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Kaitha Third Sunday

Season of Kaitha

Third Sunday: John 9:1-38
JESUS HEALS A MAN BORN BLIND

INTRODUCTION

Here is a chapter-long narration of an extra-ordinary miracle Jesus performed. No one had healed a person born blind until that time. John the Evangelist presented this miracle to manifest Jesus’ glory. The miracle caused a controversy among the Jews because Jesus did it on a Sabbath. Because of the Sabbath violation, the Pharisees considered Jesus as a sinner. Others asked how a sinner could perform such a miracle. When questioned, the blind man’s parents took a neutral position and did not defend Jesus. The blind man, besides gaining physical sight, also gradually gained spiritual vision. We are all born spiritually blind. Let us seek the help of Jesus, the Light of the World, to enlighten us and guide us to the eternal bliss.

BIBLE TEXT

The Man Born Blind

(John 9:1) As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. (2) His disciples asked him, “Master, why was this man born blind? Because of his own sins or those of his parents?” (3) Jesus answered, “Neither his own sins nor those of his parents; he was born blind so that God’s work might be revealed in him. (4) While it is day we must do the work of the One who sent me; for the night will come when no one can work. (5) As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (6) As Jesus said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the spittle and rubbed it on the eyes of the blind man. (7) Then he said, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” (This name means sent.) So he went and washed and came back able to see. (8) His neighbors and all the people who used to see him begging said, “Is not this the man who used to sit here and beg?” (9) Some said, “It is the one.” Others said, “No, but he looks like him.” But the man himself said, “I am the one.” (10) Then they asked, “How is it that your eyes were opened?” (11) And he answered, “The man called Jesus made clay and put it on my eyes and said to me: ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went, and washed, and then I could see.” (12) They asked, “Where is he?” The man answered, “I do not know.”

(13) The people brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. (14) Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made clay and opened his eyes. (15) So the Pharisees asked him again, “How did you recover your sight?” And he said once more, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.” (16) Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he works on the Sabbath;” but others wondered, “How can a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” So they were divided (17) and they questioned the blind man again, “What do you think of this man who opened your eyes?” And he answered, “He is a prophet.” (18) After all this, the Jews refused to believe that the man had been blind and had recovered his sight; so they called his parents (19) and asked them, “Is this your son? You say that he was born blind, how is it that he now sees?” (20) The parents answered, “We know he is our son and we know he was born blind; (21) but how it is that he now sees, we do not know, neither do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is old enough. Let him speak for himself.” (22) The parents said this because they feared the Jews who had already agreed that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Messiah was to be put out of the synagogue. (23) That is why his parents said, “He is old enough, ask him.” (24) So a second time the Pharisees called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give God the praise, we know that this man is a sinner.” (25) He replied, “I do not know whether he is a sinner or not; I only know that I was blind and now I see.” (26) They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” (27) He replied, “I have told you already and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” (28) Then they started abusing him. “You are that fellow’s disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. (29) We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man we do not know where he comes from.” (30) The man replied, “It is amazing that you do not know where the man comes from, and yet he has opened my eyes! (31) We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone honors God and does his will, God listens to him. (32) Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person who was born blind. (33) If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (34) They answered him, “You were born a sinner and you teach us!” And they threw him out.

(35) Jesus heard that they had driven him out. He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (36) He answered, “Who is he, sir? Tell me, so I can believe in him!” (37) Jesus said, “You have seen him and he is speaking to you.” (38) He said, “Lord, I believe,” and fell on his knees in worship.

INTERPRETATION

(John 9:1) As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.

Because of the dispute with Jesus on Theological issues, the Jews picked up stones to throw at him. That was an assassination attempt. Since it was not his hour for self-sacrifice, he left the Temple area hiding himself from the public (John 8:59). On his way out, Jesus met a blind beggar. The beggars wait at the Temple gate (Acts 3:2) seeking alms from the worshippers. Since this man was blind, he did not notice Jesus. He saw the beggar because, unlike others, Jesus had compassion to the suffering people, and he reached out to help him.

The specialty of this miracle is that, out of the six miracles for the blind recorded in the gospels, this is the only person who was born blind. Others were blind because of sickness or accident that happened after their birth. This person had never seen light, nor seen any person, or anything in the world. He had no education and had not known about Jesus. No one had given sight to a person born blind. “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person who was born blind.” (John 9: 32). Jesus opening the eyes of a blind person was a proof that he was the Messiah to come. Isaiah had predicted: “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed.” (Isaiah 35:5).

