March 18, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — John 9:1-5 (NRSV)
As Jesus walked 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?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Read the rest of John 9 here.
When faced with hunger, blindness, death, fear, and confusion—of our own making or outside of our control, in our individual lives or in the life of the world—we have a Savior who is our mighty help.
Today’s passage from John is the beginning of a long story—I’ve only reprinted the beginning of it here. After the exchange in the passage above, Jesus covers the man’s eyes with mud and sends him to wash in the pool of Siloam (9:6-7); when he comes back, able to see, people are confused as to whether it is really the same man. Jesus is gone, but the man testifies that Jesus healed him (9:8-12). The Jewish religious leaders call the man’s parents, who are afraid and don’t give much information (9:18-23); then the leaders call the man back again, and the man gives a longer testimony (9:24-34). Finally, Jesus finds the man again and he becomes one of Jesus’s disciples (9:35-39). Jesus also gets into a short conversation with the Pharisees, who overhear the man’s return, about what it means to see (9:40-41).
This is a vivid story, with memorable characters, and a bit of a happy ending as the man and Jesus reencounter each other. It also features one of the great “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John: “I am the light of the world.” I’ve previously written about “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35); the other ones are commonly considered to be:
- “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7)
- “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), which yesterday’s Psalm may have reminded you of
- “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25)
- “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)
- “I am the true vine” (John 15:1)
The statement in John 6 comes as part of the feeding of the 5000; the two statements in John 10 follow directly on from Jesus’s conversation with the end of the Pharisees at the end of today’s story; the John 11 statement is part of the raising of Lazarus; and the John 14 and John 15 statements form part of Jesus’s long speech to his disciples at the Last Supper where he reassures them about what is to come. I was struck by the fact that in every case (if you consider John 10 to simply be a continuation of the passage for today), Jesus comes into a situation of pain—hunger, blindness, death, fear, confusion—and speaks healing words. More than that, he is healing words; or should I say the Healing Word.
That is, to me, one of the best things about this story, as about so many others in the Gospels. When faced with hunger, blindness, death, fear, and confusion—of our own making or outside of our control, in our individual lives or in the life of the world, as I noted yesterday—we have a Savior who is our mighty help, and we can say with the man born blind, against all opposition that may assail us:
One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see. (9:25b)
Where are you still blind?
Where has Jesus helped you to see?
(Taken from a prayer for the Fourth Sunday in Lent in the Book of Common Prayer) Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Banner image by Paul Zoetemeijer on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind (John 9).
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Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
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