Blind From Birth and Blind Souls


For a long time I could not understand the parable of the man born blind. I did not understand Jesus’s explanation. And that is not surprising—after all, what an enormous difference there is between us and Jesus! We strive to pass by the Lazaruses of this world as quickly as possible, we don’t have the strength to bear their sufferings, and we are powerless before them. We have no money, no strength, nor either the heart—we have nothing before the face of these sufferings. And thus, running away from the Lazaruses, we are running away from our own insignificance.

Thus did also did the disciples, our emissaries, who abided near God, ask of Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, he or his parents, that he was born blind (cf. Jn. 9:2)?

When you can’t do anything you begin mental exercises, you ask about causes, and when the cause is in sin you start moralizing. But whatever the case may be, even while paralyzed with powerlessness, we try to take some preventative measures. You may not have to go through what others went through if you avoid their mistakes.

Clearly Jesus spoke with His disciples about the catastrophic power that sins and mistakes committed against life have—the tendency to disfigure man’s life and finish it off into the darkness of blindness and other sufferings. And now look at the difference between us and the Divine Jesus. Jesus was and is God. Many did not know and many will not know to the end of the world that Jesus in God (because they do not want to know). And this miraculous healing of the man born blind serves as proof of His divinity, and shows a person the limits of his strength and knowledge.

We pass by the Lazaruses on the other side, but Jesus knew them and called them to Himself. He knew Nathaniel when he was still a little child hidden from Herod’s wrath under the leaves of the fig tree. He knew that blind man even before he was born, and He reveals to us and him a mystery of God: that he was born blind not for his own sins nor for those of his parents, but so that God’s work would be manifested upon him.

In other circumstances Jesus confesses that He was before Abraham (cf. Jn. 8:58); and another time, that He was before the world was made (cf. Jn. 17:5). There is an icon on which Jesus is depicted creating Adam. And that is how it was: All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made (Jn. 1:3).

Creating living eyes from earth and spittle is not the business of man but of God. A doctor can also heal eyes, he can cut away a cataract and so forth, but to create new eyes, and from such material as earth and spittle, and send a man born blind to wash in the waters of Siloam is something that only the One Who created Adam with His own hands can do.

This is the meaning of the healing of the man born blind: God the Father desired to reveal the Son of God to the world as the Creator and Fashioner of life. In answer to this command of the Father, Jesus’s Spirit was ignited; He accepted this desire as His own, as His mission in the world, as it is the quality of an ignited fire to shine! This will of the Father burned in Jesus’s Spirit, through Him illumining the world in the truth.

Knowing that the blind man was the man through whom the Father would reveal the Son to the World as the Creator of life, knowing the will of the Father, which he had taken upon Himself as His mission in earthly life (here is an example to us born of earth), in this divine surety Jesus spat upon the earth and mixed it with clay, then anointed the blind man’s eye with it—that is, his empty eye sockets, and said, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (Jn. 9:7).

And the man went, washed himself, and returned seeing.

Nevertheless, the work of God is not limited to eyes needing correction. Although for us humans, this would already have been convincing for the simple reason that to the present day, science has created various apparatuses that are like eyes—cameras and so forth—but human science has never been able to give life to so much as a grain of wheat or an egg of a fly.

The kingdom of life is the Kingdom of God. The nature of life, birth, and life’s support depends on God, its Creator, to the end of the world: When Thou turnest away Thy face, they shall be troubled. Thou wilt take their spirit, and they shall cease; and unto their dust shall they return (Ps. 103:28–29). Thus, let us know our limits, and then we will come to know God.

The works of God, which are all miracles of life, evoke much perplexity in people. That is how it was also with the man blind from birth who received his sight by a miracle. His neighbors and those who knew him, who saw him blind, were amazed asked themselves about him, “Who is this? Is it him, or some other man who resembles him?”

But he said, “It’s me!”

However, people do not lose their perplexity so easily. The man’s confession of the Man Whom they call Jesus, Who created eyes for him from earth, did not convince them in the least. That is why they led him to the Pharisees of the temple for questioning. And this was on a Saturday—a very sensitive day for the Pharisees. Thus, the interrogation was already doomed to a bad ending. There he is again, the Old Testament Jacob, wrestling with God! Now the man born blind has turned into a missionary.

What followed was an exchange of questions and answers about how he acquired his sight, and about the One Who gave him this sight. The blind man defends the Bestower of his eyes. The Pharisees blaspheme Him, saying that He is a sinner—although some did acknowledge that a sinful man cannot give eyes to the blind.

