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Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Lexegete™ | Year A | Matthew


March 2, 2008

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23 (5)
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

1a. CONTEXT - John 9:1-41

The LBW lectionary prescribed either a long form (as above) or
simply 9:13-17, 34-39. The BCP reading is 9:1-13, 24-28. A comparison
between the LBW short form and the BCP reading shows that what the one
has the other lacks. For this reason, it will be necessary to make
comments on 9:1-41 in entirety.

The passage relates the healing of a man born blind, one of seven
miracles ("signs") in John's Gospel. Filled with symbolism, it combines
elements of history with Johannine theology. Based on a miracle of
healing a man from physical blindness, it has become at the Johannine
level an account of healing from spiritual blindness--and the fall of Jesus'
opponents into spiritual blindness. At 8:12, Jesus has declared, "I am the
light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will
have the light of life." Already the Pharisees reject such a claim (8:13).
Jesus resuthe claim in our text (9:5): "As long as I am in the world, I am
the light of the world." Our analysis of the text, because of its length,
will have to consist of an outline and brief comments.

1a. TEXT - John 9:1-41 (ESV)

9:1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus [1] to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” [2] 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; [3] but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.


[1] 9:22 Greek him

[2] 9:35 Some manuscripts the Son of God

[3] 9:41 Greek you would not have sin


Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London

1και παραγων ειδεν ανθρωπον τυφλον εκ γενετης. 2και ηρωτησαν αυτον οι μαθηται αυτου λεγοντες, ραββι, τις ημαρτεν, ουτος η οι γονεις αυτου, ινα τυφλος γεννηθη; 3απεκριθη ιησους, ουτε ουτος ημαρτεν ουτε οι γονεις αυτου, αλλ ινα φανερωθη τα εργα του θεου εν αυτω. 4ημας δει εργαζεσθαι τα εργα του πεμψαντος με εως ημερα εστιν: ερχεται νυξ οτε ουδεις δυναται εργαζεσθαι. 5οταν εν τω κοσμω ω, φως ειμι του κοσμου. 6ταυτα ειπων επτυσεν χαμαι και εποιησεν πηλον εκ του πτυσματος, και επεχρισεν αυτου τον πηλον επι τους οφθαλμους 7και ειπεν αυτω, υπαγε νιψαι εις την κολυμβηθραν του σιλωαμ {ο ερμηνευεται απεσταλμενος}. απηλθεν ουν και ενιψατο, και ηλθεν βλεπων. 8οι ουν γειτονες και οι θεωρουντες αυτον το προτερον οτι προσαιτης ην ελεγον, ουχ ουτος εστιν ο καθημενος και προσαιτων; 9αλλοι ελεγον οτι ουτος εστιν: αλλοι ελεγον, ουχι, αλλα ομοιος αυτω εστιν. εκεινος ελεγεν οτι εγω ειμι. 10ελεγον ουν αυτω, πως [ουν] ηνεωχθησαν σου οι οφθαλμοι; 11απεκριθη εκεινος, ο ανθρωπος ο λεγομενος ιησους πηλον εποιησεν και επεχρισεν μου τους οφθαλμους και ειπεν μοι οτι υπαγε εις τον σιλωαμ και νιψαι: απελθων ουν και νιψαμενος ανεβλεψα. 12και ειπαν αυτω, που εστιν εκεινος; λεγει, ουκ οιδα. 13αγουσιν αυτον προς τους φαρισαιους τον ποτε τυφλον. 14ην δε σαββατον εν η ημερα τον πηλον εποιησεν ο ιησους και ανεωξεν αυτου τους οφθαλμους. 15παλιν ουν ηρωτων αυτον και οι φαρισαιοι πως ανεβλεψεν. ο δε ειπεν αυτοις, πηλον επεθηκεν μου επι τους οφθαλμους, και ενιψαμην, και βλεπω. 16ελεγον ουν εκ των φαρισαιων τινες, ουκ εστιν ουτος παρα θεου ο ανθρωπος, οτι το σαββατον ου τηρει. αλλοι [δε] ελεγον, πως δυναται ανθρωπος αμαρτωλος τοιαυτα σημεια ποιειν; και σχισμα ην εν αυτοις. 17λεγουσιν ουν τω τυφλω παλιν, τι συ λεγεις περι αυτου, οτι ηνεωξεν σου τους οφθαλμους; ο δε ειπεν οτι προφητης εστιν. 