Do you agree that Christians believe without evidence? Is the Christian faith irrational?

According to biologist Richard Dawkins, ‘Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.’

Watch video

Cc Blind faith

Historical Context

Opinions about Jesus are becoming sharply divided. Is he from God or is he a deluded troublemaker? The Pharisees, strict adherents of the Jewish religious law, are angry with him. In their view, Jesus doesn’t keep the Sabbath, a day on which Jews are meant to refrain from any form of work in order to worship. But Jesus heals someone on the Sabbath, which, according to their traditions, was a break with the Sabbath regulations. They are so angry with Jesus that in the previous chapter they tried to murder him.

In this encounter, Jesus rejects the popular notion that a man’s blindness is the result of his own or his parents’ sin. Jesus heals the man on the Sabbath and is once again embroiled in controversy.

Click below to expand the text, then discuss with a friend.

John 9: 1–8
 

Jesus heals a man born blind

9As he went 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?’

‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’

After saying this, he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means ‘Sent’). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

His neighbours and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, ‘Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?’ Some claimed that he was.

1

Describe what life would be like for someone born blind – practically, socially, emotionally. Note the hints in verses 1 and 8.

2

How might the man have felt as he walked to the pool? What might he have been thinking as he came back to the place where he was once forced to beg?

3

How does this miracle relate to Jesus’ claiming to be the ‘light of the world’? What does it suggest about the life that Jesus claims to offer?

Throughout his writing, John uses light primarily as a symbol of life, while darkness is symbolic of sin and death. This miracle depicts in actions what Jesus has come to do for the world. As the light of the world, Jesus claims to have come to rescue people from the darkness of sin and death and to give them eternal life.

John 9: 8–23
 

His neighbours and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, ‘Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?’ Some claimed that he was.

Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’

But he himself insisted, ‘I am the man.’

10 ‘How then were your eyes opened?’ they asked.

11 He replied, ‘The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.’

12 ‘Where is this man?’ they asked him.

‘I don’t know,’ he said.

The Pharisees investigate the healing

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. ‘He put mud on my eyes,’ the man replied, ‘and I washed, and now I see.’

16 Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’

But others asked, ‘How can a sinner perform such signs?’ So they were divided.

17 Then they turned again to the blind man, ‘What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’

The man replied, ‘He is a prophet.’

18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 ‘Is this your son?’ they asked. ‘Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?’

20 ‘We know he is our son,’ the parents answered, ‘and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.’ 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’

4

Why do you think the man’s neighbours respond as they do? Why do they take him to the Pharisees in verses 8–13?

5

The Pharisees now enter the scene. Why can’t they agree about what has happened, despite the clear testimony of the man? Read verses 13–17. What assumptions are guiding their conclusions?

6

Why are the man’s parents now brought in? How do they respond, and why, in verses 18–23?

John 9: 24–34
 

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. ‘Give glory to God by telling the truth,’ they said. ‘We know this man is a sinner.’

25 He replied, ‘Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!’

26 Then they asked him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’

27 He answered, ‘I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’

28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, ‘You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but

30 The man answered, ‘Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’

34 To this they replied, ‘You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!’ And they threw him out.

7

Why do you think the Pharisees react as they do to the man’s testimony? Are they interested in ‘the truth’?

8

How does the man respond to the accusations and insults of the Pharisees? What points does he make in verses 30–33?

John 9: 35–41
 

Spiritual blindness

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’

36 ‘Who is he, sir?’ the man asked. ‘Tell me so that I may believe in him.’

37 Jesus said, ‘You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.’

38 Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshipped him.

39 Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’

40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’

41 Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

9

Why do you think Jesus seeks out the man?

10

In the last few hours, this man has experienced a radical re-evaluation of who he thinks Jesus is. How has his opinion changed in verses 11, 17 and 38, and what conclusion has he reached about Jesus’ identity?

For the first time in this encounter, the man sees Jesus with his physical eyes and worships him. The man’s journey from blindness to sight parallels his spiritual journey as he follows the evidence and comes to see who Jesus truly is. The term ‘son of man’ could just refer to another human being, but the Hebrew Scriptures use the term to describe a person with God-like characteristics.

11

This encounter begins with the assumption that the blind man is sinful. It ends in an incredibly unexpected way, with Jesus describing the Pharisees in this manner. What are they guilty of? What keeps them from accepting the conclusion to which the evidence points?

What does this mean for us?

Jesus makes bold claims about himself in this passage. In claiming to be the ‘light of the world’, he insists that we are all in darkness without him. In the Hebrew Bible, worship is reserved for God alone, so by receiving the man’s worship, Jesus has equated himself with God.

Oxford academic and author CS Lewis wrote about Jesus: ‘You can shut him up as a fool, you can spit on him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He didn’t intend to.’

Why do you think people are more comfortable thinking about Jesus as a great teacher, but close their eyes to the kinds of claims he makes about himself in this encounter?

Discuss this next

Click below to discuss another chapter of John’s Gospel

DdDead man walking

Explore John's Gospel

Watch
View more videos that will help you engage with the story.

Watch

Read
See how one extraordinary life changed the world.

Read