2.12 John -- The Man Born Blind
All of John 9 is taken up with a healing miracle. The healing takes only two verses, but the hubbub that ensued takes another thirty! This has nothing to do with racial teaching, but it shows the entrenched hardheartedness of the Jewish religious establishment -- both towards "unworthy" people (outsiders, sinners, lepers), and toward the innovations of Jesus' teaching. Ideology, in religion and politics, trumps reality, or rather, distorts reality. Even the incontestable evidence of a supernatural manifestation before their eyes (the healing of the blind man) aroused not wonder, but rage. This continues the theme we discussed in the prior section: darkness resists and repels the light.
There are two types of darkness described in John's Gospel: that of the sinful/sick/ignorant and that of the righteous/religious. Jesus has a consistent pattern of dealing with these two types, and this is true for the other Gospels as well. The former type, which we may label "gross" sin, did not pose a barrier to Jesus' ministry of the Spirit. He talked to Samaritans, delivered the demon-possessed, ate dinner with tax collectors (Mat 11:19). All these people knew they were either outside of or under condemnation from the Old Covenant. Paradoxically, the awareness that they were not in good standing with God opened them up to Jesus' teaching and ministry, and prepared them for membership in his New Covenant community.
The other type of darkness, that of the religious person, was a different "species" of evil. It was morally good, law-abiding, clean-handed darkness. It was the darkness of the "haves" as contrasted with that of the "have-nots." It was the darkness of the "rich young ruler" (Mat 19:16-22) who has obeyed all the commandments from his youth, and still falls short of the Kingdom of God because he cannot "sell what you have." What did he have to sell? -- membership in his exclusive club of do-gooders. This was the critical problem of Judaism -- it had built a defensive wall around God, only to find out that in the ministry of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, God had moved to the other side of the wall.
Jesus makes this distinction very plain to the Pharisees at the end of this chapter:
Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."
Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?"
Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains" (Jn 9:39-41).
Religious blindness is incurable. It is blindness that doesn't know it is blind, but believes it can see perfectly well. Modern people, religious and secular, can be just as self-deceived as the Pharisees. There is only one remedy. It is to ask, "Lord, open my eyes to see." That prayer would have moved a Pharisee to God's side of the wall.