Missing the Tuesday morning Bible Study?
Here are some things to consider.
In this long passage, Jesus is dealing with a common question. It's a version of "why do bad things happen to people?" In this instance, the questioners are trying to figure out whose fault it is that a man was born blind. Was there something obviously sinful about this man even while he was still in the womb? Or was his blindness some kind of punishment for the sins of his parents? That's the question that drives this entire episode, that finally culminates in some pretty harsh words between Jesus and the Pharisees.
The disciples have a pretty straightforward question. Who is responsible for this man's blindness? The choices seem to be limited to the man or his parents. One of them must have sinned in some way to deserve this kind of punishment. But Jesus offers another option. It's not the sin of the man or his parents that is behind all this. Rather, God is up to something here that no one has yet seen.
- Have you ever thought that suffering (yours or others') might be punishment for some particular sin?
- What do you think about the idea that a person's suffering might have some usefulness to God? Does that make it worth it in your mind?
Jesus describes himself as the light of the world, but he warns that night is coming. Throughout this passage we will hear this recurring theme of day and night, light and darkness, blindness and sight. While we tend to think of the miracle itself being the focus of the miracle stories, in this instance, out of 41 verses, the miracle only takes up three of them. Jesus doesn't break a sweat healing a man who has been blind since birth. It's the conversations that follow the miracle where the real action happens.
- What do you think Jesus means when he says that night is coming when no one can work?
- Do you ever feel like you're living in darkness?
One of the more telling things about the community's response to the healing of the blind man is that they aren't quite sure if it's really him. This man has spent his life begging. They've walked past him every day. Now that he is no longer a blind beggar they have to admit that they've never really looked at him closely enough to be certain the man they are seeing now is the same man. Even when he tells them who he is and what has happened to him they still aren't entirely convinced. They will need to hear a little more testimony.
- Are there people in your community that you know are there but that you prefer not to look at too closely? Why?
- How do you think you would react to seeing a radical change in the life of someone in your community?
Now we start to find out the real problem. This man was healed on the sabbath. If we were wondering why Jesus messed around with mud for this healing, when so often he simply heals with a word, now we know why. By making mud and applying it to the man's eyes there is simply no question about whether Jesus has broken sabbath laws. For the Pharisees, this is all the proof they need that Jesus does not come from God. The problem, now, is how someone who doesn't come from God could be so powerful. The formerly blind man can only say what he believes. Jesus is a prophet.
- Why do you think Jesus went out of his way to stir up trouble with the Pharisees by using mud to heal this man?
- The Pharisees can't make sense of who Jesus is. Have there ever been times in your life when you just couldn't sort out what was right or wrong? When you just couldn't see a situation as clearly as you woudl like?
The formerly blind man has offered his take on the situation, but that is not enough for the Pharisees. They call his parents to give an account. What is their explanation for what has happened. His parents testify that he is, indeed, their son, and he was born blind. But they are afraid to offer an explanation for how he has come to have sight. They don't want to openly side with Jesus against the Pharisees. As John explains to us, that would mean getting put out of the synagogue. And they are not willing to risk that, even for their son. So they throw the question back on him. "Ask him. He is of age."
- Can you imagine throwing your own child under the bus in this way? What do you think made the parents respond this way?
- What does that show us about true human nature vs how we want to imagine our nature?
The healed man gets dragged in to testify yet again. This time, it seems that he is running out of patience. Any thought that he should show some kind of deference or respect to the Pharisees is out the window. He responds to their questions with exasperation. He sees no point in telling them, yet again, what Jesus did, since they didn't listen the first time. Then he really makes them mad by suggesting that maybe they're asking all these questions because they'd like to become Jesus disciples too. The Pharisees' huffy reply ends with their acknowledgement that they can't figure out where Jesus comes from. The healed man jumps on this. They are supposed to be teachers. They are supposed to know stuff. They are witnesses to a display of power that could only come from God. And yet, they cannot figure that out. This is enough to have the formerly blind tossed out of the synagogue.
- What do you think about how this blind man talks to the religious leaders? Where does his courage come from?
The story wraps up with the formerly blind man becoming a worshipper of Jesus and the Phraisees being told they are the truly blind ones. The formerly blind man has come to see Jesus for who is. In his blind state he knew he had no option but to be a beggar. He knew that he was entirely dependent on the mercy of strangers for his very life. And now he has received an even greater mercy than a few coins dropped in his cup. The Pharisees, on the other hand, are caught in the blindness of their sin. They are so confident in themselves and their own sight, their own knowledge, that they cannot see Jesus standing in front of them with his gifts.
- How does our sin blind us to God's mercy?
- How does self-righteousness blind us to God's mercy?