The Thirty-First in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
The Feast of Booths is over. The feast of Dedication is still several months off in the future, and the Passover is now less than six months away. Although Jesus’ hour has not yet come, it is drawing near. This is why we also see a new sense of urgency in Jesus’ teaching. When Jesus performs his sixth miraculous sign–the healing of a man who has been blind from birth–Jesus uses the occasion to continue to instruct his disciples about the meaning and nature of his messianic mission as he prepares them for that hour of which he has been speaking–when he must depart and go to that place where no one else (including his disciples) may follow.
We resume our series on the Gospel of John, and we now move into John chapter 9–although we are still in the so-called “conflict phase” of Jesus’ ministry. John does not tell us where or when the events recorded in chapter 9 take place, but it is reasonable to assume that when Jesus speaks again of being the light of the world, the events recorded here occur at some point shortly after the events in John 8, yet before the Feast of the Dedication, which is mentioned in John 10 (and which occurs about three months after the Feast of Booths). However, an important change becomes noticeable in chapter 9. The pace of John’s account of Jesus’ messianic mission quickens, and the events John recounts are bringing us ever closer to the coming Passover, and to Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.
The account of the healing of the man blind from birth, as well as Jesus’ proclamation that he is the good (and true) shepherd of Israel (in John 10), takes up the entirety of each of the next two chapters. Since these are seamless episodes it is best to preach through John 9 and 10 in one sermon. Unfortunately, time does not permit us to do justice to either passage if we go through them in one week (we could but survey them), so I have divided each of the next two chapters into two parts–that will bring us to my sabbatical.
So far in John’s Gospel, there have been five miraculous signs which Jesus performed to confirm the truth of his preaching, and which serve as his messianic credentials. If Jesus merely claimed to be the “I AM” who spoke to Moses through the burning bush (as he did in John 8:58) without anything to back up that claim, then the Jews would have every reason to doubt Jesus’ assertion. As we have seen, Jesus’ words are backed-up by a number of miraculous signs–many more than the five John has emphasized. So far Jesus has turned water into wine at Cana (John 2:1-11). He cleansed the temple (John 2:13-22), and declared it his Father’s house. He healed a nobleman’s son in John 4:46-54. In John 5, Jesus healed a man who had been lame for thirty-eight years. In John 6, Jesus fed over 5000 people from two dried fish and five barley loaves. Here, in John 9, the sixth of these miraculous signs, Jesus will heal a man who had been blind from birth. The seventh of these signs will come in John 11, when Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead. As difficult as Jesus’ words have been for the people to understand and accept, his words are proven to have come from God because of the nature of his miracles.
There are several other instances recorded in the synoptic gospels in which Jesus heals the blind. In Mark 8:22-26, Jesus healed a blind man in Bethsaida. According to Matthew 9:27-31, Jesus healed two blind men in the Galilee, and in Matthew 12:22-23 he healed a demon-possessed man who was also blind and deaf. And, as recorded in all three synoptic gospels, Jesus healed two blind men near Jericho, one of them being named–Bartimaeus. Why such emphasis in Jesus’ messianic mission upon healing blindness, lameness, deafness, or diseases like leprosy and others which rendered people ceremonially unclean?
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