“Wow! Can you believe that?” John said to the other disciples as they followed Jesus out of the temple and down toward the lower city of Jerusalem. “The Pharisees had those guys so worked up they were going to kill Jesus. They even came running in with stones to do it, but they couldn’t see us! They ran right by us and couldn’t see us!”
“Yeah,” agreed Phillip. “It was like they were blind.”
“Speaking of being blind,” Nathaniel added, “look at this guy.” He said this in reference to a beggar sitting on the side of the street near them.
“I can’t read the sign around his neck,” Matthew called from the back of the group. “What does it say?”
“It says, ‘I was born blind. Please give,’” Andrew answered.
“Born blind!” Matthew called back. “That’s awful! Teacher, was he born blind because of his parents’ sins or some sin that God knew he was going to commit?”
Jesus had stopped in front of the seated beggar and looked compassionately at him. “It was neither the man’s sin nor his parents’ that caused this. The blindness has been given to him so that the works of God could be revealed in him.
“The Father has sent Me to do His works, and I only have a certain amount of time to accomplish them. One day I will be taken from you, but while I am here, I am the light of the world. The Father wants Me to give our friend here some of that light.”
Jesus knelt down to be closer to the blind man. “Hello, my friend, I am Jesus of Nazareth. Do you know who I am?”
“I have heard of you,” the beggar returned. “It is said that you are a miracle worker.”
“My Father in heaven has a gift for you.” After saying these words, Jesus spit on the ground. With his finger He worked the spit into the dirt until He had formed a small amount of clay.
“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus said to the blind man. “I’m going to touch your eyes with this clay I’ve made.” Very gently the Son of God smeared the mud across the man’s useless eyes.
The beggar immediately pulled back and, sensing the grainy, wet dirt on his face, tried to wipe it off with the back of his hand.
“I have done my part,” Jesus told him. “Now you must do your part. I want you to go to the pool of Siloam. It isn’t far away.”
“I know where it is,” the blind beggar said eagerly as he grabbed his staff and pushed himself to his feet.
“Go to Siloam,” Jesus continued, “and wash your face in the pool, and you will receive your gift.”
Immediately the man hurried down the street, tapping his staff in front of him to find his way. He traveled urgently along the busy street for several minutes, finally stopping when he bumped into a couple of men who were talking in front of him.
“Hey!” one of them snapped but then noticed the man’s blindness.
“I’m sorry, sir” the blind man returned, “but can you tell me, is Siloam near?”
“It’s right here. To your left.”
Without a response the beggar hurried past the men. He had been there before and remembered the stone steps that led down to the water, so he pushed the tip of his staff in front of him until he felt it drop off the first step. Eagerly the man tossed his staff aside, dropped to his knees, and crawled down the steps until his hand touched the cool water. Cupping up two handfuls, he quickly rubbed his face with the water. Then, to be sure, he plunged his head into the water, using his hands to wash away the dried mud. When he could feel no more clay, he pulled his head out of the water.
Instantly the most amazing sensation occurred. Indescribable light made itself visible to him. Where black nothingness had been, suddenly there were colors! There were images of things that up until this moment he had only known by the touch of his fingers! He was stunned beyond words. He looked at his hands and wiggled his fingers. He looked at the water in the large pool. He looked at the blue sky and gasped at the birds and the white fluffy clouds. He looked at the people all around him, who were oblivious to the fact that one of the most amazing miracles ever had happened right there beside them. Just at that moment he spotted an ant crawling along the step beside him, and he began to cry at the wonder of it all.
He was unaware of how long he sat there looking at everything around him in amazement, but finally he felt the overwhelming urge to tell his friends and family the wonderful news. Springing to his feet, he hurried to his home, taking the twists and turns he had memorized for years. On the way he pointed out the sign around his neck to all he met, declaring that he had been given his sight.
As he drew closer to his own neighborhood, he heard a voice he recognized, although the face was new. “You are Asa!” he said excitedly as he studied his friend’s face for the first time.
His companion stared at the beggar and said, “You look like Ephraim, but he’s blind.”
“I AM Ephraim, Asa!” the man shot back excitedly. “It’s really me!”
“Ephraim, what happened?” Asa asked in wonder. “How can you see?”
“The Teacher Jesus came to me as I was begging, and He healed me!”
“But you were BORN blind!”
“I know!” Ephraim laughed. “It’s impossible! But He healed me anyway!”
The excitement soon spread to those nearby, and a crowd formed around the man, all eager to hear about the amazing thing that had happened.
“Where is the one who healed you?” someone asked as he finished retelling the story.
“I don’t know,” was his honest answer.
