THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN
THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD DISCOURSE continued:
The Healing of the Man Born Blind
I have made you a covenant of the people and light to the nations, to open the eyes of the blind to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the dungeon. I AM Yahweh, that is my name!
He sent the man to the pool called the pool of Siloam, to be cleansed and to be enlightened, that is, to be baptized and receive in baptism full enlightenment. St. Tomas Aquinas, Commentary on St. John
There were many other signs that Jesus worked in the sight of the disciples, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.
Jesus in JUDEA –JERUSALEM (Fall)
III. OPPOSITION IN JERUSALEM
A. Feast of Tabernacles: Jesus leaves the Galilee to travel to Jerusalem
B. The Middle of the Feast
C. The Last Day of the Feast
D. After the Feast
1. The Adulteress
2. The Light of the World discourse – #2 “I AM the Light of the World“
3. SIGN #5 Healing of the man born blind
4. The Good Shepherd discourse – # 3 “I AM the Door of the sheep“; # 4 “I AM the Good shepherd
JESUS THE PROPHET GREATER THAN MOSES IN THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. JOHN
From the opening chapters of his Gospel, St. John depicts Jesus as the “new Moses” promised inDeuteronomy 18:15-20. The Jews of the first century AD, suffering under Roman rule, were looking for “the Prophet.” They believed the expected Messiah would be another Moses who would repeat the Exodus liberation but on a grander scale. This is the reason the priests and the Levites came from Jerusalem to ask John the Baptist, Are you the Prophet? ‘to which John responds that he is not [John 1:21]. Some have misinterpreted John’s reply to suggest that he did not understand his role as the precursor to the Messiah, but John clearly understood his mission; he knew he was to herald the coming of the Messiah but he also knew that he was not “the prophet greater than Moses” who was promised in Deuteronomy 18:15-20. It was the Messiah who would come as the Davidic heir, the rightful King of Israel, and as the Prophet greater than Moses [see John 3:14; 4:19; 6:14, 30-31; 7:40, 52; 13:1; Acts 3:22-23; 7:20-44;Hebrews 3:1-11].
In the 4thGospel, St. John focuses on the links between Jesus miracles and the wonders worked by Moses in the Exodus experience, as well as establishing the contrast between the old Law given through Moses and the grace and truth given through Jesus the Messiah [John 1:17]. The Jews looked to the Law as their “light” but the old Law could only convict them of sin: Now we are well aware that whatever the Law says is said for those who are subject to the Law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world brought under the judgment of God. So then, no human being can be found upright at the tribunal of God by keeping the Law; all that the Law does is to tell us what is sinful [Romans 3:19-20; also see CCC# 1962-64]. Jesus the Messiah is the new Moses and the true “Light” who shows the world the path to salvation and eternal life [John 8:12].
As Jesus continues to work wonders which testify His authority is from God, St. John emphasizes that these miraculous events are not just miracles but “signs” pointing to the fulfillment of prophecy and identifying Jesus not just as a human, earthly Messiah but as the divine Savior of Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7:13-14 who will come to rule the nations of the earth [John 4:48]. According to the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The Gospel of John [page 21], in the Greek text the word semaino/semeion(sign) is used 17 times in the 4th Gospel and 60 times in the rest of the New Testament. The seven public miracles and the one private miracle revealed to His Apostles, and the other aspects of Jesus’ ministry are all “signs” which were prefigured by the prophet Moses, who also worked such “signs” during his ministry:
- Yahweh to Moses: Take this staff in your hand; with this you will perform the signs [Exodus 4:17]
- Moses then told Aaron all that Yahweh had said when sending him and all the signs he had ordered him to perform. [..]. ..and Aaron repeated everything that Yahweh had said to Moses, and in the sight of the people performed the signs [Exodus 4:28, 30]
- Yahweh to Moses: But I myself shall make Pharaoh stubborn and shall perform many a sign and wonder in Egypt [Exodus 7:3].
- Yahweh then said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have made him and his officials stubborn, to display these signs of mine among them; so that you can tell your sons and your grandsons how I made fools of the Egyptians and what signs I performed among them, so that you would know that I am Yahweh [Exodus 10:1-2; etc].
Note: I found the Greek words semaino/semeion = “sign,” used to describe Jesus’ miracles inJohn 2:11, 18, 23; 3:2; 4:48, 54; 6:2, 14, 26, 30; 7:31; 9:16; 10:41; 11:47;12:18, 37; 20:30 [Interlineal Bible: Greek-English text, Gospel of John].
Question: The New Testament inspired writers testify that Jesus is the new Moses in His role as the new law giver [Matthew 5:1-7:29; John 13:34] and the new covenant mediator [Titus 2:5; Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24] who will lead God’s covenant people on the new Exodus out of bondage to sin and to salvation in the Promised Land of Heaven. In chapters 1-8 St. John has offered evidence that testifies to Jesus as the holy One promised in Deuteronomy 18:15-20 who is a prophet greater than Moses. Compare some of the “signs” of Jesus’ ministry to Israel’s past Exodus experience and Moses’ ministry as God’s servant, law-giver and covenant mediator’signs worked among the people “so that they would know” that He is God.
- The first “sign”: Jesus first “sign” was at Cana when He used the holy water from stone vessels [John 2:6], to transform the water into wine, the “blood of the grape.” Jesus’ first “sign” is prefigured by Moses’ first “sign”: turning the Nile river water into blood, even the water in stone vessels. [John chapter 2 and Exodus 7:8-25; note verse 20 = even in vessels of wood and stone].
- Jesus, Moses and the other water miracles: Jesus demonstrates His divinity for the Apostles in a private sign only for them when He walks on the water in John 6:16-21.
Moses performed five water miracles that prefigured Christ:
- Moses turned the water of the Nile River into blood [Exodus 7:14-24]; even the water which was being stored in stone vessels [Exodus 7:19].
- Moses controlled the forces of nature when he parted the Sea of Reeds [Red Sea] so the people could pass safely to the other side [Exodus 14:15-22].
- Moses struck a rock in the wilderness to give the people water to drink on their journey through the wilderness [Exodus 17:5-6].
- Moses was instructed by God to “speak” to the rock in order to receive life-giving water.
- Moses turned bitter water sweet with the wood of a tree [Exodus 15:22-25].
Jesus reenacts Moses’ water miracles and surpasses them:
- At Cana Jesus turned the water in stone vessels into the “blood of the grape” [John 2:6-9; Genesis 49:11]. This sign prefigures the gift of the Precious Blood of the Eucharist just as the abundant feeding from the 5 loaves of bread prefigures the Precious Body of Christ in the Eucharist.
- He walked on water and controlled nature to calm the sea [John 6:16-21].
- He identified Himself as the source of “living Water” [Holy Spirit] to the Samaritan woman [John 4:10-14].
- Jesus announced to the covenant people that He is the source of the “living water” promised by the prophets at the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. His is the Rock from whom living water flows [1 Corinthians 10:1-5]. He was struck down once for our sins and now all we have to do is call out to Him and He comes to us in the Eucharist [John 7:37-39].
- Jesus will give up His life on a tree [the cross]. His sacrifice will bring the sweet gift of salvation to mankind when water and blood flow from the side of the “Rock” of our salvation.
