As Jesus went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?’ ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus answered ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
‘As long as the day lasts
I must carry out the work of the one who sent me;
the night will soon be here when no one can work.
As long as I am in the world
I am the light of the world.’
Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man, and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored.
His neighbours and people who earlier had seen him begging said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ The man himself said, ‘I am the man.’ So they said to him, ‘Then how do your eyes come to be open?’ ‘The man called Jesus’ he answered ‘made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, “Go and wash at Siloam”; so I went, and when I washed I could see.’ They asked, ‘Where is he?’ ‘I don’t know’ he answered.
They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. It had been a sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes, so when the Pharisees asked him how he had come to see, he said, ‘He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.’ Then some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man cannot be from God: he does not keep the sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How could a sinner produce signs like this?’ And there was disagreement among them. So they spoke to the blind man again, ‘What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?’ ‘He is a prophet’ replied the man. However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind and had gained his sight, without first sending for his parents and asking them, ‘Is this man really your son who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, but we do not know how it is that he can see now, or who opened his eyes. He is old enough: let him speak for himself.’ His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to expel from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. This was why his parents said, ‘He is old enough; ask him.’
So the Jews again sent for the man and said to him, ‘Give glory to God! For our part, we know that this man is a sinner.’ The man answered, ‘I don’t know if he is a sinner; I only know that I was blind and now I can see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He replied, ‘I have told you once and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’ At this they hurled abuse at him: ‘You can be his disciple,’ they said ‘we are disciples of Moses: we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man replied, ‘Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes, and you don’t know where he comes from! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do his will. Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind; if this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing.’ ‘Are you trying to teach us,’ they replied ‘and you a sinner through and through, since you were born!’ And they drove him away.
Jesus heard they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him.
‘It is for judgement
that I have come into this world,
so that those without sight may see
and those with sight turn blind.’
Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, ‘We are not blind, surely?’ Jesus replied:
‘Blind? If you were,
you would not be guilty,
but since you say, “We see,”
your guilt remains.’
All of the miracles and stories of Jesus had one motivation. Jesus wished people to believe. Judgement always comes at the end and we will be judged on the extent of our faith and on the evidence of it in our lives. By the miracle of the blind man who comes to sight, Jesus likens the effects of faith to the process of coming from blindness to sight, from darkness into light.
At first, Jesus is undoubtedly drawn by compassion for the blind man. Then he becomes involved in a discussion as to why the man might have been born with this affliction, or perhaps with this gift. As many still do, the Jewish holy men looked into the man’s past to find reason for his affliction. Blessedness and material prosperity were seen as a sign of God’s pleasure and poverty and affliction were seen as a sign of God’s displeasure.
Jesus becomes involved in an inquisition, as does the man with his sight restored who ends up being verbally abused and driven away because he persists in his witness to what Jesus had done for him. In reply to Jesus simple and single question, the man replies Lord, I believe.
This coming to sight of the man born blind is the story of all of our lives and our final prayer for our dead is that they may know eternal light. Christ is the light of the world and it is by faith in him that we come to see as God sees. We believe in the beatific vision, the sight and vision of God which will light up all that remains in darkness and satisfy our every longing.
All of our lives are a gradually opening up to the truth. We come to ‘see’ things in a different way as we develop and mature. As we understand more fully we say, ‘I see’. Some refuse to see or never stop to see. Blindness is not just visual. The sun exists even when the blind cannot see it.
Christ in this miracle is doing the work of the Father. He is healing, reconciling, bringing to faith, and pronouncing judgement on those most blind who refuse to see because they are rigid and frozen in their ways and condemnatory in their outlook.
The ways of God are not the ways of mankind. God causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on good and bad alike. No inference can be drawn from the blessedness or from the suffering we may enjoy or suffer in this life. God does not operate as we do, in fact the ways of the world are almost always opposite to the ways of the kingdom.
Christ is the light of the world, our guide and our wisdom. He lights up the darknesses of life and leads us, shepherd-like, in the direction of eternal light. By faith we slowly come to understand and to see all that Jesus has promised to us and done for us and in hope we live for the eternal light which will reveal all to us at the end.