Go... Wash... and See

by Jared Tharp
“and said to him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.” – John 9:7
As a piggyback off Greg Lucas’ devotion written earlier this month, I want to encourage you with another very well-known and familiar story from John’s Gospel account.
“As he [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.” – John 9:1
We are told in the opening verse of the 9th chapter in John’s Gospel that as Jesus was existing and leaving the temple, in an attempt to flee and hide Himself from the animosity and opposition He was receiving from the Jewish leaders of the day (John 8:59), He stopped in His tracks because He “saw a man” who had been blind from birth. We are told in v.8 that this man was known by his neighbors and other townsfolk as a beggar. One who would station himself in heavily trafficked areas (like the Temple!) hoping and wishing someone would be so kind to offer up alms.

I understand the word “saw” here in v.1 in two fashions: 1) that Jesus took note of this man. He saw him, perhaps laying or sitting on the ground in a helpless and needy state and fixed His attention on him; and 2) that by supernatural insight and knowledge, owing to His divine nature, Jesus perceived that this man had been blind since birth. Right off the bat we see Jesus is a man who shows great compassion and care for others.

From the time this man began to exist he was in a state of darkness. Never able to see the shapes or the colors of this world. Never able to see the faces of friends and loved ones. Never once able to see even a glimmer of light. Not even capable of having the capacity of the mind to understand the concept of light. 

Imagine spending your whole life only being able to hear others around you talk about how blue the sky is or how beautiful the mountains and the sunset are, and not even being able to conceive of the idea of something being blue or even being able to comprehend the concept of beauty. The only thing this man has ever known is total and utter darkness.

Interestingly enough, the man did understand to some degree that he was in need. He’s probably spent years and years sitting on the streets, outside of different buildings and homes, looking for help, searching for some relief, and asking for someone to supply his needs. But on one seemingly random day, as he was doing his usual begging outside of the Temple, like he would have done on any other day, this man came face to face with someone who would impart to him a gift he didn’t even know he needed.

As Jesus approached this man, after having corrected the disciple’s presuppositions about the man’s condition (John 9:2) and again declaring to be “the light of the world” (John 9:5), He bent down and gathered up some soil from the ground, spat in it, and kneaded the muddy mixture together and proceeded to apply it to the man’s eyes.
“Having said these things, he [Jesus] spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud” – John 9:6
Who even knows if the blind man knew what was coming! Did Jesus warn the man prior to slapping mud in his face or was it an unexpected and out of nowhere “wham!”? Either way, Jesus looks at this man now and commands, “Go, and wash in the pool of Siloam.” With no questions asked, no hesitation, and no retaliation for having mud slung in his face, we are told that the man “went and washed and came back seeing” (John 9:7).

Kneeling by the pool the man plunges his head into the cold waters to wash off the muddy mess, but as he rises up from the waters and wipes his eyes dry, for the first time ever in this man’s life, he could see. For the first time in his life, he saw shapes, and colors, and movement, and people, and light.

There are so many connections and illustrations that are found here in this miracle Jesus performed. Like the man who was blind from birth, so is all of mankind spiritually blind from birth. From the moment you and I begin to exist we are in darkness of heart and mind, oblivious to true spiritual reality, and unable to perceive the things of God. Though we may not be physically blind, our hearts and our minds are wrapped up in the darkness of sin.

I wonder, however, if we have any perception of our need for light? The blind man was a beggar, yes, but he could not have fathomed or felt the need for that which he never had! If I never saw the wonder of a star lite sky at night or the beauty of fluffy white snow falling on the ground, how would I ever be aware of that lack in my life? How could I ever be cognizant of what I’m missing out on if I never had it to begin with?

I couldn’t, and we are therefore not aware of our greatest need. We love the darkness rather than light (John 3:19) because it’s what we’re born into and have always known. Blindness is our nature, and it’s not until the word of God comes and shines into our hearts and conscience that the darkness begins to lift. It’s not until the message of forgiveness, grace, justification, and mercy are received that the light begins to illuminate the soul. It’s not until Christ comes unexpectantly into our life and washes us clean of our guilt, shame, and imperfection that we begin to see!

Earlier in the passage Jesus tells His disciples that “we must work the works of him who sent me while it is day… as long as I [Jesus] am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4-5). The Father sent His one and only Son to this world for a purpose, “that the works of God might be displayed” (John 9:3). To be the light, to illuminate the minds of the unsaved, to shine through the darkness in individual hearts, and to impart sight to those who are blind.

Jesus’ command to this blind man to “go and wash” still remains for us today, and it requires a decision and calls for trust and faith. John tells us that the name for this pool, Siloam, means “sent”; no doubt a clear connection with our Lord Jesus who was sent from the Father (v.4). Only that we would be like this blind man, who in his mess, shame, and need listened, trusted, and obeyed Jesus, and in his faith he “went…washed…and came back seeing.”