John 9:1-41 is a simple story of a blind man who comes out of the darkness to see both physically and spiritually. By the end of the story (John 9:41) those who thought they could see (Pharisees) blinded themselves to the “light of the world” (John 8:12 and 9:5) and sank into spiritual darkness.
The flow of the chapter is bound together like a drama. After the initial sign or healing (John 9:1-7) the blind man is cross examined almost like the Old Testament "friends" of Job interrogated Job.
First the questioning comes from the neighbors (John 9:8-12). Then the Pharisees question the blind man (John 9:13-17) and second his parents (John 9:18-23). The Pharisees for a second time question the blind man (John 9:24-34). The drama ends with Jesus finding the blind man where upon the blind man gives a confession of faith (John 9:35-38) and Jesus summarizes that he has come to make the “blind” see and the “seeing” blind (John 9:39-41).
It is noteworthy that the somewhat odd healing (to our ears although not terribly unusual in the ancient world) with mud and saliva only takes up a couple of verses (John 9:6-7). The extended questioning receives the heaviest emphasis in the chapter.
The blind man can say little more than that the one who has given him sight is named Jesus (John 9:11). Then he progresses to call Jesus a prophet (John 9:17). Then a man from God (John 9:33); and finally the identification of Jesus as the Son of Man (John 9:35-38). On the other hand, those who are questioning the blind man move from thinking the healing may have happened (John 9:15) to contending that the healing violated Sabbath law (John 9:16) to questioning whether he was ever really blind (John 9:18) to finally a character assassination of the blind man that drove him away (John 9:34).
We in the church too often drive away those who bring their witness of faith. We value the questioning and merely look for more interrogations. Or we get caught up in the legalism like the Pharisees who didn’t so much as take any joy in the blind man’s seeing and only noted that some Sabbath regulation had been broken.
John’s healing drama serves as a pointer beyond itself. John neither doubts the factuality of the healing/sign nor values it as a final proof. The oft quoted Helen Keller (who was blind from 19 months old) saying comes to mind, “The worst thing that can befall a person is not to lose sight, but to lose your vision.”
*The middle left section of six miracles of Christ depicted on the Andrews diptych (two pieces hooked together by a hinge) from North Italy (probably Milan) from the 5th or 9th century CE/AD. It shows Jesus healing a blind man. It is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.