Thoughts on John 9

I don’t often spend most of a week studying just one chapter of the Bible, but John 9 captured my attention and didn’t let go. It is the story of Jesus healing a blind man, and unlike many miracles which are recorded in just a few short verses, this story takes up an entire 41-verse chapter.

This chapter is packed full of interesting things to learn. I focused on three main points that I noticed for this post, but I’m sure there’s more. If anyone else feels moved to study John 9, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

A Reason For Suffering

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. (John 9:1-3)

The assumption the disciples made is all too common, even today — that the bad things which happen to us and others are a kind of punishment. Sometimes, however, God allows trials of various sorts to affect us because they fit into His plan for doing good. In this particular case, the man’s blindness was used to introduce him to Jesus and demonstrate to other people that Jesus is the Son of God.

It worked, too. This healing caused a huge stir in the Jewish community. This was partly because of the spectacular nature of the miracle, and partly because Jesus healed on the Sabbath. As the Word of God, Jesus was the One who told Israel about the Sabbath in the first place — He knew how to keep it holy. Doing good on the Sabbath wasn’t a sin, but it did anger the Pharisees because it violated some rules they’d added.

 Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. (John 9:16)

Though they publicly condemned Jesus, they weren’t so sure behind the scenes. This miracle made them think, and I wonder if some of them eventually became believers. Nicodemus couldn’t have been the only Pharisee wondering if maybe, just maybe, Jesus really was the Christ (John 3:1-2).

A Simple Testimony

After he was healed, the man who’d been blind doesn’t leap, shout, and tell everyone what happened. He didn’t do anything to call attention to himself, and only talked about the miracle when people started asking him what happened.

He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.” (John 9:11)

After hearing this, the people took him to the Pharisees and he repeated his story again (verse 15). Not believing him, they called in his parents, who were scared of being excommunicated and wouldn’t say anything except to affirm that he had, indeed, been blind (verse 18-23).

So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.”

He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:24-25)

I think what the Pharisees were trying to do was convince this guy to say God healed him, and leave Jesus out of it. That never works — for “whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either” (1 John 2:23). When the Pharisees kept pressuring him, this man delivered a very simple testimony that enraged the Pharisees, who prided themselves on their intellect and knowledge of God.

The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” (J0hn 9:30-33)

There’s something to be said for paying attention to “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). The man who went with the simple, obvious explanation — that Jesus is a good man who performed a miracle — was much closer to God than the thoroughly educated church leaders.

A Personal Connection

After testifying to Jesus’ work in his life, the Pharisees excomunicated the formerly blind man (verse 34). This relates back to an earlier verse, which tells us “the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue” (John 9:22). This doesn’t sound so bad to us today — if we get kicked out of one church there are plenty more right down the street. In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ time, though, it meant banishment from religious life.

In his definition of aposunagogos (G656), Zodhiates notes that the highest degree of “casting out” (there were three) is “an exclusion from all the rights and privileges of the Jewish people, both civil and religious. The offender was considered as dead.” Jesus warned His followers about this possibility in John 16:2. Following Jesus was a huge, dangerous step for Jews. It meant risking isolation from other people and, if you believed the Pharisees, from God.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”

He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”

And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”

Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him. (John 9:35-38)

We don’t often see examples of Jesus making follow-up visits with people He healed, but it is clear from these verses that He was keeping track of what happened with this man. As soon as He heard about the Jews excommunicating the formerly blind man, Jesus tracked him down to encourage him and confirm his faith. This man was cast out by the Jews, but he was welcomed by the Messiah.

I’m touched by the personal attention Jesus gave this individual, and the parallels with our own calling. Jesus healed him, apparently without being asked to, and changed his whole life. In much the same way, God may call us when we’re not even looking for Him and don’t know how desperately we need His life-changing power.

This healing opened the blind man’s spiritual as well as physical eyes. Many of us today can relate the rejection he experienced when he started to share the story of how Jesus touched his life. I hope we can also relate to the comfort of having a personal connection with this great Being, who doesn’t leave people alone to navigate their new-found faith.

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