A Man Born Blind Receives Sight
The narrative of a man born blind receiving sight could be divided into seven divisions. They are: Jesus, his disciples and the man born blind (vv. 1-7); the man born blind and his neighbours (vv. 8-12); the man born blind and the Pharisees (vv 13-17); the Pharisees and the parents of the man born blind (vv. 18-23); the Pharisees and the man born blind (vv 24-34); Jesus and the blind man (vv 35-38); Jesus and the Pharisees (vv. 39-41).
The narrative presented Jesus as the light of the world who can be accepted or refused. It’s written in a dialogic style.
The disciples, after having seen the man born blind, asked Jesus who is responsible for his blindness (v. 2). The question reflected Jewish belief that if a child was born with an illness either because of the sins of the parents or because of a sin which the child committed while the child was still in the womb (cf. Exodus 20:5, Number 14:18, Jeremiah 31: 29-30).
Jesus, as happens quite often in the fourth Gospel, replies that neither the parents nor the child sinned and hence caused the blindness but rather it was for the glory of God to be revealed (v. 3). This answer is made clearer when Jesus continued that they must do the work of the one who sent him. His presence, as the light of the world, makes it easier to do the works of the Father. The work is not limited here only for Jesus to do but rather “we must work…” (v. 4). Doing the work of the Father will be continued by his mystical body, the Church.
Jesus reminds his disciples that his presence in the world is not for ever. There will be night. His absence will bring darkness (v. 5).
After explaining to his disciples that they must do the work of the Father, then comes the miracle itself which is told by the narrator very briefly, only in two verses, vv. 6-7. This suggests that the miracle is not the main point of the story. The main point is that Jesus is the light. He has the power over darkness. The miracle served this main point and the miracle became the starting point to recognize who Jesus is.
After receiving sight, the man born blind firstly encountered his neighbors, who knew him and who live with him. They was astonished by it and asking him how it happened (vv. 8-12). He could not explain how it came to be but he could tell them that the benefactor was the man called Jesus (v. 11). He could not even explain more than that. That was all he knew.
Then he encountered the Pharisees (vv. 13-17). This encounter brought some new insight to him. Discussion with the Pharisees drove him to make a decision as to whether the man who gave sight to him was a good man or not. He chose that Jesus was a prophet (v. 17). He could not deny that the good work he had received must have been done by a good man.
The Pharisees were not satisfied with that answer. They went to his parents and unfortunately they did not receive any further explanation from his parents. His parents had rid themselves of all responsibility (vv. 18-23). They had more than enough argumentation to say that they had no responsibility of him, since he had been mature.
This drove the Pharisees back to the man born blind. They interrogated him. But at this time, the man born blind had had enough knowledge and had seen Jesus with his own eyes so that he was able to come to a conclusion that Jesus is the one from God (v. 33). He made a confession of faith. At that time he was seeking in the right direction towards the true faith. He was on the way there.
After confessing to the Pharisees that Jesus is the one from God, then, he again encountered Jesus. His eyes could see Jesus more clearly at that time. He confessed what he had seen. He made his final journey of faith. He professed that Jesus is “the son of man” (vv. 35-37).
The man born blind, after seeing Jesus, interrogated by the Pharisees and left by his parents to be responsible for himself, now had come to true faith. He became a mature man in faith. He believed in Jesus. He knew and confessed that Jesus is the light of the world who gave him light.