“As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” (John 9:1 – 3)
While Jesus’ ministry on the earth ushered in a new time of enlightenment and understanding, it still took place during a time of little understanding of nature and biology. Physical disabilities were not (and are not) a result of sin or misconduct, but that was the common believe. That is why the disciples asked that question. Jesus’ answer was not meant to be an explanation of why it happened to this man either, but the rationale for what would happen as a result of Jesus healing him. Keep that in mind as you read this story (or read it again).
“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (Verse 4 – 5)
The implication is that once Jesus has departed this world, darkness may come. But, each of us can carry the light of Jesus Christ and thereby hold back the dark. But, on with the story.
“When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” (Verses 6 – 10)
While miracles and healing from disabilities is comparatively frequent and attributed to a variety of means and interventions, in the time Jesus walked the earth miracles and healing were amazing.
“He 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.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.” (Verses 11 to 14)
That it was a Sabbath day is important to the story, and to the Pharisees. While we understand there is no better day then the Sabbath to “work” a miracle, working on the Sabbath in Jesus’ time was very much frowned on. In fact there were complex laws about what you could and could not do on the Sabbath.
“Then 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.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So 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.” The Jews 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 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but 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.” His 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. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” (Verses 15 – 23)
How typically, when something is not understood or believed, to explain it away by simply denying that it happened. Someone is cured – well, they were not that sick to begin with. In other words, the miracle is not that miraculous. It is a simple development and not a complete change in the nature of things. Beware, beloved reader, of those who would belittle those things that are marvelous, be they little or big.
“So 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.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He 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?” (Verses 24 to 27)
How clever, this formerly blind man, to turn the table on his questioners.
“Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (Verses 28 – 33)
Again, I admire this clever man. I am not surprised however. Think how much instantaneous faith it must have taken to travel with mud covered eyes to bath them in a certain place. His eyes may not have seen but surely his heart and spirit did.
“They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out. Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.” (Verses 34 – 38)
Jesus told his disciples that this whole episode would show God’s work in human lives – the power of God and how God can be with us and within us. And he explains further . . .
“Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” (Verses 39 – 41)
The evidence of who Jesus was and what he could do – miracles – was before them. Yet they refused to see. Jesus/the writer of the gospel of John puts in more bluntly than I would; when the reality of Jesus/God is before us, and we refuse to see it or acknowledge it, that is sin. May we not sin in this way. Selah!