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Jesus: The Healer of the Blind

July 29, 2009

healing_of_the_blind_man_jekelI know that these posts may not be all that exciting, but it’s about the only posting I can do these days.  Again, this is an assignment, where we are basically thinking “out loud” about a text.  It’s kind of fun, because afterwards, you can read what you wrote and there are usually things that you haven’t thought about before that you wrote while thinking throug the text.  It really helps me connect themes, passages, and explore my thoughts about a particular biblical passage.

Anyway, here is a close reading of John 9:1-10:

Up to the point of John 9, if we take the previous eight chapters in a somewhat chronological fashion, we realize that Jesus has been encountering a lot of opposition for the good deeds that he has been doing.  In fact, he has just escaped a stoning as he walks up on the blind man of John 9.  This opposition may be important to note, because Jesus seems to realize that “night is coming” (John 9:4), and this makes sense in lieu of the mounting opposition that Jesus is facing.

In any case, “as he [Jesus] walked along” he sees a blind man whom the text says had been that way from birth.  His disciples ask him a logical question and enquire as to who sinned to cause this man to be born this way—his parents or him.  This question is important for a number of reasons.  First, it brings to mind an incredibly significant passage in the Old Testament—the giving of the commandments found in Exodus 20.  As God reveals Himself to Moses, He claims in the second commandment:

“You shall not bow down to them [idols] or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me [emphasis mine]” (Exodus 20: 5).

In light of this statement by God, it seems only reasonable that the disciples make the correlation between the blindness of the man and the sin of his parents or his own sin as the cause.

Secondly, this question also brings to mind the friends of Job who claim that it is Job’s sin that causes the many terrible things to happen to him.  Oddly enough, the book of Job doesn’t present that assumption as accurate, for God chastises the friends of Job on their false assumptions.

Thirdly, Jesus himself does not relate the sin of the blind man or his parents to the blindness of the man.  We can assume, from the question that the disciples ask, that this belief is a normal one for Israelites to hold.  We see it come up over and over again—women who believe that their barrenness is punishment from God, lepers who are told that their disease is a result of uncleanness, and so on.  Yet, astoundingly, Jesus denies (at least in this case) that there is a connection between the ailment of the man and prior sin.

Jesus then says (according to the text):  “he was born blind so that God’s work might be revealed in him” (John 9: 3).  [This is outside the functions of an interpretive assignment, but I’ve read elsewhere that the actual Greek wording of this statement is more like: “No! But let the works of God be revealed.”  If this is so, it would further the idea that God is not behind the blindness, but is rather concerned with healing].  Jesus does not claim that sin had anything to do with the blindness, but makes the connection, instead, to the purposes of God to heal—perhaps for the “purpose” of glorifying Jesus’ ministry.  However, with the current rendering of the verse, it does seem to imply that this man’s blindness is a direct result of God’s involvement, hence why I prefer the alternative Greek translation.  No matter the case, the point is clear, Jesus wants to reveal the purposes of God through healing.  God is in favor of healing this blind man!

Jesus continues with the idea that “we” (!), as in Jesus and his disciples, must do the works of “him who sent me” [God] while it is still day, for “night is coming when no one can work.”  This is a mysterious statement to me, but contains a lot of information to work with.  First, Jesus includes the disciples in the “work” of the Father.  I assume that this work is the miraculous healings, feedings, and deliverances that Jesus has been doing.  It’s pretty amazing that he would include the disciples in this work.  However, he says that there is “night” coming when no one can work.  This day/night imagery resounds with the light/darkness imagery used a number of times throughout the gospel.  My own stab at this, is that Jesus is referring to the mounting opposition that he is facing, knowing that it will eventually lead to his death.  The working while it is “still day” possibly refers to continue on with his ministry purposes while he is still alive and well.  I mention this, because I don’t believe that Christ is saying that the works of Christ are supposed to cease infinitely—only that there will be a period of time when “darkness” will reign (crucifixion and death).  Obviously we know that the works of Christ did continue with the early church.  Darkness doesn’t have the last word.

