Step I. Initial Acquaintance
A. Comparison of Translations
Verse 1 RSV: As he passed by
Message: Walking down the street
NIV: As he went along
V. 3 Message: You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause and effect here.
V. 4 RSV: we must work the works…
Message: We need to be energetically at work.
V. 6 RSV: clay
V. 8 Message: Soon the town was buzzing
V. 13 RSV: they brought the man to the Pharisees
Message: They marched the man…
V. 15 RSV: The Pharisees again asked him…
Message: …grilled him
V. 16 Message: Obviously the man can't be from God. He doesn't keep the Sabbath.
V. 17 RSV: What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?
Message: You're the expert.
V.21 RSV: Ask him. He is of age.
Message: Why don't you ask him? He's a grown man.
V. 22 RSV: feared…for if anyone should confess him to be the Christ he was to be put out of the synagogue.
Message: …were intimidated by the Jewish leaders, who had already decided that anyone who took a stand that this was the messiah would be kicked out of the meeting place.
V. 24 RSV: sinner
V. 25 Message: I know nothing about that one way or the other. But I know one thing for sure: I was blind…I now see.
V. 27 RSV: I have told you already and you would not listen…Do you too want to become his disciples?
Message: I've told you over and over. Are you so eager to become his disciples?
V. 28 RSV: Then they reviled him.
Message: With that they jumped all over him.
NIV: Then they hurled insults at him.
V. 31 RSV: 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.
Message: It's well known that God isn't at the beck and call of sinners, but listens carefully to anyone who lives in reverence and does his will.
V. 34 RSV: They answered him, "You were born in utter sin, and you would teach us?
Message: They said, "You're nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!
NIV: "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!"
V 37: RSV: It is he who speaks to you.
Message: Don't you recognize my voice?
V. 40 RSV: Are we also blind?
Message: Does that mean you're calling us blind?
NIV: What? Are we blind too?
V. 41 Message: …since you claim to see everything so well, you're accountable for every fault and failure.
B. Textual criticism
V. 4: emas deior eme dei. Oldest manuscripts support "we"; some mss. Correct "the one who sent me" to read "the one who sent us" in order to make the pronouns agree but "me" is the preferred.
V. 6: epechrissen: sinaiticus; epetheken: vaticanus--"anoint" or put/spread.
C. Rough translation
And going along he saw man blind from birth. And asked him the disciples his saying: rabbi, who sinned the man or the parents of him that blind he was born? Answered Jesus Not his sinned not the parents of him but that might be revealed the works the of God in him. Us we must to work the works of the having sent me while day it is. Is coming the night when none has power to work. When in the cosmos I am light I am of the cosmos. Things having said he spat ground and made pelon from the spit and put on his clay toward the eyes. And said to him, Go wash into the columbethran that of Siloam (which is translated Having been sent). He went therefore and washed and came seeing. Therefore the neighbors and the beholding him before that beggar he was said Not this one is the sitting and begging? Some said This is he. Some said No but like to him he is. That said I am. They said therefore to him: How were opened your the eyes? Answered that The man called Jesus clay made and put it of me the eyes and told me, Go into Siloam and wash. Going therefore and washing I saw. And they said to him, Where is that? He says, not I know. They lead him to the Pharisees, the once blind. Now it was Sabbath in which day the clay made Jesus and opened of him the eyes. Again therefore asked him also the Pharisees how he saw. And he said to them Clay he put on of me the eyes, and I washed and I see. Said therefore of the Pharisees some: not is this from god the man because the Sabbath he keeps. Others said, How is able man sinful signs do? And schism there was in them. They say therefore to the blind again; What you say about him, because he opened of you the eyes? And he said, That prophet he is. Not believed therefore the Jews about him that he was blind until they called the parents of the having seen and asked them saying, This is the sin of you who you say that blind he was born? How then sees he now? Answered therefore the parents of him and said, We know that this is the son of us and that blind he was born; but how he sees not we know, or who opened the eyes not we know. Him you ask. Maturity has he; he about himself will speak. These said the parents of him because they feared the Jews. For already they had agreed the Jews that if any him confess Christ, from synagogue he would be. Therefore the parents of him said, maturity he has; him ask. They called therefore the man a second who was blind and they said to him, Give glory to God; we know that this the man sinful is. Answered therefore that, If sinful he is not I