Friday

01 August 2014

“‘... As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.” (vv. 5-7)


Background

The healing of the blind man seems at first glance to be disconnected from the preceding argument around Jesus' identity (John 8) - but this misses something of the point of the dialogue and the miracle performed.

Firstly, it is significant that Jesus once again invokes the 'I am' declaration, paralleling God's self- description in Exodus 3:14 - "I am who I am". This is the second time Jesus includes what are now known as the 'I am sayings' although there are other frequent references in chapter 8. Throughout John's Gospel, Jesus declares his identity through I am sayings, often coupled with an example. At the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14), Jesus teaches "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35). Here, a blind man receives sight, whilst Jesus declares "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12). Later, at the death of Lazarus (John 11), Jesus declares "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25). For Jesus, his teaching is not just about words - it is also about relationship, touch, emotion and experience. Jesus takes a holistic approach.

Faced with the blind man at the poolside, Jesus is first challenged about the source of sickness (verse 2). The view of the day was that illness was a punishment - and that this man's parents must have sinned in the past. Jesus, however, is adamant that illness and sickness, although not part of God's intention, is not a result of sinfulness (verse 3).

Jesus spits on the ground, makes mud, and puts it on the man's eyes (verse 6). There are no words of confession, no negotiation or explanation of what is happening - just the simplicity and intimacy of spit, mud and touch. To Western readers, as well as for the contemporary crowd, this was an unusual and uncomfortable act.

Faced with the pain of human experience and existence today, it can sometimes be hard to find ways of offering healing into long-term, chronic, life-altering, conditions. It can be even harder, therefore, to find simple, intimate, tactile ways to offer hope and healing.

And it can be even harder to receive.


To Ponder

  • Would you have rubbed spit and mud in your eyes, if you were in the position of the blind man?
  • Why do you think that Jesus spat on the ground?
  • Who do we need to bring light to this week? What simple, tactile action might you be able to offer?


Bible notes author: The Revd Joanne Cox

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