John tells the story of Jesus healing a blind man at the temple. It’s reminiscent of a similar story in Mark 8 because of the use of spit, but if it’s from the same source, then John smoked something before writing his version of it. Mark used only 5 verses; John needs 34 (41 if you include the interpretation tagged on at the end). In Mark, Jesus didn’t put on a show or boast about his powers, and he didn’t turn a simple act into a great moral lesson.
John covers the story like Fox News would. First, he adds backstory – was the man blind because he sinned, or because his parents sinned? Neither, replies Jesus, and I’m thinking ‘oh good’, but no, Jesus explains that the man was born blind because god needed to prove his powers. (Fail!) Then he inserts a little boast about being the light of the world. (Notice how frequently these little self-congratulatory phrases pop up?)
Next, John adds a crowd scene of extras who question the man about who healed him. Every performer needs an audience, right? Next, toss in a few Pharisees to add a little intrigue – can’t have a good show without some bad guys. Then interview the family – they’re usually good for some viewer/reader empathy. In v 24-34 we have the obligatory ‘panel of experts with dissenting opinions’. And finally, v 35-41, the message – the point of the whole drawn-out story: ‘“Yes, I believe” and then he worshiped Jesus.’ Interesting that this is the one verse in the whole chapter that is not in all manuscripts; it could be an addition by a later editor determined to make sure that we all got it. Jesus makes his own point in v 39-41, which is, of course, that the people who don’t appreciate him suffer from ‘spiritual blindness’. Good grief!
We are treated to another whole session of Jesus making speeches about his own greatness. Summary – he’s full of himself, he has delusions of grandeur, and the author hates Jews. That’s it in a nutshell. But I’ll elaborate a bit. In the first half of the chapter we get the full-out shepherd and sheep analogy that has been hinted at so often (e.g. Psalm 95:7; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11, of course Psalm 23, and 39 more times).
In v 14-16 Jesus prophesies that he will bring in other sheep not currently in the fold; there will be only one flock and one shepherd. Good luck with that – how many Christian denominations and sects are there currently? Then he goes on to make some rather egregious claims, including that he can choose to live or die at will (v 17-18) (kind of makes mockery of his so-called ‘sacrifice’ on the cross, doesn’t it?); and that he and god are one and the same (v 30).
Again, mention is made of people questioning Jesus’ sanity or claiming that he is possessed by the devil (v 19-20); I’d say they’re bang on. Also worth noting – John is reputed to be virulently anti-Semitic, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that if you’re reading a modern/recent translation of the bible. In the KJV there are multiple references to ‘the Jews’ persecuting (or mocking, or otherwise harassing) Jesus, but newer editions play this down. For example, v 31 reads “the Jews took up stones again to stone him” (KJV); the NIV changes that to “his Jewish opponents took up stones to stone him”, and in the NLT, ever politically correct, this becomes “the people picked up stones to kill him”. In v 34 Jesus finds another OT verse to quote bizarrely out of context (Psalm 82:6).