(2) His disciples asked him, “Master, why was this man born blind? Because of his own sins or those of his parents?”

The disciples, who were travelling with Jesus, noticed that Jesus was paying empathetic attention to the blind. Along with the widespread belief, they could view the blind only as a sinner who deserved no compassion. The Jews believed that sin caused sickness. Jesus confirmed this viewpoint when he healed the sick person at the pool of Bethesda saying, “Now you are well; do not sin again, lest something worse happen to you.” (John 5:14). Sickness could also happen as a punishment for the sins of parents or ancestors. “You shall not bow down to them (idols) or serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God; punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” (Exodus 20:5). Exodus 34:7 and Number 14:18 repeat the punishment for sins to generations. Therefore, the disciples raised the question to Jesus when they saw this blind person. They presented only two choices to opt from: his sin or the sins of his parents. Since he was born blind, it could not be his sin. The answer they expected was the sins of his parents or ancestors.

(3) Jesus answered, “Neither his own sins nor those of his parents; he was born blind so that God’s work might be revealed in him.”

Jesus gave an unexpected answer to the disciples. Though sin and sickness came into the world because of the fall of first parents, Jesus considered that person’s blindness as God’s tool to manifest His glory. The Evangelist John gives importance to God’s glory manifested in Jesus’ ministry. The Book of Job refutes the suffering of the innocent people who face severe sickness or calamities. Job was “a blameless and upright man who feared God and shunned evil.” (Job 1:1) Still, he went through severe suffering. Because of Job’s fidelity to God and patience, he regained his lost glory. The reverse message is that the gains of a rich man are not because of his merits or of his parents, but because of God’s generosity. God entrusts the resources to take care of the less fortunate.

(4) While it is day we must do the work of the One who sent me; for the night will come when no one can work.

Jesus included his disciples by using “we” to do the works of God who sent Jesus. There was only a limited time for them to do the work. Night was symbolic of losing the opportunity to work because of death or disability to work. We shall not lose every minute to do good for the glory of God because there awaits a deadline when we must finish our work and report to God how we used our time and resources.

(5) As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

God created the light on the first day of creation before He created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day. God has always been the source of light. Jesus who originated from the Father came down as the light of the world. Besides giving physical light to few blind people, he gave spiritual light to many and continues to do the same. Jesus guides us who are spiritually blind to the genuine source of light.

(6) As Jesus said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the spittle and rubbed it on the eyes of the blind man.

Treatment with saliva and soil was an old medical practice because people believed in the curing effect of them. Jesus used his saliva also on other occasions. When some people brought a deaf and mute man to Jesus, he touched that man’s tongue with spittle (Mark 7:32-33). He healed another blind man at Bethsaida by using spittle on his eyes (Mark 8: 22-23).

Jesus did not need to use the spitted mud or washing in the lake for healing. However, he used some practice of the time to manifest the divine healing by human means. Though God can heal us, we shall use the natural or scientific means of healing that God has provided. Using the clay reminds us how God created the first man using clay. The blind man experienced the compassion of Jesus by his healing touch with the clay made of saliva.

(7) Then he said, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” (This name means sent.) So he went and washed and came back able to see.

Siloam means sent. Jesus, whom God sent to the world, sent the blind man to the pool of “Sent” to express his faith in the sender. We have a similar instance when Prophet Elisha healed Naaman. Elisha asked Naaman to go to River Jordan and wash seven times to heal from his leprosy. That was a test of Naaman’s faith (2 Kings 5:10–14). God expects our cooperation and compliance with the Lord’s commandments when we seek His favors. Jesus asked us to forgive others as a condition for God to forgive us.

People considered water as an agent for physical treatment. Jews considered water in the pool of Siloam as holy because priests carried that water in procession to the Temple and poured on the altar on the Feast of Tabernacle. The pool was also used to clean the sheep for Temple sacrifices. The blind man washed his uncleanliness in the water for gaining his vision that Jesus offered. We received baptism with water to take away our uncleanliness, so we could offer ourselves to God. The healed man returned to the place where Jesus met him, looking for Jesus to express his gratitude. But Jesus had left the place.

(8) His neighbors and all the people who used to see him begging said, “Is not this the man who used to sit here and beg?”

The former blind man’s neighbors and those who had seen him begging were raising the question. He was a well-known native of Jerusalem because many people had seen him there begging for years. His changed state confused some because they could not believe that this man blind from birth was looking and seeing normal.

(9) Some said, “It is the one.” Others said, “No, but he looks like him.” But the man himself said, “I am the one.”

