Jesus: Light of the World (9:1-41)

Bible Passage: John 9:1-41

In this passage we have the second of the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus: I am the light of the world. The saying occurs twice in John’s gospel (8:12 and 9:5). The first time is part of a teaching discourse, where Jesus explains something of his identity. Here the saying occurs in the context of a narrative, where we see a physical miracle that happens both as an act in its own right and also as an illustration of a spiritual truth – that Jesus is the one who opens blind eyes.

Jesus Heals Physical Blindness: The set-up for the story is Jesus and his disciples encountering as man who had been blind from birth. The disciples, as they often did, missed the point. Instead of responding to the man with compassion, they saw him as a theological conundrum: given that his condition has been with him since birth, is it his fault or his parent’s fault? Jesus’ response was that it was neither, and that the reason for his condition was so that God’s glory would be revealed. The way this glory was revealed was through Jesus miraculously healing him, and in doing so showing what it means for him to be the light of the world. He shows his compassion, his power over physical conditions and even hints at his place as creator (the method of healing with spit and earth resembles the waters above coming down to the earth below in the creation story). Opening the eyes of blind people is part of Jesus’ ministry manifesto (Luke 4:18), and Jesus still has the power to heal people today.

There Is a Spiritual Form of Blindness: The physical blindness of the man is mirrored in the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees. They failed to see what was right in front of them: that God’s glory had been displayed through a healing miracle. Instead they retreated into the opinion they had already formed of Jesus; that he could not be of God because he didn’t go along with their Sabbath regulations. This led them to gaslight the parents of the man who had been healed, and then the man himself, and refused to hear his simple testimony – that he was blind but now could see. In the end, he was cast out because he would not retract his story.

Jesus Heals Spiritual Blindness: In verses 35-41 we see Jesus re-enter the scene, and he has a conversation with the man who had been healed about what had happened. He gets straight to the question of whether he believes in the Son of Man. Jesus explains that he is the one, and the man responds with belief. This response to Jesus contrasted with the response of the Pharisees highlights the difference between spiritual sight and spiritual blindness. It is Jesus who can show us God and open our eyes to what we have not seen. The passage leaves the question hanging over us: are we willing to receive the message Jesus brings and have our eyes opened to who he is?

Potential Applications:

  • This passage contains a healing miracle. Jesus still heals today and it may be appropriate to offer prayer for healing for any who want it.
  • There is a contrast between those who are blind to what Jesus is showing and those who are willing to see. Invite people to respond to Jesus in the same way the man does by putting their faith in him.
  • The man is able to share his story in very simple terms: “I was blind, now I see.” Are we able to tell the story of what Jesus has done in our lives in such a clear and simple way?