Here’s Mud in Your Eyes.

Fourth Sunday of Lent, John 9:1-41

I've always wanted to preach a sermon this text with that title, but never quite had the courage (or chutzpah), but I think it fits. If you can do it in your congregation, go for it. Reminds me my Associate's title for the story of Nicodemus a couple of weeks ago. He called his sermon, “Nic at Night.” I wish I could come up with titles like that.
As usual, first is the text (with detailed exegetical footnotes at the very bottom), then my comments follow.  


John 9:1-41

A Man Born Blind Receives Sight 


1As he walked along,[1] he saw a man blind from birth.[2] 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned,[3] this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; [he was born blind-absent in Greek]
[S]o that[4] God’s works might be revealed in him,[5] 4we must work the works[6] of him who sent me[7] while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

The Healing
6When he had said this, he spat[8] on the ground and made mud[9] with the saliva and spread[10] the mud on the man’s eyes, 7saying to him, “Go, wash[11] in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent[12]). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

The Neighbors
8The neighbors and those who had seen him[13] before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.”
He kept saying, “I am the man.”[14]
10But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”
11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”
12They said to him, “Where is he?”
He said, “I do not know.”
The Pharisees
13They brought to the Pharisees[15] the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. 
He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”
16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God,[16] for he does not observe the sabbath.”[17] But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
He said, “He is a prophet.”
18The Jews[18] did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”
20His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.”
25He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
27He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”
28Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”
30The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
34They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?”[19] And they drove him out.

Spiritual Blindness
35Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36He answered, “And who is he, sir?[20] Tell me, so that I may believe in him.”[21]
37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.”
38He said, “Lord,[22] I believe.” And he worshiped him.
39Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment[23] so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”
40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?”
41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.


Preaching thoughts

(I’m wondering, for next time, if a good title for this sermon might be, “Here’s Mud in your Eyes.” Hmmm. Reminds me of the one I heard for last week’s sermon on Nicodemus coming to visit Jesus. One person called his or her sermon, “Nic at Night.” I wish I could come up with titles like that.)
From Dylan’s Lectionary Blog:
In Jesus' culture, people thought of light as a STUFF, a substance that radiated out from itself, a kind of fire that, when present in the human body, could flow out of a person's eyes and allow them to see. Someone who couldn't see just didn't have the stuff in them; their body had darkness in it instead of light. Makes a certain kind of sense.

And how did they get that way? Surely God didn't make them like that. Had to be sin.
What if the person in question was born that way, born full of darkness? What do we do with that? Do we blame the parents? Do we blame the blind person (some people in Jesus' culture, and probably in our own, thought that in some way it was possible for a fetus to sin in the womb)?[1] 

One thing that is interesting about this story is how little of it is about Jesus. This story has the longest section without Jesus in it of any other in all of the Gospels. He opens it, healing the blind man, and then closes it vindicating him in the end. In the middle the story is all about the trials of the blind man with his friends and family not recognizing him once he became blind and the religious authorities, trying to frame Jesus as a lawbreaker because he did this healing deed on a Sabbath. Jesus comes and heals, goes away and lets the blind man fend for himself, and then returns at the end of the story. Fred Craddock on this says, “It is difficult to believe it is coincidental that the form of the narrative corresponds to the form of the story of the church: Jesus comes with blessing and instruction, Jesus departs, Jesus will return with vindication for his church.”[2]

If you pursue this approach, you could spend some time outlining what John’s community was like: off, alienated, attempting to live as faithful Christians, who have gained their “sight” about who the messiah actually is, and are trying to be faithful to him in the midst of a dominant religion (disbursed Judaism) that opposes them and that has thrown them out of the synagogue. This is the underlying sense of what you feel in the story of the man who gained his sight and is scorned by the religious officials. 

