The Man Born Blind
John 9:1- 41
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
The Story of the Blind Man
The message of the Gospel is enlightenment, the challenging story of a man born blind who journeys through physical blindness, through his Jewish belief, to belief in Jesus the Light of the World.
In the Old Testament the young Samuel journeys along another path to experience God’s presence.
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, "Samuel! Samuel!" and he said, "Here I am!" and ran to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call; lie down again." So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, "Samuel!" Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call, my son; lie down again." Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, "Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."3:1-10
"Samuel did not know the Lord and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him". Samuel grows to enlightenment, to experience God’s presence in a new way.
The man was blind from birth. St Augustine suggests: "The blind man is the human race." The invitation is to journey with him, to accept Jesus as “the light of the world”.
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world”. 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, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” which means sent. Then he went and washed and came back able to see.
He went, he washed and he sees. Amazement and joy greet his healing but physical healing is just the first step on his way to enlightenment.
There was talk among the neighbours.
The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?" Some were saying, "It is he." Others were saying, "No, but it is someone like him." He kept saying, "I am the man." But they kept asking him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" He answered, "The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.' I went and washed and received my sight." They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know."
The man born blind is an object of conversation. In the babble of voices he kept saying “I am the man”. Imagine the shocked silence as they turn and listen to his story!
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 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." 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. 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."
Making mud and placing it on the blind man’s eyes was work and broke the Sabbath. Jesus is adjudged a sinner. Questioned by the Pharisees, as though he is on trial, he courageously declares Jesus is a prophet.
His parents are questioned.
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself." His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. His parents said, "He is of age; ask him."
The Jews do not believe that he was born blind. Their disbelief is an invitation to declare: “I was never blind.” A lie, a simple declaration that he had never been blind would have resolved the Jews own confusion and freed him and his parents from intimidation.
His parents are afraid. If they show signs of belief in Jesus they are in danger of being expelled from the synagogue, ostracised from their community. They abandon their son.
The second interrogation. The man born blind finds himself alone.
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner." He answered, "I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?" Then they reviled him, saying you are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." The man answered, "Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?"
Now there is open intimidation – he is invited to denounce Jesus. He refuses. A beggar all his life, dependent on charity, he astounds us by his dignity and persistent defense of Jesus.
An astonishing thing happens, the interrogated becomes the interrogator. Scornfully he asks: “Do you also want to become his disciples?” They expel him.
Abandoned by his parents, terrorized by the Jews, he keeps faith with Jesus. “He was prepared for faith by his courage and gratitude.”
Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him." Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." He said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped him. Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not blind, are we?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains.
The Gospel does not tell us how he felt after being expelled. Alone, abandoned, he remains true to his inner conviction. Earlier Jesus had said that if someone is faithful, God will hear. He believed Jesus was from God.
Jesus heard that they had driven him out. He searched for him. What a meeting! Did he recognize Jesus’ voice as he stopped and spoke to him? Jesus had given him his sight but subsequently caused him real trouble, so much heart searching, pain, separation from his family, expulsion from his community. There is a price to be paid for the gift of faith. Faith grows amidst trials.
Finally, Jesus leads him to enlightenment.
"Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him." Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." He said, "Lord, I believe."
He sees the divine in the human Jesus.
The story is rich in symbolism: Light and darkness, sight and blindness, enlightenment, Baptism. In the early Christian communities candidates for Baptism presented their names to the local Christian community and for forty days trained for Baptism. During that time they were joined by the local community, united in prayer and fasting. From at least the third century, candidates were introduced to three great Joannine texts: The Samaritan Woman, John. 4; The Man Born Blind, John. 9; The Raising of Lazarus, John 11. These texts hold a key to discipleship.
Each is a story of healing, each is an answer to the questions: “How do you meet Jesus? how do you respond to him?” Benedict XVI writes: “Being a Christian is the encounter with an event, a person, who gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
In the case of the Man Born Blind, the early Christians saw a connection between John 9 and baptism. The healing took place at Siloam – the healing power of water. St Augustine declares: “he was baptized in Christ”. Anointing and the use of saliva which preceded the washing also played a part in his healing and became a part of the baptismal ceremony.
This is the Story of Jesus drawn from the four Evangelists
Gospel passages accompanied by a number of brief commentaries