know; one I know; that blind being, now I see. They said therefore to him: What he did to you? How he opened of you the eyes? He answered them: I told you already and not you heard. Why again you want to hear? Not also you want of him disciples to become? And they reviled him and said: You disciple are of that, we of Moses are disciples. We know that by Moses has spoken God but this not we knew where he is. Answered the man and said to them: In that then the marvel is, that you not know where he is and opened of me the eyes. We know that God sinners not hears, but if any godly is and the will of him does, this he hears. From the ages not was heard that opened any eyes of a blind having been born. If not was this from God, not he do nothing. They answered and said to him, In sins you were born wholly, and you teach us? And they threw out him outside. Heard Jesus that they threw out him outside and finding him said, You believe in the Son of man? Answered that and said, And who he is, sir, that I may have faith into him? Said to him Jesus, And you have seen him and the speaking with you that is. And he said, Sir, I believe. And he worshiped him. And said Jesus, Into judgment I into the cosmos this came, that the not seeing may see and the seeing blind may become. Heard of the Pharisees things with him being and they said to him: Not also we blind are? Said to them Jesus If blind you were, not you would have sin, but now you say, We see, the sin of you remains.
Step II. Disposition
A. Genre: How the text says what it says.
This text moves from a theological question raised by disciples to a healing miracle by Jesus for God's glory. It quickly becomes a vehicle for framing the conflict with synagogue authorities. The "Pharisees" launch a mean-spirited and unfair investigation. The genre becomes that of a court record, but the prosecution in this case is ludicrously biased. These opponents come across as petty and legalistic, unable to accept the incontrovertible evidence before their very eyes.
B. Personal Interactions: Questions and observations
1. What prompts the disciples' question?
2. How do you interpret Jesus' answer to their question?
3. What is the "coming night"?
4. What is the relationship between the communal "we" in v. 4 and 'the light", Jesus.
5. As long as I am in the world: how does John understand him to be in the world still?
6. What is the background of the healing muck and washing in Siloam? Why this method?
7. The "neighbors" are skeptical and they tattle to the Pharisees.
8. John has the Pharisees interrogate the man, prompting a "confession"; he is a prophet. They are portrayed as conducting a campaign of slander and intimidation, since they cannot deal with the facts presented. The excommunication of the blind man leads immediately to Jesus' self-revelation as the Christ, and the blind man's worship of him.
9. What is the relationship between Pharisees with all the answers and us Christians who often take the same stance?
C. Organization: Where the elements of B are located.
Author's intent: 1,3,5,8; historical: 4,6; personal:3,7; homiletical:8,9
Step III. Composition
A. Immediate context--preceding/following pericope
The text is preceded by another conflict scene: who are the true descendants of Abraham, and by what power--demonic or divine--did Jesus act? It ends with the huge claim by Jesus, "Before Abraham was, I am." The text is followed by the good shepherd versus the thieves and robbers, and another attempted stoning.
B. Organization of the compositional whole
John's gospel leads the reader through intensifying conflict and uses miracles to elicit both opposition and belief.
C. Issues of Authorship
Step IV. Context
A. Primitive Christianity
This text reads contemporary synagogue troubles back into Jesus' ministry, thus helping Johannine Christians to deal with this shocking development in their own time. It pictures opponents as being out of the loop when it comes to spiritual truth.
B. OT and Judaism
The disciples' question may reflect rabbinical concerns of the time. Again, this whole passage appears to deal with a direct conflict with synagogue authorities in the time of the Johannine community.
C. Hellenistic world.
Step V. Distillation
A. We meet Jesus as bringer of light, and giver of sight to the blind. His divine power and grace transcend long-standing 'dilemmas' and notions of purity regarding sin's cause and effect. Opponents of Jesus (and early Christians) are shown as stupefyingly obtuse in spiritual matters, and actively trying to prevent people's enlightenment.
B. Smooth translation
While on the move one day, Jesus zeroed in on a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples raised a philosophical point: "Rabbi, we know he's blind for a reason. Now, is his sins he's being punished for, or his parents'? Jesus replied, "Let's not get stuck in old debates about whose fault it is. Let's see what new thing God is doing. You have to make hay while the sun shines. I won't be around forever, you know. But while I'm here--'Let there be light!'
