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John 9:1-9, NIV
1 As he [Jesus] 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 work of God might be displayed in his life. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the work 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 Having said 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 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."
August 15, 2011I would guess from reading these few verses that this chapter is about being able to see, recognize, and identify the works of God in the world around us. What do we need in order to accomplish this? We need good eyes, a working God, daylight, help from the light of the world, and a miracle that will cure our blindness. (If you want to soften that a bit, a miracle that will cure all our blind spots.) Each of us needs this miracle so that the works of God will be displayed in our lives. And that we will reflect the character of God in an otherwise dark, unseeing and disbelieving world.
The setting of the Feast of Tents in Jerusalem is behind him now. Jesus is on the road among a different group of people. But the problems persist. People do not see and believe. Instead they are blind and refuse to acknowledge that Jesus is doing the works of God.
The Gospel writer goes into great detail to make this point, beginning with the man's neighbors who correctly observe that he can now see, but question whether there is some deception involved in his seeing. Is this really our neighbor or does he simply look like him?
The man insists, "I am your neighbor, the man who was blind." But some refuse to believe it and spread their suspicions. Which leaves us with the question--What makes believing so difficult!?
More journal entries
November 8, 1983Being born blind, this man never had a chance to see. But Jesus saw him. He was a person like Kim who attends our church services every Sunday, only this man had parents to provide for some of his needs. As we read further, we learn he was a beggar sitting by the side of the road.
What was the conversation like between Jesus and his disciples when they saw this blind beggar? The disciples wanted to know why he was born blind? They weren't asking for any specifics about this man's particular situation, they just wanted to know who is to blame for this kind of tragedy?
The disciples held out two choices--his sin or his parents' sin. I think that was a typical explanation among Jewish people at the time. It's an example of narrow theologizing, creating a neat little box in which to put stuff we don't know what else to do with. It's nice to learn answers to questions and get a good handle on them but we must beware lest these standard answers become a confining trap that prevents us from gaining additional wisdom.
Jesus saw this man as an opportunity to illustrate the power of God. He didn't heal him for the man's sake or out of love and compassion for the blind man. Jesus healed him for God's sake--so the crowd would see God's power and marvel, maybe some would believe. Or did Jesus do it to stir up the ire of the Pharisees, and to contrast the themes of darkness and daylight. The religion of the Pharisees made them very unhappy! And that should always be suspect. The people of God are supposed to possess a spirit of joy.
November 10, 1983Why did this man have to suffer through 40 years of darkness?--to show the power of God! I wonder how he felt about that. He had not even volunteered for this assignment.
I don't think God "made" him blind but I think Jesus is turning a negative into a positive. God's power can be seen here especially because of the very dramatic and obvious severity of his circumstances. We're heading into another confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders.
November 14, 1983Then Jesus takes off on word association and comments on other things that were not on the disciples' minds. We must do the work I was sent to do. That's an interesting statement. The works of God are to be done within, and by, a community of willing participants. And during daylight hours because conditions at night make work impossible. True in the ancient world; but not anymore.
Jesus said, I am the light needed for working; work now while you can because soon I won't be in this world anymore. There were 50 days between Jesus' death and resurrection and the day of Pentecost. Was this the darkness? Light fades gradually, as memories fade. Jesus appeared several times to his disciples during those 50 days. Otherwise those were dark days because the world had crucified/ extinguished its light.
The world doesn't seem so dark to me today. But I do acknowledge there are a lot of dark pockets. There is also a lot of beautiful light. The Holy Spirit is Jesus in the present tense. This Spirit of God is the light needed for us today.
November 15, 1983Why all this mess (mud and spit) when Jesus could simply have touched the man's eyes and said, "Be healed." Jesus was preparing a healing solution. It would seem that the healing power was in the solution rather than coming solely from God. Why did Jesus chose to do it this way?
Go and wash. . . The man had to do something; he had to participate in his own healing. He had to obey Jesus. It wasn't faith, but obedience to the voice of Jesus, that restored his sight. Bonhoeffer would say those who are obedient, have faith.
There was a blind man named Bartimaeus in Luke 18:35-43. Jesus healed him simply by saying, "You can see again," and added, "your faith has cured you." And Bonhoeffer would say those who have faith, are obedient.
There are times when we need more than the voice of Jesus. We need to feel the healing solution and experience washing the clay from our eyes in order to believe that something is really happening to us. Simply hearing it doesn't do it, we must act and participate. We must have a story to tell, some details to relate as to how it happened.
November 16, 1983Jesus sent the blind man went off and he washed and was healed. It seems clear, no mistake about it, or questions or doubts as to what occurred or what was said.Very clear, simple--is the clarity in the telling of the story or was it really this clear and simple while it was happening?
Siloam means "sent". How beautiful to be sent by Jesus, but in reality it's not that simple. Trouble tags along! We want to be sent but there's seldom smooth sailing. Jesus said, "Go and wash." He didn't tell the man what to do after that.
I was thinking about this blind man during the night. Obedience was key to his healing. Going and doing exactly what Jesus told him to do. Why did he have to do all this! Why Siloam and not some other place! Did anyone go with him? What were his expectations? Who rejoiced with him when he could see? Did anybody really care?
His sight was restored. There's no mention of his feelings or the excitement of being able to see for the first time in his long life. This story is not so much about this nameless man per se. It's about a much larger subject.
November 19, 1983The neighbors--those who watch but claim no responsibility. They weren't sure he was the same person. No wonder--how could a blind man see? No one wants to be deceived and to believe one must run the risk of being deceived.
November 21, 1983Some were wiling to believe the impossible. Others would not be fooled, and if you can't be fooled you can't believe! We identify people by the way they carry themselves, and what/how they do things. Their gestures and expressions. All this probably changed because now he could see. Naturally he was hard to recognize. Being able to see made all the difference in the world. Now he could walk with confidence and in newfound excitement and joy. What a contrast to sitting and begging. He didn't have to sit anymore because he could see to walk. Of course he looked different.
Everything was always so dramatic when Jesus touched someone, and it's hard for me to relate to that. It sounds beautiful, exciting, electric, to be so changed that his neighbors didn't recognize him! I never experienced anything like that.
November 24, 1983Were people going to listen to a man who had been a poor beggar, an eyesore and embarrassment to his neighbors. He was going to have a difficult time explaining but he had some facts to relate that made sense to him. Isn't it an awful feeling when you know something to be true and others don't believe it! "Hey man, I'm the one--believe me. This is what happened to me. I know, I was there."
What does actually convince people to believe? Not so much words as actions. He would win his neighbor's over in time, if he can maintain his own confidence in the face of their unbelief. Those who are inclined not to believe, miss the joy and celebration of the miraculous event.