Week 8 – John 9:1-41
Every time Jesus healed someone he was communicating some deeper truth about himself; Jesus’ miracles were always a sign pointing to something greater. At bare minimum it was that God was at work through him, so people should listen to his words, but often there was even more to learn. John 9 is an example of that, where we see Jesus has the power to give sight to the blind in more than one way.
At the start we see some first-century assumptions about physical disease being rooted in some sin; Jesus’ disciples ask, “Who sinned?” when they see a blind man. Jesus defeats that notion, indicating that physical disease is simply an aspect of living a human life in a fallen world (though this by no means excludes pain and disease as an inherent consequence of sinful action; if you beat someone up, they might beat you up back). In fact, Jesus dying on the cross is the ultimate example of a bad thing happening to a good person. Jesus explains here that the man’s suffering is in order for the strength of God to be revealed through him. Note that, while this theological point is secondary to the primary thrust of the passage, it’s good to assess the theological touch points that we will need at some point in our life, in this case when we or someone we know suffers for no apparent reason.
Jesus gives us that primary focus in 9:5, “I am the light of the world.” Note that he says this right before he gives a blind man sight and calls a Pharisee blind; Jesus is being quite thematic. That theme points to a greater truth, that Jesus gives sight not just to physical eyes, but to spiritual ones. At first the blind man, having been healed, confesses Jesus to be a prophet (v.17), but later encounters Jesus again. Jesus inquires as to his belief in the Son of Man (Jesus’ favorite title for himself, taken from Daniel 7:13), and the man still isn’t sure who the Son of Man is. The theme continues when Jesus tells the man, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking with you.” In that moment Jesus opened the man’s spiritual eyes; he responds with, “I believe,” and worshipped Jesus, something he didn’t do upon receiving his sight. We should see in Jesus’ kind, slow work with this man hallmarks of his care for us. Every believer has been regenerated by Jesus to have the spiritual sight to see and worship him as savior, apart from which we cannot truly see him. Every believer has also received Jesus’ kind, slow work, to build us up to the point of faith and to continue in faithfulness.
Note about v.39-41
After healing the blind man, Jesus gives insight into part of his purpose on earth; Jesus came both to pronounce God’s favor on the far off (Matt.5:1-11; Luk.4:18-19) and to pronounce judgement on those whose lips honored God but whose hearts were far from him (Matt.15:8-9). In John 9:39 Jesus says that he came to bring sight to those who do not see and to blind those who do see out of judgment. What’s he saying here? It seems as though Jesus is talking about the prophecy from Isaiah 6, which he quotes in Matthew 13:13-17, “’For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, that I would heal them.’” Jesus came to give sight to those who were blind to him (and in this passage, quite literally blind), a sign that would point to his authority as the Son of God. For those who observed such a thing, like the Pharisees, and failed to heed such a sign, this stood to condemn them for their unbelief. Simultaneously there were people like the Pharisees who plainly understood the law and had every reason to see Jesus for who he was: the Messiah. Since these people failed to see and perceive who Jesus was, God gave them over to their desires of not seeing and not hearing; every word of blessing that Jesus would have spoken to them became a word of judgment for their unbelief. That’s why Jesus said to the Pharisee, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt,” because he was guilty of not seeing what was right in front of him.
Questions for Discussion
• Could someone read John 9:1-41 for us?
• What stood out to you from this passage?
• What assumptions about sin and physical disease are in this passage? How does Jesus help us understand these things here?
• What do you think Jesus was trying to communicate through the “works of God” in this passage?
• How do we see the blind man’s belief in Jesus develop over time?
• What has Jesus used in your life recently to help you see him more clearly?
• What does Jesus being the “light of the world” practically mean for our lives?