“They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet. But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.” John 9:13-18
This is a continuation of our study of the Gospel of John. The Beloved Disciple selected seven public signs that declare Jesus’ identity as well as Israel’s judgment and he used these seven to structure the Fourth Gospel. The first sign was turning the water into wine in Cana. The second sign was the cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem. The third sign was the healing of the Nobleman’s son in Galilee. The fourth sign was the healing of the cripple man by the Pool of Bethesda right next to the Temple. The fifth sign was the feeding of the multitude in the countryside of Galilee. The sixth sign was the healing of the man born blind. And seventh sign was the raising of Lazarus from the dead. As you know the number seven is the number of perfection and fullness, because that number represents the finality of God’s creation of the universe. But some doctors of the Church believe that the Beloved Disciple added an eight sign, a final sign, the finality of finality, the Eight Day of the New Creation, which miracle and sign is the bodily resurrection of our crucified Lord and Savior Jesus the Messiah.
Something else about the seven signs of the Fourth Gospel — though there is no hostility express toward Jesus at the Wedding in Cana, beginning with the cleansing of the Temple, he becomes the object of the enmity and hatred of the Masters of Israel. And their obsession with him waxes greater with each sign, till Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and they begin planning in earnest to murder both Jesus and Lazarus in order to put an end, as they saw it, to the hemorrhaging of Jewish loyalty.
Today we will examine the sixth sign; the healing of the man born blind. As the reader enters chapter nine he realized the narrative has simply continued. Jesus walked out the Temple through the midst of the rulers who were about to stone him, at which point he and his disciples passed by a man who was blind from birth. His disciples ask whether it was his parents’ sin or his own sin that caused his blindness. Jesus told them this whole matter was for the glory of God. He then spat on the ground, made clay of the spittle, anointed the man’s eyes with the mud, and told him to go and wash in a pool. He did what Jesus told him to do and he was instantly healed. His neighbors identified him as the man they knew, the man born blind, though some of his neighbor said he looked very much like the blind beggar but they were not sure. “I am he,” the man declared to his neighbors and other people who saw the miracle, including Jesus’ disciples.
“They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.” John 9: 13-17
That phrase, “They brought him to the Pharisees,” has the ring of a formal presentation to it and that makes sense in light of such an astonishing miracle. Though miracles are recorded in the Old Testament, no one was ever healed of blindness, much less was anyone healed who was blind from birth. This healing was absolutely without precedence so “3they brought him to the Pharisees.” John informs us for the first time that this miracle was on the Sabbath and so by now we know what to expect. Most of what follows sounds like a legal deposition with witnesses being interviewed and examined. “How did you receive your sight?” He answered, “a man put mud on my eyes, I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees declared right then that the man he encountered was not of God because he broke the sabbath. But other Pharisees said, “How can he not be of God and do such a miracle?” Then they asked the man who was healed, “Who do you say he is?”
“I think he is a prophet,” the man said. In the Old Testament, miracles authenticated that the prophet or messenger was from God.
“But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.” John 9:13-23
Now we see what is behind the questions: the Rulers of Israel believed the man was a fraud. He was never blind. The whole thing is a lie to promote the Nazarene. So having certified the man’s testimony, they called in his parents to expose the deception. Only it turned out that he was not lying about his blindness and his parents backed that up. “Yes,” this man is our son; no mistake about it. “And yes, he was born blind. But by what means he now can see, or who has done this to him, we do not know. Ask him, he old enough to answer for himself.” There is a craven tone to the way they distance themselves from their son — not what we expect from our families. And John, in order to explain their tone, interjects that the parents were afraid of the Pharisees — the word was on the street that anyone who confessed that Jesus was the Messiah would be excommunicated from the synagogue.
At this point the Pharisee’s have heard three witnesses who have verified that the man was born blind and that he was instantly healed: the man himself, the man’s neighbors, and now his parents. They all agree that this man is the man they know to have been born blind and they know now that he can see. Having failed to prove that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax, the Masters of Israel recall the man for cross-examination:
“Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples.” John 9: 24-28
Now when the Pharisees asked the same questions over again trying to catch him in a contradiction the table is turned — the man who was healed began to really see what was going on. The phrase, “Give God the Praise,” puts the him under oath.
“We know that Jesus is a sinner.”
“Whether he is a sinner or not, I do not know. I am not qualified. What I do know is that I was blind, I have always been blind, and now I see.”
“How did he open your eye,” they asked him again?
Then he began teasing and taunting the Pharisee. “We have already been over this,” the man said. “I was blind — maybe you are deaf? You can’t hear. Do you want to become one of his disciples? Is that it?”
“You are Jesus’ disciple,” they said. “We are Moses’ disciples. Moses we know, this man — we do not even know where he is from.”
“Well, now,” the man said, “this is something to remember. This is a miracle, this a wonder (that’s the word he uses) in and of itself. You don’t know where he is from and yet he has given me my sight. He has opened my eyes. Ever since the world began no one who was born blind has been healed. My whole life I have been told that. I have never hoped for anything. But now I see. If this man is a sinner and not from God he could do nothing.” The man has gone from being a blind beggar his whole life, doubted by neighbors, abandoned by his parents, treated like a common criminal by those who should have been protecting him, to a man who knows who he is, to a man who is fearless and free, because Jesus the Messiah loves him.
“They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.”
He is excommunicated from the synagogue while his excommunicators have cut themselves off from the God of Israel, Jesus the Messiah. He has been cast from the Temple in Jerusalem but he has come to Jesus the living Temple of God. He who was blind from birth sees the glory of God in Jesus while those who should have been his teachers are blind and in darkness.
Jesus does not veil his identity as the God of Israel. He does not speak in a sly and tricky manner to the big shots in Jerusalem. He is the very opposite of allusive or enigmatic. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob standing in his own Temple on his own two feet, loving one of his own creatures of broken flesh and loving him with his flesh and his divine Spirit.
The mission of the Word of the Father made flesh involved bringing Light and Life into the world and the Light that lighten every man also magnifies sinister behavior — so men hate the Light and they will do all they can to extinguish it. Jesus is the Light and those who come to him will never die. To see Jesus as this man saw Jesus is perfect sight, indeed it is the finality of seeing, the finality of all vision, because it is the vision of God: