Cover image from
We have here another (‘nother) miracle story from the Gospel of John
As you may remember, the pattern for these stories is
Jesus does a miracle
People marvel, respond, discuss, and dialog with Jesus
And then Jesus tells them more about the miracle
Note that here the miracle itself is actually the shortest part of the pericope/passage (7/41 verses)
The rest of our passage is taken up with how people respond to this miracle healing
And, in fact, Jesus’ response to their response doesn’t end with chapter 9
But spills over into chapter 10, the “Good Shepherd” chapter
In which Jesus notes that his sheep know his voice and follow him
While also stating that he is the gate or door by which the sheep enter
In contrast to the thieves and robbers who try to lead the sheep astray
The audience of this healing of the man blind since birth is obsessed with the details
Who sinned—the man or his parents? that he was born blind
Was he really blind since birth?
Who healed him?
When was he healed?
They are, like many of us, trying to make meaning of what’s happened
They are asking the big questions
Theodicy, the two bit theology word for the question of why bad things happen
Identity, who is this Jesus? Where is he from?
Tradition, what about the Sabbath?
But Jesus’ answers don’t directly match the questions—
At least, they don’t seem to be directed at exactly the same things that concern his interlocutors
With regard to why the man is blind, Jesus dismisses the question of who sinned
Instead pointing to how God will work in this situation
This can be a tough example to follow
To lay aside the question of “Why”—Why me?
Why this disease/accident/situation?
And to instead try to answer the question of “What is God doing now?
“Given a man blind since birth, what works is God doing?”
Those around Jesus are left scrambling to try to figure out who he is
We saw this last week, when the opinions ranged from
“He must have a demon” and wanting to kill him
to wondering whether he is the Messiah
Such conversations continue now into chapter nine
The Pharisees ask the man who had been blind since birth who healed him
And when the neighbors ask him, he tells his story
and says that his healer is “the man called Jesus”
And when the Pharisees ask him, he tells his story
and says, with his newly opened eyes, that his healer is a prophet
It seems that this is the wrong answer, and so they go to speak to the man’s parents
Who, while affirming that he was blind since birth, do not want to get into this line of questioning
Realizing that this is how one gets thrown out of the Jewish community, by believing in Jesus
(as those in the Johannine community experienced for themselves)
So they go back to the man himself; after all, he is of age
And he asks them why they are asking him to tell his story again again
Do they also want to be disciples of Jesus?
That part of the answer to who is Jesus is that he is a person who has disciples
(It’s not clear if the “also” refers to Jesus’ disciples present in 9:1
Or if it might already refer to the man-born-blind-who-has-received-his-sight)
And he declares that this man who healed him, who is a prophet, and who has disciples
must not be a sinner, because God doesn’t listen to sinners. And that although they know where Moses came from and are his disciples and although they do not know where this healer came from and are not his followers, this unknown man has, nonetheless done what has never been done, healing a man blind since birth. And this is still the wrong answer—so much so that they “drive him out.”
And Jesus finds him
(the same word is used here for “find” as when Jesus found his first disciples
and they found each other to come and see Jesus)
And Jesus asks him the ultimate question: Do you believe in the Son of Man?
A phrase bespeaking Jesus as Messiah, Jesus as healer, miracle-worker, God incarnate
Alongside being “the man called Jesus”
John is forever holding together the human Jesus and the divine Jesus
The man who uses mud and spit, earthy elements, transforming and transfiguring them
To act as God, doing God’s work, bringing healing and wholeness
and membership in a new community
and worthy of worship
And then there is that timing thing, for all of this happens on the Sabbath
Further confusing and confounding the religious leaders
Who expect even miraculous saving works to follow the sabbath-keeping laws
The questions of the disciples, of the Pharisees and Jewish leaders, and of the blind man himself
Are questions of the people of faith today
In the face of questions of why, we are called to focus on the question of “Where is God at work?”
Given the pandemic, where is God at work?
Maybe, with God’s help, living without so many distractions
we learn to live with and govern ourselves
Maybe, with God’s help, by doing without so many ordinary things
we understand those things differently
Maybe, with God’s help,
crisis and threat clarify what is most important
Given a world engaged in armed conflict, where is God at work?
God is shining a light in the darkness
God is calling us to hear and obey, to be sent as the blind man was
To let God apply earthy elements to us (bread and cup) to open our eyes
And God is increasing our understanding of who Jesus is
God moves our understand of Jesus
From the man called Jesus
To someone who has disciples
To someone we ourselves can follow
To the Son of Man, worthy of worship
And God defies conventions in the service of compassion
Opening the eyes of the blind
And pointing out the blindness of those thought to be in the know
Calling us with the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd
Opening the gate to us to let us in
Calling us to follow him instead of the crowd
May we have ears to hear! Let us pray….