As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The 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?’ Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ He 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.’ They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, ‘He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.’ Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’ And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, ‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.’ His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, ‘Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.’ He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?’ Then they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’ And they drove him out.
Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him. Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains. (NRSV).
The controversy in the above reading grows out of a simple healing.
The ‘man born blind’ is, initially, merely an undignified topic of discussion: ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus, however, notices the person, sees a need, makes his mud, and opens these unseeing eyes.
It is astonishing.
But this is nothing compared to the mayhem that unfolds. One might think this miracle would inspire exploration of Jesus’ claim: ‘I am the light of the world’. Indeed, perhaps it did.
But for some it is little more than a daring stunt, a lie, calculated to draw people, not from God, but from religion. The religious leadership is threatened by this man’s disarmingly straight forward testimony. This is initially a shortened, unembellished response to people’s request for an explanation. His offers no no more than: ‘I am the man.’ People have to press him for a fuller story: ‘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.’
There is no speculation here. It is simple experience. It is raw testimony.
But still this may not seem like a very convincing account. But for those who knew this unseeing person, it is a miracle that demands explanation. This is at least as convincing as anything else they are likely to hear.
The authorities choose to question this man on two occasions. They also interview his parents. These interviews are hostile from start to finish. These representatives of God, seem unable, or at least unwilling, to see the grace of God so evident in this man and his story. As a result they do to all what they initially did to the healed man’s parents: they fill the people with fear.
Surely theirs is the saddest of all possible responses. They do not know what happened, but they are sure that it was not what is claimed. They fight, they question, they threaten, they expel, because they do not know and they will not listen.
But the one who newly sees, the one who knows most, wants to know even more. When asked: ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’, his answer is refreshingly honest: ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’ Upon learning that he had already seen this one he not only believes, he also worships.
Perhaps it is a perfect response simply because he has seen Jesus for who he really is.