- Jesus and the Passover: Moses was the first prophet to experience the Passover in Exodus 12 by redeeming the firstborn sons of Israel, but Jesus is the true Firstborn Son [the Reshith] and He is the true Passover victim. In order to save the firstborn sons Moses instructed the people to put the blood of the lamb on their door posts and to eat its roasted flesh at the first Passover. But it is Jesus who is the sacrificial firstborn Son, identified by John the Baptist as the true Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world[1:29], and it is the Paschal mystery of Christ’s cross and Resurrection which the New Covenant children of God are called to proclaim to the world. Christ is the sacrificial victim which every Passover lamb prefigured.
- The new Moses who feeds His people: In the miracle of the Loaves and Fishes in chapter 6:1-18, Jesus is the new Moses who feeds the crowd of over 5,000 people with five barley loaves [the 5 books of Moses] and two fishes [symbols of the Old and New Covenant Church] with 12 baskets left over prefigured by Moses in the miracle of the manna from heaven feeding the 12 tribes of Israel. But in the New Covenant Jesus will provide a superabundance of grace. The 12 baskets left over are often misinterpreted as representing the 12 Apostles. This is missing the point that Israel began as a nation of 12 tribes descended from 12 men. Now the new Israel, the Catholic-universal Church, will trace her descent from 12 spiritual fathers, the Apostles who are the first bishops of the New Covenant Church. In the New Covenant there will be an abundance of spiritual gifts not like the limited manna of the Old Covenant.
- The difference between the manna of Moses and Jesus “the true bread from heaven”: In the time of Moses the covenant people received manna, bread from heaven, to nourish them on their journey to the Promised Land. In John 6:1-15Jesus also miraculously feeds the multitude like Moses but then in John 6:32-58Jesus identifies His flesh as the true bread from heaven and the means to salvation; it is His flesh we must eat to be saved, and His blood we must drink to nourish us on our journey to the Promise Land of heaven. His flesh is the bread from heaven that is greater than the manna of Moses.
- The Tabernacle and God’s Temple: In Exodus 25:1-31:11 and 35:1-40:33Moses received instruction on how to build the Sanctuary in which God’s presence would dwell. Centuries Later, King Solomon would build the Temple, God’s Dwelling Place, in Jerusalem. At the beginning of His ministry in John chapter 2, at the Feast of Passover Jesus cleanses the Temple [John 2:13-22], a Temple which is prefigured by the Tabernacle of Moses where the presence of God resided. When Jesus cleansed the Temple, God was indeed present in His Dwelling Place. Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple was to call Israel to repentance and to prepare the Old Covenant Church to be transformed into a fully redeemed New Covenant people. Moses built the first Tabernacle which housed the presence of God, but Jesus’ human body is the dwelling place of God. Jesus will build the New Covenant Church, as Moses built the Tabernacle. After the coming of the Holy Spirit at the second great Pentecost, every New Covenant believer will become, through the miracle of the baptism of Christ, by water and the Spirit, the dwelling place of God.
- The Bronze Serpent and the “Lifted up” Christ: In John 3:14 Jesus tells the people: As Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. Moses, at God’s command, lifted up an image of a bronze serpent on a pole to heal the people. Jesus, lifted up on the Cross as God’s holy sacrifice, will give life to whomever looks up to Him and believes. Moses saved the children of Israel; Jesus will save the world. In the sacrifice of the Mass, it is Jesus’ image on the Crucifix to which we look, as His image reminds us that though Him we are spiritually healed.
- The Prophet like Moses: In chapter 4 the Samaritan Woman identifies Jesus as the prophet promised in Deuteronomy 18 “the Prophet like unto Moses”. Since these people only recognized the first 5 books of the Old Testament as their sacred text, this is their only promise of the Messiah other than the prophecy of Genesis 3:15. Jesus indeed, perfectly fulfilled the promise of the prophet from Deuteronomy 18:14b-22:
- He was descended from the covenant people [Deuteronomy 18:14, 18;Matthew 1:1-14; Luke 3:23-38]
- He only spoke what the Father told him to speak [Deuteronomy 18:19, 22; John 8:26; 12:49; 14:10]
- At the Mt. of Transfiguration God acknowledged Jesus as His Son but also commanded: ‘Listen to Him’ [Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35],which recalls Yahweh’s command in Deuteronomy 18:15 &19b: Anyone who refused to listen to my words, spoken by him in my name, will have to render an account to me.
- The Cure of the man paralyzed for 38 years and the paralysis of Israel: In John chapter 5 Jesus heals a man paralyzed for 38 years. The man’s paralysis signified Israel’s paralysis after her rejection of God’s plan at Kadesh Barnes’the plan to bring the people to salvation in the Promise Land by the conquest of Canaan. At God’s command the people were be barred from entering the Promised Land until every member of that “accursed generation” had died [Numbers 13-14]. In the Exodus experience Israel was “paralyzed” for 38 years [Deuteronomy 2:14] before she was restored and led by Joshua [Yehosua/ Yeshua] and given salvation in the Promised Land. Jesus [also named in Hebrew, Yehosua/ Yeshua] has come to heal a paralyzed nation, to restore her and to lead her to the “Promised Land” of Heaven.
- Jesus and the Feast of Tabernacles: This was feast celebrated in remembrance of the Exodus experience with Moses when God led the people in the Pillar of Fire, the water miracles on the journey to Sinai, when Moses returned from the Mountain of God with the Law as their “light” to guide them in their lives, and when God took possession of His Tabernacle and later the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem by supernaturally lighting the altar of sacrifice. At the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus announces in John chapters 7- 8 that He is the “Light;” those who follow Him will have the light of life [8:12], and He is the source of living water [7:37-38]’essentially announcing that the Feast of Tabernacles if fulfilled in Him. The Tabernacle that Moses instructed the people to build led them in the wilderness journey and symbolized God’s presence with them. Now Jesus’ body is the true Tabernacle for now God is truly present among His people [John 2:19-22]. Moses led the people in the Exodus from political slavery but the New Moses will give them greater than what the prophet Moses could give: He will free them from the death grip of sin and will give them eternal life.
John wants his readers to understand that Jesus the Messiah is “the prophet greater than Moses”, leading the New Exodus to salvation. It is significant that in John chapter 5 Jesus confronts the Jews, accusing them of rejecting His teaching and His miraculous signs with the statement: Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father: you have placed your hopes on Moses, and Moses will be the one who accuses you. If you really believe him you would believe me too, since it was about me that he was writing; but if you will not believer what he wrote, how can you believe what I say? John 5:45-47. The reason they don’t believe Him, Jesus tells them, is because they don’t believe Moses. But it will be their great prophet and “giver of the Law” Moses who, as prosecuting attorney before the throne of God, will testify that the Old Covenant Church did not listen to the Firstborn Son of God when He came to offer them the gift of eternal life:
- Deuteronomy 18:19: I shall put my words into his mouth and he will tell them everything I command him. Anyone who refuses to listen to my words, spoken by him in my name, will have to render an account to me.
- Luke 9:35: And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’
Through the events of this next encounter with Christ in John chapter 9 Jesus seems to be performing what is called in the Hebrew terminology of Old Testament Prophets an ot. In the Old Testament an ot is an action performed by God’s holy prophet that indicates something much more significant and profound that the individual act itself. An example would be the “sign” or ot of the healing of the paralytic man at the pool of Bethesda. This ot pointed to Jesus’ greater promise of healing’the healing of the covenant people of Israel of their paralysis through their bondage to sin and transforming them into the New Covenant people, who’through the power of the Holy Spirit’will have the ability to complete their mission as God’s emissaries to the nations of the earth. It is in this tradition of the healing prophet that Jesus heals the man born blind in John chapter 9. Look carefully beyond the simple story for the deeper meaning behind these events.
