Blindness: faith or disbelief

man-born-blindBeing Lead to Decision: Faith or Disbelief.  Where the authorities drive the man away (v.34), here Jesus finds the man (cf. 6:37) and asks: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Just as the Samaritan woman was confronted by Jesus with the possibility of the anticipated Messiah’s being already present (4:25-26), so also the healed man is confronted by Jesus with the possibility that the future judge is already present. To this point in John 9, the theme of the judgment evoked by the light of the world (9:5; cf. 3:17-21; 12:31-36) has largely been implicit. Jesus’ question makes this theme explicit as he asks the man whether he recognizes in his healer the one who brings of salvation. As v.36 indicates, the man is ready. Continue reading

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Blindness: more questions

man-born-blindA second interrogation of the man by the Jews (9:24-34). In the third and final interrogation scene, the authorities are identified only with the pronoun “they.” They are clearly the same group identified as the Pharisees who interrogated the man in vv. 13-17, but the motivation for the second interrogation is also clearly linked to the parents’ testimony and their rebuttal: “…he is of age.”  The man is recalled before the elders.

Twice in this interrogation scene the authorities hold their knowledge up to the man and expect him to accept their positions (vv24, 29). Each time, however, the man counters with his own experience (vv.25, 30-33). Continue reading

Blindness: interrogation

man-born-blindThe Interrogations. If there is a “typical” pattern to any miracle account it is: (a) the situation of need, (b) the miracle, and (c) the attestation/witness to the miracle. It is here that John’s telling of the story has unique features – patterns outlined in the introductory comments of miracles and sin (in John’s writing).  Be attentive to simple categories such as true witness, equivocating witness, unbelievers, accommodator, or similar categories that are other that one who believes and is willing to live/act based upon that belief. Continue reading

Blindness: healing

man-born-blindCommentary. If you wanted a one sentence summary – here it is: “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind”(v.39). Or: as a sign that he is the light, Jesus gives sight to a man born blind. But there is a richness to be gained in a detailed looked at the text and narrative. The Johannine scholar, Fr. Raymond Brown suggests the following outline:

  • A. Setting (9:1-5)
  • B. Miraculous healing (9:6-7)
  • C. Interrogations of the blind man (9:8-34)
    • 1. Questioning by neighbors and acquaintances (9:8-12)
    • 2. Preliminary interrogation by Pharisees (9:13-17)
    • 3. The man’s parents questioned by the Jews (9:18-23)
    • 4. A second interrogation of the man by the Jews (9:24-34)
  • D. Jesus leads the man born blind to that spiritual sight which is faith (9:35-41) Continue reading

Blindness: sin

man-born-blindSin in the Gospel according to John. John seems to understand sin in a way that accents a singular aspect in a way that deserves mention. Words for “sin” occur often in our text: hamartano = “to sin” (9:2, 3; elsewhere in John: 5:14 & 8:11); hamartia = “sin” (9:34, 41); hamartolos = “sinner” (9:16, 24, 25, 31 — all the occurrences in John). The question is does John’s discussion match the discussion of hamartia in the other gospels?

In our passage, the concept of sin will be quickly introduced via the disciples’ question in v.2 : “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  This reflects tradi­tional Jewish speculation on the relationship of illness and sin (cf. 5:14). In 1st century Palestine, people commonly assumed that disease and disorders on both the personal and national level were due to sin, as summarized in the rabbinic saying from around 300 CE that “there is no death without sin and there is no suffering without iniquity” (b. shabbat 55a). Continue reading

Blindness: miracles

A Man Born Blind: John 9:1-41  1 As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. 4 We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (the remainder of the gospel can be read here).

Our narrative begins with the simple phrase “As he passed by…” It lacks the general markers (time, geography, etc.) that indicate a break in continuity, sug­gesting that John intends the story of the blind man to be read in continuity with the preceding chapters. So what was in the preceding chapter? The primary narrative in Chapter 8 is the “woman caught in adultery,” Jesus’ self-identification as the “light of the world,” and a long discussion between Jesus and the “Jews” about the very nature of what it means to be of the covenant people – a dialogue that occurs in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles. Continue reading

At the well: we have heard for ourselves

SamaritanWomanAtTheWellJesus’ words overflow with metaphor: living water, the hour, food, harvest. Each of these metaphors attempts to open reality in fresh ways for his conversation partners. Jesus wants to open the eyes of the Samaritan woman and his disciples so that they can see what is being offered to them in the present instead of continuing to view everything through the lens of old realities. Jesus wants the Samaritan woman to see who is speaking with her at this moment and the gifts that he offers (4:10). He wants her to see that the present moment is the time of eschatological fulfillment (4:23-24). Jesus wants his disciples to see that the harvest is ready now, contrary to popular understandings (4:35). In both conversations (4:7.26, 31-38), Jesus takes familiar images and fills them with new meaning in order to open up for his listeners the possibilities of a life defined by God’s gifts. The metaphors of these verses keep the terms of the conversations always fresh, always suggestive, always open to new meanings in changing circumstances. Continue reading

At the well: one sows another reaps

SamaritanWomanAtTheWellArrival of the disciples and departure of the woman.  27 At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, 29 “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 They went out of the town and came to him. 31 Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.” Continue reading

At the well: go call your husband

SamaritanWomanAtTheWell16 Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” 17 The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ 18 For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

Go call your husband. Jesus introduces a new topic in v.16 possibly to provide a fresh angle on his identity. In vv.7-15, his invitation to the woman was couched in the metaphor of living water; in vv.16-18, Jesus’ invitation will be grounded in the woman’s own life. Continue reading

At the well: give me a drink

SamaritanWomanAtTheWellConversations between Jesus and the Sa­maritan woman (Jn 4:7-26). The dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman consists of thirteen exchanges, one of the longest dialogues in the Gospel. It divides into two sections, each section introduced by a request/command by Jesus: (I ) vv.7-15 (“Give me a drink”); (2) vv.16-26 (“Go, call your husband”).

7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 (The woman) said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 14 but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Continue reading