I cannot imagine what it would be like to be an adult who has been blind from birth, and who is suddenly given the gift of sight. The brightness. The colors. The faces of people whom I have only known from the sound of their voices.
Nor can I imagine what it must have been like for a man to have received such a gift from Jesus, only to have the rest of his world turned upside-down. People didn’t know what to make of him anymore. He couldn’t go on being a beggar. His own parents had distanced themselves from him, lest they run afoul of the Jewish authorities.
And after his verbal showdown with the Pharisees, John says, he was tossed out on his ear (John 9:34). That doesn’t necessarily mean that he had been expelled from the synagogue, but it seems likely that this was the case, since he had been labeled a disciple of Jesus (9:22, 28). And that would mean being cut off from the social life of his community.
Jesus heard what had happened, and sought him out.
Jesus, of course, knew what the man looked like, but the man had never actually seen Jesus with his newly-healed eyes. I don’t doubt, though, that he recognized Jesus’ voice. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asked (vs. 35).
The man responded, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him” (vs. 36, NRSV). He addressed Jesus respectfully, and with an eagerness to believe. He has already labeled Jesus a prophet (vs. 17), and has reasoned rightly — in contrast to the Pharisees! — that no one could have done such a miracle without being from God (vs. 33).
Jesus now completes the man’s knowledge: “You have seen him, and the one speaking to you is he” (vs. 37). Jesus had said something similar to the Samaritan woman when she mentioned the Messiah (John 4:25-26). But with this man, he begins with the words, “You have seen him.” Surely those words are significant, spoken to a man who up until recently had never seen anything or anyone.
The man’s response is to believe and worship.
Earlier, the Pharisees had commanded him to “Give glory to God” (vs. 24). Functionally, that was their way of saying, “We’re the religious experts here, not you. So whatever you say, it had better line up with what we’ve already decided is the truth.”
The irony is that it is the formerly blind man who now sees the truth with his own two eyes. And yes, he does indeed give glory to God.