As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’ They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, ‘He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.’ Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’ And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, ‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.’ His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, ‘Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.’ He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ 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?’ Then they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’ And they drove him out.
Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him. Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.
The theme of the Gospel of last Sunday is Jesus is the living water. The theme of the Gospel of this Sunday is Jesus is the Light of the World. Like the Gospel of last Sunday, today’s Gospel is also long. It is long because it contains three stories in different colour. Therefore, we should spend some time to go through the Gospel slowly so as to listen carefully to what Jesus wants to reveal to us.
The first story is about the healing of a man born blind, who gradually comes to the point of his mind to worship Jesus. The story begins with the question of Jesus’ disciples, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? (verse 2)” From this question, we can see that his disciples justify sufferings with sins, sins whether committed by oneself or the community. This happens to us as well. It is not unusual that we blame ourselves for our sufferings. Also, it is more common nowadays that we blame others for our sufferings. However, Jesus sees human sufferings from a different perspective, his Father’s perspective. That is God’s works might be revealed in our sufferings. At this point of the story, the man born blind cannot see how God’s works might be revealed in him. To see, he must first gain his eyesight. And it is Jesus who heals him. Note Jesus tells him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam”, after he applied the mud mixed with his saliva. Here comes the theme of last Sunday’s Gospel, water.
As soon as the man gains his eyesight and can see, his troubles and pains begin because he is called to see life in a new way and as a result makes a new commitment. All these do not happen in one go but take place gradually. His neighbours and those who know he was born blind do not believe in the miracle and keep asking him are you the same person whom we knew? To their repeated questions, the man keeps saying, “I am the man.” Nevertheless, they are not interested in him but how he was healed. How often we ignore the person who changes but want to see him in the old light. Despite our professed faith, we usually don’t have much interest in how God’s works might be revealed in us or others.
The second story is about the reaction of the Pharisees (verse 13) and the Jews (verse 18). The Pharisees represent the learned and religious people, while and the Jews refer to the general public. Contrasted with the man born blind, the religious people and the general public embark on an opposite journey. They leave the light and go into the darkness and eventually become blind. It is not uncommon among us that religious people, who claim to know God’s will, cannot tolerate people of different views. For them, the God is within their control.
The third story is not in the end of today’s Gospel, but at the beginning of it. It is the revelation of Jesus about himself. He tells his disciples: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (verses 3-5)”
Further, at the end of the Gospel, Jesus tells us the purpose of his coming: “I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind. (verse 39)”
Finally, Jesus invites us to contemplate, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see’, your sin remains (verse 41).” Amen.