms. Thus, this event happened when Jesus and some of his disciples were walking along the path outside of the walls of Jerusalem, most probably with a large crowd of other Jews walking there. While in Jerusalem for the same reason, it makes sense that friends would gather and meet on occasion, before parting ways.
The second reason is stated by John as “Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.” That bit of information – a sabbath day – comes well into this story’s retelling, which says the time of synagogue (a main focus of the Shabbat) was over and Jesus and some disciples were heading home for lunch and family time. They were restricted by Jewish law from walking more than .59 of a mile from the city limits, but the Tekoa Gate was well within the legal distance. After Jesus gave their question an answer, the disciples probably said, “Huh. Imagine that. Okay Jesus. We’ll see you in the morning,” and off they went. That left Jesus, John and the man born blind together on a sabbath after synagogue, at the Tekoa Gate, near the Siloam Pool.
Matthew told of Jesus restoring the sight of two blind men in Jericho, when he touched their eyes. Mark told of people bringing a blind man to Jesus in Bethsaida, when Jesus spat twice in that blind man’s eyes, restoring his eyesight. Neither tell of this story of a man born blind in Jerusalem. When we then read here in John, “[Jesus] spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes,” there is the element of earth being added to both spit and touch that must be understood. Mud is a Trinity of soil (Son), spit (Holiness) and touch (Father).
Again, children’s church does not teach any of the stories in the plethora of holy texts that have been shunned by the Roman Catholic Church (the “Apocrypha“). This means few ordained Episcopal priests are going to climb into the pulpit and speak about the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. None are going to relate how young Jesus had the following story told of him (Greek text A):
“1 This little child Jesus when he was five years old was playing at the ford of a brook: and he gathered together the waters that flowed there into pools, and made them straightway clean, and commanded them by his word alone. 2 And having made soft clay, he fashioned thereof twelve sparrows. And it was the Sabbath when he did these things (or made them). And there were also many other little children playing with him.”
“3 And a certain Jew when he saw what Jesus did, playing upon the Sabbath day, departed straightway and told his father Joseph: Lo, thy child is at the brook, and he hath taken clay and fashioned twelve little birds, and hath polluted the Sabbath day. 4 And Joseph came to the place and saw: and cried out to him, saying: Wherefore doest thou these things on the Sabbath, which it is not lawful to do? But Jesus clapped his hands together and cried out to the sparrows and said to them: Go! and the sparrows took their flight and went away chirping. 5 And when the Jews saw it they were amazed, and departed and told their chief men that which they had seen Jesus do.”
Well, that story mixed with the story only told in John’s Gospel says that Jesus never stopped working with mud on the Sabbath and he never stopped sending off sparrows to do the Lord’s work.
When you realize this story and accept if wholeheartedly as “the Gospel” (which takes an act of faith), then you can see a glimpse of God the Father in his boy Jesus. Both like to make things from clay that would later serve a purpose AND they both do that on the day God deemed holy. (Always keep in mind that these days we live in now are still the Sabbath God Day, as there is nothing that says “On the eighth day ….”)
The “sparrows” Jesus made remind me of the song by Guadalcanal Diary “ Little Birds,” with a line in the lyrics saying, “And God watches us through the eyes of little birds.” In that way Jesus made sparrows that would be born from the pool’s waters made clean by Jesus (commanded by his word alone) and those sparrows would bring vision to a man born blind.
Of course, nothing states any of that in the reading from John, so it is up to each individual to figure out why Jesus needed mud for this blind man, when Matthew said Jesus just used touch to heal blindness and Mark said he just used spit. To understand, it might be good to bring in the aspect of blind from birth.
It could be possible that the other people Jesus healed were blinded by cataracts or by some disease of the eyes later in life, so they had all known sight previously. Because of previously having sight mud was not necessary for their healing. Remember how this reading not only had the disciples knowing this man had been born blind, but the neighbors had always known him as a beggar (due to blindness) and the Pharisees called in his parents to confirm he had been born blind, because they too believed that his blindness was a birth defect. The mud then has to be symbolic of rebirth, such that Jesus made new eyes for a new birth.
The Greek word “pēlon” is written five times in this story, where the multiplicity alone is a signal to see importance. The word translates as “clay” but also as “mud.” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states that the word means “clay, which the potter uses,” but it also is “equivalent to mud (wet clay),” and they reference this reading from John as the “mud (wet clay)” usage of “pēlon.” By knowing that mud (wet clay) is placed on a potter’s wheel so that it can become molded by the hands of a potter; that is an act of creating something beautiful from something ordinary.
In the Old Testament reading, where Samuel has been sent [eslahaka – “I am sending you”] to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the replacement for Saul (a failed king), we are told of David’s appearance: “Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome.” When that reading is matched with the reading of a man born blind, Saul was the king born blind to Israel (as chosen by his parents who demanded a king to be like other nations). God would mold a new set of eyes for Israel from the mud (wet clay) of Jesse, which would be a work of beauty in the master potter’s hands. Thus, when we read, “the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward,” so too did the spirit of the Lord come mightily upon the man born blind that could then see.
