September 16, 2005

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Jesus in the Gospels: The man born blind

See John, Chapter 9

John’s Gospel mentions only seven miracles performed by Jesus, far fewer than the other three do. But no miracle is described with as much detail as the curing of the man born blind. The author of John’s Gospel was so impressed by it that he devoted an entire chapter to it, and teachers of literature or writing use the account as an example of excellent writing. I hope you read it.

One of the things we notice is that Jesus wasn’t even present when the man was cured. Jesus had made clay, smeared it on the man’s eyes, and told the blind man to go to the Pool of Siloam to wash the clay off. This pool was built inside the walls of Jerusalem with a tunnel, known as the Tunnel of Hezekiah, running underground from the Spring of Gihon outside the walls.

During the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians, the Assyrians never figured out why Jerusalem didn’t surrender because of thirst. The tunnel is 583 yards, built around 700 B.C. in an “S” shape, and it is always pointed out as a remarkable feat of engineering because two groups of workmen with pickaxes and shovels started at each end of the tunnel and managed to meet in the middle only four feet apart.

Since the man had been born blind, he undoubtedly knew his way around Jerusalem, or perhaps one of Jesus’ Apostles helped him make his way down to the pool, the lowest point in Jerusalem. Imagine the sheer excitement he must have experienced when, after washing his eyes in the pool, he was able to see after never having done so before.

As news of this wonder began to circulate, people first had to convince themselves that this man was indeed the beggar they were accustomed to seeing. Then the Pharisees began to interfere since the cure had taken place on the Sabbath. For the first time, they first tried to insist that no miracle had occurred: Perhaps this man really wasn’t blind from birth. They cross-examined his parents and then the man himself.

The parents were careful not to incriminate themselves somehow. Yes, they acknowledged, the man was their son, and yes, he had been blind from birth. But that was as far as they cared to go: “He is of age; question him,” they said.

So they did. And the evangelist gives us a good picture of this man’s character—joyful, humorous, sharp in retort, a man who didn’t mince words, but said exactly what had happened to him. Having just received his sight, the fact that the Pharisees excommunicated him from the temple probably didn’t faze him much. All this before he ever saw Jesus.

Only later did Jesus, who obviously learned about the man’s courageous testimony about him, meet the man somewhere on the streets of Jerusalem and revealed himself to him. The man’s immediate reaction was to profess his faith in Jesus and fall on his knees to worship him. †


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