People familiar with the formerly blind man expressed their normal reactions when they saw he had regained his sight. However, he confirmed his identity as the formerly blind beggar who got the healing. Thus he confirmed the miracle happened to him.

(10) Then they asked, “How is it that your eyes were opened?”

Only the disciples were present when Jesus smeared the eyes of the blind man with his saliva and clay. The public was curious to hear from the beggar how he got the healing. It was a great miracle, and nothing like that had happened before.

(11) And he answered, “The man called Jesus made clay and put it on my eyes and said to me: ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went, and washed, and then I could see.”

What the healed man knew about Jesus was his name and that he was a “man.” He did not see Jesus as a prophet or the Messiah. Only later he realized step by step who Jesus was because he was physically and spiritually blind. In his description of what happened, he did not mention Jesus spitting on the soil because he did not see that. He said, Jesus made clay, anointed his eyes, and asked him to go to Siloam and wash. Then he did as Jesus asked him to do and got the sight.

(12) They asked, “Where is he?” The man answered, “I do not know.”

The healed man did not get time to see Jesus. He moved out from there by the time the blind man got sight and returned. So, he was not aware of where Jesus was.

(13) The people brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. (14) Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made clay and opened his eyes.

The Jews in Jerusalem knew that their conservative leaders, especially Pharisees, hated Jesus because he was not following the Sabbath observance. Since Jesus healed the blind man on a Sabbath, they wanted confirmation from the Pharisees to keep him as a member of the synagogue. The Jews had expelled from the synagogue everyone who accepted Jesus. The people and their leaders did not acknowledge God’s glory revealed through Jesus for the blind beggar. Instead, they made use of it to plot against Jesus.

Though spitting on the ground, making clay out of it, rubbing it on the eyes, and asking the blind man to walk a long distance were simple acts, the Pharisees considered them as the violation of Sabbath observance. For Jesus, these were acts of mercy that perfected the Sabbath adherence. Such acts of mercy were not against the spirit of Mosaic law, but against the rules the leaders laid out later with wrong assumptions. From the Pharisees’ point of view, Jesus could do the miracle on another day. As per Rabbinic rules, only in case of an imminent danger can someone perform acts of recovery on a Sabbath.

(15) So the Pharisees asked him again, “How did you recover your sight?” And he said once more, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.”

The Pharisees started their investigation. To their question, the formerly blind man answered a summarized version of what he had told his neighbors and acquaintances. The brief answer expressed his displeasure in the interrogation. He sensed that the Pharisees were not appreciating the grace he received but trying to find fault with his benefactor. So, he skipped the details to avoid more accusations against Jesus. He did not mention the name of Jesus, how he made clay, and sent him to the pool of Siloam. Thus, he was a favorable witness for Jesus.

(16) Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he works on the Sabbath;” but others wondered, “How can a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” So they were divided.

One group of Pharisees could not appreciate the miraculous healing Jesus did to the blind beggar. From a negative perspective, they could see Jesus as a violator of the Sabbath observance. The other group had a logical question: How could a sinful man do such an amazing miracle? Their guess could be positive or negative. In the positive sense, they could mean that Jesus must be from God to perform such a sign and hence he could not be a sinner. Some members of the Sanhedrin like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had such a view. In the negative sense, as a sinful person, Jesus was performing miracles with the help of Beelzebul, the prince of the demons (Matthew 12:24).

(17) And they questioned the blind man again, “What do you think of this man who opened your eyes?” And he answered, “He is a prophet.”

Since the Pharisees could not agree on who Jesus was, they asked the formerly blind man’s opinion on what he thought of Jesus because he was the one who experienced the miracle. A positive response on Jesus could cause him trouble from the Pharisees, including expulsion from the synagogue. That happened later. However, unlike the earlier occasion when he qualified Jesus as a “man,” this time he presented Jesus, whom he never saw but experienced, as “a prophet.” A prophet meant a messenger from God, and he knew that some former prophets performed miracles. Thus, the blind man who gained his sight also gained spiritual sight.

(18) After all this, the Jews refused to believe that the man had been blind and had recovered his sight; so they called his parents.

The Pharisees wanted to prove that the miracle was a made-up story for the popularity of Jesus. If that miracle was real, they would have to acknowledge the divine power of Jesus whom they hated and wanted to avoid. So, they summoned the formerly blind man’s parents. Pessimists will always look for loopholes to prove their views.

(19) And asked them, “Is this your son? You say that he was born blind, how is it that he now sees?”

