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March 29, 2014 by William H. Scarle, Jr.

The sixth miraculous sign recorded in the Gospel of John takes up his ninth chapter and is possibly the best crafted narrative in the book.  It takes place in Jerusalem sometime between the Feast of Booths (7:1) and the Feast of Hanukah (10:22) and involves the restoration of sight to a man born blind.  Common Jewish thought of the time placed the cause of such tragic circumstances on some sin either of the victim or the parent.  Jesus rejects such a theological scenario outright.

The story weaves together in seamless elegance several major themes of the Gospel.  They include the contrast of spiritual light and darkness and the causes thereof, the identity of Messiah as the prophet greater than Moses (Deut. 18:18), the Messiah as light of the world, the principal of spiritual growth that moves one from acceptance of the smaller truth to the revelation of a greater truth, and the contrary – the rejection of the smaller truth halts the spiritual growth and ushers in spiritual darkness.

The man born blind is anointed by Jesus with clay and sent to the Pool of Siloam to wash.  This pool was used for ritual purification prior to entering the Temple.  The man returned seeing and was identified by neighbors as the once blind beggar.  Upon questioning all the man knew was his benefactor’s name.  The mystery was significant enough for the neighbors to take the man to the Pharisees for questioning.  This is where the plot thickens, because the incident took place on the Sabbath.  One group of Pharisees concluded the healer could not be from God because no godly prophet would do work on the Sabbath.  Another group concluded that anyone who could give sight to a man born blind must be from God.

The Pharisees seek to eliminate what they saw as a theological contradiction by going to the parents.  They hoped to get evidence that the man was never really blind, but that didn’t work.   The parents recognized their status in the community was in danger, so they sent the delegation back to their son for any further information.

When the Pharisees reexamined the once blind beggar he stuck with his story.  He had drawn some conclusions.  He utters that classic word:  “Whether he is a sinner I do not know.  One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”  He confronts the Pharisees with the unanswerable statement that God does not listen to sinners, but he listened to this man.  Because he accepted what was an obvious truth he was excommunicated from the synagogue.

Jesus made it a point to find the man in the crowded city.  He introduced himself as Israel’s Messiah, the Son of Man.  The once blind man could now see perfectly both physically and spiritually.  He immediately believed.

The Pharisees overheard the conversation.  Indignantly they asked, “Are we also blind.”  Jesus responded with a classic statement of truth.  “If you were blind, you would have no guilt, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”  When the clear evidence is before us, and we reject it, for whatever reason, Knowledge is locked out and the sun sets on the possibilities of further growth.  We bring this judgment on ourselves.  “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has shall be taken away (Matt. 1312).”

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at  END -whs