Please read John 9:1-7: The Man Born Blind
1 As he went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should have been born blind?’ 3 ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus answered, ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be revealed in him. 4 As long as day lasts we must carry out the work of the one who sent me; the night will soon be here when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.’ 6 Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man, 7 and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam (the name means ‘one who has been sent’). So he went off and washed and came back able to see.
John 9:1-3: As he went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should have been born blind?’ ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus answered, ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be revealed in him.’
The literal beginning of this phrase: And [Kai in the Greek] passing on he saw, indicates that as He left the Temple precincts Jesus and his disciples saw the blind man [Interlineal Bible Greek New Testament, John 9:1].
This is the first direct mention of the disciples since chapter 6 when many of His disciples walked away after Jesus’ teaching that His flesh was the real bread “come down from heaven” and when only the 12 Apostles remained. Another less direct mention of disciples is indicated by Jesus’ kinsmen when they advise Him to go to Jerusalem and reveal His power to His disciples there [7:3-4]. It is not clear if this passage refers to the 12 Apostles or to the disciples in Jerusalem or to both. St. Luke tells us there were at least 70 or 72 disciples, from whom the 12 Apostles were selected [see Luke 6:13; 10:1] and of those who walked away after the “Bread of Life” discourse, some must have returned.
Question: What question do the disciples ask Jesus and what are the implications about the cause of suffering, disease and physical handicaps in the Old Covenant belief system?
Answer: They ask Jesus if the man’s affliction was due to his sins or his parents’ sins. The implication is that the righteous are somehow protected from these afflictions and that sinners suffer from the penalty of their sins or their parent’s sins.
Despite the story of Job and his faithfulness to God during undeserved great suffering, Old Covenant believers were taught that there was a direct relationship between sin, sickness, and affliction. The Old Covenant Law was temporal and the blessings that came from the Law were temporal. The Old Covenant believers saw health and prosperity as signs of God’s favor. They probably also took this interpretation from the passage in Exodus 20:5: For I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God and I punish a parent’s fault in the children, the grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren among those who hate me; but I act with faithful love towards thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. And also from Exodus 34:6-7: Then Yahweh passed before him and called out, ‘Yahweh, Yahweh, God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in faithful love and constancy, maintaining his faithful love to thousands, forgiving fault, crime and sin, yet letting nothing go unchecked, and punishing the parent’s fault in the children and in the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation!’ [these 3 highlighted words are 3 of the attributes of God].
The Old Covenant tradition taught that the sins of the parents could affect an infant, and some Rabbis even taught that a baby could sin in a mother’s womb [Brown, page 371].
Question: What was Jesus’ response to their question concerning who had sinned?
Answer: That neither the man nor his parents had sinned. Jesus answers his disciples’ question in terms of the purpose of the man’s blindness and not its cause.
Question: What did Jesus say was the purpose of the man’s blindness?
Answer: Jesus tells them this is an example of God’s power over history and His desire that His Name be glorified through this man. Jesus has already given His teaching on sin in John 5:14 when He told the formerly paralytic man: Now you are well again, do not sin any more or something worse may happen to you.
Question: What could be worse than being paralyzed for 38 years?
Answer: Unrepented mortal sin can result in spiritual death and eternal separation from God’a condition which is far worse than being paralyzed for most of one’s adult life. Under the Old Covenant, there was no sacrifice for forgiveness from mortal, intentional sin [Numbers 15:27-31].
Question: Can you site an example from Moses’ experience with the Egyptian Pharaoh that illustrates God’s manipulation of history to suit His purpose as a revelation of Himself? Hint: see Exodus 9:13-16
Answer: God instructs Moses to tell Egyptian Pharaoh that plagues will be inflicted on his people so that he will know that there is no one like the One true God in all the world. God will let pharaoh survive only to display His power to spread the knowledge of the One God to the people of the earth. St. Paul writes about this same encounter with Pharaoh as a means to teach men about God in Romans 9:14-24. In verses 17-18 Paul writes: Scripture says to Pharaoh: I raised you up for this reason, to display my power in you and to have my name talked of throughout the world. In other words, if God wants to show mercy on someone, he does so, and if he wants to harden someone’s heart, he does so.
In John 9:4-5 Jesus tells His disciples: ‘As long as day lasts we must carry out the work of the one who sent me; the night will soon be here when no one can work. As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.’
Question: What is the symbolic significance of Jesus’ references to “day”, “night”, and “work”? Why is there a sense of urgency in His explanation to the disciples? How do these images of “day,” “night,” and “work,” fit into the theme of Jesus’ approaching “hour”?
Answer: This is another example of “light” verses “dark” imagery. In this passage “day” refers to Jesus’ life/work on earth as fully man and fully God. He then compares death with “night”. The urgency of His “work” is that He must fulfill the Father’s will and testify to Israel that He is the fulfillment of the promised Messiah before the time of His glorification. His “day” will last until His “hour” comes’His “hour” being the time God has deemed as the time of His sacrificial death. That time is fast approaching because this is the early fall of 29AD.
Question: The references such as: “As long as the day lasts”, “the work” and “night,” were also understood by the Fathers of the Church as referring to the Day of the Lord at the end of time. What is therefore, the urgency for the Church in carrying out her mission?
Answer: She must urgently carry out Christ’s work in the redemption of mankind through the centuries by evangelization before the Day of Judgment comes and there is no more “time” to come to salvation. And of course, in the “day” of each of our faith journeys “time” will eventually end for all of us.
Pope Paul VI in his Homily at the Feast of the Mother of God in 1976 warned the Church: Time is precious, time passes, time is a phase of experiment with regard to our decisive and definitive fate. Our future and eternal destiny depends on the proof we give of faithfulness to our duties. Time is a gift from God; it is a question posed by God’s love to our free and, and it can be said, fateful answer. We must be sparing of time, in order to use it well, in the intense activity of our life of work, love and suffering. Idleness or boredom have no place in the life of a Christian! Rest, yes, when necessary, but always with a view to vigilance, which only on the last day will open to a light on which the sun will never set.
In the cycle of the Church’s liturgical readings as the days grow shorter and as we draw near to the close of the liturgical year in the last weeks just before the Advent season begins and into the first two Sundays of Advent, have you ever noticed the increase in the eschatological passages in the Scripture readings for the Mass? It is at this time of the year that the Church invites us to meditate on the great themes of “the end” in terms of our individual judgments at the end of our faith journeys and the Final or General Judgment at the “End of Time” as we know it. The Biblical readings chosen for this season are from the apocalyptic or revelation literature of the Bible and they urge us to be watchful and alert. Through these passages the Holy Spirit speaks to us in symbols urging us to stay vigilant and to be prepared because we do not know “the day or hour of His coming!” [Matthew 24:36]. This is not a day of dread for those who have remained faithful. It should instead be regarded as a day that will herald a new life’our resurrected life in Christ in which our exile here in this world has come to an end and in which we start a joyful “new beginning” in perfect communion with our Savior.
Question: What does Jesus mean when He declares: ‘As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world’…?
