The Man Born Blind
In John 9, Jesus continues to have personal encounters that we have the privilege to witness, just as we have thus far in John 3, 4, and 8–this time with a man born blind. As the chapter opens, Jesus has the opportunity to heal a man born blind and the entire episode launches a theological debate about the nature of sinfulness. Take a moment to read the chapter here.
The heart of the debate comes about because the healing of the man born blind takes place on a Sabbath. The Law forbids working on a Sabbath, and the way in which Jesus heals the man constitutes working (making mud). The religious leaders desire is to remain committed to the Law of Moses, and in fact, they even use this as an insult of the man who is healed in verses 28-29. However, as we will spend a few moments reflecting upon here, the heart of the story is not found in the debate surrounding the healing, but in the one who does the healing.
As the story begins to draw to a close, Jesus finds the man born blind (who has been expelled by the religious leaders), he asks him who about the Human One, or the Son of Man. As the conversation unfolds, Jesus reveals that he himself is the Human One, and the man born blind can do nothing else other than to believe.
This story serves to teach us several important points. First, and most obvious, the claim that Jesus makes here will direct the remaining content of the book of John toward the cross. We are nearing the halfway marker of the book, and shortly, we will reach the passion week. The claims and actions of Jesus will lead to the cross. Second, we are once again reminded that these encounters we have been spending time reading over the past several weeks direct us off the well-worn paths of religiosity and toward the margins. Where the religious leaders are focused upon preserving Law (even at the expense of those who are most in need of the one whom the Law is meant to point toward), Jesus is focused upon those who are often ignored and shunted aside.
And lastly (for today’s purposes at least), we begin to link together the various stories to understand Jesus more and more.
- In John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he has not come into the world to judge the world but to save the world through him.
- In John 4, Jesus tells the woman at the well that the time is coming when true worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth.
- In John 8, Jesus draws the crowds attention away from the sin of the woman who has been caught in the midst of adultery and brought before Jesus and onto their own sin and need for mercy.
- Finally, here in John 9 Jesus concludes this scene with a brief but enlightening conversation with the religious leaders. Jesus says, “I have come into the world to exercise judgment so that those who don’t see can see and those who see will become blind.”
Tying these stories together helps us to see a larger picture emerging from the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus is moving the reader past a religious system and into a different way of being and living in the world. The other Gospel writers refer to this as the Kingdom of God (or Heaven). Jesus is inviting the reader not to a rule-based system, but to an alternative Kingdom–one that is based on the person of Jesus and not upon our ability or righteousness.
Jesus has not come to judge the world, but that does not mean that there will not be any judgment. Our own actions judge us as blind. The Pharisees and religious leaders have become blind to what is present right before their very eyes–Jesus. The Human One has come to reveal how to worship in more than just abiding by the Law. Jesus has revealed the way of God, the way of mercy, love, and kindness. The way that heals us of our sin, our brokenness, and our blindness.
And when we have been healed of our blindness, it is then that we can see clearly who Jesus is, and that we can then do as the man born blind does: to worship and to believe.