22 March 2013

John 9:1-34

"We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (vv. 4-5)


This sign points to a truth which Jesus spells out before he performs it - that he is the light of the world. If this seems to us to be a truth which needs a little explaining, however, we might be forgiven - certainly it appears to have caused confusion and disagreement at the time! The sign uses sight and blindness, light and darkness, and day and night, to speak of faith and unbelief.

Jesus' disciples (verse 2) and the Pharisees (verse 34) betray a common ancient world view that sees suffering or disability as a sign of God's judgement. Ironically, Jesus' reply could be taken in a similar way, as arguing for suffering as imposed by God to show power or make a point, but it should probably not be seen as a general point beyond the present case.

Sometimes it's the little words which carry much of the significance of the passage, and here the "we" in verse 4 is worth noting - Jesus' mission includes a place for his disciples. But it is Jesus who is sent, and this is perhaps part of the reason for the choice of water in which to wash: the pool of Siloam, which means 'sent', reflects Jesus' identity as the one who is sent by God.

There then follows a volley of questioning and confusion, and the contest between belief and unbelief. The man's neighbours struggle to believe that it really is him, but are confronted with the evidence of their own eyes. The Pharisees struggle with the tension between condemning Jesus as a sabbath-breaker and therefore a false prophet, and believing that such a sign must be from God. The parents know how miraculous a thing has happened, but are too afraid to put their faith openly in Jesus. The man himself, however, has received more than sight - he has received inner sight, or faith, and with it the certainty to live out that faith.

To Ponder

  • The man who received his sight ended up as the most clear-sighted of all. His parents were (perhaps naturally!) too scared to live by what they could see to be true. In what ways do you struggle to live according to the truth you profess?
  • Jesus is sent, but his work is also the work of his disciples. If he is the light of the world, how might we - individually and as the church locally or nationally - share in the work of opening the eyes of the world to see and live by that light?

Bible notes author

The Revd Catrin Harland

Catrin Harland is the Methodist chaplain to the University of Sheffield, where she spends her time discussing life and faith with students and staff, aided by coffee and cake. She is passionate about equipping young adults to discover and live out their calling in the Church and the world.