Answer: Jesus is the true light because without Him all creation is in darkness: creation and mankind cannot understand itself, know itself, or know where it is going without His “Light”. In the Vatican II document Gaudium et spes, 22,the Church warns the faithful: Only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light..[…]. Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful; apart from His Gospel they overwhelm us. Jesus is warning His disciples, and us, of the urgent need to let ourselves be enlightened by His infusing and purifying “Light” while there is still time. St. John told us in 1:9: The Word was the real light that gives light to everyone; he was coming into the world. He was in the world that had come into being through him…. Jesus will repeat this warning in John 12:35-36.
John 9:6-7: Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man, and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam (the name means ‘one who has been sent’). So he went off and washed and came back able to see.
This is the 5thof the 7 public “signs” of John’s Gospel. Remember John designates these as “signs” because what each of these events signify is far greater than the supernatural event itself.
The Seven Public Signs of Jesus in St. John’s Gospel
The sign of water turned to wine at the wedding at Cana
The healing of the official’s son
The healing of the paralytic
The multiplication of the loaves to feed the 5,000
The healing of the man who was born blind
The raising of Lazarus from the dead
The Resurrection of Jesus that will be fulfilled in 20:1-10
*this sign is prophesized by Jesus in 2:18-20 but not fulfilled until chapter 20. Jesus’ calming of the storm and walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee will be a private “sign” for the Apostles. In total, John records 8 “signs” that Jesus is the “greater than Moses” and the promised Messiah. In Scripture 7 is the number signifying perfection, especially “spiritual” perfection [it is the number of the Holy Spirit and the number of covenant; to swear a covenantal oath is to “seven oneself]; 8 is the number of rebirth, salvation, redemption and resurrection. For more information of the importance of numbers in Scripture please see the document: The Significance of Numbers in Scripture.
Question: What is the site of this healing?
Answer: The healing takes place at the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem.
Archaeological update: In the fall of 2004 workers repairing a sewage pipe in the old city of Jerusalem discovered a series of ancient steps leading to large area covered in water-proof plaster. The Israeli Antiquities Authority officials believe this is the Biblical “Pool of Siloam”, a site lost since the destruction of Jerusalem when it was leveled by the Roman Army after the Second Jewish Revolt of 132-35AD, also called the Bar Kokhba Revolt. The excavations of the site have revealed a much more elaborate pool and water system than previously believed. Located where St. John identified the site in his Gospel account, the excavation substantiates that the site of the Siloam Pool of Jesus’ time was a large freshwater reservoir that served as a gathering place and a focus of religious pilgrimages for the faithful, just as St John describes in his Gospel. The pool is estimated to be 225 feet long with three sets of stairs leading down into the reservoir. Enthusiastic Bible scholars are claiming that this will be the archaeological discovery of the decade for Biblical studies. For more information on this discovery, visit the website www.bibleplaces.com/poolofsiloam.htm
Question: How was this site important in the events of the last two chapters during the Feast of Tabernacles?
Answer: It was from this reservoir that the High Priest collected water in a golden pitcher to be poured out as a libation on God’s holy altar of sacrifice in the courtyard of the Temple. The water reminded the people to look back in time to the “water” miracles of the Exodus experience and to look forward to the day when the Messiah would “pour out” his blessings on Israel [Numbers 11:25-29; Isaiah 32:15; 44:3-5; Ezekiel 36:24-30; 39:29; Joel 3:1-2].
Question: What does John say is the meaning of the name of this pool and how is that information significant? See John 9:7.
Answer: John records the name of this pool means one who has been sent, which clearly points to the Christ, the Messiah sent by God.
King Hezekiah, descendant of the great King David, built this pool in the 7th century BC. He built this reservoir to supply Jerusalem with water in the event the city was besieged by a foreign army, which was exactly what happened [see 2 Kings 20:20, 2 Chronicles 32:30]. The pool is a parallelogram which was believed to be only about 53 feet long, but recent excavations have revealed the pool to be a much larger, 225 feet long, perhaps eighteen feet wide and in its state in the time Jesus lived, it must have been about 20 feet deep. It was one of several Jerusalem pools but the water that fed it flowed through a subterranean conduit from the Gihon stream; a spring which bore the same name as one of the 4 rivers that flowed out from the Garden of Eden [Genesis 2:13]. During our pilgrimage to Jerusalem we were told that in the 4th century AD when Pilgrims began to pour into Jerusalem from all over the Christian world, the Gihon spring became known as “the Fountain of the Virgin.” The connection being that the Siloam pool represented Christ as the Living Water [John 7:37-39], and the source Jesus came from, when He came into the world in His human form, was from Mary, the new Eve, symbolized as the Gihon spring.
The prophets of the Old Testament spoke of the waters of Siloam as a sign of God’s divine favor and protection as in Isaiah 8:6-7a: Yahweh spoke to me again and said, ‘Since this people has rejected the waters of Shiloh [Hebrew name] which flow smoothly, and has trembled before Razon and the son of Remaliah, now, against it the Lord will bring the mighty, swelling waters of the River ( the king of Assyria and all his glory)… The pool is also associated with the passage Isaiah 12:3: Joyfully you will draw water from the springs of salvation and, that day, you will say, ‘Praise Yahweh, invoke his name. Proclaim his deeds to the people, declare his name sublime. Sing of Yahweh, for his works are majestic, make them known throughout the world. Cry and shout for joy, you who live in Zion, for the Holy One of Israel is among you in his greatness.’ It is for this reason that the water for the Water Libation Ceremony at the Feast of Tabernacles was drawn from this pool.
Question: What is the connection between the healing of the blind man in the pool of Siloam and the Feast of Tabernacles?
Answer: The water of Siloam symbolized the blessings of the promised Messianic Age looked for during this Feast, therefore, in Jesus’ case, the source of these blessings is Jesus Himself who has come to heal and restore the sight of faith to Israel.
But there is so much more involved in the Old Testament connection to this word “Siloam”. The etymology of the word Siloam is interesting. Siloam is the Greek corruption for a Hebrew word. The word in Hebrew is Shiloah or Siloh/Shiloh. Some scholars think it is related to the Akkadian word silihtu meaning “to exit the basin of a canal”, but other scholars agree with John and believe it is the Old Testament Hebrew word rendered in English translations as either shiloahor shiloh or siloh. John’s meaning indicates that the word comes from the Hebrew root slh, meaning “to send”. This is also the root of the word “sent” = salvah which yields John’s translation of “one who has been sent” [Vincent’s New Testament Word Studies; Anchor Bible: John, Brown, page 371].
Clearly John intends us to see that this “One who has been sent” is Jesus Himself. But there is another interesting connection to this very ancient Hebrew word. Turn to Genesis 49:8-12 and the very odd prophesy Jacob, who Yahweh renamed Israel [Genesis 32:28], makes on his deathbed concerning his fourth son Judah: [New Jerusalem translation] Judah, your brothers will praise you: you grip your enemies by the neck, your father’s sons will do you homage. Judah is a lion’s whelp; you stand over your prey my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, a mighty lion: who dare rouse him? The scepter shall not pass from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute be brought him and the peoples render him obedience. He tethers his donkey to the vine, to its stock the foal of his she-donkey. He washes his clothes in wine, his robes in the blood of the grape. His eyes are darkened with wine and his teeth are white with milk.
