As we have noted previously, the first half of John’s Gospel is often times referred to as the Book of Signs. That is, John records particular miracles performed by Jesus which serve as signs or proof of his deity. The healing of the man born blind is one of those signs. In Jesus’ day, blindness was often thought to be the result of a lack of “light” from within and, therefore, took on moral dimensions. What is more, the Jewish religion had adopted a rather mechanistic view of reality wherein good people received good things and bad people received bad things.
But Jesus exposes this assumption as deeply misguided. While some problems, sufferings, and tragedies are indeed the direct result of specific sins committed, there are many other times when particular instances of suffering come about as a result of far different reasons. This man’s blindness, Jesus states, is the not the result of his or his parent’s sin. Rather, under the wise and mysterious providence of God, this man’s suffering will be the occasion for his salvation and a display of God’s glory.
Jesus’ encounter with the man born blind occurs sometime between the Feast of Tabernacles (known in part for the use of elevated fire pots to illuminate temple at night) and the Feast of Dedication (later known has Hanukah, or the Festival of Lights). The significance of this should not be missed as Jesus declares of himself, “I am the Light of the World” (vs. 5).