15 March 2010

John 9:1-41

"One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." (v.25)


The story of a man blind from birth being healed by Jesus is a story that works at different levels, and incorporates a number of perspectives. In addition to the astonished man receiving the gift of sight, we hear of his bemused parents. For the religious leaders, the act of healing was an affront to their sense of decency in a number of ways. They were disturbed that anyone could exercise the power to heal another of a congenital illness or impairment, and outraged that he chose to do so on the Sabbath day - the day of rest.

This act of healing gave rise not only to amazement and gratitude, but also to tensions, arguments and opposition. The surface story is one of physical healing which brought a dramatic change of life and wholeness for the one healed. The deeper meaning points to the challenges and tensions that are experienced when 'blindness' is changed to 'seeing'; when darkness is pierced by light; when lack of understanding gives way to insight; when denial of the truth is dissipated by a new awareness of self and God.

At the heart of this story are heard powerful words of testimony - both from the healed man and his parents, and from Jesus. The man who received the gift of sight replied to the questioning of the religious leaders by declaring, "One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see". His parents struggled to accept the dramatic healing of their son, yet were able to testify to his lifelong disability and to the change they saw in him: beyond that they said he must speak for himself (verses 20-22).

Jesus also offered testimony. Before healing the man he declared, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world", and at the end of the story Jesus sought the man out in order to speak to him of the Son of Man, declaring "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he".

To Ponder

Are there people in current news stories who are offering personal testimony or eyewitness accounts of their experience? Who are you willing to believe? Why?

When were you last shaken out of cynicism or disbelief by a personal testimony that 'rang true' for you?

Which fresh insights in your own awareness of self, or God, do you most cherish?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Liz Smith

Liz is currently chair of the Leeds Methodist District. She has conducted research into the Church as a learning community, with particular reference to the experience of women.