Signs in John's Gospel
Arlen L. Chitwood
A Blind Man Healed
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.
And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.
I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the 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 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.
And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.
Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?”
Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.” He said, “I am he.”
Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”
He answered and said, “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.”
Then they said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.”
They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees.
Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.
Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” (John 9:1-15).
The last three signs in the gospel of John — the healing of the man born blind (chapter 9), the resurrection of Lazarus (chapter 11), and the resurrection of Christ (chapter 20) — include quite a bit of detail in both the text and the context concerning different things surrounding the signs. In each instance, entire chapters are given over to the matter, though the actual signs are seen in smaller segments of the chapters.
In each chapter (chapters 9, 11, 20), the negative, antagonistic attitude of the Jewish religious leaders toward the message being proclaimed through the miraculous, supernatural signs is seen. And this type of attitude of Israel’s religious leaders can be seen as early as John’s ministry (surrounding the message apart from signs), preceding Christ’s ministry and the beginning of a manifestation of signs (Matthew 3:7ff).
The nation’s religious leaders had positioned themselves among those forming the crowds following John. Then, when Jesus took up the message, exactly the same thing was seen (Matthew 4:17, 25; 8:1; 9:11-13; 12:14, 24ff). And by the time in Christ’s ministry when He had performed the sixth sign recorded in the gospel of John (a sign appearing only in John’s gospel, performed during the mid to latter part of His ministry), this negative, antagonistic attitude of Israel’s religious leaders could be seen on every hand (John 7:30-32, 45-53; 8:13-19, 39-59).
Matters had become so bad by this time that “the Jews [who would be those forming the Sanhedrin] had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue.” Such an individual, put out of the Synagogue, would no longer have a right to the worship and privileges associated with the commonwealth of Israel (John 9:22).
Then, the following sign in chapter eleven, the seventh sign (also recorded only in the gospel of John), was manifested very near the end of Christ’s earthly ministry, at a time when the cup of iniquity surrounding the negative, antagonistic attitude of Israel’s religious leaders, gradually having adversely affected the entire nation, was almost full (cf. Genesis 15:16). At this point, not only did Israel’s religious leaders seek to kill Jesus for raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:49-53) but they even sought to slay the very one who had been raised from the dead. They sought to see that Lazarus was again removed from the land of the living (John 12:9-11).
And the eighth sign, Christ’s resurrection, occurred following His earthly ministry to the nation after both the religious leaders and the leaven-infected nation as a whole had filled their cup of iniquity to the brim (cf. Matthew 16:6-12). At this time the Jewish people went beyond anything heretofore seen. They not only called for Jesus death, rejecting their true King — God manifested in the flesh — but they pledged their allegiance to a pagan Gentile ruler:
Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he [Pilate] said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”
But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:14, 15; cf. Matthew 23:1ff).
Israel, at this point, reached an apex in disobedience and rebellion, one without precedent in the history of the nation and one that would not be equaled or surpassed until events of the coming Tribulation, until events of Daniel’s unfulfilled Seventieth Week. At that future time, “many” in Israel will make a covenant with the Gentile world ruler of that day, which Scripture calls a “covenant with death” and an “agreement with Sheol [the place of the dead]” (cf. Isaiah 28:15, 18; Daniel 9:27; Revelation 17, 18).
Though the sixth sign itself centers on the future of Israel (as the other seven signs), the entire history of Israel — past, present, and future — is given in this sign. As the man was born blind, so it was with Israel. And this is something quite evident in Israel’s history and present condition. And the future for Israel is seen in the man being healed, with attendant results.
Central thoughts in the sign in the preceding respect have to do with:
1) Blindness from birth.
2) Sight ultimately given by Christ through the person washing clay from his eyes in the pool of Siloam.
3) A witness concerning Messiah and that which had been done following the blind person receiving sight.
4) The healing and subsequent testimony occurring on the Sabbath.
Blind from Birth
At the time God formed a separate creation from Adam, through Jacob, the central reason was given for the creation of this new entity (Israel). And a main purpose within this central reason was also given. Note Isaiah 43:1, 7, 10:
But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. . . .
Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” . . .
“You are My witnesses,” says the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me.”
“Israel,” a special creation in Jacob, created for God’s glory (vv. 1, 7), has never gone forth to the Gentile nations in fulfillment of verse ten. Israel, in this respect, has been as Jonah — not only refusing to fulfill the nation’s commission but going in an opposite direction.
