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Blindness (1) – John 9:1-3

The Blind Man Washes in the Pool of Siloam by James Tissot (Wikimedia)

“So that the work of God may be displayed in him” John 9:1-3

Seemingly randomly, while Jesus is going out of the Temple, he sees a beggar—a man blind from birth; and the disciples[1] (without apparent compassion) ask, “Rabbi, who sinned?”

The Jews, like many people, connected suffering, sickness and misfortune with sin. Moreover, the Old Testament taught that the penalty and the consequences of the sins of parents could be even transmitted to their children.[2]

Under the New Covenant, while God no longer punishes us for our parents’ mistakes, or holds us accountable for their sins, in a way we may still bear the consequences for their sinful, unwise or faulty habits and behaviours. The Holy Spirit, however, is available and willing to make us whole and free us from unhealthy patterns of thinking, feeling, relating and living.

Where a child has lived in a particularly dysfunctional or unhappy home, this process of healing may take longer than desired. However, if we seek God’s healing, and respond and cooperate with the work and power of the Holy Spirit, healing happens. And the work of God may be displayed through that person.

This healing power is available to us through Jesus our Saviour. The word “saviour” has a broader meaning than just someone who rescues us from sin; it also means healer. Jesus wants us to be made whole physically, emotionally and spiritually—to experience shalom.

A Bad Soul Born Blind?

How can a baby be born blind because of his own sin, as the disciples’ question suggests? In Jesus’ day, some Jews had borrowed the idea of a pre-existence of souls from Greek philosophy, especially from Plato. They believed that all souls existed before the creation of the world and were waiting for bodies to become available to inhabit.[3] Some of these Jews believed that the soul could be good or bad.[4] Others believed that if the pregnant mother sinned, the unborn child was an accomplice.

Even though the disciples asked Jesus, “who sinned?”, Jesus instead remarks that it was not because of this man’s sins nor his parents that this man was born blind, but so that “the work of God might be displayed in him.”

This beggar would have suffered much because of his blindness, but what an honour to be chosen to display the works of God.

Is God displaying his work through you? Is God at work in you?

For it is God who is at work in you, to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

Because of Jesus, God’s transforming power is at work in every believer through the Holy Spirit. If we willingly cooperate with him, the process towards wholeness and Christ-likeness will be hastened, and God’s glory displayed.


[1] Jesus’ disciples appear to be absent in John chapters 7 and 8.

[2] Exodus 20:5; 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Psalm 89:33, 109:14; Isaiah 65:6-7.

[3] The early church father, Origin also believed in the pre-existence of souls.

[4] The Greeks believed that the souls were good but became contaminated when they entered a physical body.

More articles on John’s Gospel are here.

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