John 9 Incurably Blind

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Questions: Whose fault — if any — is blindness? How do we see hurting people? How do we see God’s role? What happens when our theology conflicts with reality? What price might we pay for believing the truth? Is it worth it?

“Read More” to pursue answers in the Gospel of John.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.

John 9:1-41

And as [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man which was blind from [his] birth.

This may well be my favorite gospel story, perhaps because of the Don Francisco song. One of the things I love most is how the different types of “blindness” are interwoven. For example, the disciples only see the man as a theological conundrum:

And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

Jesus, conversely, sees him as an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love:

Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

Plus, an opportunity to teach the disciples about how to see:

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.

A somber foreshadowing. Clearly, Jesus feels some urgency — pressure? — to do the work of God in his (brief) time here on earth, that we might see what God is really like. So he does:

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

Incredible — literally!

The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said, This is he: others [said], He is like him: [but] he said, I am [he]. Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? 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.

Quite the testimony. What I find most intriguing is what they ask next:

Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.

Why, I wonder. Is it just the curiosity of the crowd? Were there some who sought healing themselves? Did they already know of Jesus, and had been wanting to meet him?

Or, ominously, were they in league with the enemies of Jesus?

They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.

Simple and straightforward. Alas, just because we agree on the facts doesn’t keep us from arguing over interpretation:

Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

Though, the man himself has no doubts:

They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.

I can’t help but wonder if, even though Jesus healed the man out of compassion, he deliberately sent him to a crowded pool to stir up the Pharisees. In fact, they’re so overwrought they try to “fix” the facts!

But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind:

The parents, for their part, are careful to stick to the obvious:

But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. These [words] spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.

I find it intriguing that they had already determined that Jesus couldn’t be the Christ. Or, more precisely, they had determined that it was better that nobody claim he was the Christ (whether or not he actually was). Why?

It is tempting to chalk up their attitude to religious rigidity or political elitism, but — while true — those explanations are too superficial, too easy to distance ourselves from.

A better answer, perhaps, is that Jesus being the Messiah would contradict everything they thought they knew about God and reality. It literally was inconceivable, because the whole system of logic and proof they had built up assumed a specific interpretation of the Law — which Jesus consistently flouted. If Jesus was right, then not only were they wrong, but they no longer had any reliable mechanism to tell right from wrong.

And if that wasn’t enough, it would also destroy everything they thought Jewish culture stood for. People may not have always liked the Pharisees, but at some level they honored them as exemplars of obeying their common Law. If they lost that shared ideal — their joint devotion — what, really, would they have left?

Faced with such a choice, what would we have done?

Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner [or no], I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.

So far, so good. So they up the pressure, perhaps hoping he’ll change his tune:

Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear [it] again? will ye also be his disciples?

Oops. I wonder if he is really so naive, or got sufficiently bored he decided to poke back:

Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: [as for] this [fellow], we know not from whence he is.

Alas, in their irritation they don’t realize they’ve given him a marvelous straight line:

The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and [yet] he hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.

Preach it! So since they can’t refute him, they resort to ad hominems:

They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

So, he ended up losing his place in the synagogue, but gaining something else:

Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?

While this might seem a natural response, the fact is that the man had already been healed. He could’ve taken the safe way out and temporized with the Pharisees, instead of defending Jesus and suffering the consequences. However, he apparently wasn’t satisfied with just being healed: he wanted to know the Man behind his healing, and whatever Truth there was to be found.

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.

Which, as Jesus notes, completes the irony:

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.

Which isn’t lost on the Pharisees, though they appreciate it not:

And [some] of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

Which, as usual, would be funnier if I was sure I wasn’t one of them…

Prayer

Father God, open my eyes. I see so little, perhaps because I am not sufficiently concerned with doing your work. Help me to seek your glory in the lives of those around me, that I may bless instead of judge them. Save me from my rigid preconceptions that prevent me from grasping your redeeming truth. Show me who the Son of God is, that I may worship Him. In His name I pray, Amen.

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