The ninth chapter of the Gospel of John relates a healing encounter between Jesus and a man born blind. Let us consider some key passages from this chapter and what they tell us about our healing encounters with Jesus.
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth … He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” – which means Sent. So he went and washed, and came back able to see. (John 9: 1, 6-7)
The story begins with Jesus healing a blind man. Jesus’ miraculous healing of this man is one of many such healings that are recorded in the gospels. This healing is notable, however, because of the way Jesus performs it. He doesn’t bring about the blind man’s healing by simply speaking a word. Rather, he uses spittle and clay and water.
This is significant for us. Many people pray for Jesus to perform healings now just as he healed the man born blind. Jesus doesn’t just answer those prayers when he performs what we might consider miracles: healings that are beyond medical explanation. He also answers our prayers when he uses doctors and nurses and medicines to bring about healing, just as he used spittle and clay and water in the healing of the man born blind.
They said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”… [Again] they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”. (John 9: 17, 26-27)
The man who was healed of his blindness is repeatedly questioned about the identity of the one who healed him. At first, he doesn’t know who his healer is. Then, upon further reflection, he concludes that he must be a prophet, since he performed the unheard-of healing of a man born blind. Upon yet further reflection, the man reasons that if his healer is a prophet in whom God works such mighty deeds, he should become his disciple.
When we experience healing, we are invited to undertake the same process of reflection. If Jesus has healed me or healed my loved one, then he must be a prophet in whom God acts powerfully and lovingly on my behalf. I, therefore, want to become his disciple and want him to become my Lord.
[Jesus] found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. (John 9: 35-38)
The illumination of the blind man’s faith is completed when he encounters Jesus for the second time. By now he has begun to believe in Jesus and wants to be his disciple. This is his second encounter with Jesus, but he sees him for the first time. He sees Jesus with his newly opened eyes. There is a double meaning here. His new vision applies both to his bodily eyes and to the “eyes” of his newfound faith. He worships Jesus as his Lord.
We too can come to “see” Jesus in this new way. Reflecting on the healing work of Jesus in our lives, we are led not only to deepened understanding, but also to new encounter. When we come closer to Jesus, we find that it is Jesus who has come close to us, confirming our faith and eliciting in us the joy of worship.
Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.” (John 9: 39-41)
At the end of this narrative, Jesus declares to the Pharisees what we have already seen in his encounter with the man born blind. The healing that Jesus came to accomplish is first of all a healing of the spirit. It is the enlightenment of faith. This is a healing that everyone needs, though only those with the humility to acknowledge their need can receive it. This is the healing that Jesus comes to accomplish in us. Jesus is concerned first of all with caring for the health of our souls, curing the blindness of our minds. This is the health care we all need most. Unlike the self-assured Pharisees, let us allow Jesus to open the eyes of our hearts. Blind no longer, may we see Jesus for who he is, follow him as his disciples, and worship him as our Lord.