For an introduction to this series, click here.
May 7, 2007
This chapter basically has one story: the story of the healing of the man born blind. This story has a lot of layers, and hopefully we can dig into a few of them.
The story begins with a strange question from the disciples as they meet the man born blind: "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (9:2) This question reveals a lot about the Jewish faith and the mindset of the disciples. The disciples, the Jews in general, and lots of people today believe that bad things happen to people because they do bad things.
Jesus' response is a source of great comfort to me: "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him." (9:3) God is in control of even the bad things that happen in our lives. He is at work in ways we cannot understand. I'm sure that this man's parents were devastated when they found out he was blind. They probably questioned or even blamed God. They could have no way of knowing the plan God had for him. They just knew they would have to try to raise a blind son. God doesn't tell us His plans, He just goes ahead and does them and expects us to do our best.
Anyway, Jesus heals the man. Then the fun begins. First of all, the man goes around telling people he can see (remember he does not know anyone by sight) and some people doubt he is telling the truth. They say he looks like the blind man man who begged at the gate of the synagogue, but it couldn't be him. Finally he convinces most everyone around that he has been healed, and they bring him to the Pharisees. Many of the Pharisees said Jesus was not a prophet, because if He were He would not be working on Saturday. Others reasoned He must be from God because He is doing so many good works.
They brought his parents in, who basically said 'Yes he is our son, but you ask him how he got his sight.' John tells us they answered this way because "they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue." (9:22) The Pharisees' prejudices had already precluded them from finding out the truth.
So they ask him more questions. This man, who would have never been allowed in the Temple and who probably had no formal education, shows remarkable depth of insight. "Why, this is an amazing 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 if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." (9:30-33) Of course, the Pharisees' only response to this statement was to kick him out of the synagogue.This is the danger all of us face the minute we think we have God figured out. When we think we are the authority, that God can only act in ways that make sense to us, we are in trouble. The religious leaders of Jesus' day were confident they had God figured out. Then God Himself came among them and they rejected Him. Similar things happen in our time. People become confident in themselves and how they worship God, and they start to think their way is the only appropriate way to do so. Then when God actually does something they don't understand, they accuse those involved of displeasing God instead of embracing those through whom God is clearly working. I'm not suggesting we ignore centuries of church history and throw out all of our denominational teachings. I'm just suggesting we acknowledge that God can and does work through those who worship God differently than we do.