About the “Man Born Blind”, John 9:1-38:
As the Paschal (Easter) season comes to a close, the Church Fathers established that the Gospel of John 9:1-38 was to be read as the Gospel lesson on the Sixth Sunday of Pascha (Easter), the Sunday before the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In ancient times, Pascha was the traditional day to receive catechumens into the faith and the weeks that followed provided lessons to the faithful that reflected the theology of Baptism. This Gospel reading is about a man who was born blind and the healing of his congenital blindness by Jesus Christ. The church views this Gospel reading as symbolic of the Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation, which are also called Holy Illumination.
Biblical scholars believe that Jesus Christ found the man born blind shortly after the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. In biblical times, the Feast of Tabernacles was one of three required festivals of the Israelites (Exod 23:14; Deut 16:16) and it was considered the most important of all the holidays. In 1 Kings 12:32, this holiday is simply called, “The Feast”. During this feast, the Torah was read out loud to the people (Deut 31:10-13) and many sacrifices were offered (Num 29:12-40).
The Israelites were waiting for the Messiah (the “Son of David”, the “Son of Man”), and they were taught by the ancient prophesies in the Old Testament how to recognize the true Messiah. Among the ways listed by the prophets to recognize the Messiah was that the Messiah would heal the blind (Is 29:18; 35:4, 35:5). There are eight cases recounted in New Testament Scripture of Jesus Christ healing the blind (Matthew 9:27-31; 12:22; 15:30; 21:14; Mark 8:22-26; 10:46-52; and, John 3:1-6, 9:1-38). In all but one case, the blind were either brought to Jesus Christ for healing to test if Jesus Christ was the true Messiah based on the Old Testament prophesies, or the blind sought out Jesus Christ for healing on their own because they already believed He was the Messiah. However, in John 9:1-38, the man born blind did not know of Jesus Christ at all. He was not brought by others who already believed Jesus Christ was the Messiah or by those who simply wanted to test to see if Jesus Christ was the Messiah by healing a man born blind. Jesus Christ found the blind man Himself and healed him. Even after the blind man was healed and was brought before the Pharisees to be questioned, he still didn’t know Jesus Christ until after the Pharisees had thrown him out. When Jesus Christ heard the man was thrown out, He went to him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” and the man said, “Who is he, sir?” and Jesus said, “You have now seen him…he is the one speaking with you?” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe” and worshiped Him.
The Gospel of John, 9:1-38, may actually be divided into two sections. The first section describes the healing of the man born blind by Jesus Christ. The second section describes the consequences of that healing. Most biblical scholars believe that the healing portion of this Gospel reading is related to Jesus Christ’s words previously given in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”. The consequences of the healing was that it not only brought illumination to the physical vision of a man who never saw the physical light of the world, but also gave him the Holy Illumination of faith in our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ and bore witness to others of the Lord’s Divinity so they may also believe.
References: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vols I, IVa, InterVarsity Press; Lawrence R. Farley, The Gospel of John, Beholding the Glory, Conciliar Press; Paul Nadim Tarazi, The New Testament, Johannine Writings, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, NKJV