John 9:1-5 NRSV
As [Jesus] walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Jesus moves through John, making friends and transforming lives with abundant love! But as I began John 9, I hesitated.
Jesus sees a man born blind. His disciples ask if this shows the sin of the man, or of his parents. Jesus answers, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him,” and right away I’m dismayed. Would God really do that to a person’s whole life, for this one moment? But I read on. Mud and spit! Stupefied neighbors. Authorities, stuck in the familiar and safe. The heroic healed man. And Jesus – who sought him again, and found him.
Action! Drama! Grace! It’s immense! For more insight, I open Frances Taylor Gench’s Encounters with Jesus – and recall how much I treasure wise companions in faith. Dr. Gench notes that the words in v.3 that had so unsettled me in Jesus’ answer, “he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed,” are not in the Greek text. They have been added, going as far back as the King James Version. When they’re removed, Jesus sounds – purely and simply – eager to reveal the glory of God by healing this man’s sight. “Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; but in order that the works of God might be revealed in him, we must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’”*
Jesus is still bringing us into those gracious friendships around himself, where we can be healed, and helped to see!
Holy God, I am so grateful that you have come to us in Jesus, the light of the world, your Word made flesh. As in days long ago when you sat face-to-face with those whose lives you touched and changed, so you sit with us this very day. Open my heart to hear your voice, inviting me into newness of life with you always! In the name of Jesus Christ, the One in whom you came. Amen.
*Translation by NRSV and by Frances Taylor Gench, Professor of New Testament, Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education, Encounters with Jesus; Studies in the Gospel of John, p. 65. Louisville KY, Westminster John Knox, 2007.
Greek manuscripts invite scholarly chats about punctuation: http://www.csntm.org/manuscript/View/GA_P75?OSIS=John.9.3