The Blind Man at the Pool of Siloam
by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
ON A SABBATH morning, which was not Sunday, but Saturday, the Jewish day of rest and church-going--Jesus and his disciples were on their way to the service in the Temple, when they passed a blind man. They had seen this man before and knew that he had been blind all his life. He had come into the world without eyesight, to the great sorrow of his father and mother; and he lived upon the little coins that people gave him as they were on their way to the Temple.
The Jews believed that every disease was caused by some act of sin; that if a man became ill, it was because he had done some wicked deed and was being punished for it; and if a child was born blind, or dumb, or crippled, it must have been because either its father or mother had sinned against God's law. Some of the scribes, who were the teachers of the law, said that each soul lived many times on the earth; that when a man died, his soul went into a body that was born at that moment; and if the new-born baby was blind, or diseased, it was because it had done wrong in some life before that one. None of these things are believed now since Christ has taught men, but they were held by nearly all people while Jesus was on the earth.
As the disciples were passing by this blind man, one of them said to Jesus:
"Teacher, whose sin was it that caused this man to be born blind? Was it the fault of his parents? Or was it his own fault?"
"It was through no fault of his, nor of his father or mother that this man was born blind," answered Jesus. "It was that God might show a wonderful work in him. While daylight lasts, we must be doing God's work; the night will soon come when we can work no longer. As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world, and give light to men."
As he said this, he spat on the ground and mixed the spittle with dust, making it into mud, and smeared it on the man's eyes. He said to the blind man:
"Now, go down to the pool of Siloam and wash."
The pool of Siloam was a large tank or reservoir on the southeast of the city, where the valley of the brook Kedron and the valley of Hinnom meet. To go to that place the blind man with two great blotches of mud on his face must walk across the city of Jerusalem, passing all the crowds on their way to worship. He went down to the pool of Siloam, climbed down its steps to the water and washed the mud from his face. In a moment his white, sightless eyes flashed with a new light. He looked up, and for the first time in all his life he could see!
As he went to his father's house, everybody who saw him noticed how differently he looked. All had known him as a blind man, groping his way to the place where he used to sit as a beggar. The people asked each other:
"Is this the same blind man that begged in the street?"
Some said, "Yes, this is the same man."
But others said, "No, this cannot be the man; but he is one who looks somewhat like him."
He said, "I am the same man."
"Then how did you get your sight?" they asked.
"The man whom they call Jesus," he answered, "made some mud and put it on my eyes, and said, 'Go to Siloam and wash your eyes.' So I went and washed them; and my sight came to me."
"Where is this man who cured you?" they asked.
"I do not know," he answered.
They took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, who were the leaders of the people. We have seen that the Pharisees were always enemies to Jesus. So the Pharisees asked him to tell again how he had gained his sight; and he told them:
"The man named Jesus smeared some mud on my eyes, and I washed them, and now I can see."
Some of the Pharisees said, "This man Jesus cannot be from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath."
The scribes had made a rule that mixing up mud on the Sabbath day was working; that carrying it from one place to another was bearing a load; and that to give any treatment to a sick man on the Sabbath, unless it was necessary to save his life, was Sabbath breaking. So to their eyes, Jesus in curing the blind man had broken the Sabbath rules in more than one way.
But some others said, "How can a bad man do such wonderful works? Is not this work of cure a sign that God is with him?"
So there were two parties among them in their opinion about Jesus. They asked the blind man again:
"What do you say of this man who has opened your eyes?"
"I say that he is a prophet from God," answered the man.
Many of the Jews, however, would not believe that this man had been born blind and had gained his sight, until they sent for his father and mother.
"Is this your son," they asked, "the son you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?"
"This is our son," his parents answered, "and he was born blind; of that we are sure. But how it is that he can see now, we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him--he is old enough--he can speak for himself."
His parents spoke in this way because they were afraid of the Jews, for the rulers had agreed that any one who said that Jesus was the Christ should be turned out of the church. That was why they had said, "He is old enough; ask him." So the Pharisees again sent for the man who had been blind, and said to him:
"Give God all the praise for your sight; we know that this Jesus is a bad man."
"I know nothing about his being a bad man; one thing I do know, that once I was blind, and now I can see."
"What did he do to you?" they asked. "How did he open your eyes?"
"I have told you all about it already," he replied, "and it seems you do not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you intend to be his disciples?"
Then they were in a rage at him, and said, "You may be his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses, and we obey his laws. We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this fellow comes from!"
"Well, this is very strange!" answered the man. "You do not know where he comes from; and yet he has opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to bad men; but if any man is God-fearing, and does God's will, that man God will hear. Since the world began, no one ever heard before of a man that could open the eyes of one born blind. If this Jesus were not of God, he could do nothing."
"Are you trying to teach us?" they answered. "You, who were born a sinner?"
Then they turned him out of the church; they forbade him to sit in the meetings or to go into the Temple; and after that none of them would so much as speak to him. Jesus heard that he had been put out of the church; he sought him out, and when he had found him, he asked:
"Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
"Tell me who he is," said the man, "and I will believe in him."
"You have seen him," answered Jesus, "and it is he who is now speaking to you."
The man said, "I do believe, Lord," and he fell on his face before him.
And Jesus said, "I came into the world to put men to this test, in order that those who cannot see, and know they are blind as this man was, might be made to see; and that those who think they can see should remain blind."
Some of the Pharisees who heard this knew that it was a rebuke to them, because they failed to see in Jesus one sent from God. They said:
"Then are we blind, too!"
"If you were really blind," said Jesus, "you would have no sin to answer for; but as it is, you say, 'We can see,' and so your sin remains against you."
Again the Jews were divided over the words of Jesus. Some said, "He is crazy! Why listen to him?"
But others said, "These are not the words of a crazy man. Can a man who is crazy open the eyes of a blind man?"