Today and tomorrow we hear the story of the man born blind; it is the gospel reading for this coming Sunday. We will consider part of this fairly long reading today (John 9:1-17) and the second part (John 9:18-41) tomorrow. This chapter teaches by asking about events that happened in Jesus' ministry and challenging the various Jewish groups to reflect on their meaning. Remember, Jesus and the disciples also were Jewish—but ones who had become followers of Jesus.
Scene 1 (John 9:1-5)—Seeing the man who has been blind since birth, the disciples think that he must have been born a sinner (and that his blindness is thus his divine punishment), but Jesus rejects that view. Instead, Jesus says he is blind so that God's works might be revealed in him.
Scene 2 (John 9:6-7)—Jesus now sends the blind man to wash in a pool and the man is healed.
Scene 3 (John 9:8-12)—The many witnesses disagree about whether this is the (formerly) blind man or really someone else, despite the man's insistence that he is the one.
Scene 4 (John 9:13-17)—Some witnesses bring the man to the Pharisees (a prominent Jewish party—leaders of keeping the law and presiding at the temple), so they can discover the "facts." Next, someone suggests that since the healing took place on the Sabbath and therefore broke the law, Jesus also must have broken the law. There is much disagreement.
Gracious God, give us insight into difficult verses such as these, that we may be both careful in our study and open to God's work in our lives. Amen.
John 9:1-17 (NRSV)
1 As he walked 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 Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him.
4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
6 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,
7 saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.
8 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?"
9 Some were saying, "It is he." Others were saying, "No, but it is someone like him." He kept saying, "I am the man."
10 But they kept asking him, "Then how were your eyes opened?"
11 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."
12 They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know."
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.
14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.
15 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."
16 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.
17 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."