Jesus calls himself “the light of the world” and demonstrates the truth of his claim by bringing light physically and spiritually to a man born blind.
Jesus sees a man who was born blind, and the disciples ask him about the cause of the blindness (9:1-2). The disciples assume that the blindness must be a form of divine punishment for sin. For them, the question is whether the man himself had sinned—presumably in the womb before birth—or whether his parents had sinned, with the result that their child was born blind. Their way of thinking is based in part on some biblical texts that assume a child could be punished for the sins of the parents (Exodus 20:5).
Jesus, however, shifts the frame of reference. He insists that the paradigm of sin and punishment does not fit this case of congenital blindness. He also refuses to speculate further about what caused the blindness and shifts the focus to what can be done about the blindness.
Some translations paraphrase the passage and obscure the dramatic shift that Jesus makes. For example, the NRSV has Jesus say that “he was born blind” so that God’s works might be revealed in him (John 9:3). But the words “he was born blind” were added by the translator. They do not appear in Greek. A word-for-word translation is, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but in order that the works of God might be revealed in him, we must do the works of him who sent me while it is day.” Jesus accepts the blindness as a given and refuses to speculate about what caused it. For him, the question is how to address the situation so that God’s works will be done in it.
Jesus does not heal the man immediately. Rather, he puts mud on the man’s eyes and tells him to go and wash. Jesus’ words prompt the man to go, even before he has received his sight, and for much of the chapter the man will bear witness to a Jesus whom he has never seen. That makes the story especially valuable for readers living in later generations, since they too must bear witness to a Jesus whom they have never seen apart from the eyes of faith.
9As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? 3Jesus answered, Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that Gods works might be revealed in him. 4We* must work the works of him who sent me* while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. 6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the mans eyes, 7saying to him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, Is this not the man who used to sit and beg? 9Some were saying, It is he. Others were saying, No, but it is someone like him. He kept saying, I am the man. 10But they kept asking him, Then how were your eyes opened? 11He answered, The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, Go to Siloam and wash. Then I went and washed and received my sight. 12They said to him, Where is he? He said, I do not know.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
10 February 2011