Genesis 49:10 is a much disputed passage and because the literal translation does not seem to make sense various substitute phrases have been used. The literal translation of the clause uses the Hebrew consonants which are used for the Hebrew word “shiloh”. Some scholars have suggested the clause would be read: until he [Judah]comes to Shiloh, or until Shiloh comes. E. A. Speiser, author of the Anchor Bible Commentary: Genesis notes that both renderings have problems: …the first runs into various difficulties, chronological as well as substantive, among them the decisive fact that Shiloh was an Ephraimite and not a Judaean shrine. The latter rendering involves the faulty grammar, in that the verb should be feminine and not masculine [page 366]. But Dr. Speiser is assuming the passage is referring to the shine of Shiloh located in the territory of the tribe of Ephraim. What if the reference is John’s translation of the word siloam/Shiloh, which is “until shiloh come” meaning “until He who is sent/ has been sent comes”? And what if the masculine article isn’t bad grammar but good theology just as St. John uses the masculine article wherever he uses the Greek word for “spirit” instead of the correct Greek neuter article’bad Greek but good theology because God’s Spirit should take a masculine article. In this case, the masculine article can refer to “He who is/ has been sent” as the Messiah. In that case the literal translation ofGenesis 49:10 using the Hebrew word “shiloh” should read: The scepter shall not pass from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until shiloh comes to him and the peoples render his obedience [see note in New Jerusalem, Genesis 49:10g; Anchor Bible: Genesis, page 366].
The next verse, 49:11:He tethers his donkey to the vine, to its stock the foal of his she-donkey. He washes his clothes in wine, his robes in the blood of the grape, is a prophecy that will be repeated by Zechariah in Zechariah 9:9: Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion! Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem! Look, you king is approaching, he is vindicated and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. The prophecy from Genesis 49:11 is fulfilled on Passion Sunday as Jesus rides into the city of Jerusalem on the back of “the foal of a she-donkey” [see Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-11,Luke 19:28-38] as well as a prophetic sign of Christ’s Passion and the promise of the Eucharist.
The Hebrew word in Genesis 49:10, sylh which is rendered with vowels is shiloah or shiloh in Hebrew, is the word for the New Testament Greek word Siloam, and it is the same word that is used in the Hebrew translation of Isaiah 8:6: Since this people has rejected the waters of Shiloh…. There is additional evidence for this interpretation of the etymology of this word as “one who has been sent” [John 9:7] found in the apocryphal document Lives of the Prophets. In this work not only is the etymology of the Pool of Siloam the same, “one who has been sent,” but the tradition of the miracles and the associated with the Messiah as a healer who will use the waters of Siloam are the same [Brown, page 373].
Question: What is the connection between Judah, this 4th son of Jacob [who God calls Israel], and Jesus the Messiah?
Answer: Jesus is a descendant of Judah through King David, the first king of Israel from the tribe of Judah. Only kings from David’s line will rule Judah. The Jews always saw this passage in Genesis 49 as a prophecy of David with whom God will make an unconditional covenant that his throne will last forever [see 2 Samuel 7:11-17;23:5; 2 Chronicles 13:5; 15:12-15]. Christians see this prophecy imperfectly fulfilled in David but perfectly fulfilled in Jesus son of David Son of God who is the fulfillment of both Jacob’s prophecy and the Davidic covenant.
Beside the Siloam/Shiloh pool, there was another Shiloh which was an ancient religious center of Israel. The Hebrew place name Shiloh in the Old Testament was also associated with God’s Tabernacle after the children of Israel took possession of the Promised Land. Included in the territory allotted to the tribe of Ephraim and located about 10 miles north of Bethel and to the east of the Jerusalem-Nablus road, was a site called Shiloh which was associated with God’s holy Tabernacle [Joshua 18:1-10; 19:51; 21:2; 22:9, 12; Judges 18:31]. It was also the place of the General Assembly of the 12 Tribes after Shechem was no longer the desired site of assembly. Judges 21:19-21 describes Shiloh in those terms in the setting of the Feast of Tabernacles. It becomes, after Shechem, the place of sacrifice and therefore the site of the annual pilgrim feasts of Passover, Feast of Weeks/Pentecost, and Tabernacles from the time of the priest/prophet Samuel and remains the central site until David moves the Ark of the Covenant (signifying the presence of Yahweh) from Shiloh and eventually places it in Jerusalem. Other Biblical references include: Judges 21:12, 19, 21; 1 Samuel 1:3, 9, 24;2:14; 3:21; 4:3, 4, 12; 14:3; 1 Kings 2:27, 11:29; 14:2, 4; Psalms 78:60; Jeremiah 7:12, 14; 26:6, 9; 41:5; and Nehemiah 3:15. The use of the Greek place-name Siloam the New Testament is found in 3 passages, in Luke 13:4; John 9:7, and11.
Now remembering John’s etymology for this word as “one who has been sent”, read Jacob’s prophecy again from Genesis 49:10 but this time replace the Hebrew word “Shiloh” with the meaning St. John applied to this word in 9:7: The scepter shall not pass from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until the one who has been sent come(s) to him [Judah/Israel] and the peoples render his [Jesus] obedience. It is to Judah, known in the 1stcentury by the Roman name Judea [Judaea] that Jesus comes first and Judah should be rendering Him obedience but Judah/Judea is blind, like the man born blind waiting to be healed at the pool of Siloam.
Question: What is the symbolic significance of the blind man of Judah being healed in the pool of Siloam-Shiloh? Why is it significant that he has been blind from birth?
Answer: From her birth Israel has suffered for her “blindness” in being unable or unwilling to “see” God’s plan for her as a holy nation. This “blindness” resulted in the sin of the golden calf [Exodus 32], which was as great a fall from grace as Adam’s fall in Eden, and her reluctance to accept God’s plan to go forth to dominate the Promised Land in the book of Numbers and to be a “light” to the Gentile nations. Israel is now, if she is willing, to be healed by the Messiah, the One who is sent from God, so she can complete her mission to the nations of the earth and carry forth Abraham’s promised worldwide blessing: All nations on earth will bless themselves by your descendants, because you have obeyed my command [Genesis 22:19].
“The One sent” = Apostoliis one of St. John’s favorite names for Jesus [1:6; 3:17, 34;4:34; 5:36, 38;6:29, 57;7:29;8:42;9:7;10:36;11:42;17:3, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25;20:21]. “The ones who are sent” or “:envoys” = Apostolos, is of course the name Jesus gives to the 12 who will become the spiritual fathers and the first bishops of the New Covenant Church: When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’ [Luke 6:13]. It is Jesus’ command in the passage called the “Great Commission” in Matthew 28:19-20that Jesus’ apostolos are called to go forth proclaim the Gospel of salvation and to baptize the nations. It is also interesting that in Latin the word “go forth,” missio or missa is our word for the Mass, taken from the last line of our blessing: “…to go forth to love and serve the Lord…”. The code name of our celebration reminds us of our mission.
Question: Returning to the healing of the man born blind; can you think of an Old Testament episode that reminds you of this 2-stage healing, by word and by action? Hint: see 2 Kings 5:1-14.
Answer: It is similar to the Prophet Elisha’s healing of Naaman, the general of the king of Damascus, who is cured of his leprosy when Elisha tells him to bathe in the Jordan River seven times. You may remember from the Introduction Lesson the connection between the prophets Elijah & Elisha and John the Baptist & Jesus. Both Elijah and John the Baptist were followed by prophets who were greater.
