Seeing as John sees

In a recent post, we introduced the story of Jesus healing a man who had been blind from birth. We might be tempted to take the story for granted. After all, we’ve heard it before, and there are many references to Jesus healing the blind in the gospels — more references, in fact, than to any other kind of healing. But it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on how new and precedent-setting this would probably have been to people in Jesus’ day.

As biblical scholars have noted, there is no record of anyone being healed of blindness in the Old Testament. There is no record in the New Testament of someone other than Jesus healing the blind (unless you count the story in Acts 9 of the scales falling from Saul’s eyes when Ananias laid hands on him). And only here are we specifically told of Jesus healing a man born blind, and doing so in such an unusual (and unexplained) fashion.

This is a significant miracle indeed.

But is theologically significant as well. In the Old Testament, God is the one who is said to give people sight or strike them blind (e.g., Exod 4:11). And as we might expect, God is also the one who restores sight to the blind (Ps 146:8).

Moreover, as God says to his Servant, the one who will be his Messiah:

I, the LORD, have called you for a good reason.
I will grasp your hand and guard you,
and give you as a covenant to the people,
as a light to the nations,
to open blind eyes,
to lead the prisoners from prison,
and those who sit in darkness from the dungeon.  (Isa 42:6-7)

Tte Lord’s Messiah is a light to the nations. Other than God himself, only the Lord’s Messiah opens blind eyes.

As we’ve seen, there are important themes and motifs in John’s gospel. Jesus is continually referred to as the light, and even declares twice, “I am the light of the world.” And much of John’s narrative is structured around his recounting of one after another of Jesus’ miraculous signs.

These come together seamlessly as Jesus performs the sign that embodies par excellence the coming of the light to a darkened world: the giving of sight to a man who has known only darkness. We are meant to sit up and take notice: this is God’s Servant. This is the Messiah, the Light of the World.

We need to read the story with new eyes ourselves, seeing in it what John sees.

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