Israel, in line with that which is seen in the sixth sign in the gospel of John — with respect to that which this sign foreshadows, having to do with that which is seen in Isaiah 43:10 — has been blind from birth. Israel has been blind during the two days from Jacob to Christ (or, from Abraham to Christ, carrying matters back two more generations); and Israel has also been blind during the two days of the present dispensation when God has temporarily suspended His national dealings with Israel and is dealing with the new creation in Christ rather than the old creation in Jacob.
And this is exactly in line with the seventh sign, the resurrection of Lazarus after he had lain in the grave for four days (John 11:17) — foreshadowing Israel in the place of death from birth until that future time when the Spirit breathes life into the one who has never really possessed life with respect to that which is seen in the overall text. Only in that future day, when Israel receives life and sight, will the nation go forth in fulfillment of Isaiah 43:10.
The meaning of the name of the pool where the man born blind was told to wash the clay from his eyes, the pool of Siloam, is “Sent.” The man born blind was told to go to a pool that meant “Sent.” He was to wash clay from his eyes in this pool, and he was then to see for the first time in his life relative to that which is connected with the name of the pool (vv. 6, 7); and, as a result, the man would to go forth with a true message concerning Jesus the Christ (vv. 9-11, 15, 17, 25-27, 30-33).
The same thing is seen from another perspective in Luke chapter twenty-four. Two disciples were walking to Emmaus on the third day following the crucifixion, on the day Christ had been raised from the dead (or, on the seventh day, counting back to Adam [v. 21]). And as they walked and “talked together of all these things that had happened,” Jesus drew near to them and walked and spoke with them (vv. 13-15). But they didn’t know Him. Their eyes “were restrained [their vision was withheld, preventing them from recognizing the One in their midst]” (v. 16). The two disciples were blind relative to the identity of the One walking and talking with them.
(Note that their blindness, with respect to that which is in view, didn’t begin two days earlier at the time Christ was crucified. Rather, these two disciples must be viewed as the man in the sixth sign in the gospel of John — blind from birth in this respect.)
And Jesus revealed Himself to them, providing them with sight, in exactly the same manner seen in John chapter nine. This would have had to be the case, for as there is only one means through which God provides life or anything connected with life in Scripture. Whether it is man passing from death unto life or sustenance for that life once it has been brought into existence (producing sight, growth, etc.), God always uses one means alone.
Everything is accomplished solely through the living Word and the written Word, which are inseparable. The written Word, which was God, became flesh in the person of the living Word (John 1:1, 14). Everything in the Old Testament has to do with some facet of the Person and work of the Son. And the whole of this revelation is seen manifested in the living Word.
(And there is nothing in the New Testament that is not in the Old Testament. The New is simply the Old opened up and further revealed, explained. And in that respect, the manifestation of the living Word — the Word becoming flesh in the person of Jesus the Christ — encompasses the whole of both Testaments. Jesus is a manifestation, in the flesh, of the complete Word, as seen in the whole of Scripture, both the Old Testament and the New Testament [ref. chapter 4 in this book].)
“Water,” as seen in the pool of Siloam in John chapter nine, is often used in Scripture in a metaphorical sense, referring to the Word. Note Ephesians 5:26 in this respect:
that He might sanctify and cleanse her [the Church (Greek: feminine; cf. v. 25)] with the washing of water by the Word” (cf. John 4:7-14; 7:37, 38).
In the preceding respect, the eyes of the person born blind in John chapter nine were opened by the living Word through using the written Word. And that is exactly what is found in Luke chapter twenty four.
The eyes of the two disciples were opened by the living Word through using the written Word. The living Word revealed Himself to them through opening the written Word to their understanding (vv. 25-31).
Then, comparing the two accounts further, after their eyes had been opened, exactly the same thing is seen in the account of the two disciples as seen in the account of the man born blind. The two disciples, as the man born blind, then went forth with a true message concerning Jesus (vv. 33-35; cf. vv. 46-53).
The accounts in the book of Jonah, Luke chapter twenty-four, and John chapter nine depict that which the entire nation will do once Israel’s blindness has been lifted. The entire nation will go forth with a true message concerning Jesus the Christ.
And that message, in possibly its most capsulated form in Scripture, is seen in the message that Joseph’s brothers were to proclaim once their eyes had been opened to Joseph’s true identity (Genesis 45:1-4):
you shall tell . . . of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that you have seen . . .
Joseph is still alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:13a, 26a).
The preceding is the type; and with “Joseph” a type of Christ and “Egypt” a type of the world in Scripture, note how the antitype would read in that which the descendants of Joseph’s brethren are going to proclaim in that coming day:
“You shall tell…of all My [Jesus’] glory throughout the earth, and of all that you have seen…Jesus is still alive, and He is Governor over the entire earth.”