Like the healing of the Gentile Naaman in 2 Kings, and Jesus’ the healing of the deaf and dumb man inMark 7:31-35, and another blind man in Mark 8:22-26, Jesus’ healing is done in two steps. Please read the accounts of the healings in Mark chapters 7 and 8.
Question: What did these 3 New Testament healing miracles of Jesus have in common?
Couldn’t Jesus simply touch the man and heal him? Why did He use spit and earth in this “sign”? What does this “sign” point toward?
Answer: In all three miracles Jesus uses natural, created matter in His healing:
- In Mark 7:31-35 Jesus puts His fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle.
- In Mark 8:22-26 Jesus put spit on the blind man’s eyes.
- In John 9:6 Jesus mixes dirt with His spit to make a paste which He places on the man’s eyes to heal the man blind from birth.
Question: These healings make use of the natural world. What do they prefigure?
Answer: These healings prefigure the gift of the Sacraments’all of which make use of matter.
Answer: My favorite simple definition of a Sacrament is from the old Baltimore Catechism: “a visible sign instituted by Christ to confer grace.” Our current Catechism beautifully explains the depth and mystery of these gifts given by Jesus in many different passages including CCC# 1115: …The mysteries of Christ’s life are the foundations of what he would henceforth dispense in the sacraments, through the ministers of his Church, for ‘what was visible in our Savior has passed over into his mysteries.'” And in CCC# 1116: “Sacraments are ‘powers that comes froth’ from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are ‘the masterworks of God’ in the new and everlasting covenant.
In essence a Sacrament is the continuation of the manifestation of the Incarnation of Christ when an invisible God made Himself materially visible to man. It is in the Sacraments in which Jesus works, through the use of matter, to produce effects that far exceed anything matter can naturally do. In the Sacraments He gives us His very life. Have you ever seen someone you love suffer from ill health and wished you could give your own good health to that love one to ease their suffering or even heal them? This is what Christ does for us in the Sacraments. We are physical beings; it is for our sake that He became a physical being and through the Sacraments He continually makes a physical connection with us through visible matter giving us grace through His divine life to heal, nourish, and sustain us on our journey of faith.
Question: Can you name the seven Sacraments and the physical signs present in each Sacrament? Hint: see CCC #1113
- Baptism [water]
- Confirmation [laying on of hands]
- Eucharist [bread and wine]
- Penance [absolution by the priest in whom Christ is present]
- Anointing of the Sick [chrism oil]
- Holy Orders [Christ present in a physical, human man]
- Matrimony [the couple; the ring].
In each case it is Christ who confers grace through the Sacraments. It is He who baptizes, it is He who anoints the sick, and it is He who ordains a man into holy orders. A Sacrament is not brought about by the goodness of either the recipient or the priest but by the power of God [see CCC# 1128].
Question: Are the Sacraments necessary for salvation?
Answer: YES. As affirmed by the Council of Trent in 1541 the Church declares: …that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.‘Sacramental grace’ is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior. CCC# 1129
Question: What sacrament would this healing of the blind man in the pool of Siloam have prefigured?
Answer: The Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen this miracle as symbolizing the sacrament of Baptism in which the soul is cleansed through the natural medium of water, and receives the light of faith. In his commentary on St. John’s Gospel, St. Thomas Aquinas writes: He sent the man to the pool called the pool of Siloam, to be cleansed and to be enlightened, that is, to be baptized and receive in baptism full enlightenment.
Please read John 9:8-17: The Reaction of the People to the Healing:
8 His neighbors and the people who used to see him before (for he was a beggar) said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ 9 Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, but he looks just like him.’ The man himself said, ‘Yes, I am the one.’ 10 So they said to him. ‘Then how is it that your eyes were opened?’ 11 He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, “Go off and wash at Siloam”: so I went, and when I washed I gained my sight.’ 12 They asked, ‘Where is he?’ He answered, ‘I don’t know.’ 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 It had been a Sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes, 15 so when the Pharisees asked him how he had gained his sight, he said, ‘He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.’ 16 Then some of the Pharisees said, ‘That man cannot be from God: he does not keep the Sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How can a sinner produce signs like this? And there was division among them. 17 So they spoke to the blind man again, ‘What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?’ Then the man answered, ‘He is a prophet.’
John 9:8-12: His neighbors and the people who used to see him before (for he was a beggar) said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, but he looks just like him.’ The man himself said, ‘Yes, I am the one.’ So they said to him, ‘Then how is it that your eyes were opened? He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, “Go off and wash at Siloam”; so I went, and when I washed I gained my sight.’ They asked, “Where is he?” He answered, ‘I don’t know.’
Question: The Fathers and Doctors of the Church also saw a symbolic connection in the use of the dirt of the earth in this healing that will render this man a “new creation” in Christ. What do you see as the connection? Hint: read Genesis 2:7
Answer: The first man, Adam, was made from the dirt of the earth. As a matter of fact, Adam’s very name means “ground,” in Hebrew adamah. The symbolic parallel is that God the Father made the first man from the dirt of the earth and entered into covenant with him, and now God the Son uses the earth to heal and restore this man of Israel as a new creation of the New Covenant.
John 9:13-17: They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. It had been a Sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes, so when the Pharisees asked him how he had gained his sight, he said, ‘He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.’ Then some of the Pharisees said, ‘That man cannot be from God: he does not keep the Sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How can a sinner produce signs like this? And there was division among them. So they spoke to the blind man again, ‘What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?’ The man answered, ‘He is a prophet.’
Question: What prophesy about Jesus is once again fulfilled in this encounter and what statement made by Jesus about His mission is fulfilled in the reaction of the people to this sign? Hint: see Luke 2:34 and 12:51-53.
Answer: The prophecy Simeon made at baby Jesus’ dedication at the Temple: Look, he is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is opposed … and Jesus’ statement: Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
Question: Jesus is a sign of contradiction. What different attitudes of the people are reflected in this episode?
- The blind man believes Jesus is a prophet in verses 17, 36, and 38.
- Some of the Pharisees see Him as a sinner who does not keep the Sabbath in verse 16a
- Other Pharisees are moved by the evidence of His miracles in verse 16band see Him as a man of God.
Question: This is not the first time Jesus has been accused of not keeping the Sabbath. Is Jesus doing away with the regulations regarding the Sabbath rest?
Answer: No. Jesus had often taught the observance of the Law of the Sabbath rest proscribed by the Law of Moses in Exodus 20:8, 11; 21:13; and Deuteronomy 5:14, but He also taught that this observance was compatible with the duty to do good work in the name of God [Matthew 12:3-8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5]. The works of love for one’s fellow man [charity] takes precedence over all the other commandments except the commandment to fully and completely love God: You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets too [Matthew 22:37-40]. In this statement Jesus has not only summed up the 10 Commandments, which are divided between the first commandments which cover one’s duty to God, and the remainder with cover one’s relationship to others, but all of Sacred Scripture which was composed of Moses’ first 5 books, the writings or histories, and the books of the prophets. CCC# 592: Jesus did not abolish the Law of Sinai, but rather fulfilled it (cf. Mt. 5:17-19) with such perfection (cf. Jn 8:46) that he revealed its ultimate meaning (cf.Mt. 5:33) and redeemed the transgressions against it (cf. Heb. 9:15).
- Leviticus 19:15-18: You will not be unjust in administering justice. […] but will love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh.
- Deuteronomy 6:5: You must love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.
