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Monday, April 4, 2011

+ L E N T + F O U R + AD, 2011

Lexegete™ | Year A | Matthew


March 27, 2011

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

1kai paragwn eiden anqrwpon tuflon ek genethV. 2kai hrwthsan auton oi maqhtai autou legonteV, rabbi, tiV hmarten, outoV h oi goneiV autou, ina tufloV gennhqh; 3apekriqh ihsouV, oute outoV hmarten oute oi goneiV autou, all ina fanerwqh ta erga tou qeou en autw. 4hmaV dei ergazesqai ta erga tou pemyantoV me ewV hmera estin: ercetai nux ote oudeiV dunatai ergazesqai. 5otan en tw kosmw w, fwV eimi tou kosmou. 6tauta eipwn eptusen camai kai epoihsen phlon ek tou ptusmatoV, kai epecrisen autou ton phlon epi touV ofqalmouV 7kai eipen autw, upage niyai eiV thn kolumbhqran tou silwam {o ermhneuetai apestalmenoV}. aphlqen oun kai eniyato, kai hlqen blepwn. 8oi oun geitoneV kai oi qewrounteV auton to proteron oti prosaithV hn elegon, ouc outoV estin o kaqhmenoV kai prosaitwn; 9alloi elegon oti outoV estin: alloi elegon, ouci, alla omoioV autw estin. ekeinoV elegen oti egw eimi. 10elegon oun autw, pwV [oun] hnewcqhsan sou oi ofqalmoi; 11apekriqh ekeinoV, o anqrwpoV o legomenoV ihsouV phlon epoihsen kai epecrisen mou touV ofqalmouV kai eipen moi oti upage eiV ton silwam kai niyai: apelqwn oun kai niyamenoV anebleya. 12kai eipan autw, pou estin ekeinoV; legei, ouk oida. 13agousin auton proV touV farisaiouV ton pote tuflon. 14hn de sabbaton en h hmera ton phlon epoihsen o ihsouV kai anewxen autou touV ofqalmouV. 15palin oun hrwtwn auton kai oi farisaioi pwV anebleyen. o de eipen autoiV, phlon epeqhken mou epi touV ofqalmouV, kai eniyamhn, kai blepw. 16elegon oun ek twn farisaiwn tineV, ouk estin outoV para qeou o anqrwpoV, oti to sabbaton ou threi. alloi [de] elegon, pwV dunatai anqrwpoV amartwloV toiauta shmeia poiein; kai scisma hn en autoiV. 17legousin oun tw tuflw palin, ti su legeiV peri autou, oti hnewxen sou touV ofqalmouV; o de eipen oti profhthV estin. 18ouk episteusan oun oi ioudaioi peri autou oti hn tufloV kai anebleyen, ewV otou efwnhsan touV goneiV autou tou anableyantoV 19kai hrwthsan autouV legonteV, outoV estin o uioV umwn, on umeiV legete oti tufloV egennhqh; pwV oun blepei arti; 20apekriqhsan oun oi goneiV autou kai eipan, oidamen oti outoV estin o uioV hmwn kai oti tufloV egennhqh: 21pwV de nun blepei ouk oidamen, h tiV hnoixen autou touV ofqalmouV hmeiV ouk oidamen: auton erwthsate, hlikian ecei, autoV peri eautou lalhsei. 22tauta eipan oi goneiV autou oti efobounto touV ioudaiouV, hdh gar suneteqeinto oi ioudaioi ina ean tiV auton omologhsh criston, aposunagwgoV genhtai. 23dia touto oi goneiV autou eipan oti hlikian ecei, auton eperwthsate. 24efwnhsan oun ton anqrwpon ek deuterou oV hn tufloV kai eipan autw, doV doxan tw qew: hmeiV oidamen oti outoV o anqrwpoV amartwloV estin. 25apekriqh oun ekeinoV, ei amartwloV estin ouk oida: en oida, oti tufloV wn arti blepw. 26eipon oun autw, ti epoihsen soi; pwV hnoixen sou touV ofqalmouV; 27apekriqh autoiV, eipon umin hdh kai ouk hkousate: ti palin qelete akouein; mh kai umeiV qelete autou maqhtai genesqai; 28kai eloidorhsan auton kai eipon, su maqhthV ei ekeinou, hmeiV de tou mwusewV esmen maqhtai: 29hmeiV oidamen oti mwusei lelalhken o qeoV, touton de ouk oidamen poqen estin. 30apekriqh o anqrwpoV kai eipen autoiV, en toutw gar to qaumaston estin oti umeiV ouk oidate poqen estin, kai hnoixen mou touV ofqalmouV. 31oidamen oti amartwlwn o qeoV ouk akouei, all ean tiV qeosebhV h kai to qelhma autou poih toutou akouei. 32ek tou aiwnoV ouk hkousqh oti hnewxen tiV ofqalmouV tuflou gegennhmenou: 33ei mh hn outoV para qeou, ouk hdunato poiein ouden. 34apekriqhsan kai eipan autw, en amartiaiV su egennhqhV oloV, kai su didaskeiV hmaV; kai exebalon auton exw. 35hkousen ihsouV oti exebalon auton exw, kai eurwn auton eipen, su pisteueiV eiV ton uion tou anqrwpou; 36apekriqh ekeinoV kai eipen, kai tiV estin, kurie, ina pisteusw eiV auton; 37eipen autw o ihsouV, kai ewrakaV auton kai o lalwn meta sou ekeinoV estin. 38o de efh, pisteuw, kurie: kai prosekunhsen autw. 39kai eipen o ihsouV, eiV krima egw eiV ton kosmon touton hlqon, ina oi mh bleponteV blepwsin kai oi bleponteV tufloi genwntai. 40hkousan ek twn farisaiwn tauta oi met autou onteV, kai eipon autw, mh kai hmeiV tufloi esmen; 41eipen autoiV o ihsouV, ei tufloi hte, ouk an eicete amartian: nun de legete oti blepomen: h amartia umwn menei.

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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