Suddenly his friend Asa grabbed his shoulder. “This is an astonishing miracle, Ephraim! No one has ever heard of anything like this before! You must tell the religious leaders what has happened!” Without waiting for an answer, Asa escorted his friend to the synagogue. Many in the crowd followed.
Expecting the Pharisees to be excited to hear the news of God’s great power in his life, Ephraim eagerly told his story.
“The Galilean teacher did this TODAY?” one of the religious leaders shouted angrily. “It’s the Sabbath! How dare he heal on the Sabbath? We know this man! He is a charlatan who has done nothing but cause trouble! He shows no regard for the Law of Moses or the teaching of the elders. That is why we have decided that anyone who supports this false teacher will be thrown out of the synagogue…PERMANENTLY! Now, tell us exactly what the teacher did.”
At the hearing of these words, many of the others quickly exited the synagogue, leaving Ephraim alone before the angry Pharisees.
“Well, uh,” Ephraim began nervously. “I was begging in the lower city when Jesus approached me. He told me His name, and then He said God had a gift for me. He made some clay from the dirt on the ground and wiped it on my eyes. Then He told me to wash in Siloam. I did, and now I can see.”
“So not only did this Galilean heal you on the Sabbath,” one of the Pharisees charged, “but he also worked on the Sabbath to make the clay! This teacher is not from God because he doesn’t keep the Sabbath!”
“But how can a sinner perform such signs?” another of the religious leaders asked.
“Now don’t you start again, Hanan! One who is truly from God keeps the Sabbath!”
“But he has these powers,” Hanan persisted.
Then turning to the healed beggar, Hanan asked, “What do you say about this teacher since he opened your eyes?”
“He is a prophet,” Ephraim announced confidently.
“That’s ridiculous!” the first Pharisee shot back. “How do we even know that this man was born blind in the first place? Somebody get his family in here! We need to ask them some questions.”
“I will get them, sir!” Asa answered quickly from near the door and rushed out of the building.
Within a few minutes Ephraim’s parents were hustled unceremoniously into the tense meeting. Ephraim noticed that his “friend” Asa didn’t bother to stick around. His parents were obviously intimidated by the situation.
The Pharisees saw this too and confronted the parents harshly. “Is this your son who you say was born blind?”
Both parents nodded humbly.
“Then how does he now see?” the Pharisee demanded.
The father gathered his courage to answer the question. “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind, but we don’t know how he got his sight.” Asa had informed Ephraim’s parents of the Pharisees’ threat to throw anyone out of the synagogue who supported Jesus. Fearful of the anger of the religious leaders, Ephraim’s father announced, “Our son is old enough to speak for himself. Ask him.”
There was some confusion among the religious leaders as to what to do next, so they ordered everyone out while they had a private consultation. When they had decided on a plan of action, the Pharisees ordered the former beggar to return. As soon as he did so, one of the leaders, expecting Ephraim to be as intimidated as his parents, announced, “Give glory to God for your healing because we know that this Galilean teacher is a sinner.”
Disgusted at their hypocrisy, Ephraim answered confidently, “Whether He’s a sinner or not, I don’t know, but the one thing I do know is that I was blind, then I met Jesus, and now I see.”
Angry and frustrated, the Pharisees demanded, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
“I told you already,” Ephraim shot back, “and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? You don’t want to become His disciples too, do you?”
“You are his disciple!” the leader of the Pharisees spat angrily. “We are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we don’t know where he’s from!”
“Well, that’s an amazing thing,” Ephraim returned, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “You don’t know where He’s from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God doesn’t hear sinners. It’s only those who are God-fearing and who do His will that God will hear. In all of history, no one has ever opened the eyes of a person born blind until today. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”
Leaping to his feet, the leader of the Pharisees furiously pointed at the former beggar and snapped, “Y…y…you were born the vilest of sinners, and would you try to teach us? Get out of this synagogue, and don’t you ever come back!”
When word got to Jesus that they had thrown the fellow He had healed out of the synagogue, He went to find him. Walking up to the man, Jesus said, “I heard that you got attacked by the Pharisees when you stood for the truth. I want to ask you a question. Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
The voice sounded familiar to Ephraim, but he had never seen the face before, so he asked, “Sir, who is this Son of Man that I may believe in Him?”
“He is the one who is speaking to you,” Jesus answered as He placed his hand on Ephraim’s shoulder.
“IT’S YOU!” Ephraim gasped remembering where he had heard the voice before.
With a big smile Jesus answered, “Not only have you heard the voice of the Son of Man, but now you have seen Him with your own eyes.”
“Lord, I believe in You!” Ephraim confessed as he knelt and worshiped his Lord.
[To be continued.]
By Alan W. Harris
(Inspired by John 9: 1-38)