The Jews had become so enmeshed in the minute details of the Law that they had forgotten the “big picture”. Jesus is reminding them of these two passages in Sacred Scripture. The Deuteronomy passage verses 4-5, is part of the Old Covenant profession of faith called the Shema; the Old Covenant people repeated this verse daily. Their self imposed rules have distorted the Law to the point that these rules have taken precedence over their obligations to justice and charity and have resulted in a rule of fanaticism that blinds them from recognizing the work of God in action. It is the Scribes and Pharisees who are blind’and Jesus will accuse them of blindness to the spirit of the Law in this episode and during His last week in Jerusalem in Matthew 23:19
Please read John 9:18-34: The Healed Man is Questioned a Second Time:
18 However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind without first sending for the parents of the man who had gained his sight and 19 asking them, ‘Is this man really the son of yours who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?’ 20 His parents answered, ‘We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, 21 but how he can see, we don’t know, nor who opened his eyes. Ask him. He is old enough: let him speak for himself.’ 22 His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to ban from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. 23 This was why his parents said, ‘He is old enough; ask him. 24 So the Jews sent for the man again and said to him, ‘Give glory to God! We are satisfied that this man is a sinner.’ 25 The man answered, ‘Whether he is a sinner I don’t know; all I know is that I was blind and now I can see.’ 26 They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ 27 He replied, ‘I have told you once and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples yourselves?’ 28 At this they hurled abuse at him, ‘It is you who are his disciple, we are disciples of Moses: 29 we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we don’t know where he comes from.’ 30 The man replied, ‘That is just what is so amazing! You don’t know where he comes from and he has opened my eyes! 31 We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do his will. 32 Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind; 33 if this man were not from God, he couldn’t have been able to do anything.’ 34 They retorted, ‘Are you trying to teach us, and you a sinner through and through ever since you were born!’ And they rejected him.
John 9:18-23: However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind without first sending for the parents of the man who had gained his sight and asking them, ‘Is this man really the son of yours who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, but how he can see, we don’t know, nor who opened his eyes. Ask him. He is old enough: let him speak for himself.’ His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to ban from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. This was why his parents said, ‘He is old enough; ask him.’
Question: Why were the parents afraid to answer the Pharisees’ question about the miraculous healing of their son?
Answer: They feared that they would be excommunicated from the synagogue. The earliest Biblical reference to excommunication is found in Ezra 10:8. The Temple in Jerusalem was the only place where the sacrifices prescribed by the Law of the Covenant could be offered but every village had a synagogue where the word of God in Sacred Scripture was studied.
The institution of the synagogue seems to have been formed during the 70 years of the Babylonian exile when the people were completely cut off from the Temple [6th century BC]. After the return from exile the synagogue, as a community of believers, was established in every village. The 1st century AD Jewish historian Flavius Josephus reported that Jerusalem had 130 synagogues, many of which were formed around trade communities like the Baker’s Synagogue, the Mason’s Synagogue, etc. Membership in one of the faith communities not only provided spiritual nourishment in the study of sacred Scripture but provided a community support group’an extended family that made life easier in difficult times. A permanent expulsion from the synagogue resulted in a curse on the offender that left him or her completely isolated from the community. The excommunicated member could not participate in the religious services in the synagogue and was to be shunned when passed on the street. Since it was both a spiritual and economic boycott the person who was excommunicated was essentially “dead” to the community’a very fearful condition. Scholars do not agree if this excommunication included Temple worship but there are Old Testament passages that clearly point to excommunication from Temple/Tabernacle worship for violating the Law; for example the Law forbidding the restriction of drinking blood in Leviticus 17:14.
Question: Is there a prophecy concerning believers in Christ being excommunicated by their Old Covenant faith communities? Hint: see Luke 6:22-23
Answer: Yes. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, look!’your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.’
John 9:24-27: So the Jews sent for the man again and said to him, ‘Give glory to God! We are satisfied that this man is a sinner.’ The man answered, ‘Whether he is a sinner I don’t know; all I know is that I was blind and now I can see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He replied, ‘I have told you once and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples yourselves?’
In 9:24 to Give glory to God! is a Biblical phrase which places a person being questioned under oath to tell the truth much like we use the phrase in our court system to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth“ [Brown, page 374]. In our courts currently [who can tell in the future] there are other words that are also added to this statement of truth swearing. These are the words “So help me God,” which means that even though the State may not be able to rightly evaluate the degree of the truth in the statements uttered by the person giving testimony, God is the ultimate judge of one’s truth telling, and if one swears falsely that person is accountable to God for judgment. The same situation is the case in the inquiry into the man’s healing. He is accountable to God if he does not tell the complete truth [also see Joshua 7:19 and 1 Samuel 6:5].
He replied, ‘I have told you once and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples yourselves?’ Jesus has not only restored this man’s sight He has restored his confidence. I love his feisty, sarcastic response in verse 27 to the ridiculously repeated questioning of the Pharisees!
John 9:28-34: At this they hurled abuse at him, ‘It is you who are his disciple, we are disciples of Moses: we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we don’t know where he comes from.’ The man replied, ‘That is just what is so amazing! You don’t know where he comes from and he has opened my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do his will. Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind; if this man were not from God, he couldn’t have been able to do anything.’ They retorted, ‘Are you trying to teach us, and you a sinner through and through ever since you were born!’ And they rejected him.
Question: In their exasperation whose name do the Scribes Pharisees invoke?
Answer: Moses; we are disciples of Moses…the words almost scream across the page!
The Scribes and Pharisees held Moses in great esteem as the Law giver and claim to be his disciples but what about attitude of the Israelites of Moses’ generation?
Answer: The Israelites of the Exodus experience rebuked Moses, disobeyed him and at times the people even threatened to kill Moses. They never truly loved him and that was his great burden. Now the people of this generation treat “the Prophet greater than Moses” even worse!
Question: The healed man’s arguments concerning the validity of the healing being “of God” are reasonable and sound. What is the irony concerning the contrast between the Scribes, Pharisees, and the other Old Covenant Church authorities as opposed the man born blind?
Answer: It is ironic that the blind man now sees physically and spiritually while the Old Covenant leadership is still spiritually blind. They cannot accept Jesus’ divinity, which is the only possible correct interpretation of this miracle.
John 9:34: And they rejected him. Literally they “cast him out”. It is hard to tell from this line if the healed man is simply expelled from the assembly of the Pharisees or if he is excommunicated from the Old Covenant Church, however, his next encounter with Christ suggests the latter interpretation.
Please read John 9:35-41: The Healed Man Finds Consolation:
35 Jesus heard they had ejected him, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of man?’ 36 ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ 37 Jesus said, ‘You have seen him; he is speaking to you.’ 38 The man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and worshipped him. 39 Jesus said: ‘It is for judgment that I have come into this world, so that those without sight may see and those with sight may become blind.’ 40 Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, ‘So we are blind, are we?’ 41 Jesus replied: ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty, but since you say, “We can see,” your guilt remains.’
John 9:35-38: Jesus heard they had ejected him, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of man?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You have seen him; he is speaking to you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and worshipped him.
There is such beauty in the statement, He found him. Jesus went looking for the man just as He deliberately “looks” for each of us: He is the promised Good Shepherd in search of the lost lambs [Ezekiel 34:11-25; 37:24-28; John 10:11-16; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4].
Question: What does Jesus mean when he uses the phrase “Son of man”?
