On the Gospel of John 9:1-41
4th Sunday of Lent
This Gospel story of the man blind from birth presents us with unbelievers.
Time and time again, the people in the story are shown something, or told something, but they cannot perceive what is really happening. There is it seems sight, but no insight. The disciples assume, wrongly, that the man’s blindness is caused by sin. The neighbours struggle to come to terms with the transformation from blind beggar to witnessing disciple. The Pharisees persist in asking the man to tell his story, trying to find an explanation for his cure that will not contradict their expectations of how God works. They cross-question his parents and then turn again on the blind man himself. It seems that however plainly the blind man states his case; the Pharisees cannot see the simple truth that he has been healed by Jesus. He even asks them if they want to become disciples as they seem so interested in him.
This Gospel story has many layers of meaning, I would like to suggest two insights to consider, the first an encouragement, the other, a warning. This Gospel passage demonstrates the fact that, when it comes to matters of belief, what is obvious to some is hidden from others; there will be those who see and believe, even if they don’t understand. On the other hand there will be those who seem never to cease to question, and who will look for every kind of explanation and reason, rather than accept the power of God at work among us. As followers of Christ we are called to love and work with them all, but we cannot always make them see. Only God in his own time can. Perhaps more importantly, the passage also reminds us that it is those who think they know how God works, who are sometimes the most blind and the most taken by surprise when they have their eyes opened.
St Irenaeus tells us “By our own powers we cannot see God, yet God will be seen by us because he wills it. He will be seen by those he chooses at the time he chooses, and in the way he chooses, for God can do all things”
As he went 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?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said. They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided. Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.” They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
– John 9:1-41