I. Establish the text
A. Select the Pericope: John 9:1-41
B. Establish translation: Review NIV, NRSV, TEV, BHS/NA26, …
C. Other texts for Year A the Fourth Sunday in Lent
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
4 What are the works of God?
5 Since Jesus is still in the world, we are able to work the works of God! Miracles?
6 The blind man has no say in his being healed. Or one must suppose this is answer to his prayers known by God.
9 How are we blind to miracles around us?
16 What then is the purpose of the sabbath observance? If there is good in what we do, then is anything permissible on the sabbath?
22 What cultural pressures keep us from confessing Christ as Lord?
41 1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
II. Literary Study.
B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
- Exodus 4:11 Then the LORD said to [Moses receiving God’s call at Sinai], “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
- Psalm 146: 8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
- Isaiah 29:10 For the LORD has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep; he has closed your eyes, you prophets, and covered your heads, you seers.
- Isaiah 29:18 On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.
- Isaiah 35:4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
- Isaiah 56:10 Israel’s sentinels are blind, they are all without knowledge;
- Matthew 9:27-31 Two blind men follow Jesus crying loudly until he asks them if they believe and heals them. He orders them to keep silent, but they spread the news.
- Matthew 12:22-32 The crowd bring a blind mute man to Jesus whom Jesus heals. The crowd calls him Son of David, but the Pharisee’s call him Beelzebul. Jesus refutes them asserting that for Satan to cast out Satan, Satan would be divided against himself.
- Matthew 15:12-14 Jesus answered them: … 14 Let [the Pharisees] alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”
- Matthew 20:30-34 Two more blind men cry out to Jesus and are healed.
- Matthew 23:16-39 Jesus berates the Pharisees as blind for requiring compliance with the law, yet neglecting the people.
- Mark 8:22-26 Blind man of Bethsaida healed with saliva, but it takes two applications. Jesus orders him not to return home. [The John text answers the question of why not to go home again.]
- Mark 10:46-52 & Luke 18:35-43 Blind Barimaeus [Son of Uncleanness] requests and received healing by the road in Jericho.
- Acts 13:11 Saul aka Paul is made physically blind on receiving his spiritual sight.
III. Question the text.
A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.
During the opening scene Jesus and the Pharisees discuss the blind-man as if he could not hear them. Would he have heard the Pharisees’ question before (whose sin?) and have heard both answers argued? Then Jesus comes and offers a different possibility. No sin, but for the glory of God! Grace instead of blame!
The narrator chided the parents for not witnessing about their son’s healing, but they had no first hand knowledge.
The blind man is driven to confessing belief in Jesus as the Son of Man by the denial of the Pharisees.
The Pharisees are stuck in their old way of thinking.
B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?
The man is sent to Siloam to wash. Siloam which the narrator says means “sent.”
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- Center of Gravity: The physically blind man sees Jesus. The spiritual leaders are blinded by tradition from seeing Jesus.
D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.
- Who can see and who is really blind?
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Jose Miguez Bonino & Nestor Oscar Miguez (That You May Have Life, United Methodist Church, 1991) provide a thorough analysis of the major players in this episode. The neighbors deny the miracle. The parents deny responsibility to protect themselves. The religious authorities arrange the facts to keep settled issues fixed; even before realizing Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, they are upset because Jesus had given sight to the blind person; in their rigid approach they cannot rejoice for the miracle. The man born bind not only recovers his sight, but also his humanity; the episode begins with him as “a bundle beside the road;” but returns from the pool called Sent seeing and speaking “I am.” The man-born-blind recognizes that the Pharisees do not want to know how he was healed but to discredit Jesus, and he confronts them. The man-born-blind begins outside the community because he could not see and is ejected from the community because he sees too much. Although he has confronted authorities he kneels before Jesus.
Gerard Sloyan (Interpretation: John, John Knox Press, 1988, p114ff) cites two third-century people in the Talmud reported to have been healed in the name of Jesus. The Talmud opines: “It is not permitted. … It were better for him had he died.”