Exegesis of John 9 Part 3
John 9 takes the theological concepts of darkness and light and presents an object lesson to illustrate what that looks like with ordinary people. The duality between light and dark is not unique to this chapter. This theme is carried through the rest of his work. Starting with the Gospel, the prologue sets the tone for these two forces. In the prologue, John links light φῶς with life ζωή (1:3-5). The two are coupled so that Jesus’ message, which is the light, will result in eternal life. As stated earlier, one of the primary purposes of the Gospel is to communicate the eternal life benefit of believing Jesus is the Messiah. Conversely, those who reject the light are in spiritual darkness (1:5) because they want darkness (3:19-20). Jesus had concern over the disciples and the tenuous relationships they had with light and dark. Indeed, it was Jesus’ presence that kept them in the light (12:35-36). Blindness, being in the dark spiritually, was the evidence of hardened hearts (12:40).
John continues the message of light in the first epistle. The message – the gospel – from Jesus is that God is light, and in him, there is no darkness (1:5). Again, the contrasting theme is used to differentiate those who have put their faith in Jesus (light) and those who refuse (dark). However, like John 12:35-36, 1 John 2:8 promises that the “darkness is disappearing and, the true light is already shining.” (CSB). Lastly, the light/dark motif is continued in the Apocalypse. The book’s protagonist, Jesus, is initially standing amid lampstands (implements of light) and is described as one who has many features of light – white hair, eyes like flames, and a face like a sun (1:14-16). These are all images of light and brightness and emanate from Jesus.
All these passages relate to our featured chapter and the story of the healed blind man. The blind see when they encounter and believe and Jesus. The sighted ones are struck blind when they reject Jesus as Messiah. John 9 presents several different topics that could be discussed (but are outside of the scope of this essay). Questions that could be addressed out of this passage could revolve around the nature of healing, the concept of sin and physical ailment, new creation, and the role of the law as compared to faith in Jesus.
For modern-day Christ-followers, it is tempting to park the attitudes of the Pharisees in the first century. But a careful consideration of their attitudes may lead one to see the same stuff in their own church body and denomination. How often does the Christian avoid other uncomfortable people because they violate some church or denominational moral position? Not to imply that rules and moral statements are unnecessary, but that some things have higher priority. Jesus healed on the sabbath. The Pharisees were angered because of this. However, they could not see the fantastic miracle standing there before them, and they could not see that God was the course of the miracle. In the same way, modern Christians must be open to what God is doing and be ready to be surprised, even offended at times. This offense does not come from righteous indignation but an uncomfortableness with those who have a different position.
This essay has endeavored to expose the strong themes of light and dark in the works of John through a story of healing, confrontation, and revelation. The healing was just the beginning. What followed the healing was far more critical as it exposed those who thought they were in the light – had sight – are actually blind – in the dark. Through the healing, Jesus further expanded his revelation as Messiah. Who but God would perform such healing? The choice then is to believe and enter into the light and authentic vision, or not believe and remain in blind darkness.