Note Israel’s condition and confession in that coming day, after the nation’s blindness has been lifted, as recorded in Isaiah chapters fifty-two through fifty-four. All three chapters are Messianic in their scope of fulfillment, which is something often overlooked when chapter fifty-three is viewed apart from its contextual setting.
In chapters fifty-two and fifty-four, a restored nation is seen back in the land — one which will know the Lord, one that will possess a right relationship to God as the wife of Jehovah, and one that will go forth with joy and singing, publishing glad tidings (52:6-9; 54:1-5). And right in the midst of this entire picture, in chapter fifty-three, the Spirit of God, through Isaiah, saw fit to place Israel’s confession and message that will be carried to the Gentile nations of the earth in that coming day, after Israel’s blindness has been lifted.
Note the repeated pronouns throughout chapter fifty-three — “we,” “our,” “us” — which, contextually (chapters 52, 54), can only be a reference to the Jewish people (“my people” [v. 8]) proclaiming the message of this chapter as they go forth to the nations of the earth, fulfilling Isaiah 43:10:
Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked — but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.
He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:1-12)
On the Sabbath, In That Day
The healing of the man born blind in John chapter nine occurred on the Sabbath day, the seventh day. And five of the other eight signs in the gospel of John occurred either on the Sabbath or at the conclusion of a series of days that referenced the seventh day, the Sabbath.
This sign being performed on the Sabbath — which had to do with a man’s blindness being lifted, pointing to the nation’s blindness being lifted — was the central issue in the Pharisees’ opposition to that which had occurred (vv. 14-16).
This was also something seen time after time in Christ’s ministry. Signs were performed on the Sabbath, and Israel’s religious leaders brought accusations against Christ that had to do with a supposed violation of the Sabbath (cf. Matthew 12:10-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-14; John 5:5-18).
And this, in itself, spoke volumes concerning the understanding that Israel’s religious leaders possessed surrounding their own Old Testament Scriptures. They apparently knew the letter of Scripture, but going beyond the letter into the spiritual nature of Scripture, they were sadly lacking.
God had sent prophet after prophet, throughout centuries of time, to His people in order that they might know and understand His plans and purposes for not only Israel but the Gentile nations of the earth as well. But what had Israel done during this time, when prophet after prophet had appeared? According to Christ’s words to the chief priests, elders, and Pharisees, they had “beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.” Then, the same thing is seen in Christ’s subsequent words to the Scribes and Pharisees: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that killed the prophets, and stoned them that are sent to you . . .” (Matthew 21:35, 36; 23:37).
But that’s far from the end of the matter. “Last of all,” following the prophets, God sent His Son. But things in the camp of Israel were no different when the Son appeared. The Jewish religious leaders said among themselves:
. . . This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance. So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. (Matthew 21: 37-39; cf. v. 45)
Israel’s religious leaders, over centuries of time, had rejected, mistreated, and slain the prophets sent to them. And when God sent His Son, He was treated in an even worse manner, for they knew that He was the Heir of the vineyard. He was the One about whom the rejected prophets had spoken.
Israel’s religious leaders, because of that which had been done throughout the history of the nation, did not know their own Scriptures when the Heir of the vineyard appeared. Had they known their Scriptures, they would have understood the signs being manifested, and they would particularly have understood why the signs were being performed on the Sabbath day, or on a seventh day, referencing the Sabbath (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6-8).
They would have seen and understood the septenary arrangement of Scripture, which told of a septenary arrangement of time; they would have seen and understood that Scripture opens in this manner, dealing with the earth’s restoration (establishing an unchangeable pattern concerning how God restores a ruined creation) that foreshadows man’s restoration (Genesis 1:1-2:3); and they would have seen and understood that the Sabbath was given to Israel, reflecting back on the opening verses of Scripture, in order to keep the thought ever before the nation that God was going to work six days (6,000 years) in man’s restoration and rest the seventh day (the seventh and last 1,000-year period within the established septenary structure).
And, understanding these things, when the Heir of the vineyard appeared on the scene performing miraculous healings on the Sabbath, they would have understood the significance of the matter.
They would have seen and understood that the healing of an individual on the Sabbath pointed to the healing of the entire nation on the Sabbath, the seventh 1,000-year period; they would have seen and understood that this healing of the nation would follow God’s work of redemption throughout the preceding six days, the preceding 6,000 years; and, rather than accusing Christ of violating the Sabbath, they would have seen and understood that this was the correct day for Him to perform signs of this nature.
They would have known that Jesus was dealing with that which would occur “in that day,” on the Sabbath:
In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book and the eyes of the blind shall see . . .
Then [in that day] the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. (Isaiah 29:18a; 35:5)