The Bible records the famous miracle of Jesus Christ healing a man who was born blind in the Gospel book of John. It takes up all of chapter 9 (John 9:1-41). As the story progresses, readers can see how the man gains spiritual insight as he gains physical sight. Here's the story, with commentary.
The first two verses present an interesting question that Jesus' disciples asked him about the man: "As he went 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?'"
People often assume that others are suffering as a result of some kind of sin in their lives. The disciples knew that sin ultimately caused all the suffering in world, but they didn't understand how God chose to allow sin to affect the lives of different people in different cases. Here, they wonder whether the man had been born blind because he somehow sinned while still in the womb, or because his parents sinned before he was born.
The Works of God
The story continues with Jesus' surprising answer in John 9:3-5: "'Neither this man nor his parents sinned,' said Jesus, 'but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.'"
The purpose of this miracle -- like all the other healing miracles that Jesus performed during his public ministry -- goes far beyond blessing just the person who was healed. The miracle teaches everyone who learns about it what God is like. Jesus tells those who ask him about why the man was born blind that it happened "so that the works of God might be displayed in him."
Here Jesus uses the imagery of physical sight (darkness and light) to refer to spiritual insight. Just one chapter prior to this, in John 8:12, Jesus makes a similar comparison when he tells people: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
A Miracle Happens
John 9:6-7 describes how Jesus miraculously heals the man's physical eyes: "After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 'Go,' he told him, 'wash in the Pool of Siloam' (this word means 'Sent'). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing."
Spitting on the ground and then mixing the spit with mud to make a healing paste to smear on the man's eyes is quite a hands-on way to heal the man. In addition to this blind man in Jerusalem, Jesus also used the spitting method to heal another blind man, in Bethsaida.
Then Jesus decided to complete the healing process by having the man take action himself, prescribing that the man should go wash in the Pool of Siloam. Jesus may have wanted to arouse more faith from the man by asking him to do something to participate in the healing process. Also, the Pool of Siloam (a spring-fed pool of fresh water that people used for purification) symbolizes the man's progression toward greater physical and spiritual purity, because he washed off the mud that Jesus put on his eyes, and while doing so, his faith was rewarded with a miracle.
How Were Your Eyes Opened?
The story continues by describing the aftermath of the man's healing, in which many people react to the miracle that happened to him. John 9:8-11 records: "His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, 'Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?'
Some claimed that he was. Others said, 'No, he only looks like him.'
But he himself insisted, 'I am the man.'
'How then were your eyes opened?' they asked.
He replied, 'The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.'"
Then the Pharisees (the local Jewish religious authorities) interrogate the man about what happened. Verses 14 through 16 say: "Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. 'He put mud on my eyes,' the man replied, 'and I washed, and now I see.'
Some of the Pharisees said, 'This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.'
But others asked, 'How can a sinner perform such signs?' So they were divided.
Jesus had attracted the Pharisees' attention with many other healing miracles that he performed on the Sabbath day, during which any work (including healing work) was traditionally prohibited. Some of those miracles included: healing a swollen man, healing a crippled woman, and healing a man's withered hand.
Next, the Pharisees again ask the man about Jesus, and reflecting on the miracle, the man replies in verse 17: "He is a prophet." The man is starting to progress in his understanding, moving from referring to Jesus as he had earlier ("the man they call Jesus") to recognizing that God has worked through him somehow.
Then the Pharisees ask the man's parents what happened. In verse 21, the parents reply: "'... how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.'"
The next verse notes: "His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue." Indeed, that is exactly what eventually happens to the man who has been healed. The Pharisees interrogate the man yet again, but the man tells them in verse 25: "... One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!"
Becoming angrier, the Pharisees tell the man in verse 29: "We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from."
Verses 30 through 34 record what happens next: "The man answered, 'Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.'"
To this they replied, "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!" And they threw him out.
The story concludes with Jesus finding the man he had healed and talking with him again.
Verses 35 through 39 record: "Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, 'Do you believe in the Son of Man?'
'Who is he, sir?' the man asked. 'Tell me so that I may believe in him.'
Jesus said, 'You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.'
Then the man said, 'Lord, I believe,' and he worshiped him.
Jesus said, 'For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.'"
Then, in verses 40 and 41, Jesus tells the Pharisees who are present that they're spiritually blind.
The story shows the man progressing in spiritual sight as he experiences the miracle of seeing his physical sight healed. First, he views Jesus as a "man," then as a "prophet," and finally comes to worship Jesus as the "Son of Man" -- the savior of the world.