It doesn’t seem to be much about actual “blindness.”
The question of the sin as being related to the origins of humankind is hinted at in Jesus' use of clay in his restoration, or fullfilment, of creation, as well as in the insistence that the man was blind from birth. The relation of this story to something original is understood by the former blind man himself, who reckons that never (ek tou aiônos) has such a healing taken place. In the light of John's irony this means much more than that a particularly spectacular miracle has taken place, such as has never taken place before. It also suggests that there has been present a blindness from the beginning of the world that only now is being cured for the first time.

Furthermore, when Jesus speaks, at the end, about judgment it is clear that he is not concerned with a particular local incident, but about a discernment relating to the whole world (kosmos). Here we have a highly subtle teaching about the whole world being blind from birth, from the beginning, and about Jesus, the light of the world coming to bring sight to the world, being rejected precisely by those who, though blind, claimed to be able to see. All humans are blind, but where this blindness is compounded by active participation in the mechanisms of exclusion pretending to sight, this blindness is culpable.[3]

There are several potential sermon places where it would be good to pause and ponder for a moment.
1.      The first is over the issue of whether or not Jesus said that God caused this man’s blindness so that God’s works will be made manifest in the healing of the blindness. This is a very difficult and interesting issue. There are two possible ways of understanding this:
a.      On the one hand, we could say no he was not born blind so that God’s works could be made manifest in him. That sounds a little “un-God-like.” Instead, Jesus was saying that he was just born blind (period), however, so that the works of God may be revealed, we must do the works of the one who sent me. That’s a preferable way to interpret the Greek text, as I will show later.
b.      On the other hand, we could say yes he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him, but then, all of us were born for that. We all are born to make manifest the good works of God (that’s the position that Jim Forbes makes, in a sermon that I will cite further below).

If you follow this interpretation in your sermon, note that Jesus says that “We must work the works of the one who sent me.”[4] Jesus is leading the way, but it is we who must be about the business of bringing sight to the blind. We must continue the ministry of bringing sight to the blind.

You can also say something about light and sight being a metaphor. You could say something like, “there are many deeds and miracles that Jesus did that were left out of our Gospels. Why was this one included in, unless they saw in it something larger than just the physical act of healing blindness. Because of the argument at the end of the story with the spiritually blind Pharisees, the telling of the healing story obviously has as much to do with spiritual blindness as with physical blindness.” I think that that is not just good homiletically, I think it is also true to what the writer John is trying to convey. In John’s hands, Jesus’ life and work and words and hands and feet and nostrils and toenails are all metaphors for something deeper and more spiritual. It may not be exactly what Jesus said (or at times even close), but John is an evangelist, not a biographer, and you are a preacher of the Bible. So, go with it.

2.      The second is when the blind man is healed and goes back home to his neighborhood and they all question everything about the process and the procedure and the legality of the healing. They say it can’t be legal because Jesus did it on the Sabbath. But notice that no one praises God for the healing. No one says hallelujah, well done, we’re pleased. That kind of bothers me. Reminds me of the church where every good deed is criticized because the doers didn’t do it the right way.  Or politicians who criticize plans from another party for being insufficient and not good enough. (But depending on your congregation, you may not want to go there.)

Historically, scholars generally believe that this portion of the story points to events in John’s time of Christians being thrown out of the Synagogues for confessing that Jesus had changed their lives (note John 9 says Synagogue, which were in very short supply in Jesus day, but common in John’s). In part John is using this story to comfort those who were being persecuted generations later for their beliefs.
The Oxford Bible Commentary says that the man’s parents “represent the Christians who after 70 ce hesitate to confess Jesus as the Messiah, because they might be put out of the synagogue. Later Jewish documents distinguish between three forms of exclusion, two temporary ones, for a week or for at least thirty days, and a more decisive one, the ‘ban’ (ḥērem). It is possible that such a definitive exclusion was first introduced about 80–90 with the birkat hamminim, a prayer of …‘malediction’ against pagans, perhaps even against Christians. The aposynagōgos [“expelled from synagogue”] in 9:22; 12:42; 16:2 might refer to this severe exclusion from the Jewish community (cf. Forkman 1972: 87–114)...[5]

I’m not sure that this changes the message that you might preach on the passage, but it is a fascinating side story that you should share with your congregation,[6] and one that will help them know something about how the Gospels were compiled and edited and redacted. People love to hear little background bits and pieces like this, and over time it helps prevent them from sliding into a false sense that the Bible is a flawless book of magic and “everything-in-it-is-literal-and-spoken-by-God.”

