The healing of the man blind at birth during the Festival of Booths: The sixth sign

12/31/2012 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

We continue our series on the the seven signs that Jesus performed which are related in the Gospel of John.  If you have just now joined us, we recommend reading the following for additional context:

  1. 1.     Changing water into wine
  2. 2.    Healing of the Official’s son
  3. 3.    Healing of the paralytic at Bethesda: parts I and II,
  4. 4.   The Feeding of the 5000, and
  5. 5.    A hard teaching at Capernaum, Jesus walks on water

Additionally, we encourage you to subscribe to or bookmark The Mint for updates as we move through this important series.

As expected, the intensity is building as we approach the sixth sign.  We have stated here before that the disciple John, who witnessed perhaps more of Jesus’ miracles than anyone else during his earthly ministry, chose to include these seven miracles in his Gospel because, through them, we would be able to see Jesus as he had seen Him, as the Messiah, YHWH come to dwell among us.

After the feeding of the 5000 at Bethsaida and Jesus’ subsequent four mile walk on top of a stormy Sea of Galilee to join them in their fishing boat, His disciples, save John, who already knew, suspected that He was someone very special.  The crowds who followed Him were also becoming aware that Jesus was no ordinary rabbi or prophet, and the speculation surrounding Him was increasing.

Also increasing was the ire of the Jewish religious authorities who saw Jesus as a direct threat not only to their religious system, but to the fragile Jewish state which they imagined that they had carved out through a series of compromises with Rome.

Jesus’ open declarations that He is YHWH served as the blunt instrument that the religious authorities used against Him in their religious courts.  However, in order to kill Him, which was fast becoming their ultimate solution, they needed to employ the Roman capital punishment apparatus, as the Romans would not allow the Jewish authorities to execute anyone for obvious reasons.  When it comes to Empire, the authority to kill must lie solely with the central authority.

Sukkot and the days of awe

Under these circumstances, Jesus announced that He would not attend the upcoming Feast of Booths (Tabernacles), or Sukkot, the Jewish Festival which follows Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, which was the holiest day of the year.  Jesus’ initial reluctance to attend the Feast, and ultimate decision to attend, has great significance, both for our understanding of the sixth sign and for Jesus’ future second coming.

As you may recall, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, marks a new beginning.  The Jews believe that on this day the fate of each person for the upcoming year is written by YHWH in the Book of Life. The days (approximately 9) between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, known as the the days of awe, are spent in deep reflection, fasting, and prayer.  It is a time of confession and repentance, it is a time of recognition that we are but dust, yet infinitely precious in YHWH’s sight.

The Jews believe that the fate which is written on Rosh Hashanah is then sealed by YHWH on Yom Kippur, at which point the Feast of Booths begins.  It is our speculation that Jesus made the decision to ultimately attend the Feast of Booths to symbolically seal His fate.  He would give His life for humanity on the upcoming Passover.

Yom Kippur is regarded as the Sabbath of Sabbaths, as such, it is only appropriate that the Jewish leaders who were looking for a reason to kill Him, would carefully observe Jesus in hopes of catching Him breaking their observance of the Sabbath.

The decision to go to Jerusalem

Jesus finally left the Galilee and went to Jerusalem, which was abuzz with rumors regarding Him, in secret..  We are told by John that Jesus began to publicly teach in the Temple in the midst of the feast, which we may assume was after Yom Kippur.

The Pool Siloam Map and the Temple in Jersusalem
The Pool Siloam Map and the Temple in Jersusalem

With each man’s fate sealed for the upcoming year, the speculation surrounding Jesus erupted upon His appearance.  Jesus began to publicly expose the hypocrisy of the religious leaders by openly questioning them as to why they were trying to kill Him, if indeed they agreed that He did the works of YHWH?  A straightforward question which was met with accusations that He was a lunatic.

Still, we are told that many believed in Jesus on that day.

That night, rather than staying in Jerusalem, Jesus went up to the mount of Olives, a place that was to have great significance for Him just six months later.

The next morning, Jesus returned to the Temple to teach and finds Himself in the midst of the now famous incident regarding the woman caught in adultery.  This incident, which John relates in Chapter 8:1-11, is revolutionary as, with one simple phrase, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her,” Jesus shares with them YHWH’s opinion as to what, on the surface, appeared to be a sentence carried out in His name.

For Jesus was making it known that apart from righteousness, “Go and sin no more,” YHWH requires us to forgive the trespasses of others.

Jesus then openly declares that He is God’s son, the Messiah, and further observes that the religious Jews do not even know YHWH, the God they purported to worship through their ceremonies and rituals.  He then begins to offer all freedom from sin in His name.

Naturally, this further offended the religious Jews, who believed that, as they had made it through Yom Kippur, they were once again right with God for the upcoming year.  Being told that they were in sin and did not know God went against everything they believed.  As such, the rhetoric between them and Jesus became more contentious.

So violent was the debate that the religious Jews, some of whom had just set down their stones in recognition of their own unworthiness and God’s mercy, picked them up again, intending to stone Jesus.

Jesus then did what any peacemaker would do, he left the Temple.

However, this was not the end of the matter, for at the Feast of Booths, which Jesus was at first going to forgo attending, many were to come to know and believe in Him as the Son of the Living God, the Messiah.

The Blind man and the pool of Siloam, the sixth sign

Jesus had not gotten far when He and His disciples came across a man who had been blind from birth.  Jesus’ disciples, who were still trying to recover from years of religious abuse, dared to ask Him a question, one that they must have been anxious to ask for some time.  Pointing to the blind man, they asked:

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind?”

