John 9 and the Sassy Blind Man
It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for.
In this episode, Jesus heals a blind man on the Sabbath and upsets the religious authorities. They’re upset because Jesus, a veritable “nobody,” is being called a prophet and appears to be stomping all over their turf in the temple complex.
So they call this blind-man-healed-by-Jesus to testify before them [this being particularly terrible, because nobody has ever done something like this – going to a third party instead of dealing with a problem straight away]. Here’s what happens next (vv24-34):
Therefore, they called a second time for the man who had been born blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know this man is a sinner.”
The man answered, “I don’t know whether he’s a sinner. Here’s what I do know: I was blind and now I see.”
They questioned him, “What did he do to you? How did he heal your eyes?”
He replied, “I already told you, and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”
They insulted him: “You are his disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t know where this man is from.”
The man answered, “This is incredible! You don’t know where he is from, yet he healed my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners. God listens to anyone who is devout and does God’s will. No one has ever heard of a healing of the eyes of someone born blind. If this man wasn’t form God, he couldn’t do this.”
They responded, “You were born completely in sin! How is it that you dare to teach us?” Then they expelled him.
If you’re a normal human and spend the usual, gratuitous, amount of time in front of a television, chances are you’ve seen something of “The Bible” miniseries on the History Channel.
And if you’ve seen the first episode, then you’ve seen that badass Moses freeing his people from the Egyptians, splitting oceans, receiving commandments from God, etc., etc; important stuff. The kind of stuff that generations after him would remember and revere.
Then there’s Jesus; a day laborer from a hick town that nobody has ever heard of (except in the expression “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”). The charge is leveled against Jesus constantly throughout the book of John – nobody really knows who Jesus is or where he’s from. He’s a nobody.
And that’s kind of the point.
Some scholars have suggested that we see Jesus as quintessential Israel, representing the entire nation in his own being. Jesus even goes beyond this and calls himself the “Human One” (cf. the end of John 9), claiming to represent humanity itself. He is both the Israelite and the Human.
In arguing with the sassy blind man, the religious authorities failed to remember their own history; Israel was rather new to the empire-building scene and was keenly aware of that fact. They maintained the status of the underdog, watching God take them from nothing to greatness in the midst of enemies. Israel had come from nowhere; it only makes sense that The Israelite should do the same.
But no. They won’t have it. They kick out the sassy blind man with a judicious “who are you?” and go on leading God’s people.
Jesus’ story is nearly two millennia old now. People like Bill Maher scoff at the idea that such an ancient god could be real- which kind of makes sense. Who IS Jesus after all? Some random teacher/miracle worker from a distant, naïve culture. Who is he to determine what the world should look like?
Or maybe that’s the point.