3.      The third is when the (post) blind man talks to the authorities and says I don’t know the answers to all of your questions, all I know is that once I was blind and now I see. You could easily link this conversation with the story of the hymn, “Amazing Grace.” It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know Jesus, it takes having your life changed. Tell a story of someone who knew Jesus very simply, but very profoundly. Like the short story in the Fire on Poteau Mountain collection, “The Miracle of Lucy Mae Ward.”

4.      Fourth is the end of the story when the Pharisees press him (and then Jesus).
The point of this story is blindness, but not physical blindness. By the time we get to the end of the story, the physical blindness of the original blind man becomes almost beside the point.

Note that two weeks ago we told the story of Nicodemus. Jesus talked about being born again as a new creation, a fresh birth with God, but Nicodemus saw it only as physical birth and talked about crawling back into his mother’s womb. The next week, last week, we told the story of the woman at the well. Jesus talked about living water and she thought he was talking about physical water. He said that his living water would live with her forever, so she said give me some of that living water so that I won’t have to come to this well every day to draw water. She thought of it only as physical water.

So this week when we are talking about blindness, what are the odds that Jesus is just talking about some kind of normal, natural, physical malady that this guy was born with? Not much. This story is really not about physical blindness.

On the delicate and complicated verse 3
3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; [he was born blind]
This is a difficult passage and should not be skipped over. If you try, you will inevitably, eventually, encounter a dedicated Biblicist in the narthex on the way out of church who will nail you to the wall with the demand that you explain why you skipped it.

It is a controversy that rests on the meaning of the word, hina (iJna + subj) in v. 3which is usually translated “so that,” as in, “so that [the work of God might be made manifest].” The nrsv and niv and others read the hina clause as expressing purpose. That is, the purpose for his blindness was “so that” Jesus could heal him and manifest God’s works. That’s a pretty troubling thought. It sounds like God made this guy blind, just so that decades into his life Jesus could wander along and heal him for the sole purpose of showing how big and powerful God is. That’s very unlikely to be true. More likely, the clause expresses not purpose, but result. That is, the man's blindness provides an opportunity for Jesus to do something that resulted in the man receiving his sight, but it is not the reason for the blindness. Does that make sense? The CEV is much closer to the intention of the original Greek, “Because of his blindness, you will see God perform a miracle for him.”

Here is a slight altering the NRSV text to more closely represent John’s original Greek with my explanatory note. It changes very little in the actual words, but makes a tremendous change in the meaning:
The nrsv translation:
3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned;
So that God’s works might be revealed in him, 4we must work the works of him who sent me.
Or my more clear rendering:
Neither this man nor his parents sinned.
[But] In order that God’s works might be revealed in him, we must do the works of him who sent me.

Does that make sense? The wording is kept intact (I took out the phrase, “he was born blind,” which was added by the nrsv translators for clarity, but not actually in John’s narrative), but the punctuation is changed. In the nrsv version Jesus says that sin did not cause the man to be born blind, but he was born blind so that God’s works in the healing might be made manifest. I think that’s wrong. My changes (which follow the Greek more closely) agrees that sin did not cause the blindness, but says that because of it, we must do the works of God in order make God’s work manifest. One implies that God caused the blindness in order to get glory later; the other says we must respond to someone’s blindness by doing the work of God.

That is a very important difference. Was the man born blind so that Jesus could show off the power of God twenty years later? Or did Jesus’ healing (not the blindness) happen “so that” the power of God could be seen? As with the CEV, “Because of his blindness, you will see God perform a miracle for him.”

