Theme: The Light of the World
In this week’s lessons, we look at the story of the man born blind, and learn that Jesus not only heals physical blindness, but spiritual blindness as well.
Scripture: John 9:1-41
We come now to the encounter of Jesus and the man born blind, recorded in John 9. This is the first miracle story that we’ve studied in this particular series. Of the different conversations we have looked at so far in this series, this is the first that involves a miraculous healing. John has a unique way of talking about miracles. The other Gospels handle these stories in their own way.
For example, they’ll tell them to show something of the compassion of Jesus. Luke, especially, emphasizes that. That’s not what John is doing, however. John has a particular word for the miracles, and the word he uses for them is the word sign. That’s not the word you would choose to use if what you’re trying to show is the compassion of Jesus. No, a sign is something else. A sign does two things. First, it points to something and then it tells something about the thing to which it points. The signs in John’s Gospel point to Jesus. That’s why at the end of the Gospel, John says that there were many other things that Jesus did, and if he wrote them all down, I suppose even the world wouldn’t be big enough to hold the books that would have to be written. But then he says, “I’ve written these things, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and if you believe in him you might have life in his name.”
The second thing the signs do is tell you something about Jesus. That’s why in John’s Gospel, in particular, the miracles are characteristically associated with a discourse that’s related somehow to what you’ve seen if you have really seen the sign. Now, a key example is the multiplication of the loaves and the fish. In the other Gospels, those appear as interesting stories that show how Jesus is ministering to the people as he teaches them and demonstrates compassion. But in John the miracle stories are connected with a discourse on Jesus as the bread of life. The miracle of the multiplication of the bread is to show that Jesus is the One who feeds us spiritually. He’s the bread of life, and when we come to him and feed on him, we never hunger.
That’s what we’re going to find here in the story of the man who was born blind. In case we would miss it, John makes it very clear at the beginning. The group of disciples and Jesus are walking along and they see this man. The disciples were reflecting some common thinking of the day that connected illness and sin. They assumed this man was born blind because of something wrong done by either his parents or by the man himself later in life. They asked Jesus who sinned that resulted in his blindness.
Jesus’ reply was that neither the man nor is parents sinned; rather, he says very clearly, “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” What’s he referring to? He’s referring to what he’s about to do. This man is born blind, and Jesus is going to heal him, and by doing that, the work of God is going to be displayed, causing them (and us) to learn something about Jesus.
Now, what are we going to learn about him? Well, what we’re going to learn about him is that Jesus is the light of the world. That’s there in the introduction. As long as it’s day, we must do the work of him who sent the Son of God into the world. Night is coming when no one can work, but while Jesus is in the world, he is the light of the world.
This is one of the “I am” sayings of Jesus, which is one of the characteristics of John’s Gospel. Other ones include “I am the bread of life,” “I am the resurrection and the life,” “I am the way, the truth and the life,” and so on. But with this statement by Jesus that he is the light of the world, it’s an interesting thing that it’s found not only here in John 9, but it’s found also in John 8:12. It’s unusual that it is repeated twice. In John 8, it is found just after the story of the woman taken in adultery, and then here in John 9, in the context of the healing of the blind man.
The reason it’s repeated twice is that light has two different effects. One effect is to scatter the creatures of the darkness. People who are doing something bad don’t like to do it in the daytime; they like to do it at night where nobody will see them. John talks about this idea in the third chapter. He says, “Light came into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” So, if your deeds are evil, you don’t like the light to shine upon you, and when the light does shine upon you, the first effect of light is to scatter the creatures of the darkness. This is what is going on in the story of the woman who was caught in adultery. They had plotted to catch her in this very heinous sin in an attempt to trap Jesus. His response had the effect of shining his light upon these very corrupted, evil men. Then we’re told that one by one they began to scatter.
We’ll look at the second effect of Jesus’ saying tomorrow.
What word does John use to describe Jesus’ miracles? What two things does he accomplish by it?
What did the disciples assume was the reason for the man’s blindness? What does Jesus say is the real reason?
Twice Jesus says he is the light of the world. What is the first effect of light?
For Further Study: To learn more about how Jesus interacts with people from all kinds of backgrounds, download and listen for free to Richard Phillips’ message, “Jesus and the Sinful Woman.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)