In every reading from the Gospels, week in and week out, Sunday after Sunday, we see someone testing or confronting Jesus. Christians hear these stories (including the priests that read them aloud) and see them like fans of Team Jesus.
Go, Jesus! Go!
Like fans of sports teams or fans of music stars and movie stars, fans think they are doing what the players are doing, when they are really doing nothing but watching. It is very easy to “watch” a Jesus play and believe we would be right there, rooting for Jesus, knowing that Jesus will win the day. The sad reality is do-nothings are in the play with Jesus, usually as the Pharisees or those who are trying to cause Jesus pain. That is why anyone who reads this story needs to see oneself as the man born blind, who miraculously has the ability to see just how deep in sin he (or she) has been. The readings and sermons are designed so light bulbs of dawning happen – so people suddenly see the Light of truth. “Aha!”
Unfortunately, that is not the case. Unlike Peter and the twelve standing and speaking in the tongues of God’s Holy Spirit, the best a priest can do these days is be theatrical enough to keep an aged congregation awake. If we do not actually become a player in this “sport” of Christianity, we find the reality of our lives played out by the characters that are the parents of the man born blind and the Pharisees, who argued and bickered at one another.
The failure of Saul, leading to the need for a David that was led by the light of God, is mirrored in how John wrote:
“The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
That is, in essence, the blind leading the blind. The priest asked the pewple, “What do you know about God.” The pewple replied, “You tell me. I only know what you say.” They both read from the same scroll, hearing the same words spoken aloud, but nobody knows what the words mean, because nobody can ever read between the lines!
The only reason a priest or pastor is scheduled to stand before believers and preach is to elevate faith, so that all eyes are able to see the truth that comes from that light.
Paul said, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Being a fan of Jesus is being asleep at the wheel. Being mortal means being bound to death, nothing more. If one seeks immortality, one must rise from watching a play and take part in the Acts of the Apostles. Receive the Holy Spirit and the Light of Christ will shine in you. Stop being blind. Beg for someone to help. Pray for someone to show you the way!!!
Here’s mud in your eye.
The man born blind is not nameless. His name is Sidonius, but some spell that Celidonius. He became a disciple of Jesus after being given sight (imagine that). This is confirmed by John when he wrote, “Then [the Pharisees] reviled [Sidonius], saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.” This devotion is also later stated when John wrote, “Jesus heard that [the Pharisees] had driven [Sidonius] out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” [Sidonius] answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And [Sidonius] worshiped him.”
Sidonius stayed with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany, as a servant. He was there along with Maximin (one of the unnamed 70 sent out in ministry, told of in Luke). Maximin was a close friend of Lazarus. They were not slaves. They were family, with responsibilities and duties, based on love and commitment. These names, and more, are part of a revered past in southern France, which is well worth looking deeper into (look here and also here), as all would be deemed Saints. The House of Bethany would be transplanted into Europe, beginning the seeding of Christianity there.
This means that the affect of being healed of sins by Jesus are not temporary. One does not receive the Holy Spirit, become the body of flesh in which the Christ Mind will rule a soul and guide it into eternal life, only to forget all about that life changing experience later and go about one’s merry way, returning to doing sins whenever one pleases. Sure. Jesus will save us from sins; but not time after time, like he and God work for us and not the other way around! To be saved from sins a true Christian must take the steps towards eternal salvation and not ever again return to the beggar’s mat.
In order to read between the lines of Scripture, Maximin and Sidonius were willingly devoted disciples of Jesus who served him by maintaining the chores of the homestead in Bethany. By seeing they had been touched by the Holy Spirit and became forever devoted to serve God through His Son, they were the ones who were sent out (siloam again) on borrowed mules to get Jesus when he was on the other side of the Jordan, after Lazarus had become very ill. Mules would be needed to get there and back speedily. On their way back, after Jesus had refused to return with them, saying Lazarus is only sleeping, one has to realize that it was Sidonius who saw blind beggars along the road in Jericho. Guess what he did for them. He told them there would be a man named Jesus (of Nazareth) coming through there in a couple of days or so. “He was the one who healed my blindness” was what Sidonius gave to them, rather than coins. That was how they knew to call out the name Jesus, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Sidonius became an Apostle! He was a messenger Sent (Siloam) by God to leave a light of hope to follow. Sidonius was like Paul, after he shed the darkness of Saul.
None of this is seen through the eyes of children’s church ministers. It is the same as when the Pharisees ruled the synagogues and the people went along with what little they gave them, simply because if they complained they could be run out of their place of worship. We read this Scripture (and all other Scripture) so that our eyes will open and the Light of Christ will let us see. Once you have seen the truth you cannot unsee it. It stays with you forever.