John 9:4-7 – The Spittle Spectacle

We must come to the following verses with a clear understanding of last week’s lesson.
• Jesus’ explanation for the man’s blindness was in looking forward to a coming purpose not a past cause!
• This explanation, it seems, is crucial to understanding Jesus’ entire ministry, not just the man’s blindness.
• Jesus’ entire ministry was one of purpose and moving forward in time and history towards the cross and the Kingdom of God.
• And as we look at our text today, understanding explanation as a forward and coming purpose will illuminate our understanding of what is going on.

John 9:4–7 (ESV) — 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.


John 9:4–7 (ESV) — 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

We are less than 6 months from the Passion events.
• Jesus expresses a sense of urgency about His work and a profound insight that His time on earth is coming to an end.
• He knows that Israel generally and His disciples specifically have benefited from the presence of His light.
    o Exposure to God’s Word leaves us changed.
• But darkness is coming.
• As D.A. Carson puts it, “Those who enjoy his light will be engulfed by darkness when he is taken away”.

What is the coming darkness?
• It is both a historical period of time and a spiritual state.
• The period of time is the time between Jesus’ death and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – John MacArthur.
• The spiritual state is clearly the spiritual cowering the disciples embraced after Jesus death’ and their doubt and confusion between His ascension and Pentecost.
    o John 18:17 (ESV) — 17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”
    o John 18:25 (ESV) — 25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.”
    o Mark 16:14 (ESV) — 14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.
• Acts 1:6 (ESV) — 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
    o And even after the resurrection, still hoping for their idea of a restoration of Israel, they are disappointed with a “not for you to know” (Acts 1:7).
    o And then He leaves them alone…but only for a time.

Jesus must have been saddened to know what His disciples were going to endure due to their lack of trust in Him and due to their “kingdom baggage”.
• In fact, these things weighed so heavily on Jesus that He reiterates our text in John 12.
• John 12:35 (ESV) — 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.”

BTW – What is so sad, is that so many Christians today walk as if we do “not know where [we are] going”.
• One of Jesus’ purposes was to provide the believer with the means (the tools) to live a fulfilled Christian life.
• We have at our disposal (1) the word of God; (2) the Holy Spirit; and (3) a new heart.
• We must foster a deep relationship and understanding with each to live fully the life Jesus purposed for us!

And then to emphatically symbolize what “the works of him” are, Jesus heals the man born blind by design.
• It appears that verses 4 and 5 are a little bit out of place.
• They are awkwardly wedged between the disciples’ question about the blind man, Jesus’ answer, and the blind man’s healing.
• But, D.A. Carson advises us that “these verses are crucial precisely because they signal to the reader how the healing of the blind man is to be understood.”
• What its forward looking purpose is.
• It is so much more than a miracle, but a powerfully presented, symbol-laden object lesson on Jesus purpose!
    o A purpose which, unfortunately, will have negative consequences for those Jews who “refused to open their eyes to the light” – D.A. Carson.


John 9:6–7 (ESV) — 6 Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

One can’t help but read these verses and wonder why the big production.
• In front of everyone there, Jesus kneels down and starts spitting in the dirt.
• It must have taken Him quite a few goes at it before He sufficiently wet the dirt.
• Then He scraped the mud into the palm of His hands.
• Mixed it all together into a blob of clay.
• Then spread the clay over the blind man’s eyes.
• Then sent the blind man off to wash in the nearby pool of Siloam.
• And after all this, the man “came back seeing”.

We know that all Jesus had to do was say a word or touch the man to restore the man’s sight.
• Matthew 20:34 (ESV) — 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

And we also know that if He was really set on using spit, He could have just spit directly on His hands and left the rest of it out.
• Mark 7:33 (ESV) — 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.
• Mark 8:23 (ESV) — 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?”

But remember, this is a powerfully presented, symbol-laden object lesson on Jesus purpose!
• He is teaching the disciples, the Jews, the blind man and us an urgent lesson about “the works of God” (vs. 3).
• This miracle is about more than a healing.

So what is the purpose?
• We will look at 7 suggestions compiled from Carson, MacArthur, Boice, Kostenberger and Wiersbe.

The purpose was to show us that:
1) Jesus is The Light
• Obviously the blind man received light through restored sight.
• But, Jesus’ light is of the Kingdom of God, eternal life variety as well.
• “The healing is thus a living parable, illustrating Jesus’ ministry as the Light shining in a spiritually darkened world” – John MacArthur.