When one grows up in, or worse, is formally trained up in a religious system, it is natural to attempt to understand all natural phenomenon through a lens of obedience.  If something goes wrong, or is not as it “should be,” it must be because someone has made God upset.  As such, if we can understand what made God upset, we can hope to avoid upsetting God in the future.  If we did this enough, everyone would understand what God expected and be able to do it.  Armed this this knowledge, diseases such as blindness could be cured within a generation  Conversely, the existence of such diseases means that the diseased have failed to please God and therefore deserve to live with their punishment.

The Pool of Siloam by Yoav Dothan
The Pool of Siloam by Yoav Dothan

This is how the many of the Jews, indeed, much of humanity, of the day thought.  It is a scientific thought process which is the hallmark of a religious system.  It is what Jesus came into the world to destroy.

To this question, Jesus replied:

“either did this man sin, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

What is unique about the sixth sign, among other things, is that the man who was healed did not ask Jesus to do anything for Him.  Indeed, as He was blind, and may not even have known that Jesus was near Him.  It is significant that Jesus chose to heal the man in that instant to teach His disciples that the religious/scientific thought process they were using was invalid.

Here is what happened as it is related by John in chapter 9, verses 1-16 of his Gospel:

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither did this man sin, nor his parents; but, that the works of God might 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. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground, made mud with the saliva, anointed the blind man’s eyes with the mud, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means “Sent”). So he went away, washed, and came back seeing. The neighbors therefore, and those who saw that he was blind before, said, “Isn’t this he who sat and begged?” Others were saying, “It is he.” Still others were saying, “He looks like him.”

He said, “I am he.” 10 They therefore were asking him, “How were your eyes opened?”

11 He answered, “A man called Jesus made mud, anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash.’ So I went away and washed, and I received sight.”

12 Then they asked him, “Where is he?”

He said, “I don’t know.”

13 They brought him who had been blind to the Pharisees. 14 It was a Sabbath when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Again therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, I washed, and I see.”

16 Some therefore of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he doesn’t keep the Sabbath.” Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” There was division among them. 17 Therefore they asked the blind man again, “What do you say about him, because he opened your eyes?”

He said, “He is a prophet.”

Hezekiahs tunnel
Hezekiahs tunnel

As the man was not seeking Jesus, we can divine that he was not able to exercise faith, as those who had sought Jesus out in the earlier signs had done.  The man’s healing depended upon his willingness to obey the command of Jesus to wash in the pool of Siloam.

The pool of Siloam, or Shiloh, was located outside of the city walls.  It took a certain amount of discipline for the man to walk away from the entrance to the Temple, past any number of opportunities to wash the mud from his eyes, and to finally wash in the pool of Siloam.  However, in doing so, He gained not only his sight, but played an important, and perhaps unwitting role in further exposing the hypocrisy of the Jewish religious leaders.

For rather than marvel that the man’s sight had been restored, the Jewish religious leaders chose to lament the fact that he had been healed on the Sabbath, and declared that the man who was healed was born in sin.  An extremely mature stance which must have made the man who could now see chuckle at their infantile reaction and seek out the true source of life, Jesus, whom he promptly confessed once Jesus found him, this time with his eyes open, looking for the Messiah.

The significance of the pool of Siloam

It is also significant that Jesus asked the man to wash in the pool of Siloam.  The pool of Siloam was a stone, man made pool which held water which had been diverted from the Gihon spring, Jerusalem’s natural water source, via Hezekiah’s tunnel, which was presumably constructed before the year 701 BCE underneath the City of David.

Hezekiah ordered the tunnel, which at the time was an engineering marvel, to be built in preparation for an imminent invasion of Judah by the Assyrian army.  While Jerusalem sits on cliffs and is naturally well defended, the Gihon spring was distinctly vulnerable, leaving the cities water supply an easy target in the vent of a siege.  Hezekiah had the spring capped off and the water supply diverted covertly, via his tunnel, to an more defensible position.  This position was the pool of Siloam.

It is not coincidental that the pool is mentioned by Isaiah, as we believe that Isaiah and John are kindred spirits.

Isaiah mentions the pool in chapters 8:6, where it is referred to as the “waters of Shiloah,” and in 22:9.  The word Shiloh in Hebrew means “gift” or “he who is sent.”  It is also charged with meaning in light of the prophecy revealed in Genesis 49:10:

 “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs.  To him will the obedience of the peoples be.”

Jesus did not simply send the man away to the pool of Siloam on a whim, a detail that was not lost on John, who saw, as I hope we all do, that everything that Jesus did was charged with divine significance.

As the water from the Gihon spring in Hezekiah’s time, the spiritual fount had been covered at the Temple and was diverted to Shiloah, the pool of Siloam, so that all may drink and be filled.

Later, Jesus would say that He had come so that the blind may see, and that those with sight may become blinded.  He performed the sixth sign as a living reminder of this truth, and it was not lost on John, or any of those who had witnessed it.

Let it not be lost on us either, as we enter an important new year, full of hope and thanksgiving.

Stay tuned for the seventh sign and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint


Key Indicators for December 31, 2012

Copper Price per Lb: $3.58
Oil Price per Barrel:  $91.82
Corn Price per Bushel:  $6.98
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  1.76%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,675
MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  7.7%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  -0.3%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  13,104
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,407,600,000,000 LOTS OF DOUGH ON THE STREET!
M2 Monetary Base:  $10,491,100,000,000