Forgive me for getting a little technical with this, but it’s important. It’s a pretty significant issue to wrestle with because it has directly to do with our beliefs about God and God’s work on earth.

This has been a very complex discussion of this one word and it’s meaning and significance. However, it is also very important and ought to be discussed at least a little bit from the pulpit, because you will have people in your Congregation who actually read the Bible (oh no!) and will be troubled by what they think this passage says. (If it’s boring, you can take a break and go drink a cup of coffee and let your Secretary read this paragraph and signal you when he/she is finished.)

On the other hand, here is a different and very interesting alternative interpretation. In the sermon, “The Work We Are Sent to Do” (found here), James Forbes agrees with the traditional reading (that the man was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him) but says that that’s why all of us are born. Not just the blind man, but all of us are born to show the works of God.
So Jesus' answer to their question, "Who did sin?" is really a rebuke. I can almost see him with his hand on hips, saying to them, "You asked about who sinned? Neither the man nor his parents. That is not the point." What is the point? The point is this: the man was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. As a matter of fact that is why all of us are born; all of us are given life that the works of God might be revealed in us. The blind man presented an opportunity to manifest God's work of bringing the light of life. So maybe Jesus was saying, "It was not sin I was thinking about. I was thinking about how we must work the work of the One that sent me while it is day. Night comes when no one can work. I was thinking about the fact that we have passed and offered alms to this man many, many times, but I feel the shadow of the cross advancing over me. I was thinking I may not pass this way again and if I don't do something now, it might be an opportunity lost for eternity. If I don't do something now, it just might be too late.'”

“In John 9, Jesus comes and heals and then is gone. He returns at the end of the story to encourage and vindicate the one healed. In other words, our text records what life is like for those whom Jesus has blessed but who are living in the world between the first and second appearances of Jesus. John’s church has suffering a great deal (15:20-16:4) and most likely identified closely with the healed man who received abuse from family, neighbors, and religious leaders.”

There are six scenes in the story:
Some of this I’ve already mentioned, but this organizes it slightly differently. I would draw on this outline, but be cautious about preaching it without consolidating a couple of pieces. It’s far too long as it stands.

1.      Vv. 1-7 Introduction. They see a blind man. The disciples give theological guesses for it. Jesus doesn’t get involved with the theodical explanations (see note above), but says it can be used as an opportunity to make a statement about the power of God. Then Jesus disappears for a while.

2.      Vv. 8-12. The man is back in his old neighborhood with lots of questions. They seem bothered that he is not still blind. Who did it? Where is he? Is this the same guy we used to know? No, it looks like him, but it’s a different guy. “No, says the post-blind man, I’m really the guy,” but they have a hard time believing him.

They, too, probably believed that sin was involved in his blindness, and was therefore probably excluded from the community. One was not supposed to pal around with sinners. That becomes very clear when his community doesn’t even recognize him when he gets his sight. Robert Hoch, in the “Working Preacher” website, makes an interesting observation: “To be sure, the blind man lived in a community, but it is striking how little his neighbors knew about him or even of him. They saw mostly his condition.”[7] They didn’t even recognize him without his blindness. They never saw his face, they saw his condition. He kept saying, “I’m the guy!” but they didn’t believe him because they had seen what he was, not who he was. What does that say about the power of community and family?[8] How many of us would say “old john the blind guy,” or “my friend Jane, the black woman”?

Notice too that when he gets home, not one person says, “hey, congratulations.” “Hallelujah,” or whatever. Such good friends (sic). All they are interested in is who did it, where it happened, who was the sinner who did this to him, etc. Technical stuff. And, for what it’s worth, the man is actually left on his own after the healing. Jesus healed him but then went off, leaving him to fend for himself. Jesus gave him sight, but then he had to figure out on his own how to live with it.

