Transforming Corrupted Assumptions in John 9

I love the narrative of John 9.  It represents, to some extent, the dynamic I wrote about yesterday.  A consensus opinion, a conventional way of seeing things, is upended and overturned by a new angle of approach.

The conventional thinking among the characters in the story marginalizes the broken and needy, reinforcing corrupted patterns of shame and the consolidation of power among the religious elite.

Similar corrupted assumptions abound in many of our Christian communities.  If something bad has happened to you, it’s probably because there’s hidden sin somewhere in your life.

The disciples bluntly voice this conviction as the narrative opens:

As he went 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?”

Some translations of Jesus’ response leave the impression that he corrects them by connecting the man’s blindness to divine causality.  It’s not that this man sinned, or his parents, but God made him blind so that Jesus could heal him, glorifying God.

Such translations are misleading.  Jesus isn’t contrasting human causality with divine causality here. 

He’s trying to revolutionize his disciples’ perspective, transforming their imagination entirely.

He wants them to look out on the world in a renewed way.  When they encounter brokenness, he doesn’t want them to assign blame at all, neither to God or man.  He’s training them to creatively find ways of bringing healing and relief. 

God is gloried when his people bring healing to brokenness, relief to suffering, and the renewal of creation’s flourishing.

The Message nails this passage:

Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light” (vv. 1-5).

5 thoughts on “Transforming Corrupted Assumptions in John 9

  1. Sean Leroy

    Ah..yes. So the narrative is much more about creative ministry opportunity than it is a philosophical causal discussion…? Don’t think I saw that before, so thank you =) BTW, since we’re on the topic, do you know of any studies that look at the narrative art of John’s gospel? Thanks again.

  2. Jaime Hancock

    One of my favorite passages in the NT as well. I have also heard it translated in this way:
    “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?”
    “No, neither this man nor his parents sinned, but the works of God will be displayed in him.”
    Having lived many years in the Middle East when I was younger, I can testify that the honor and shame still play a significant part in the social fabric of most of those societies.

    Grace and Peace,

  3. Pingback: Last Week’s Reading: Frank Viola, Miracles, and Blogging Controversies « New Ways Forward

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