In our icon corner, I took on a little project (almost complete) of including icons depicting the seven miracles of the book of John. They can all be seen here, though one is still only a paper print. Tradition calls John “the theologian,” a term only applied to two other Church Fathers. John pointed out that there were many more things which Jesus did, but he chose to write what he did for a reason. The other gospels are called “synoptic;” they read more like historical books. The Gospel according to John was special.
He sets a clear tone “in the beginning”–the phrase with which he starts his work. His theme is “the Logos”–the creator and sustainer of the created order. In the other gospel accounts, one can notice how frequently Christ physically touches or is touched in order to heal. In John’s account, He mostly speaks a word or, perhaps, doesn’t even speak a word commanding the miracle itself, but says “fill the water pots with water…take some to the head waiter” or “go your way; your son lives.” As Creator and Logos, He is in the water and alters it at will; He is far away with the nobleman’s son as well as speaking with the nobleman. He is present everywhere. He does not go into the tomb and take Lazarus by the hand, He commands Him to come out and it is done. He tells the paralytic to “rise and walk.” The emphasis on speech alone associated with the miracles hearkens back to the creation account in which He spoke all things into existence–“all things were made by Him and apart from Him nothing was made that was made”–as John points out in his introduction. Even creation of matter is dramatically seen when He blesses a meal for one and distributes a meal for thousands. He inhabits the laws of physics and casually walks on water as He chooses. Clearly, John has in mind the creating Logos in Whom all things hold together.
What about the blind man? It stands out here among the other healing miracles in which there was no touch and only speech signified the event. Indeed, it stands out among the healings we see in the other gospel accounts in which He touched or was touched. Here He did something we see nowhere else. He used His saliva and the dust of the ground to fashion clay before putting it on the mans “eyes.” Why would He involve clay in this particular miracle when a word was enough to raise the dead and He was recorded using no more than touch in the other gospels when healing? It is a bit mysterious.
There is another mysterious thing: it seems no one, other than the man’s parents, could recognize the man with any certainty. From the beginning of the story, one gets the impression that, he, like many of the blind and lame, was in the habit of sitting by the street to receive alms. Why did he look so very different to the many who had seen him daily?
It all makes sense if you read the scriptures within the context of the larger Church Tradition. It also helps if you get some biblical commentary from some folks who were still speaking Koine Greek. The tradition from very ancient times, preserved in the Orthodox Church, is that this man was born without eyes. Christ made eyes for Him using the same material He used when making a body for Adam–clay. On that day, the man was visited by his Creator and the Creator completed His creation. Well, I’m speaking loosely here because He is still working on all of us who were born with a complete set of parts. However, there is more to us than a collection of basic parts. We are still in great need of renovation and we must be still and trust Him while He puts the finishing touches on us.