His claim that “as long as [he] is in the world, [he] is the light of the world” confirms this idea that he is to continue his healing/deliverance ministry while he is still alive.  Jesus proceeds to heal the blind man.  While often Jesus simply says a word to be healed, this healing is more complex.  Jesus spits on the ground and makes some mud to put over the blind man’s eye.  He then tells him to go wash in the pool of sent (Siloam).  I’m not sure what the Greek would look like here, but it seems to be a play on words.  “Go to Sent” and be healed.  Could this whole act (the mud, the going, the pool called “Sent) be faith in action?  As you “go” you will receive your healing, and when you reach the place of Sent, you will have been healed.

Neighbors who had previously known this man begin to make a commotion about the healing, asking if this was the blind beggar, while others saying it must be someone else.  I like the wording of the text:  “he kept saying” that he was the blind beggar.  It’s almost as if he’s insisting on this healing, but no one is listening.  It’s a strong pictorial moment.  They finally ask him, “Then, how were your eyes opened?”  This obviously has to do with his physical eyes, but it connects with the themes of light and darkness, believing and not believing, seeing and not seeing.

The blind man explains, and I love the simplicity of his explanation.  It’s straightforward and matter-of-fact.  This pericope ends with the people asking where Jesus is, and the man not knowing.  This is not the first time Jesus is there and then not there.  In fact, this seems to be a motif of John—Jesus seems to come and go without people noticing.  In John 5, he does the same thing for a crippled man.  My conclusion of this is that Jesus is trying to do the ministry of God and heal people without attracting too much attention to Himself, but he continues to attract it anyway.  The day is revealing the night, but the night is fighting back.

In the end, Jesus shows that God’s ministry and purposes is to heal and deliver.  Jesus is doing the work of “him who sent me” while he can.  This passage says a great deal (explicitly and implicitly) about sin, sickness, evil, God’s intentions and purposes, etc.  And in the middle of all this is a man, blind from birth, who can now see.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2009 1:38

    Wow. This was really thought provoking Jonathan. It does make sense, as you mention the scripture in Exodus, that people during this time would assume any sickness or in this case blindness, would have to do with decisions previous generations had made. Interestingly, presently, we always assume that sickness is “for God’s glory… then we pray for healing for people, but maybe don’t expect them to be healed? Simply because it’s for God’s glory… and we don’t always believe in the healing power of God. Obviously Christ healing this man, and all his miracles simply show that as God, there is power over the brokenness and sin that runs so prevalently through humanity. I appreciated your statements at the end.. it does say a lot about who God is… “The day is revealing the night, but the night is fighting back”… profound.

    Glad to see you’re blogging again too! 🙂

    • jonathangroover permalink*
      July 31, 2009 9:53

      Thanks Meridith! I completely agree with you about saying sickness is for “God’s glory.” It’s kind of hard to pray in faith for healing when we believe that the sickness is God’s intention. Our prayers are always going to half-hearted if we believe that. That’s why I love Christ’s willingness to heal all who are afflicted. When you read the gospels, you get the idea that Jesus is on a rampage against sickness and demonic oppression–as if they are both the enemy! I love Christ’s “fighter” mentality.

  2. July 31, 2009 1:39

    Also: amazing painting too!!

  3. August 3, 2009 10:58

    One of the most difficult prayers for me is asking God for healing. Sometimes I’m not sure what to pray because…well…it’s beyond my imagination and expectation. I guess my mind has become dull in experiencing this kind of miracle. I also feel like, from my experience, He doesn’t always heal the person I pray for physically. And I think that’s what I expected, to be rid of the fever completely, that the tumor would be wholly removed.

    So, lately, my prayer for healing has been more like an obligated one. I kinda mumbled through the sentences asking for His comfort, peace and delivery of pain…but at the end I say, “Yet let Your will be done in this man’s life”.

    But I do believe that Jesus is the Healer and the Physician…but sometimes faith with doubts produce a different fruit from faith without doubts.

    • jonathangroover permalink*
      August 6, 2009 4:08

      Mink,

      I hear you about it being hard to pray in faith for healing, when we’ve seen it not work. I think there are a myriad of reasons why people don’t get healed, but I do think that the body of Christ as a whole, does not pray really believing that God will do anything. Often, we begin our prayers defeated. The only think I can think of to counter this, is to soak ourselves in the presence of God so much that we realize He really does want to heal. Keep praying! 🙂

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