By Stephen W. Hiemstra
Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped (Isaiah 35:4-5 ESV).
What does it mean to be the light of the world?
Jesus declared–I am the light of the world—in John 8:12 after breaking up a kangaroo court accusing a woman caught in adultery. Now, Jesus repeats this assertion (John 9:4) just before he heals a man blind from birth.
Chapter nine is distinctive, in part, because of the sequence of dialogs, including: Jesus’ discussion with the disciples (vv 1-5), Jesus heals the blind man (vv 6-7), neighbors question the man (vv 8-12), the Pharisees question the man (vv 13-17), the Pharisees question the man’s parents (vv 18-23), the Pharisees question the man a second time (vv 24-34), Jesus seeks the man and speaks with him (vv 35-39), and the Pharisees question Jesus (vv 40-41).
What is so astounding from this chapter is the transition that takes place in the man formerly blind. He starts out completely dependent on the grace of strangers when Jesus heals him. He is not only blind; he is invisible—his neighbors do not recognize him after he receives his sight (vv 8-9). He knows Jesus only by name (v 11). As he repeats the story of his healing, he becomes more and more sophisticated in his understanding of what happened. In the end, he lectures the Pharisees on the theology of his own healing (vv 30-33). When Jesus speaks to him a second time, the man becomes a believer (v 38). In effect, the man healed of blindness becomes a model disciple.
By contrast, the disciples ask whether the blindness was the result of sin either of the man or his parents (v 2). Meanwhile, the Pharisees seem embarrassed the man is healed. First, they examine the man and his parents to see if the man was previously blind. Then, when the evidence of the healing becomes irrefutable, they attack Jesus for having healed on the Sabbath (vv 14, 16). When the man explains the theological meaning of his healing to the Pharisees, they then turn their attack on the man himself and throw him out (v 34). In effect, the Pharisees modeled spiritual blindness—refusing to recognize the reality of the healing—which was inconsistent with their world view.
The healing itself in verses 7 and 8 is interesting. The man’s eyes are covered with mud which recalls God’s creation of Adam (Genesis 2:7). The man is then sent to the Pool of Siloam—the same source provided water for the Feast of the Tabernacles. This exercise of washing recalls the story of Naaman who was cured of leprosy after being sent to wash in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5:10). In both cases, healing occurred in response to obedience, not because of the water. Faith in the sender was required.
The formerly blind man’s faith started with reflection on the obvious: Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see (v 25). The resolution of the tension in this statement resulted in faith.
Where has Christ worked miracles in your life? What was your response?