In John 9:1-7 Jesus heals a blind man in an unusual way:
As the Lord passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
From the first chapter of John’s Gospel our attention is drawn to the first chapter of Genesis and the creation of the world. In this chapter we see Jesus claiming to be the light of the world. This too draws our attention to the Genesis creation story with God calling light into being. St. Irenaeus of Lyons (d. 202AD) also saw a connection between the healing of the blind man and God creating humans from the dust of the earth.
“According to Irenaeus, the healing of the blind man by Christ – spitting on the ground, making mud, and smearing it on his eyes- indicates the original fashioning of man, by the same Hand of God with the same earth. As ‘the work of God is fashioning man’, God omitted to form the blind man’s eyes in the womb, ‘so that the work of God might be made manifest in him’.” John Behr, Asceticism and Anthropology in Irenaeus and Clement, pp 88)
Salvation in Christ is becoming a new creation, healing that which is lacking in us and restoring our full humanity to us. The man’s washing in the pool reminds us of baptism – in which our spiritual eyes are opened, and we are made fully human.
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