John places this story following the Feast of Tabernacles which was highlighted by the illumination of the temple. At this feast the people remembered the promise that the day of the Lord, “… will be a unique day—a day known only to the Lord—with no distinction between day and night. When evening comes, there will be light.” (Zechariah 14:7). Giving light to the eyes of this blindman is a practical sign of Jesus’ claim to be the light of the world.
This was not an ordinary miracle, it was most extraordinary, as the healed man said, “Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind.” (John 9:32) You might have thought such an amazing miracle would be a cause for joy and celebration, but instead it raises questions, and tensions rise. Some neighbours don’t believe it is the same man; the authorities call his parents for proof of identity, but they don’t want to be implicated in the healing. After intense questioning the man is expelled from the synagogue, cut off from the faith community.
A big issue and point of conflict is who is greater, Jesus or Moses. The authorities are disciples of Moses and “enforcers” of Moses’ law. By making a potion of spittle and clay, Jesus had technically worked on the Sabbath and therefore had broken the law of Moses. The question was whose side are you on? Are you a disciple of Moses who will follow the law or a disciple of Jesus who will follow him? This was in fact a false choice. Jesus fulfilled the law of Moses and was the prophet who Moses promised would come. It raised the questions then, which is still relevant today. Are we disciples of Jesus? Will we follow Jesus?
The last scene in this story is perhaps the most heart-warming. It is hard to imagine what was going on in this man’s mind. It was the best day of his life, his sight restored, a new life opening before him. Yet his parents won’t embrace him, his neighbours don’t believe him and the authorities excommunicate him.
When Jesus heard that the man had been cast out he went looking for him. An early Christian said, The authorities cast him out of the temple, but the Lord of the temple found him. Jesus had dealt with his physical problem. Now Jesus deals with his spiritual problem. Scholars note this man’s understanding of Jesus is gradually transformed. In verse 11 he says, The man Jesus opened my eyes, verse 17 Jesus is a prophet, and in verse 38 he calls Jesus Lord. From man, to prophet to Lord.
Again, this raises questions for us. Do you see Jesus as a man, a prophet or as Lord. Have you encountered him in your life or do you turn a blind eye to him? Have you accepted him as your Lord and Saviour? Those who have found Jesus, can identify with the words from John Newton’s hymn, I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.
Do you identify more easily with the man who believed, the neighbours who doubted or the authorities who opposed Jesus?
Consider a time when Jesus brought light into your life, how did that help you?
Rev John Malcolm