28 July 2017

John 9:1-12

“As he walked 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?’” (vv. 1-2)

Psalm: Psalm 43


In Jesus' day many believed that illness or disability was a punishment from God. Of course, it is not a belief that is confined to the past, even today if someone falls ill the question might be asked - what have I done to deserve this? Jesus denies that there is a straightforward equation here and says the man's blindness is not a result of sin, but an opportunity for God (verse 3). He goes on to heal the man with a method others used at the time, by making mud using spittle and putting it on the man's eyes. (Even today we might use a mud face pack or even take a mud bath!) There is, though, a more serious point being made here. John's Gospel records details, not in order for the reader to picture the event, but to understand its significance. God had formed Adam out of the mud (Genesis 2:7), and Jesus remakes the blind man also out of mud - he was doing "the works of him who sent me" (v. 4).

The whole incident is recorded not for itself, but for what it teaches or shows us. John's Gospel contains seven events that are portrayed as signs - in other words events which point beyond themselves to their deeper significance. This whole chapter is about blindness and seeing, light and dark, belief and rejection. The questions start with the blind man himself - the crowd struggle to believe that it is the same person, and while the blind man knows his own story and identity, at this early stage he seems to know or understand very little about Jesus. It seems unlikely that he really understands at this point that Jesus is "the light of the world" (John 8:12), but by the end of the chapter he has come to faith "Lord, I believe" (v. 38). The story of the blind man is like an acted parable of conversion, step by step the formerly blind man comes to understanding and to faith.

To Ponder

  • Are there bad events or situations which could become opportunities for God? What are they, and how might they be opportunities?
  • How can our attitudes towards the sick or less-abled be more positive?
  • How can you help others progress on their journey to (and of) faith?

Bible notes author

June Feather

June Feather is a manager and Religious Studies teacher in a sixth form college. She preaches in the Cleveland and Danby Circuit, and feels privileged to live in such a lovely area with its country and coastal walks.