The ninth chapter of John records the story of a man who had been born blind who received his sight through the Saviour’s miraculous intervention. The story begins when Jesus’ disciples saw the blind man and asked Jesus:
“. . . Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
“Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned. nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:2-5).
Jesus then spat on the ground and made clay. He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Why did Jesus do this? Elder Bruce R. McConkie commented,
“Healing miracles are performed by the power of faith and in the authority of the priesthood. By doing these physical acts, however, the Master’s apparent purpose was to strengthen the faith of the blind or deaf person, persons who were denied the ability to gain increased assurance and resultant faith by seeing his countenance or hearing his words.” (Doctrinal Commentary on the New Testament 1:320.).
President Spencer W Kimball offered this insight:
“How simple the process! How gentle the command! How faithful the obedience! How glorious the reward! Strange—we provide pure, sterile tissue for spittle and forbid expectorating even on sidewalks. We bathe with soap, scrub with disinfectants, and scald dishes, pots, and pans with boiling water to kill the germs from the filth of clay. We use for culinary purposes and especially in hospitals and sickrooms only water purified by chemical processes. But here the Master disregarded all our rules of sanitation and prescribed spittle, germ-ridden clay, and impure water from the contaminated pool of Siloam which bathed the sweaty bodies of laborers and the sore bodies of the sick and diseased. Is there healing in mere clay to make eyes see? Is there medicinal value in the spittle to cure infirmities? Are there curative properties in the waters of Siloam to open eyes of congenital blind? The answer is obvious. The miracle was conceived in the womb of faith and born and matured in the act of obedience.
Had the command involved oil instead of spittle, herbs instead of clay, and waters of a pure bubbling spring instead of filthy Siloam, the result would have been the same. But some would have said that oil and herbs and pure water had healed the eyes, but even the untrained must know that these could not cure one. Consequently, only one conclusion could be drawn: The unparalleled miracle was positively the result of faith obedience. But had the sightless one disobeyed any of the phases of the command, he would indubitably have suffered till death with continued blindness. (General Conference October 1954)
The blind man went and washed in the pool and came back seeing.
The neighbours and the Pharisees were astonished and asked the formerly blind man how he had received his sight.
“He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight” (John 9:11).
Some of the Pharisees said he could not be a man of God because he did not keep the Sabbath day. The blind man was asked: “What sayest thou of him?” He answered: “He is a prophet.” The Pharisees had heard the story from others, but now wanted to hear it for themselves; not that they might be convinced of the truth of the thing; but that they might have something to object against Christ with reference to the observation of the sabbath.
“Their Messiah stoops down; he spits on the ground, he makes clay with the spittle; and he anoints the eyes of the blind man with the saliva-filled lump of the dust of the earth…There can be little doubt that he is deliberately violating the [rabbinical] law of the Sabbath in two major respects: (1) he made clay, and (2) he applied a healing remedy to an impaired person, which of itself was forbidden, and in addition there was a specific prohibition against the application of saliva to the eyes on the Sabbath.” (Bruce R McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 3: 208.)
They then called the parents of the blind man and asked them: “Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? How then doth he now see?” His parents were afraid to answer, so they said, “He is of age; ask him.” And the blind man said, “Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “Thou art his disciple,” and they shut the door of the synagogue against him (see John 9:14-34).
When Jesus heard that the blind man had been cast out, he found him and said:
“. . . Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
“He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
“And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
“And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
“And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind” (John 9:35-39).
Sister Chieko Okazaki drew some lessons from this story:
My sisters, this story has a lesson about service in it for us. First, remember that Jesus and the man didn’t have an appointment. They encountered each other almost by accident. So look for little opportunities in your daily life.
Second, Jesus saw the need of an individual. Sometimes I think we see programs instead of individuals.
Third, Jesus performed the service immediately with just the resources he had—spit and mud and a desire to help. He didn’t transport the man to an exotic medical facility, organize a cornea transplant team, or didn’t make it into a media event. Sometimes we think we can’t serve because we’re not rich enough, not educated enough, not old enough, or not young enough. Remember, if we have the desire to serve, then our bare hands, a little spit, and a little dirt are enough to make a miracle.
And fourth, Jesus didn’t just dump that service on the man and walk away. He gave that man a way to exercise faith and strengthen the faith he had by asking him to participate in his own healing. It was a simple thing—washing in the pool of Siloam. But what if the man had refused? Jesus took that risk and let the man participate in his own miracle. (General Conference, April 1992)