The Jews needed two witnesses to prove a truth. The healed man’s parents would be the best witnesses because they knew him from birth. The Pharisees asked three questions to the parents: (1) Was he their son? (2) Was he born blind? (3) How did he get the sight? The second question, “who you say was born blind” implied that they did not believe he was born blind. If he was born with eyesight and became blind later, that would lessen the quality of the miracle and the credibility of the claim made in favor of Jesus.

(20) The parents answered, “We know he is our son and we know he was born blind.”

They could give positive answers for the first two questions. They confirmed to the Jews that the formerly blind man was their son and that he was born blind.

(21) “But how it is that he now sees, we do not know, neither do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is old enough. Let him speak for himself.” (22) The parents said this because they feared the Jews who had already agreed that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Messiah was to be put out of the synagogue. (23) That is why his parents said, “He is old enough, ask him.”

The parents might know the truth from their son that Jesus healed him. They were not eyewitnesses to the miracle, and they knew the ill intention of the Jews. So, they did not want to give a correct answer to the third question because they were afraid of expulsion from the synagogue. The decision to expel from the synagogue must have been a local one and was not a formal order from the Sanhedrin because the disciples of Jesus continued to be members of the synagogue for many more years until 85 A.D. The parents requested the Jews to seek the answer from their adult son who knew how he received the healing and who did it for him. The parents took a neutral stand to save themselves from the anger of the Jews upon them.

(24) So a second time the Pharisees called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give God the praise, we know that this man is a sinner.”

The parents’ answer did not satisfy the Pharisees. The formerly blind was not present when they questioned the parents. So they called him. Since the Pharisees did not appreciate Jesus, they forced the healed man to tell that he had lied. They tried to convince him that Jesus was a sinner and that he should tell the truth on his healing. “Give God the praise” is a confession formula insisting the guilty to convey the truth. When Joshua questioned Achan on his mistake, Joshua said, “‘My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and praise him by telling me what you have done; do not hide it from me.’ Achan answered Joshua, ‘I have indeed sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel.’” (Joshua 7:19-20). The Pharisees were expecting a similar confession from the cured beggar.

(25) He replied, “I do not know whether he is a sinner or not; I only know that I was blind and now I see.”

The former blind man asserted that he was blind, Jesus healed him, and afterwards he could see. So according to the logic of Pharisees, Jesus could not be a sinner because a sinner could not do such a miracle. So, with no argument, the blind man ironically presented his view that Jesus was not a sinner. Out of his experience, he could not agree with the Pharisees. Even at the risk of expulsion from the synagogue, he affirmed his faith in Jesus.

(26) They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

The Pharisees repeated the question on how Jesus opened the blind man’s eyes. Their intention was to prove their negative stand on Jesus and to find inconsistency in the answers of the illiterate blind man. They also wanted to find fault with Jesus based on his prohibited actions on the Sabbath.

(27) He replied, “I have told you already and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

The former blind man did not repeat his answer. Instead, he questioned the Pharisees, who were of a lofty status among the Jews. His answer was that he had already told them, and they did not heed to it. He understood their ill intention of finding fault with Jesus instead of appreciating him. So, he raised sarcastic questions against the Pharisees. He already knew that Jesus had disciples because he heard them asking to Jesus on the cause of his blindness.

(28) Then they started abusing him. “You are that fellow’s disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.”

Because of the ironic questioning and non-cooperation of the former blind beggar, the Pharisees got offended and so they ridiculed him. They even credited him to be a disciple of Jesus when he was not. He developed appreciation towards Jesus and thought he must be a prophet. While the blind man was becoming the disciple of Jesus, the Pharisees remained to be disciples of Moses. Moses was God’s servant, while Jesus was the Son of God. A genuine believer of Moses should become a follower of Jesus, because Moses also had written and testified of Christ.

(29) “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man we do not know where he comes from.”

Pharisees knew that God had spoken to Moses, especially on Mount Sinai. However, Moses had not seen God face to face in full glory. God told Moses, “You cannot see my face because no one can see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20). The Pharisees were not open to God and could not understand that Jesus was from God and that he was the God incarnate.

(30) The man replied, “It is amazing that you do not know where the man comes from, and yet he has opened my eyes!”

The formerly blind man could not comprehend the Pharisees’ argument against his personal experience of the miraculous healing. He was sure that Jesus opened his eyes, though he did not know whether Jesus was a sinner or a divine messenger like Moses.

(31) “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone honors God and does his will, God listens to him.”

