This very unique chapter in the Gospel of John could just be talking about physical blindness and spiritual blindness or it may be a window into multiple insights into the life of Jesus, his ministry, God’s love and economy, the power of personal testimony, and so much more.
We proceed with the presumption of the latter and examine nine distinct encounters in this ninth chapter of John’s Gospel.
9 Encounters of John Chapter 9
Jesus and his Disciples
· The disciples asked Jesus who sinned? Was it the man blind from birth or his parents? We need to realize that the only logical answer to this dichotomy is the parents. This has nothing to do with sins being passed from one generation to the next as readers of the Old Testament might hold to. This is a logical answer. Could a person sin before they were born? Answer: That’s a whole new theology if we go there!
· Fortunately, Jesus was not restricted to the proffered dichotomy. Jesus said it was neither. This man was born blind so that the Glory of God may be revealed at this place and this time.
· He went on to say that he was the Light for the world and it was important to do these good works or mighty acts as a testimony to the One who sent him.
· We look at this encounter and think, Wow! What a miracle! We might also think, Wow! What a bum deal for the blind man. He had to be blind from birth just so Jesus could have this moment to show God’s glory on this day. You would have to be quite a stoic to take that in stride. In the economy of man, this was a huge price to pay. The man was blind a fifth, a third, or maybe even half of his life expectancy. What a price to pay!
· But in the economy of God—a rich, righteous, holy God of abundance and eternity--the man was blind for but a moment. Realize that God could have righteously demanded half of the man’s life without other consideration or promise of eternity and been fully justified; but Jesus came to give us life to the full—both now and forever. In the economy of God, the man will never miss the years he was blind.
Jesus and the Blind man
· Unlike his encounter with the paralyzed man at the Pool of Bethzatha near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem, Jesus asks the blind man no questions or does not otherwise engage him in conversation.
· Jesus spits in the dirt, mixes a batch of mud, and puts it on the man’s eyes. He is directive. He tells the man to go wash in the Pool of Siloam and the blind man obeys.
Blind man and the crowd
· Even though the sunshine soldiers that once claimed to be his disciples left him (Chapter 6) and it seems that only the twelve remained to faithfully follow Jesus; he still draws a crowd. We suspect that a crowd probably followed the blind man as he went to wash his face.
· When he can see, the discussion begins and probably turns to argument or at least disbelief. The question arises: Is it or isn’t it him, referring to be man born blind at birth.
· How could they not know? Consider the vocation of a blind man—it was to beg. That’s what was expected. The man sat on a road and begged. Many probably never took a good look at him. Why? It wasn’t because the man could see who walked by on the other side of the road. More likely to look at the blind man might evoke mercy and mercy costs money. Chances are that many never looked at the beggar. A few probably knew him.
· Being the subject of the controversy, the man who could not see speaks.. “I am the man.”
Blind Man and the Pharisees
· What do you do when you witness something this amazing? You immediately upload the video from you iPhone or Android onto Facebook, YouTube, or your blog. Absent that technology, you haul this guy in to show him off to the Pharisees. Here the man who can now see describes the mud and the washing and seeing.
· The Pharisees argue. No one but one from God could do this vs. a man who does not obey the Sabbath law could not.
· They ask the man standing before them: Who do you say he is? He replies, a prophet!
· Division continues among the religious leaders so they do what might be sound practice. They send for parents.
Pharisees and the parents
· The Pharisees issue their interrogatives in rapid fire fashion. Is he your son? Was he blind from birth? How is it that he can now see?
· The parents respond saying the best they can do is two out of three. Yes, he is our son and he was born blind.
· The parents were not born blind and they knew a kangaroo court when they saw one, so in ultimate loyalty to themselves, they tell the Pharisees: Ask him. He is old enough to answer for himself.
Pharisees and the blind man (Law and Order Episode 1)
· The man is called back before the Pharisees. This time he is put under oath. Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and our version of the truth? The religious leaders remind the man who was once blind of a critical factor which he would be well advised to consider as he framed his answers: Jesus is a sinner
· Again they asked the man what happened. In a modern day courtroom, his attorney’s reply would be: Asked and answered!
· The Pharisees want this man to know for sure that this Jesus person is a sinner. In this episode of Law and Order, the prosecution is painfully reminded never to ask a question that you don’t know how the witness will answer. The man testifies: I don’t know if he is a sinner or not, but I do know this: I was blind but now I see! There is a single word for this type of personal testimony given without personal agenda attached—irrefutable.
· During this day, the Pharisees have experienced a wide range of thought and emotion. On one end of the spectrum is befuddlement and on the other is just plain ticked off. The man who can now see is about to take the initiate and push the Pharisees beyond ticked off.
· He turns the tables—You say you don’t even know where he comes from, but only one obedient to God could do this. Remember that this man has been a blind beggar on the side of the road for all of his adult life. He continues, nobody except someone who does the will of God could do this. Not since the beginning of time do we know of anything like this and we couldn’t even imagine such a thing unless God was squarely in the middle of it.
· What do you do when you are the smartest people in the land and you get outsmarted on your home court? You throw the man with irrefutable testimony and infallible logic out on the street.
Jesus and Blind man
· Jesus finds the man thrown out of Synagogue. I would love to have a verbatim account of the first part of that encounter. Let’s take a little license here.
· “Heard you got thrown out by the Pharisees.” They didn’t much want to hear anything I had to say. “I know the feeling, but don’t worry.” Why’s that? “Because you are in good company.”
· And then Jesus asks the man if he would believe upon the Son of Man. Once the man understands that Jesus is talking about himself, he says IBelieve! The man drops to his knees before Jesus.
Jesus and the crowd
· We need to realize at this point that the crowd following the man and those who followed Jesus have probably come back together. Jesus begins to teach.
· Jesus said that he came to this world to judge so that the blind may see and those who see may be blind.
· I would nearly love to have seen a Disciplecam at this junction in history, but we can only imagine what was actually happening with these faithful followers who sometimes fumbled with the literary tools of the Master. Visualize the disciples pulling at their hair or squeezing their heads in frustration, saying: Not another one of these? Please, please, please explain this one. Don’t leave it to us to figure out. Doesn’t he remember that we are fisherman, tax collectors, and just common folk?
Jesus and Pharisees
· It is at this point we move to the final encounter of this chapter, probably to the relief of the disciples. Some of the Pharisees have followed the crowd and are in earshot of Jesus. They understand Jesus is talking about them, and they don’t like it. Realize that it has been a tough day in Phariseeland. Jesus ends with a dichotomy.
· If you were blind you would not be guilty.
· Because you know what you know and say you can see—the verdict is guilty.
This could all just be a story of Jesus doing one more mighty work which caused some to believe and others to try harder to kill him; or it could give us nine unique insights into our lives as we try to respond to the grace of God that we know through Jesus Christ.
Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
I was once lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.
John 9 (NIV)
Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
The Pharisees Investigate the Healing
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”
28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.