Having achieved nothing, they summoned the blind man’s parents. Intimidated by the Pharisees, they only testify to the fact that this man born blind is their son. But how it is that he now sees, and who gave him sight, they don’t know. They declined to confess God, leaving all the grace of confession to their son, for he was of age. So let him speak for himself!

The thing is that the Jews had agreed amongst themselves to kick anyone out of the synagogue who confesses that Jesus is the Messiah—that is, the Son of God, the expectation of the people. Everyone knew this, which means that the blind man’s parents also knew it, and that is why they did not give a clear answer—that only God could put eyes in a place where there were none from birth.

So they called the ex-blind man for the second time, and tried to make him say, in God’s name, something bad about Jesus, as if He were a sinner. However he did not say anything. They again asked him to tell them about his healing. That man then permitted himself to pose a question that made them furious:

“I just told you, and you didn’t hear it? Do you want to hear it again? Perhaps you would also like to become His disciples (cf. Jn. 9:27)?”

Then the Jews flew at him with shouts, nevertheless telling the truth:

“It’s you who are the disciple, but we are Moses' disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is (Jn. 9:28–29).

In other instances they were even more unrestrained in their anger, saying that Jesus was from the devil (cf. Matt. 12:24). Such is the sinful man: When you beat his demons he tells you that you have a demon. And on it goes in a mind already turned inside out, which produced preconceptions in the Pharisees’ heads and prevented them from knowing where Jesus came from.

The man who acquired physical sight acquires also spiritual sight through his confession of God, and we hear one of the most beautiful confessions of faith:

Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing (Jn. 30–33).

This was faith as firm as a rock in this new missionary of Christ.

Seeing that they could get nothing out of him the Pharisees started reviling him:

“You were born in all sorts of sins and you have the nerve to teach us righteous ones about the mysteries of God?”—and they kicked him out.

Look at the tragedy of this situation: The blind man acquires sight, but the Pharisees’ minds and eyes are darkened with rage directed against him and Jesus. The evil spirit has got them by their hearts, so that they would not recognize Jesus and their souls would not be enlightened. Jesus healed the blindness of the eyes, but He could not heal the blindness of malice, for which there is no medicine—but there is punishment.

So let us look at how perfect is the sight of the man born blind and how perfectly blind the Pharisees are spiritually.

When Jesus heard that the blind man had been cast out of the synagogue, He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”

The man then asked, “Who is He, that I might believe in Him?”

Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him. It is He Who speaks with you.”

The man said, “I believe, O Lord!” and worshipped Him (cf. Jn. 9:35–38).

This man, through whom God was able to reveal to the world His Son as the Creator of life, having made for him a pair of eyes from clay, was in turn vouchsafed by God a revelation about Jesus as the Son of God through the testimony of God Himself.

Jesus did not often reveal Himself as the Son of God. Once it was to the Samaritan woman, another time it was to the man born blind, and a third time it was to His disciples before His all-glorious Passion. Perhaps this witness of God in this world was given to that man for his patient endurance of innocent blindness, and for confessing Jesus as God before those who blasphemed Him; therefore did Christ grant him this divine revelation.

To be blind and to miraculously acquire a pair of eyes is a great joy of life, a happy exodus from darkness, the emergence into the world of this age. To be born of earth and to resolve to confess God no matter what the cost, no matter how they laugh at you, is an even greater joy that can lead to the opening of spiritual eyes, the eyes of faith, so that you might see Jesus; so that Jesus the Son of God, Who is with us throughout all days to the end of the world, would reveal Himself to you.

Seeing Jesus is a happiness that cannot be compared with any earthly joy; and this happens from time to time and from generation to generation, so that the certainty of God’s existence might not be extinguished in people.

Faith in God and confession of Him is the same as the soul’s exodus from darkness to the light of God, an emergence into the world of the age to come. Behold complete healing! Behold a fearless missionary of Jesus!

Hieromonk Arsenie Boca
Translation from the Russian version by Nun Cornelia Rees


Anthony5/13/2018 6:33 pm
Hello good morning beloved dearests. I have read not a few, and listened to many a podcast about sin, and its effects. Passions can in many cases be inherited from our genealogical lineage. Western sophists who are basically clueless about passions and sin, look at this as being hereditary in our DNA, but we Orthodoxers know that these are more than just physical, but often spiritual afflictions which affect the body. NOTA BENE!!! Body and soul have unity, so one impacts on the other. One of the few really good podcast series on AFR that receive my stamp of approval are those talks given by Father Christophe Lepoutre:
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