18ουκ επιστευσαν ουν οι ιουδαιοι περι αυτου οτι ην τυφλος και ανεβλεψεν, εως οτου εφωνησαν τους γονεις αυτου του αναβλεψαντος 19και ηρωτησαν αυτους λεγοντες, ουτος εστιν ο υιος υμων, ον υμεις λεγετε οτι τυφλος εγεννηθη; πως ουν βλεπει αρτι; 20απεκριθησαν ουν οι γονεις αυτου και ειπαν, οιδαμεν οτι ουτος εστιν ο υιος ημων και οτι τυφλος εγεννηθη: 21πως δε νυν βλεπει ουκ οιδαμεν, η τις ηνοιξεν αυτου τους οφθαλμους ημεις ουκ οιδαμεν: αυτον ερωτησατε, ηλικιαν εχει, αυτος περι εαυτου λαλησει. 22ταυτα ειπαν οι γονεις αυτου οτι εφοβουντο τους ιουδαιους, ηδη γαρ συνετεθειντο οι ιουδαιοι ινα εαν τις αυτον ομολογηση χριστον, αποσυναγωγος γενηται. 23δια τουτο οι γονεις αυτου ειπαν οτι ηλικιαν εχει, αυτον επερωτησατε. 24εφωνησαν ουν τον ανθρωπον εκ δευτερου ος ην τυφλος και ειπαν αυτω, δος δοξαν τω θεω: ημεις οιδαμεν οτι ουτος ο ανθρωπος αμαρτωλος εστιν. 25απεκριθη ουν εκεινος, ει αμαρτωλος εστιν ουκ οιδα: εν οιδα, οτι τυφλος ων αρτι βλεπω. 26ειπον ουν αυτω, τι εποιησεν σοι; πως ηνοιξεν σου τους οφθαλμους; 27απεκριθη αυτοις, ειπον υμιν ηδη και ουκ ηκουσατε: τι παλιν θελετε ακουειν; μη και υμεις θελετε αυτου μαθηται γενεσθαι; 28και ελοιδορησαν αυτον και ειπον, συ μαθητης ει εκεινου, ημεις δε του μωυσεως εσμεν μαθηται: 29ημεις οιδαμεν οτι μωυσει λελαληκεν ο θεος, τουτον δε ουκ οιδαμεν ποθεν εστιν. 30απεκριθη ο ανθρωπος και ειπεν αυτοις, εν τουτω γαρ το θαυμαστον εστιν οτι υμεις ουκ οιδατε ποθεν εστιν, και ηνοιξεν μου τους οφθαλμους. 31οιδαμεν οτι αμαρτωλων ο θεος ουκ ακουει, αλλ εαν τις θεοσεβης η και το θελημα αυτου ποιη τουτου ακουει. 32εκ του αιωνος ουκ ηκουσθη οτι ηνεωξεν τις οφθαλμους τυφλου γεγεννημενου: 33ει μη ην ουτος παρα θεου, ουκ ηδυνατο ποιειν ουδεν. 34απεκριθησαν και ειπαν αυτω, εν αμαρτιαις συ εγεννηθης ολος, και συ διδασκεις ημας; και εξεβαλον αυτον εξω. 35ηκουσεν ιησους οτι εξεβαλον αυτον εξω, και ευρων αυτον ειπεν, συ πιστευεις εις τον υιον του ανθρωπου; 36απεκριθη εκεινος και ειπεν, και τις εστιν, κυριε, ινα πιστευσω εις αυτον; 37ειπεν αυτω ο ιησους, και εωρακας αυτον και ο λαλων μετα σου εκεινος εστιν. 38ο δε εφη, πιστευω, κυριε: και προσεκυνησεν αυτω. 39και ειπεν ο ιησους, εις κριμα εγω εις τον κοσμον τουτον ηλθον, ινα οι μη βλεποντες βλεπωσιν και οι βλεποντες τυφλοι γενωνται. 40ηκουσαν εκ των φαρισαιων ταυτα οι μετ αυτου οντες, και ειπον αυτω, μη και ημεις τυφλοι εσμεν; 41ειπεν αυτοις ο ιησους, ει τυφλοι ητε, ουκ αν ειχετε αμαρτιαν: νυν δε λεγετε οτι βλεπομεν: η αμαρτια υμων μενει.

2. ANALYSIS - John 9:1-41

John 9:1-7 - The verses relate the setting and the miracle. The miracle is
performed by Jesus "in order that (Greek) the works of God might be made
manifest" in the man blind from birth (9:3), rather than as a response to a
request. It is an "epiphany" of God's working through Jesus, the "light of
the world"(9:5). Jesus has been sent into the world by the Fathr to provide
illumination by which people can see. It is not a matter (in the story or
theologically) of "restoring" sight to the blind, but bringing light and sight
where none exist.

9:8-34 - This long section contains four interrogations. As we move from
one to another, we see that the man's understanding of Jesus is deepened,
ending with a full-blown christological confession; his statements
concerning Jesus are CAPITALIZED in our presentation. In the first case

(9:8-12), it is the neighbors who interrogate the man about how he
received his sight. The man recounts what happened, attributing his
healing to "THE MAN CALLED JESUS" (9:11). The people pass no judgment on

In the second case (9:13-17) the man is interrogated by Pharisees. He
tells the same story. Now the identity ofJesus becomes and issue, for the
healing had been performed on a sabbath. The Pharisees declare that Jesus
could not possible be "from God" because he does not keep the sabbath. But
the Pharisees become divided. They ask about Jesus' identity, and the man
declares "HE IS A PROPHET" (9:17).

