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John chapter 9

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13They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. 14And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. 16Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. 17They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet. 18But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. 19And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? 20His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: 21But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. 22These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him. 24Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. 25He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. 26Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? 27He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? 28Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples. 29We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. 30The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. 31Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. 32Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. 34They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

What does John chapter 9 mean?

This passage of the gospel of John heightens the tension between Jesus and His followers, and the religious leaders who despise Him. In prior chapters, Jesus has confronted the hypocrisy of those who claim to understand Scripture, but who reject what it says. He has also challenged tradition by healing on the Sabbath day. In this chapter, Jesus will once again perform a miracle on the Sabbath, resulting in no small controversy. When the dust settles, local religious leaders will be thoroughly embarrassed not by Jesus, but by the man who has been healed.

John chapter 9 opens with Jesus passing by a man who has been blind his entire life. The disciples react to this situation with the typical worldview of their era. In their minds, suffering is always a punishment for something, so they ask Jesus whose sin this man is suffering for: his own or that of his parents. Jesus' response proves that not all hardship is "our fault," so to speak. While it's true that our own choices have the greatest impact on our lives, it's also true that bad things can happen to those who've done nothing to deserve those particular struggles (John 9:1–3).

Jesus heals the man by putting mud on his eyes and sending him away to wash. The end result is a man who can see, though he'd never been able to before. The ideas of light, sight, and blindness are often used in Scripture as symbols of spiritual knowledge. In this case, the man's experience is a metaphor for the Christian experience. The "light" that comes when we are saved is something we never previously had, and never could have, until Christ chose to grant it to us (John 9:4–7).

This healing is also prophetic: the Old Testament speaks of the Promised One healing blindness (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:7). In all of Scripture, only Jesus is credited with miracles which give sight to the blind. This is not only proof of His identity, it symbolizes the unique way in which the Messiah grants understanding of the truth (Matthew 11:5; Matthew 12:22–23).

As with other miracles, Jesus' critics are more interested in finding ways to debunk the miracle than to understand it. Even those who are not hostile to Jesus are still focused on knowing "how" Jesus performed the healing, rather than "why." The Pharisees' immediate reaction, predictably, is to condemn Jesus for not properly honoring their Sabbath tradition. This, for them, is stronger evidence than the miraculous healing of blindness. For his part, the formerly blind man only knows that whoever granted him sight must be from God. The man refers to Jesus—whom he has not actually seen, yet—as "a prophet" (John 9:8–17).

John uses the phrase "the Jews" as a reference to Jerusalem's religious leaders and their most ardent followers. This includes the scribes and Pharisees, who have already decided that Jesus is a fraud to be rejected. At first, they don't even believe that a healing has occurred. After questioning the once-blind man, they summon his parents. Their tactics are clearly meant to intimidate, hinting that the parents themselves might even be bending the truth about their son's condition. These leaders have threatened to excommunicate anyone who supports Jesus, so the man's parents are quick to point out that their son is capable of answering questions for himself (John 9:18–23).

The second attempt to interrogate the healed man ends in disaster for the scribes and Pharisees. After implying the beggar is lying and needs to tell the truth, they suggest Jesus is "a sinner," meaning that He cannot really be performing godly miracles. The man's response is a poignant explanation of the Christian experience. For all he does not know, what he does know is beyond doubt: "though I was blind, now I see!" The investigators repeat the same questions they have already asked. The formerly-blind man responds with sarcasm, openly mocking the religious leaders' insincerity. They, in turn, heap insults and verbal abuse on him. In a dramatic turn, the beggar gives a brilliantly simple counter. He points out that God would not give a sinner the power to perform miracles which have never been done before! Having lost face, and the argument, the religious leaders hurl more insults and bar the man from the synagogue (John 9:24–31).

At this point, Jesus once again approaches the man. Presumably, the man realizes that Jesus is the one who has healed him. And yet, he does not fully understand to whom he is speaking. Jesus refers to the Son of Man, which Jews of that era would recognize as a Messianic figure. The man openly admits that he wants to believe, but does not know who he should turn to. When Jesus identifies Himself, the healed man responds with faith and worship. Jesus uses that reaction as an example of one aspect of His earthly mission: to separate those who are willing to believe from those who are willfully, spiritually "blind" (John 9:35–41).

The themes discussed in this chapter introduce the subject of Jesus' next teaching, which heavily involves the symbolism of a shepherd. Those words are meant to be understood in the context of this chapter, where the Pharisees' hypocrisy and failed leadership are on full display.

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