Summary: John 9 is a compelling chapter in John’s Gospel. The healing of the man born blind confronts us with our own spiritual blindness. As we read, we are confronted with the same question that Jesus presents him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" Jesus, the
John presents his gospel in much the same way that a lawyer presents evidence in a kind of divine trial. He compels his “jury” to make a decision for themselves about Jesus – “do you believe or not?”
The gospel is often divided into two sections – the Book of Signs (chapters 1-12) and the Book of Glory (chapters 13-21). Our passage today falls towards the end of section one – the Book of Signs. Throughout this section John has used a number of tools to weave a number of themes together in his efforts to bring his readers to a conclusion about Jesus. These tools have included “light”, “misunderstanding”, “irony” and the conflict between those who do believe in Jesus and those who do not.
Right back at the beginning of the gospel the theme of light is introduced. In 1:5 John declares that Jesus is “the light that shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” Here to, in this verse, we are forewarned that Jesus will be misunderstood by those who are a part of the “darkness.”
Later in chapter 3, as a part of his night time conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus says these words
Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light. (John 3:19-20)
Further still in 8:12 Jesus says these words, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Light, in John, has become an important metaphor for Jesus and his saving power. Those who believe in him and receive him as Lord are said to have received the light of life, and rescued from the darkness.
Now chapter 9, the story of the healing of a man born blind, (that is him receiving “physical” light), becomes a metaphor for spiritual healing whereby people, through Jesus, can receive the light of life.
Chapter 9 can be divided into three parts, the healing itself, the interrogation of the healed man, and the follow up teaching of Jesus.
The story begins with a question from Jesus’ disciples. They assume that this mans blindness was caused by some sin, but Jesus corrects their misinterpretation of this situation. Unfortunately, the way that the NIV interprets Jesus response implies that God brought suffering on this man for the sole purpose of bringing glory to himself. Verse 3 says this “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Although we cannot deny that God is sovereign and as such can do as he pleases, there is a better translation – “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus “but so that the work of God might be displayed in his life, we must do the work of him who sent me while it is still day.”
In this translation the emphasis is on the fact that Jesus must work so that God’s glory may be displayed in his life. It is not that people are sick in order that God may be glorified. Rather, Jesus has been sent for the purpose of glorifying God through acts of healing.
Jesus spits on the ground and makes some mud, then puts this on the mans eyes. This may seem bizarre to us, but it was not an unusual thing in Jesus’ day, for it was believed that saliva contained certain healing properties. He then sends him to the pool of Siloam to wash. When he did, he came home with his sight restored.
Can you imagine the reaction of this man? I’m sure his return journey was much more exuberant than his walk towards the pool. His neighbours are amazed to see him healed. So much so that some cannot believe that it is the same man. Not only is his sight restored, but I’m sure his demeanour is completely different. He is happy, confident, assured of himself, able to feed and care for himself. A far cry from the man who spent his days depending on the charity of others, begging on the roadside just to simply live.
When he is brought before the Pharisees they don’t seem surprised by the amazing transformation in this man. No, they are too concerned about the fact that the healing took place on the Sabbath. Isn’t it amazing how some people can just “major on the minors.” They get so caught up in the little things that when huge amazing things happen, like a man’s sight being restored, they completely miss it. As the old saying goes, they can’t see the forest for the trees.
“This man is not from God” they say about Jesus as a result. Still others question how a “sinner” could do such miraculous signs. Going even further in their unbelief, they question whether the man before them is the same one who was blind before!