Lectionary Year A – Lent 4 : Sunday 22nd March 2020

♦ ♦ ♦ John 9 : 1 – 41 ♦ ♦ ♦

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind and Spiritual Blindness-

Jesus arrived in Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths (see John 7), which commemorates Israel’s time in the wilderness. On the festival’s opening night, four golden candlesticks were lit in the Temple’s Court of Women to symbolise God leading his people through the wilderness by pillars of cloud and fire (Exodus 13.17-22). This ritual informs the evangelist’s testimony to Jesus, the light of the world (8.12).

The blind man is not just low in economic status as a beggar, but also stigmatised as a sinner because of his disability (v.2). The man’s condition excludes him from Temple worship (Leviticus 21.16-24), and affects his parents, who are reluctant to identify too closely with him later in the story (vv.2,20-23). Jesus sees here an opportunity to do God’s work, even though this is the sabbath (vv.4,14; see also 5.16). He uses the methods of a traditional healer, preferring handmade mud over medicine, and telling the man to wash in the pool whose name symbolises Jesus as the one sent by God (John 3.17; 17.3ff.; 20.21). For a man who has never seen before, his sight is nothing short of a new creation.

Jesus then disappears, leaving the man to deal with critical Pharisees, who cannot believe that Jesus could possibly have been sent from God when he is so careless about obeying Moses. First, they dispute whether the man was actually blind, and demand that his parents verify this. Then they doubt whether Jesus could actually have healed him. The Pharisees’ insistence on discrediting his testimony only makes the man more defiant. As his eyes become more open to the truth of Jesus, theirs become more closed. They expel him from the synagogue with a flourish of hard-hearted arrogance.

Jesus returns to find a man whose faith has grown so much in the face of adversity that he is able to make a typically Johannine confession of faith. He is a model believer, who has undergone a kind of public baptism (as Jesus told Nicodemus the Pharisee to do). As such, he is an example to the evangelist’s community of the courageous faith they need in their struggles with hostile synagogues (vv.22,34; cf. John 16.2). By contrast, the critical Pharisees sink so deeply into the shadows that they are as good as blind, not only to the light of the world but also to their own self-deception.

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