3.      Vv. 13-17. So they took him to the legal authorities, Pharisees, the religious authorities (referred to later as just “the Jews”) who interrogate him even further. Notice that his answers to their questions here are fairly modest, even shy. “He put mud on my eyes; I washed, now I see.” Straightforward, but nothing bold about it (though he will become more bold with the increased interrogation). The Pharisees, however, are split on his testimony. Some say he couldn’t be a man of God because the healing broke the no-work-on-the-Sabbath rules. Others say, how could Jesus have done the healing if he wasn’t a man of God? They see that as their job: not to rejoice in his receiving his sight, but to search out whether it broke the rules.
Are church people We occasionally are like them: instead of rejoicing over something good happening around us, we instead investigate whether the do-gooder broke a rule to get it done.

Churchy Examples
a.      In a church where the Deacons decided to expand the hours of the secretary to include also taking care of weddings and funerals, instead of praising the decision, or if disagreeing, at least working to see if it could happen, if it could get paid for, some people spent their time questioning whether that board had the authority to make that change in her job description.
b.    Instead of saying a free thanksgiving party for family-less elders in the community was a good thing, some people questioned whether the partiers had the correct authorization to do it. You didn’t go through the correct channels, you didn’t get the correct authorization. Who are these people? How can we trust them?

Barbara Brown Taylor says that the question we need to ask is “not ‘What if it is not God and I believe that it is?’ but ‘What if it is God and I believe that it is not?’ That is the one question the Pharisees forgot to ask.”

4.      Vv. 18-23. The “Jews” still don’t believe him, so they ask the parents. His parents are timid and afraid because they’ve heard that if anyone claims that Jesus is the Messiah, they’d be thrown out of the Synagogue, so they say, yes, this is our son, and yes, he was born blind, but we don’t know anything about how it happened. Ask him, he is of age. There is fear and separation within the family.

5.      Vv. 24-34. Back to the blind man again. They accept now that he had been born blind and healed, but tell him to “give glory to God” instead of Jesus because Jesus broke the sabbath laws and therefore must be a sinner.[9] Instead of the fairly timid response he gave earlier, now he gives a personal testimony. “I don’t know anything about that. All I know was that I was blind and now I see.” The man puts them into a bind: if Jesus was not of God, he could not have done this deed. “You do not know where he comes from and yet he opened my eyes.” So they drove him out. “Probably not yet expulsion from the synagogue (John 9:22) which required a formal meeting of the Sanhedrin, but certainly forcible driving of the gifted upstart from their presence.”[10]

6.      In the end of the story, Jesus returns. The man far more boldly now confesses his faith in Jesus. Jesus says that in fact he came into the world to make those who are blind into people who can see and those who can see into people who are blind. Jesus, of course, means “blindness” as both the inability to see and the inability to understand. The Pharisees standing nearby say, hey, we aren’t blind, are we? They are assuming that because they are religious, then therefore they are able to see. They, in fact, are suffering from a deep spiritual blindness. Jesus says to them, if you say that you can see, then therefore, you must be blind. If you were blind, you would not have sin (blindness). “He alludes to Isa 6:9–10, a text that the Synoptics apply to the reception of God’s rule (Mk 4:12 par.).”[11]


Isaiah 6:8-9

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” And he said, “Go and say to this people:
‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.’
10            Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed.” [12]

Mark 4:12

12in order that ‘they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”

Mark’s version of the healing of the blind man with mud (ESV), Mark 8:22-26.
22And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

Janet H. Hunt asks the final important and personal question: “Are there places in your life where like the Pharisees, you are blind and don't even know it?”[13]