The blind beggar who experienced mercy and unique miracle from Jesus spoke to the Pharisees defending Jesus. His faith increased. Using the Pharisees’ arguments, he affirmed that Jesus could not be a sinner. God listened to Jesus to perform the miracle because Jesus was doing God’s will.

(32) “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person who was born blind. (33) If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

The only healing from blindness in the Old Testament was of Tobit. However, he was not born blind. That made Jesus’ miracle important and became a proof for his Messiahship. Unlike the well-educated Pharisees, the illiterate beggar argued that Jesus could not do such miracles unless he was from God. This also shows how his argument with the Pharisees led him to increase his faith in Jesus. It was a fulfillment of what Jesus declared in Luke 10:21, “Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, and made them known to little children.’” This childlike and uneducated person knew more about God than the learned Pharisees.

(34) They answered him, “You were born a sinner and you teach us!” And they threw him out.

The reasonable questions and the prudent answers of the illiterate beggar offended the Pharisees. According to them, God cursed him even before his birth. He was born in sin and God had punished him with blindness even from the time of his birth. As the disciples had mentioned earlier, either he or his parents might have sinned. How could a sinner and beggar whom all hated could teach the Pharisees? So, they punished him by expelling him from the community. 

(35) Jesus heard that they had driven him out. He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

Jesus came in search of the man and found that the Pharisees had expelled him because of his profession of faith in Jesus. His parents had forsaken him for fear of Jews. However, Jesus came to his rescue fulfilling Psalms 27:10, “Though my father and mother forsake me, yet the LORD will receive me.” Jesus gave him another opportunity to declare his faith in the “Son of Man.” Instead of using “Son of God” for himself, Jesus often used “Son of Man” as a human being and as an exalted heavenly one as given in Daniel 7.

(36) He answered, “Who is he, sir? Tell me, so I can believe in him!”

Though Jesus had spoken and touched the blind man’s eyes with spitted soil before, he was seeing Jesus only when he returned in search of him. So, he could not recognize Jesus. He was curious to understand who that Son of Man was who healed him.

(37) Jesus said, “You have seen him and he is speaking to you.”

This answer of Jesus identifying himself as the “Son of Man” was like how Jesus introduced himself to the Samaritan woman in John 4:26, “I who speak to you am he.” Thus, Jesus revealed to this poor man his identity.

(38) He said, “Lord, I believe,” and fell on his knees in worship.

The climax of the long event is the profession of faith of this formerly blind beggar and his worship of Jesus as an act of his faith. Like St. Peter and St. Thomas, this poor man professed his faith. Like many others, he prostrated and worshipped Jesus. Worship means veneration paid to a divine being. Jesus allowed others to worship him to acknowledge his divinity though he never looked for it. Several earthly kings had demanded worship, considering themselves as deities. This man worshipped Jesus, humbling himself, expressing his love and gratitude to Jesus. Thus, the blind man’s belief in Jesus started with “a man” later turned into a prophet and finally a Lord and Son of God.

MESSAGE

1. We do not appreciate our gift of sight. God has given us eyes to see the glory of God and to worship him through our service for others. Often, we misuse our eyesight for sins. Then our eyesight leads us to spiritual blindness.

2. There could be sickness or disability because of one’s own sin or the carelessness of others like drunkenness, smoking, crazy driving, sexual misconduct, or irresponsible behavior. However, we cannot relate every sickness or accident to the sin of the person involved. So we cannot judge others. Instead, we need to be compassionate and helping those in need, even if it happened because of their fault.

3. The opposition of the religious leaders against Jesus led to the spiritual growth of the blind man. Negativities of others can also cause excellent results in us.

4. The parents of the blind man who got the healing were unwilling to acknowledge that Jesus healed their son. They found excuses such as they were not eyewitnesses, and their son was of age to answer the question. We also sometimes take such a neutral position to save ourselves from the challenges facing the church and its leaders.

5. When we have disabilities, diseases, or other mishaps in life, we should not take such sufferings in a negative sense. God has a plan for each of us and our hardships might lead to the glory of God and betterment of us in time, as with Job and the blind man in this parable.

6. Jesus came in search of the formerly blind man whom the Jews expelled from the community and the parents abandoned for fear of the Jewish leaders. Jesus offered him support and gave him more spiritual sight. Let us know that when we stand for Jesus and face challenges on our faith, Jesus will be our defender.

7. The blind man got double healing: Physical eyesight and a spiritual insight that led him to the eternal light through Jesus, the Light of the World. Though many in the world have physical sight, they lack spiritual vision. Let us seek more the spiritual sight for ourselves and those we serve.