Read: John 9:8-34
The first part of this chapter briefly captures the moment when Jesus healed this unnamed man who was blind from birth. The story now shifts focus to questions by the man’s neighbors, those that remember him as a beggar, his parents, and most significantly, the Jewish religious leaders. It’s amazing to hear how this man answers their questions–not just the answers. When you read this chapter, pay attention to how he responds. It’s certainly true that he can not see with his eyes, but his vision seems to be incredible on a much deeper level.
Neighbors– John 9:8-13
The first voices we hear from are the man’s neighbors, those who knew him well and those who passed him where he was seen begging.
His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” John 8:8-9
How can they be confused? It’s hard to imagine seeing someone who once was a beggar, someone who grew up in shame because he was born blind, now standing face to face with his neighbors. He actually has to convince them that he was, in fact, the blind beggar just yesterday. His eyes must have been shining so bright, his expression so brilliant, his posture so strong, that even those who knew him didn’t recognize him.
They asked him how this could happen. It’s a reasonable question that is answered quite easily. I would suggest his answer is probably too simple, so simple that only a fool would believe him, but it is the truth.
Pharisees– John 9:14-17
He must have created an incredible scene in the village, so much so that the Pharisees are asked to intervene. Once again, he tells the story about Jesus putting mud on his eyes then instructing him to wash in the Pool of Siloam to gain that which he longed for all his life.
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. John 9:16
Once again, we see the debate about healing on the Sabbath. I can’t help but wonder where they added this clause in their legal documents. Perhaps they lumped miraculous healing into the category of medical doctors. It makes me wonder if those wounded could be tended to on the Sabbath. It seems the Pharisees are trying to hold onto anything that would subvert their authority or knowledge. They can’t believe what they’re hearing, so they summon the parents of the man.
Parents– John 9:18-23
The Pharisees put his parents on the hot seat, still in complete disbelief.
“Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 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.” John 9:19-21
His parents are in a difficult position. To dishonor the Pharisees risks the shame of being banned from the synagogue (see John 9:22), but they can’t deny this is their son. It’s really him! They play the only card they have: let him speak for himself.
Recently, I heard a talk about the “shame culture” that is prevalent in the Middle East, especially in biblical times. From this perspective, we completely understand. I don’t think their son had any ill-feelings toward his parents for this assertion. It made sense. His response is truly amazing.
The formerly blind man — John 9:24-29
The Pharisees accuse the man of lying. They demand that he “give glory to God by telling the truth” (John 9:24), then they tack on their own conclusion that Jesus is a sinner, probably because of the Sabbath violation. His response is remarkable! Imagine hearing the testimony of this blind beggar that now stands before you with confidence and strength:
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!” John 9:25
This is one of the most profound verses I’ve ever heard. It’s an incredible confession of faith and demonstration of a reality that I can only hope to reveal to others in this dark world.
The not-so-blind-man will now proceed to school the learned:
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?” John 9:27
Now he’s getting sassy! That kind of talk will not win any favor from religious leaders any day of the week or at any time.
Kicked out of the synagogue — John 9:30-34
He’s not done yet. Before they completely shut him down and toss him out of the synagogue he has one more chance to poke them in the eye:
The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” John 9:30-33
The Pharisees are completely offended. Their response, as we expected, was to point out the fact that he was steeped in sin at birth (which is why he was born blind), then toss him out of the synagogue.
The cause and effect scenario was prevalent in their time, and still rather strong even in our postmodern world. The disciples began the chapter by asking the question about what caused the man’s blindness. It must have been someone’s fault. How can a newborn baby sin so significantly that they would deserve blindness? Even if we somehow figure there is a cause/effect scenario if sin caused blindness, what do we do with the fact that he is no longer blind? It seems logical that gaining sight means the sin that prevailed is no longer present.
But in reality, we know that neither is the case. The Pharisees are mostly insulted and are simply striking out as low as possible.
What I really want to focus on in this part of the chapter is the man’s incredibly lucid response. Not only can he see, but he has the ability to debate with the most educated in their society. He must have gained much more than his eyesight as a result of Jesus’ touch. We’ll see an amazing interaction with Jesus in the last part and get a hint of understanding this man’s ability.
Lord, may we be a people that hold on fast to the promise You provided. May we confess we were once blind, but now we see!