Commemorated on May 29
At the end of Chapter 8 in Gospel of Saint John, the Savior was disputing with the Pharisees in the Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles. He told them, “Your father Abraham was glad that he should see my day; and he saw it and rejoiced” (John 8:56). The Jews said that Jesus was not even fifty years old, so how could He claim to have seen Abraham? The Lord replied, “Before Abraham was, I am.” I am, of course, is the name that God revealed to Moses in the Burning Bush. When the Jews picked up stones to throw at Him, He hid Himself and went out of the Temple.
We read in Saint John’s Gospel (9:1-38): “As He passed by, he saw a man who was blind from birth.” It might appear that Jesus was on His way to something or someone else, but in his Commentary on the Gospel of Saint John, the ever-memorable Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas, quotes from Homily LVI of Saint John Chrysostom: “that on going out of the Temple, He proceeded intentionally to the work, is clear from this: it was He who saw the blind man, and not the blind man who came to Him….”
Christ’s disciples asked Him who had sinned, the blind man or his parents that he had been born blind. Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God might be manifested in him” (John 9:3). It was thought that a person who had some affliction must have sinned (or his parents did) to deserve such punishment. In the Book of Exodus (20:5), God said that he would visit “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” This, however, applied to the sin of idolatry, if the children emulated their parents’ behavior.
The blind man was not born blind just so the miracle could be performed, but seeing the man in such a condition, the Lord decided to use him in a way that would manifest God’s glory. He Who is the Light of the world healed the blind man and enlightened him. Giving sight to the blind was one of the signs which would identify the Messiah (Matthew 11:4-6).
The Lord made clay when He spat on the ground, and placed it in the man’s empty eye sockets and sent him to the pool of Siloam to wash. Most versions of the Gospels translate the word επεθηκεν as “anointed,” but it can also mean “to spread on,” or “to smear.” Siloam means “sent,” and in Saint John’s Gospel Christ says about forty times that He Himself had been sent by the Father.”
This manner of healing reminds us of the way God created man by fashioning him from the dust of the earth. In the Old Testament God created man from the dust of the earth, now Christ, the same God, fashions eyes from the clay and places them in the blind man’s empty sockets. Here are some quotes from the Pentecostarion:
At the Oikos of Matins: “He receives physical eyes as well as those of the soul.”
In the Verses of the Synaxarion: O Bestower of light. Who are Light coming forth from Light; You gave eyes to the man who was blind from birth, O Word.”
In the second exapostilarion: “Along the way, the Savior found a man who lacked both sight and eyes.”
At Monday Vespers (stikheron of the Feast) we sing, “With his whole soul, and mind, and his tongue, the man who in times not long passed had been blind, confessed Him Who had fashioned eyes for him out of spittle and clay…”
Saint Theophylaktos says in his Commentary that “Jesus our Lord fashioned all the members of the blind man’s body except for the eyes, which He omitted. By healing them now, he completes the divine act of creating and demonstrates that He is the Creator.”
Jesus tests the faith of the blind man by sending him to the Pool of Siloam (which means “sent”). He respects the man’s freedom, but asks for his voluntary and free participation in the miracle. The blind man, with faith, obeys God’s command. He goes and washes in the pool, and he returns seeing.
The former blind man’s life was not made easier, however. He becomes the object of the Scribes’ and Pharisees’ evil and hatred, those who believed in God and in the observance of His Law. They themselves were blind, yet they were suspicious of the formerly blind man, imagining that he only pretended to be blind and now was able to see. “They willingly were made blind by the dark letter of the Law, in which Christ, the resplendent Sun shines.”
They questioned the man who was blind, but when they see the miracle before their eyes, instead of believing, they shut the eyes of their souls. Then the man’s parents were questioned. They were afraid to confirm the miracle that happened to their son who was born blind, because they did not want to be expelled from the synagogue. They tried to avoid trouble by concealing the truth. Therefore, they said, “He is of age, ask him!”
We who receive benefits from God every day are ashamed or afraid to confess God because of our lack of trust. We put our own interests above God, knowing that He will understand us! He will understand us, but He will also see our faith and what priorities we have in our lives. Christ will see what “gods” we have put in His place, but He will not cease to remind us that He is the light of the world.
The blind man was healed, not only in the eyes of his body but eventually in his soul as well. He recognizes Jesus as God, and does not hesitate to confess it before the religious rulers with courage that many of us would envy. Faith alone is not enough, we also need to confess our faith in order to become genuine children of God. When we confess Christ before men, He will confess us before His Father, as the Lord has promised us: “Everyone who shall confess me before men, I also shall confess him before my Father who is in Heaven; and whoever denies me before men I also will deny him before my Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 10:32).