Jesus, the Light of the World

Jesus proved he was the light of the world when he healed the man born blind.

John’s gospel consistently connects Jesus’ miracles with the deeper significance of his saving work. John calls the miracles signs because they point to something significant about the identity of Jesus and the salvation he came to bring. For example:

1. In John 6, Jesus multiplied loaves and then called himself the bread of life. The multiplication of the loaves illustrated the salvithic work of Jesus, who would give his flesh for the life of the world at the cross.

2. The same thing happened later in John 11. After Lazarus died, Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and life.” To signify that reality, he raised Lazarus from the dead. The raising of Lazarus testified to Jesus’ saving work and resurrection power.

In John 9, the same thing happens. Jesus claimed to be the light of the world in John 8:12. Now, in John 9, he proves it. This is why Jesus says in vss. 4–5, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” Just as a normal day terminates when the sun goes down, so the “day” of Christ’s ministry would not go on indefinitely. He said, therefore, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

The connection between Jesus’ claim be the world’s light and the healing of the blind man is found in the words, “When [Jesus] had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay…” The opening of the blind man’s eyes has evident revelatory significance—it proves that Jesus is the light of the world who came to open spiritually blind eyes.

Listen to John Calvin on John 9,

“In the condition of one man [the man born blind] the condition of our nature is delineated; we are all of us from our mother’s womb deprived of light and vision, and the cure of this evil is to be sought only in Christ.”

Ultimately, John 9 is written to bring sinners to faith-filled “sight” in Jesus the light. We know this, because by the end of the story Jesus sought out the man he healed and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of God” (v. 35)?

That’s a watershed question, isn’t it? It’s the question that each one us should be asking. Jesus came into the world as the light. His glory was revealed in the works he did. Do we believe in him as the Son of God?

As we move through this story we want to look at three points: 1) the miraculous sign 2) the examination of the Pharisees and 3) the salvation of the man born blind.

The Miraculous Sign

Part of the drama of this story is found in the unique way Jesus healed the blind man. First, he spat on the ground. Then he formed the dirt into clay and put it on the man’s eyes. Finally, he told the man to go and wash.

Why did Jesus do all of these things? I think there are two reasons.

1. First, he spat on and mixed dirt in order to poke his finger into the pharisaic interpretation of the sabbath. Some of the Pharisees argued that Jesus could not be from God because he broke their restrictive interpretation of God’s command to cease from work. In their opinion, everything Jesus did for the blind man must be suspect because he did not, in their view, honor the sabbath day.

2. Second, Christ called the man to go and wash in the pool of Siloam in order to stir the man to action in accordance with the thing John wants every reader of his gospel to do—to believe in Jesus as the light of the world and to come to him in faith in order to be washed from sin.

Consider v. 7, where Jesus said to the man, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” John adds that Siloam is translated sent. Why does he add that detail? For this reason: In the gospel, Jesus is the preeminently “sent one” from God.

Thus, there is a spiritual truth imbedded here. Just as the blind man went to the pool called “sent” in order to wash and see, John is indicating that this is what God requires of sinners. Sinners must go to the “sent one” of God in order to wash. In that cleansing bath of Jesus’ blood, what happens? Spiritual blindess is transformed into sight.

After the man was healed, he describe how everything had occurred. “A man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight” (v. 11).

We might think that after such an incredible miracle there would be mass rejoicing! What the prophets said would happen in the Messianic age (c.f. Isaiah 35:5) had occurred! But instead of mass. rejoicing, there was mass consternation. Why?

The Examination of the Pharisees

The clash between Jesus and the Pharisees was over the interpretation of the sabbath (v. 14). The Pharisees interpreted the sabbath command casuistically in order to prevent any kind of work on the day.

For example, they forbade anyone from spitting on the sabbath, because if the spit landed on the ground and furrowed it was considered plowing. But Jesus had not only spit on the ground, he had also mixed the spit with the dirt to make pasty clay. He had thereby “broken” the sabbath by kneading. Beyond that, a healing had taken place that could well have been performed on Sunday. So, in three ways (plowing, kneading and healing) Jesus prompted a division among them.

Notice how the Pharisees began to argue. In v. 16, one faction of Pharisees argued that Jesus could not be from God because he had broken the sabbath. In v. 17, the other faction of Pharisees said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?”

Because of their disagreement, they asked the blind man what he thought of Jesus. The man replied that he believed Jesus was a prophet. But instead of believing his testimony, they decided to falsify his report by calling his parents. Notice, however, that the more they try to falsify the report of the miracle the more they establish beyond doubt that it occurred!

The man’s parents confirmed the identity of their son and said that he was indeed born blind. Having gotten nowhere, the Pharisees called on the man again and had the audacity to tell him, “Give glory to God” (v. 24). This implied that they believed that the man had been lying about Jesus. But the man would not impeach the character of the one who healed him. Nor did he change his story. He stated, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” So, they asked the man again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes” (v. 26)?

The man perceived their false designs and stated plainly, “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” (v. 27)? The man did not believe they really wanted to become Jesus’ disciples, but he recognized that the only reason they would want to hear the same information would be to discredit Jesus.

With contempt dripping from their voices, they responded, “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” (v. 28). The man responded, “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind” (v. 32).

This testimony was true--there are no Old Testament examples of healing from congenital blindness. No one had ever performed a miracle like this. But the Pharisees refused to see this, myopically focusing on Jesus’ “transgression” of their casuistic sabbath law.

The formerly blind man would not be deterred. He drew the conclusion: “If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing” (v. 33). Stated positively, the man was saying that Jesus was from God. Unable to argue with such logic, the Pharisees resorted to ad hominem attack, “‘You were completely born in sins [a reference to the man’s congenital blindness] and are you teaching us?’ And they cast him out” (v. 34).

The Salvation of the Man Born Blind

What did Jesus do in response? He revealed himself as the good shepherd, seeking out the lost sheep. He found the manin order to bring him into the light of salvation. It says, “Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had 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 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you” (v. 37).

In a striking moment of realization, the man looked upon the one who gave him sight—and he loved him. The fruition of Jesus’ intentions for the man came true as he said, “‘Lord, I believe!’ And he worshiped Him” (vss. 35–38). Here we see the saving illumination of the man born blind. The Pharisees could “see” all along but were really blind. But the man born blind is the one who could truly see! He had come to the light. He had come to Jesus in faith.

And that’s what John wants from you. It’s why John wrote the gospel. John wants you to worship Jesus. He wants you to perceive in the amazing miracle that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the one who can illumine your dark and blind heart. He wants you to affirm in true faith, Jesus is the light of the world.


Have you come to the light? Perhaps you are unsure. Here is a way to know if you’ve truly come out of darkness. When the man born blind saw Jesus, what was the spontaneous desire of his heart? He worshipped him. When a person comes to the light, that's what they do—they feel the magnetic force of God’s love compelling them to worship the Son of God who came to call them out of their darkness into God's light (1 Peter 2:9).

Listen to this perceptive quote: “The redeemed man, whose eyes God has opened, and who has washed in the regeneration, is inevitably led to worship his Savior. The ultimate reason for the decline of Christian worship is, and must always be, a failure to recognize or experience the redeeming work of Jesus; for it is not as a social reformer, nor as an ethical teacher, but as a Savior that He claims and receives the adoration of the faithful.”

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