The account of a blind man being healed in John’s gospel seems to be a chiasm.
A chiasm is a mirrored literary structure where the use of words or images compliment or contrast each other in a definite sequence. It typically follows an ABCBA type pattern. Which places a climax point in the middle as well as at the end. Back when scrolls were in popular use the pivot point of the story was in the centre of the scroll as it opened.
In the case of John chapter 9. The words and images are all connected to sight and light and contrasted with darkness and blindness.
In this case the chiastic outline I’ve used has 7 steps.
1. The power of the (spoken) creative Word of God
vv.1-7 (characters: Jesus, disciples, blind man)
c.f. v.5 – “I am the light of the world” with Gen 1:3-5 “let there be light” & Psalm 119:130, “your words give light”
The man blind from birth is “sent” home seeing
2. A division occurs between those who “see” and those who don’t
vv.8-12 (characters: Neighbours/Jews, blind man)
“Where is this man?” They can’t “see” him and they refuse to “see” the wonder of the miracle that a blind man has been healed. Their eyes are behind a veil as it were, preventing them from seeing. c.f. 2 Corinthians 3:13-18
3. Debate about the purpose of the sabbath
In the law (Ex20:8-11, Deut 5:12-15) the sabbath was an occasion for resting from work for the purpose of drawing near to God in public worship. A blind man would have been ceremonially unclean and excluded from most of the festivals and sacrifices that made up Israel’s worship. Being healed meant, he could rejoin and fully participate in the community.
vv.13-17 (characters: Jews, Pharisees, blind man)
“This man is not from God…” or “… he is a “prophet” Which is it? He can’t be both.
4. The test – will the testify accurately about his experience with Jesus?
vv.18-23 (characters: Jews, parents)
“He is our son… he will speak for himself” – The parents trying to avoid persecution provide an opportunity for the formerly blind man to speak on behalf of Jesus. This is a climax point. Will he ratify his account and invite ridicule, mockery and social exclusion or will he remain silent in order to not to offend the religious zealots?
5. Those who “get it” are truly mature because they ‘do his will’
vv.24-34 (characters: Jews, blind man)
The debate intensifies about what it means to understand and apply God’s word. The Jews make an appeal to Moses (v.28), but they still can’t see the wonder of what has taken place. They start by saying, “give the glory to God“, but when the man does (v.33) they are offended at the prospect that God would act in this way.
6. The one who believes, conquers and is co-judge
vv.35-39 (characters: Jesus, blind man)
When the healing first occurred the Jews asked, “Where is the man“, but they aren’t prepared for the answer. Now Jesus returns to the conversation by addressing the man, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He is “the man” in more ways than one. Because the healed man places his trust in Jesus and worships him he enjoys the victory of true sight (v.39). As a result the healed man is now, by his testimony of faith, a co-judge against those that refuse to see and worship Jesus as the fulfilment of the Messianic promises.
c.f. Isaiah 35:4-5, Isaiah 42:6-7
7. The one who disbelieves is not glorified (does not receive God’s rest) but remains in guilt
vv.40-41 (characters: Pharisees, Jesus)
“Are we blind too?”
The Pharisees are claiming to “see” without the aid of the “light of the world“. Their insistence is going to exclude them from sharing in the forgiveness, healing and life that God brings with his light. Compared to the healed man who was “sent” home freed from his blindness, the Pharisees “remain” in their guilt – i.e. they are culpable before God for what they claim to understand from Moses and the law.
Other articles related to Chiasm’s:
Mike’s book explains the significance behind the recurring 7-fold pattern I’ve used above to outline John 9. It starts in the 7-day creation story, continues with the 7 festivals of Israel and the 7 key elements of the tabernacle.