Mack's Minute March 26, 2020

In John 9:1-41 we read about Jesus healing a man, the community discussing the healing, and then the man conversing with Jesus again. While reading this passage, we have to be very careful in how we interpret it. First, we need to recognize that physical afflictions are not the result of sins, individual or familial.

Second, verse 3 seems to suggest that God made the man blind so that Jesus could show his power later. This is very problematic. In the original Greek text, it does not say that he was born blind like the NRSV does. A better translation would be: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. But in order that God’s works might be revealed in him it is necessary for us to work the works of the one who sent me … ” In this time, when a person was blind, they weren’t allowed to have a job or doing anything other than beg and eek out a meager existence. It is because this blind man is not given opportunities by this community to support himself, that Jesus must give him sight and restore him to the community and allow him to have a dignified life.

Finally, we must be careful how we speak about blindness. Many people who are blind today do not think that they are “broken” or that they need to be “fixed.” When we read this text, it is important to understand that the author was using the image of blindness to represent understanding. The author uses comedy by suggesting the blind man, a social outcast, knows more about Jesus and faith than the Pharisees, the religious authorities. At the end, Jesus says that the once “blind” man now understands that Jesus is the Messiah and that the so-called religious experts do not understand.