A Sign of the Triumph of the Light[a]
Jesus Cures a Man Born Blind.[b] 1 As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered,
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,
but it happened
so that the works of God
might be revealed in him.
4 We must do
the works of him who sent me
while it is still day.
Night is coming when no one can work.
5 While I am in the world,
I am the light of the world.”
6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the saliva, and smeared the paste on the eyes of the blind man. 7 Then he said to him, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.”[c] (The name means “Sent.”) The man went forth and washed, and he returned seeing.
That Man Is a Prophet.[d] 8 His neighbors and those who had seen him begging asked, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “Yes, this is the same man,” but others insisted, “No. It simply is someone who looks like him.” He said, “I am the man.”
10 Therefore, they asked him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He replied, “The man called Jesus made a paste and smeared it over my eyes. Then he said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and then I was able to see.” 12 They asked him, “Where is he?” He replied, “I do not know.”
13 They then brought the man who had formerly been blind to the Pharisees. 14 Now it was on a Sabbath day that Jesus had made the paste and opened his eyes.
15 The Pharisees also asked him how he had gained his sight. He said to them, “He put a paste on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I can see.”
16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man cannot be from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” Thus, they were divided in their opinions. 17 And so they spoke again to the blind man, asking, “What do you have to say about him? It was your eyes that he opened.” He replied, “He is a prophet.”
18 However, the Jews refused to believe that the man had been blind and had received his sight until they summoned the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son who you say was born blind? How then is he now able to see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind, 21 but we do not know how he is now able to see, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him. He is of age. He can speak for himself.”
22 His parents responded in this way because they were afraid of the Jews. For the Jews had already agreed that anyone who acknowledged Jesus to be the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. 23 This is why his parents said, “He is of age. Ask him.”
24 That Man Is from God.[e] And so for a second time they summoned the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. But one thing I do know: I was blind, and now I am able to see.” 26 They then asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 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?”
28 Then they began to taunt him, saying, “It is you who are his disciple. We are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he is from.” 30 He answered, “That is what is so amazing. You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but that he does listen to anyone who is devout and obeys his will.
32 “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could not have been able to accomplish anything.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in sin and you would teach us?” Then they threw him out.
35 Do You Believe in the Son of Man?[f] When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He replied, “Who is he, sir, so that I may believe in him?” 37 “You have seen him,” said Jesus, “and he is the one who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he fell down in worship before him.
39 Spiritual Blindness.[g] Then Jesus said,
“It is for judgment
that I have come into this world,
so that those without sight may see
and those who do see may become blind.”
40 On hearing this, some Pharisees who were present asked him, “Are we blind too?” 41 Jesus replied,
“If you were blind,
you would have no guilt;
but since you claim, ‘We see,’
your guilt remains.
- John 9:1 The preceding chapters have made grand statements about Jesus, e.g., that he is the light of the world; in those chapters, however, the evangelist was guiding us through sometimes difficult reasonings. Here, on the other hand, is a lively story that illustrates the teaching that has been given. The man born blind is an image of the catechumen and of Christians, who allow themselves to be enlightened by Jesus. Not only their eyes but their hearts open to the light.
- John 9:1 In the view of the ancients, every illness had its origin in some sin, perhaps a secret one. Jesus firmly condemns this mentality. The blind man must take himself to the Pool of “Siloam” (= “Sent”); the evangelist emphasizes the word. Jesus is the one sent by the Father to bring light; it is he who opens the eyes of faith in those who go down into the pool of Baptism.
- John 9:7 The Pool of Siloam: it was at the foot of the southern spur of the temple mount.
- John 9:8 Who, then, is Jesus? Again there is questioning. Again also Jesus upsets the Pharisees, who have lost the essence of religion in the complexities of their traditions. The care for observances makes them forget that the Sabbath is first of all a testimony of liberty. In the presence of these teachers, the blind man who has been cured declares that Jesus is a prophet. They challenge his attestation and denounce it as a fraud. Thus, an inquiry is made to give themselves basis for their treatment of the man. A climate of fear ensues, and no one feels free to speak.
- John 9:24 The miraculously cured individual is interrogated a second time. His questioners bring up Moses to show that Jesus is in contradiction with him. This, they think, cannot be refuted. But it is necessary to recognize here the presence of the same God who spoke to Moses! The man born blind recognizes that Jesus came from God with a special mission. That is too much for them. They throw him out bodily.
- John 9:35 This is an encounter with Jesus, who identifies himself as the Son of Man—that is, as a being with a divine prerogative who has come to bring people to the presence of and communion with God. The profession of faith comes to the lips of the man born blind when he encounters Jesus, who is our light.
- John 9:39 Human beings cannot remain indifferent or neutral in the presence of Jesus: we must opt either for light or for darkness. In this choice, the divine judgment comes into play with a sentence of life or death—which foretells the division between synagogue and Church. The lot of each person depends on one’s attitude of faith or unbelief toward Jesus. Those who realize they are walking along the way of error and open themselves to the light of the Gospel revelation will be saved. Those who delude themselves that they possess the truth and voluntarily close their eyes to the light will be lost.
While the man born blind receives not only his physical sight but also the light of faith, the Jews who claim that they have sight are blind in a spiritual sense, because they refuse the light of revelation brought by Christ. True blindness is not the physical blindness of the blind man but the lack of belief. The Pharisees are convinced that they possess the truth and oppose themselves to the Envoy of God. They deprive themselves of the way to salvation. For they remain slaves of the sin of unbelief.