[2] Craddock, “Coping in Jesus’ Absence (Jn. 9:1-41)” Christian Century, March 14, 1990, p. 275, found at
[3] James Alison, “The Resurrection and Original Sin,” The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin Through Easter Eyes, (New York: Crossroad, 1998. Section ii, chapter 4), pp. 119-125. Found at
[4] Some scholars have found the mixing of “we” and “me” to be implausible and a later scribal addition. I disagree. Raymond Brown disagrees, saying that “the ‘we’ is probably Jesus’ way of associating his disciples with him in his work” (Brown, Gospel According to John, p. 372.
[5] John Barton and John Muddiman, eds., Oxford Bible Commentary (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).
[6] Another would be John’s misuse of the term “the Jews” as though they were a foreign race from Jesus. The idea that a Jesus, a Jew, was being attacked by “the Jews” or that the disciples (who were all Jews) were hiding from “the Jews” (v 20:19), is odd on its face and reflects the reality of John’s community that was excommunicated from Jewish life, not a reality of Jesus’ time.
[7] “Commentary, John 9:1-41 (Lent 4A),” Robert Hoch, Preaching This Week,, 2014.
[8] See James Alison on the exclusions due to impurity and sin from day to day cultic life. “The Johannine Witness,” in The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin Through Easter Eyes ( New York: Crossroad, 1998). Section ii. of chapter 4, “The Resurrection and Original Sin,” pp. 119-125 found at
[9] Notice, that in so forcefully and openly healing on the sabbath, and tying his deeds to “working the works of the one who sent me,” Jesus is making a public denial that God rests on the Sabbath.
[10] Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol 2 (1958).
[11] John Barton and John Muddiman, Oxford Bible Commentary (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), Jn 9:35.
[12] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Is 6:8–10.
[13] Janet H. Hunt (Dancing with the Word, 2014,