With that, Jesus went up to the man, and used a time-honored method to heal. He put mud on the man's eyelids and said, 'Go wash that off in the pool of Siloam". The man did as he was told, and when he came back, he could see.
People who knew him from before said, "Hey! Isn't this the guy that used to sit and beg?" Others said, "Naw. Couldn't be. There IS a resemblance, though."
Meanwhile, the man insisted he WAS the one. "Hellooo! Figure it out. It's me". They said, "Well then, tell us: how did you get your sight?" He replied, "Simple. Jesus put mud on my eyes and told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed; and, Voila! I could see." "Where is this Jesus?" they demanded. "Beats me," he replied.
So they hauled him before the Pharisees. Mind you, this healing took place on the Sabbath. So the Pharisees also demanded to hear his version of things. "Like I told the others: he put mud on my eyes, I washed it off, and presto--I had my sight." Some of the Pharisees huffed, "This man can't be of God--why, he's a Sabbath-breaker!" Others retorted, "Okay, so if he's a sinner, how could he do such miracles?" Now they were starting to pick at each other.
Finally they turned to the formerly-blind guy. "What's your opinion? You're the one who's got your sight" "If you ask me, he's a prophet."
Some still weren't even convinced the man had ever been blind in the first place, so they dragged his parents into it. "Is this your son? If so, how is it that he can see?" "That's our son all right. And trust us on this: he was blind from the first breath he took. But how he got his sight, and who--um, you'll have to ask him about that. He's a big boy. Let him speak for himself." They said this because they had been intimidated. Already word had gone out that anyone caught calling Jesus the Christ would be ostracized from the community.
So they brought the man in for questioning yet again. "Fess up--remember: you're under oath. We know this man Jesus is unclean." The man replied, "Whatever. All I know is, I was totally blind, and now I can see just fine". Then they said, "All right, stop playing games. Tell the truth: how did he do this to you?" He answered, "Not again! You've already heard my story. You're not thinking of joining the cause, are you?" Then they were really in his face: "Aha! So you're one of THEM! Just as we suspected. We are proud disciples of Moses--but this one, we don't even know where he's from." The man answered, "Oh, that's rich. He cured me of blindness, yet you say 'We don't even know where he's from'. Where do you THINK he's from? How many people do YOU know who can open the eyes of the blind? Rest assured, gentlemen--he's from God." They were enraged. "Just who do you think you are, talking to us like that?" They excommunicated him on the spot.
Jesus got wind of what had gone down, and when he found the man, he said, "Do you have faith in the son of man?" "Who is he? Just show me, so I can put my faith in him." Jesus said, "You're lookin' at him. You're listening to his voice right now." Then the man said, "Lord, I believe". And he worshiped him.
Jesus said, "I have come to earth to upset things: the blind will see, while those who claim to have such wonderful insight will stumble around in the dark." Some Pharisees who were hovering nearby took it as a personal insult. "You calling us blind?" "Not at all", Jesus answered. "If you were blind that would be one thing. But because you think you've got it all together, and even presume to tell others what to do, you'll have a lot to answer for."
C. Hermeneutical Bridge
The blind man is also invisible to others--except Jesus. The disciples, rather than being moved to compassion, begin an abstract discussion about sins. The neighbors are not even sure they recognize him, so little attention had they paid to him. The Pharisees regard him not as a person but as a threat, and a possible accomplice to Jesus. Even his parents seem unwilling to speak up for him. Jesus alone sees him, engages him and leads him to more abundant life. Thus the text speaks to us of what we may be missing, who we may be over-"looking", or looking right past. The gospel brings full personhood to all--perhaps especially the ones we don't normally "see".
Step VI. Contemporary Address
A. Description of Audience
A typical congregation, we feel sometimes we are overlooked by others, or passed by; we also need to hear the message that we are blind to people who need our love. And that the grace of God comes to us when we're in the dark.
B. Intended goal
I intend to explore Jesus' response to the blind man, and help the congregation think about seeing Jesus and others with the eyes of faith.