2) Jesus is the Father’s Jesus
• Jesus gives the light, “the works of God”, at the direction of the Father.
• Jesus is working the Father’s purposes (“him who sent me” vs. 4), not His own.
• And one of those works (purposes) was to heal this blind man.

3) Jesus is Creator
• An illusion to Genesis 2:7 is not doubt intended.
• Genesis 2:7 (ESV) — 7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
• Jesus “created” working eyes for the blind man to restore his sight.

4) Jesus is Sovereign
• According to D.A. Carson (via John Calvin), it is possible here that there is an allusion to the water being poured on Elijah’s sacrifice at Mr. Carmel.
• Only the one true God of Israel could consume such a sacrifice with fire.
• Similarly then, Jesus is symbolically raising the stakes of the blind man’s condition by exaggerating his blindness.
• This links the Sovereign Creator God of Israel to Jesus who can use what is unclean (spittle clay) to restore what is blind (the man’s eyes).

5) Jesus is Authority
• “Palestinian Jews believed that human excreta (including urine, breast milk, saliva, menstrual flow, etc.) were all forms of pollutant” – D.A. Carson.
• But, under certain conditions “in the hands of people authorized with the appropriate power”, human excreta like saliva could be “transformed into an instrument of blessing” – Carson.
• Jesus was the authorized power.
BTW - There is also a sense in which Jesus is using His authority to upend cultural taboos.
    o This perceived uncleanliness of the spittle clay would have been an “irritation” to a Jew.
    o And Jesus used the “irritation” this taboo caused to bring the blind man to light.
    o “You might compare this ‘irritation’ to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit as He uses God’s Law to bring the lost sinner under judgment” – Warren Wiersbe.

6) Jesus is the Sent One
• Jesus tells the blind man, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam”.
• John tells us that Siloam means “Sent”.
Why does John insert this commentary into Jesus’ words?

Siloam Background
• The pool was apparently constructed by King Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:20).
• It was recently rediscovered near the southeast corner of Jerusalem’s city wall (see picture).
• The pool of Siloam was the pool from which the water was drawn for the Feast of Booths watering drawing right.
    o As such, it “symbolized the blessings God sent to Israel” – John MacArthur.
• It was during this event in John 7:37 that Jesus announced, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink”.
• Yet, remarkably, the pool of Siloam also at one time represented Israel’s rejection of God.
    o Isaiah 8:6 (ESV) — 6 “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah,

So Jesus and John are driving home the following:
• Jesus is the Sent One of God the Father.
• His purpose is to be the “ultimate blessing to the nation” – John MacArthur.
• And for those who trust in Him, He brings light and sight.
• But, as the Israelites had done so often in the past, “so also did the people reject Jesus, the true Siloam, the One sent by God to save lost sinners” – John MacArthur.

7) Jesus on His terms
• “He cured how He willed” – Leon Morris.
• Naaman was insulted when told to wash in the Jordan seven times to cure his leprosy.
• 2 Kings 5:10–14 (ESV) — 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.”

No doubt, there were a few Naaman’s on the scene.
• Think about it for a moment.
• Jesus does the clay thing and the blind man was temporarily worse off than he was before.
• He had eye sockets full of spittle riddled dirt, unclean by almost any cultures standards.
• And then it gets even weirder.
• Jesus tells the blind man to go.
• Remember, the man is blind and they were at a temple gate not at the pool!
• That’s like telling a man with no hands to pickup something.
• Can you imagine the blind guy asking someone nearby, “Hey, can you lead me to the pool of Siloam so I can wash this unclean spit and clay off my eyes and have my vision restored.”

What is Jesus doing here?
• Jesus has taught us over and over that self and its baggage must be killed off, spiritually speaking.
• We have to give up pride and our way of thinking, feeling, understanding and living to come to Christ.
• In other words, we come to Him on His terms.
• Jesus makes demands of us that may not make sense.
• But, He has a purpose in doing so.
I wonder how many times we miss out on what Jesus is doing because we “Naamanize”?
    o Naaman even complained that Israel’s Jordan River wasn’t near as good as his own rivers.

Lesson for Us:
• So this is what we are saying.
• The man was born blind by design.
• And his healing, a work of God, was just the tip of the iceberg.
• Jesus used the elaborate healing to provide us and His disciples, who would soon be in darkness, a powerfully presented, symbol-laden object lesson.

All of this seems to be captured by Jesus’ own words to Paul on the road to Damascus because at the end of the day we are all “sent”:
• Acts 26:16–18 (ESV) — 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’