[1] “As he walked along.” One assumes that he is still in Jerusalem, because in the previous chapter he is in the Temple, though it is not stated. However, he sends the blind man to the pool of Siloam, which is in Jerusalem near the Temple Mount.  Raymond Brown comments, “This descriptive expression occurs only here in John but is not an unusual introduction to a scene in the Synoptics: Mark 1:16, 2:14; Matt 9:27 (healing of the two blind men), 20:30 healing of two blind men near Jericho).” Brown, The Gospel According to John, Anchor Bible, 6th ed.,Vol. 29 (Doubleday: 1979), p. 371.
[2] “From birth” (ek genetēs) A term used only here in the New Testament. A more Semitic way of putting it would have been “from the mother’s womb.” cf. Matt. 19:12.
[3] “Who sinned?” Cf. Luke 13:2-5:  And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (ESV)
[4] “So that” (hina + subj). “so that [the work of God might be made manifest]” The nrsv and niv and others read the hina clause as expressing purpose. That is, the purpose for his blindness was so that Jesus could heal him and manifest God’s works. However, it is at least as likely, and perhaps more so, that the clause expresses result. That is, the man’s blindness provides an opportunity for Jesus to do his works, but is not the reason for them. The CEV has, “Because of his blindness, you will see God perform a miracle for him.” If the assumed words are not added, the phrase could make complete sense as “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. So that God’s works might be revealed in him, we must work the works of him who sent me…” See below on next note for more.
[5] The wording of this verse is kept intact, but the punctuation is changed and implied words supplied by the nrsv translators are placed in brackets. The reason is that in the nrsv version Jesus says that sin did not cause the man to be born blind, but he was born blind so that God’s works in the healing might be made manifest. My changes (which follow the Greek more closely) also says that sin did not cause the blindness, however, in order to make the works of God manifest, we must do the works of God who sent Jesus. The nrsv version implies that God caused the blindness in order to get glory later; the second version says we must respond to someone’s blindness by doing the work of God.
[6] “Work the works…no one can work” Hard to speak in English, but accurately follows the Greek (hēmas dei ergazesthai ta erga tou pempsantos me…ergon). The NET, opts for “We must perform the deeds.” That helps.
[7] “We…me” (ἡμᾶς δεῖ … πέμψαντός με) Some manuscripts have “We must do the works of him who sent us” to make the person match. “Although it is difficult to choose among the readings, a majority of the Committee preferred ἡμᾶς δεῖ, (a) because of its somewhat superior external support, and (b) because it is slightly more probable that copyists would have altered ἡμᾶς to ἐμέ than vice versa. The reading πέμψαντος ἡμᾶς, which is a non-Johannine expression, appears to have been introduced into several witnesses as correlative with ἡμᾶς δεῖ at the beginning of the sentence.” Bruce Manning Metzger and United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.), 194 (London;  New York: United Bible Societies, 1994).
[8] “He spit” (eptusen) aor. It was commonly believed that saliva had the power to cure demons, but its use was later banned in Jewish circles because it was also used in the magical arts. It is also possible that since Saliva and dirt implied ritual impurity then Jesus is here defying Jewish sensibilities by healing independently of the prevailing notions of ritual cleanliness. Also, note that the day on which Jesus does all of this is the Sabbath. This too may be a further intended affront to Jewish religious sensibilities.
[9] “Mud” The Greek word for “mud” here is pelos/pelon, but it translates the Hebrew, adamah/adam, which rhymes. A possible pun.
[10] “Spread” (epichrio). Verb, aortist, active indicative, 3rd per. sing. Among other meanings (i.e. smear), this can also mean “anoint.” This, with the blind man going to the pool to “wash” (nípsai) has led some commentators to suspect baptism language.
[11] “Wash” (nípsai). First aorist middle imperative second person singular of niptō, later form of niptō, to wash, especially parts of the body (Vincent). A slight implication of baptism? He is blind, he meets Jesus, he goes and bathes and becomes a follower of Jesus.
[12] “Sent” “The pool’s name in Hebrew is shiloah from the Hebrew verb “to send.” NET Bible Note.  Brown says that while that may be true, the similarity with the name Shiloh may also just be a coincidence. The pool had been there for generations before the healing that took place next to it.
[13] “Who had seen him” (theoreo). Pres. part. “Those” = the ones seeing him. The present tense probably indicates continuous action, that is, they regularly saw him begging at a particular place.
[14] “I am the man.” Unlike John 8:58, this use of ego (eimi) seems a purely secular use of the term.
[15] “Pharisees” (pharisaios) Note that elsewhere in the chapter John will refer to them simply as “Jews” or “Jewish authorities” because of the split between the Johannine community and the Jewish Synagogue, but to his mind probably no distinction is intended. “The Jews” and the Jewish authorities were one in the same.
[16] “This man is not from God” NEB carries the sense better, this “is no man of God” (the sense of “from beside” will be preferred by those who think the statement has messianic overtones, ie., “he cannot be the one God has sent”) and this because he does not obey the Sabbath law, cf. Deut.13:1-5. In strict accordance with the law, Jesus should have properly waited till the first day of the week to perform the healing, since the man’s condition was not life threatening.” Findlay, Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons,
[17] “[A]mong the thirty-nine works forbidden on the Sabbath…was kneading, and Jesus had kneaded the clay with his spittle to make mud.” Brown, op.cit., p. 373
[18] “The Jews.” Throughout John’s Gospel, the religious authorities are referred to as “The Jews.” It is an odd expression, given the fact that Jesus, all of his disciples, and this blind man are all Jews. But its origin has more to do with the split within the Jewish community of John, writing forty years later than reality on the ground in Jerusalem in c.e. 30.
[19] “By calling this man a sinner on account of his having been born blind, the Pharisees now tacitly acknowledge the miracle, thereby playing into the logic of Jesus’ divine character after all” Scott Hoezee, The Lectionary Commentary : Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2001), p. 523.
[20] “Sir” (Kúrie)
[21] Note that the man has never yet seen Jesus with his blindness-free eyes and doesn’t at first recognize him.
[22] “Lord” (Kúrie)
[23] “judgment” (krínō [to judge], krísis [judgment], noun, acc., sing., neut). “the content of the process of judging—‘judgment, decision, evaluation.’” Not a judgement based on appearances, but to “pronounce a righteous judgment” or “… deliver a righteous judgment” (John 7:24). To “judge in a righteous manner” or “judge according to true standards.” may also be possible.” Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), p. 363.