Answer: Once again He is referring to the very well known vision of the prophet Daniel in Daniel 7:13-14. It is Daniel’s vision of the divine Messiah who is to receive universal kingship and world-wide worship. The Son of Man in this vision must be divine because worship can only be give to God! This is an even greater title than “Son of God” to the 1st century AD Jew, and this is the 9thtime Jesus has used this title for Himself in John’s Gospel. The Messianic title Son of Man will be used 12 times in John’s Gospel: 1:51; 3:13, 14; 5:27;6:27; 53, 62; 8:28; 9:35; 12:23, 34 [twice]. You may remember that 12 is the number of “perfection of governmental order” and is the number of the Church, which in the Old Covenant is Israel. The children of Israel came from 12 physical fathers, the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel; these 12 tribes formed the covenant people at Sinai. The blind man, although he has never been able to read Sacred Scripture, clearly understands this title identifies Jesus as the Messiah.
Question: Between verses 17 and 38 you can see how this man’s faith has deepened. How does his understanding of Jesus’ true identity develop?
- In verse 17 he acknowledges Jesus as “a prophet” [notice not “the Prophet”]
- In verse 33 he acknowledges Jesus as definitely “one sent by God”
- Then later, as Jesus gently leads him to deeper understanding, inverse 38 he acknowledges Christ’s divinity, saying: ‘Lord, I believe…’.
St. Augustine writes: Now with the face of his heart washed and with his conscience cleansed, he acknowledges him to be not only Son of man but Son of God. [In Ioannis Evangelium, 44, 15].
Question: What is the ironic contrast between the healed man’s deepening of faith in Jesus and the condition of the Pharisees? Can you trace the development of their conflicting views of Jesus?
Answer: It is a tragedy that as the faith of the man deepens the authorities become more and more obstinate moving from:
- doubt in verse 16
- to the assertion that Jesus is a sinner in verse 24
- to their outrage and expulsion of the man in verse 34.
Their sins of arrogance and pride have completely blinded them.
the man said ‘Lord I believe’ and worshipped him. The man responds to Jesus as John wants all of us reading or hearing this passage to respond’in belief and on our knees before the Christ. The word used for “worship” here is not latria = “altar sacrifice”, but is instead proskyneo, to “prostrate” oneself. It is what St. Paul demanded of us in Philippians 2:9-10: And for this God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names; so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the same of Jesus… It is for this reason that even though the American Bishops have requested that the faithful remain standing during the Communion procession until all have receive Christ in the most holy Eucharist, the Vatican nuncio has declared that the faithful cannot be told they should refrain from kneeling after receiving Eucharist. If we wish to kneel after Eucharist we must be allowed to kneel.
It is also interesting to note that the title “Son of Man” associated with Daniel’s vision has a theme of judgment. This theme is reflected often in Jesus’ use of this favorite title for Himself as in Luke 18:8: When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? This is also the theme of Jesus’ next exchange with the Pharisees.
John 9:39-41: Jesus said: ‘It is for judgment that I have come into this world, so that those without sight may see and those with sight may become blind.’ Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, ‘So we are blind, are we?’ Jesus replied: ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty, but since you say, “We can see,” your guilt remains.’
It is for judgment that I have come into this world…. The Greek word for judgment is krima. Jesus’ statements about judgment in John 5:22, 30; 8:15-16 and here in this passage seem to be two contradictory teachings. Sometimes Christ does not pass judgment as in 5:30 and later in 12:47, but at other times He does as in 5:22and 9:39. In both sets of passages it is important to note that the stress is on the complete unity of the will, and the action that results between the Father and the Son. When Jesus does judge it is in the name of and as the agent of God the Father. When He says he does not judge He means that He does not judge on His own, independent of the Father’s will. In each case when He does judge the judgment is on the actions of the sinner not on the ultimate question of their salvation. His judgment is calling them to repentance just as John the Baptist [Mark 1:4] and Jesus’ own disciples called people to repentance in preparation for Christ’s passion, death, resurrection and ascension, which will result in the establishment of the kingdom of the New Covenant Church.
The Pharisees are obviously following Jesus and hanging on every word He utters, but their attitude is one of arrogance. One cannot come to Christ in arrogance without placing oneself in judgment. St. John wrote in 1 John 1:8-10: If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and truth has no place in us; if we acknowledge our sins, he is trustworthy and upright, so that he will forgive our sins and will cleanse us from all evil. If we say, ‘We have never sinned,’ we make him a liar, and his word has no place in us.
Jesus’ judgment of the Pharisees is that they can see physically, and they are capable of being open to seeing spiritually if they would acknowledge their sins, but they do not have the desire to see the truth, therefore, they are unworthy of the kind of sight He can offer. In many ways this is the trap of the “self-sufficient” man. The self-sufficient man or woman is so comfortable and sure of being able to take care of himself materially that he is blind to his need for God. It is the reason Jesus said: Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven [Matthew 19:24; also see Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25]. It isn’t impossible’nothing is impossible for God, but it is the rich man’s self-sufficiency which becomes his biggest obstacle’swelling him so much with pride that he feels he doesn’t really need God.
The Pharisees and Temple authorities are informally [without a legal trial] judging Jesus, but He is also judging them and His judgment on the Old Covenant leadership is reminiscent of the Old Testament prophet’s “covenant lawsuits” called through them by Yahweh on an apostate Israel/Judah. Called in Hebrew a riv, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Hosea all condemned the Old Covenant Church for violations against the Covenant. In each case the riv resulted in the judgment of God and the destruction of Israel in 722BC and Judah and the Temple in 587/6BC. It is in this same tradition of a riv that St. John will prophesy against the false prophet Old Covenant Church for rejecting the Messiah in the Revelation of Jesus Christ to His Servant John in what is commonly called the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse. John’s vision will result in the destruction of Judea, Jerusalem, and the Temple in 70AD (see the Agape Bible Study: The Revelation of St. John). It is in this same tradition of the prophet and the covenant lawsuit that Jesus addresses the Pharisees and warns them of the danger they face.
Question: What is the danger?
Answer: The souls of these Pharisees are in eminent danger because they are in mortal sin: deliberate rebellion against God. In Mark 3:29 Jesus said that he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never receives forgiveness [that is to accuse the Holy Spirit or the works of the Spirit as an origin of evil]. In his first epistle 5:16 John writes that he knows of a sin that leads to death. They could have received the gift of forgiveness and faith and “remained” meni , abided in Christ; instead they remain in sin. CCC# 588 teaches: Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with themselves. Against those among them ‘who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others,’ Jesus affirmed: ‘I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves.
This encounter with Christ in chapter 9 is an “acting out” of the triumph of “light” over “darkness”. Just as the Old Covenant prophets of Yahweh accompanied their spoken word by symbolic actions which dramatized their message, so Jesus’ acts out the truth of His declaration: “I AM the Light of the world.” In addition to the contrast between the “light” and the “darkness” and “sight” and “blindness” there is a second purpose to these events and that is the issue of whether or not Jesus has supernatural powers and if He does, who is He? That question is answered definitively for us by the man who was once blind both physically and spiritually but who now, through Christ Jesus, has perfect sight: Lord, I believe!
As Jesus’ death draws nearer you will notice that His ‘life giving” activity increases. It is an expression of the urgency He feels. The healing of the blind man and its baptismal significance in the pool of Siloam has its background in the approaching death of the Savior.