The third interrogation (9:18-23) provides an interlude. Now it is the
parents who are quesstioned by "the Jews" (presumably more than the
Pharisees is meant, including the neighbors and perhaps others). The
parents confirm that the man is indeed their son and that he was born
blind. Yet they are unwilling to tell of the manner, or by whom, their son
was given the gift of sight. At this point, the Fourth Evangelist introduces
an explanation for the silence of the parents (9:22) which interpreters
(most notable J. Louis Martyn) take to be a reference to conditions in the
time of the Fourth Evangelist near the end of the first century, i.e., the
excommunication from the synagogue of those who confess Jesus as Christ
(cf. 12:42; 16:2). The late first century practice has thus been
"retrojected" into the story of Jesus.

It is probable that the Johannine community itself was composed in part
of persons who had been excommunicated from synagogues, persons who
understood themselves to have been enlightened, or healed from spiritual
blindness, and who had family and acquaintances who were not willing to
pay the price of being excluded as they had been. That means that the
Johannine community would hear a segment of its own history in this
story, when read, and be inspired by it. In any case, the parents direct the
intrrogators back to their son, who is "of age" to speak for himself.

The final interrogation (9:24-34) is more heated than the previous ones.
The interrogators speak of Jesus as a sinner (9:24; cf. 9:16) and call the
man a disciple of Jesus (9:28). The man bears testimony to what Jesus has
done and speaks of Jesus as "FROM GOD" (9:33; contrast 9:16).

9:35-38 - Again it is Jesus who approaches the man (cf. 9:1-7), not the
reverse. In the encounter, Jesus provides one of the christological titles
which applies to one who is "from God," i.e.,huion tou anthropou "SON OF
MAN" or "Human One" (so AILL)[9:35]--who descended from heaven (=God,
3:13)--and in 9:37 reveals that he is that person. In this scene the man
accepts this christological confession, and he worships Jesus.

9:39-41 - Eis krima - Jesus declares his mission, which is one of
"judgment," which here must mean not only the judgment he renders (5:22)
but also the judgment that he causes persons to make about himself. The
effect is that those who have spiritual pretensions are exposed as blind,
while those who make no claims are--here and there, where he enters
their lives, and they grow in understanding--given sight, spiritual

3. STRATEGY: John 9:1-41

The Gospel for this day sets forth both the themes of light and
passing from blindness to seeing. Both appear also in the first lesson
(Isa. 42:16, 18-20). The former occurs in the second lesson (Eph. 5:8-9,
To keep a sermon in focus it is probably better to settle on one of
these themes in particular (without neglecting the other), and that would
be the theme of blindness and seeing, which is more thoroughly pervasive
in both the first lesson and the Gospel for the day. In the Isaiah text,
Israel is declared to be habitually blind (42:18-19). Even while seeing,
Israel tends not to "observe" what is there (42:20). And in the Gospel, the
opponents of Jesus are blind, while those who are led to confess him are
those who can see.

The preacher should avoid speaking of the "blindness of the Jews" in
the times of the Old Testament and Jesus. It is better to speak of Jesus'
"opponents," not "the Jews." Of course they were Jews (but not Pilate!).
Jesus lived in a Jewish world--but his followers were also Jews. A
sermon should not address issues in Jesus's day (except as background
information), but in ours.

Our habit is to think of human beings as capable of the knowledge of
God and God's will (natural revelation). But we learn from Paul that, even
though people may know God from what is revealed in nature, that does not
lead to right worship and service (Rom. 1:18-25). The judgment of Paul
and John is that the world is finally blind and groping about in darkness.
Not totally, of course. There is much good in the world, and the
Reformation doctrine of the "two kingdoms" teaches that even the secular
order is ruled by God and that the "natural" person can in principle seek
truth, justice, and civic righteousness and do it.
But our relationship to God is another matter. Christ has entered into
our world to bring light and seeing. In him and his Word we see that God
seeks us, overcoming the alienation between us and God, and gathers us
into a community of the redeemed. Never again can we say we don't know
God, for whoever has seen Christ has seen the Father (14:9). And in light
of that, the Christian community and individual no longer has an option
whether to seek truth, justice, and righteousness: "Awake, O sleeper, and
arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light," (Eph. 5:14). And God
leads his people, no longer blind, into ventures of faith and witness,
accompanying them, as Isaiah foretold (see 42:16).


Brown, Raymond E., THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN. Anchor Bible 29-29A.
2 vols., Garden City, NY: Doubleday, l966-70.


Edition. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1979.


"God, Whose Almighty Word" (LBW 400) contains the themes of light,
healing, and sight.

"In the Cross of Christ I Glory" (LBW 104, HB 441/2)celebrates the light
which Jesus brings.

Finally, "Amazing Grace" (LBW 448, HB 671) is virtually a commentary on
themes from our Gospel for the day.

Exegete: Arland J. Hultgren is the 
Asher O. and Carrie Nasby Professor
of New Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN.




Dartmouth,MA 02747


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