The background of everything in Scripture is always the covenants. In this case, a significant element in Jesus’ ministry was restoring the Covenant of Moses and all its blessings. Had the Jews been faithful to Moses, many of His miracles would not have been needed. He was showing the power of the Covenant to restore what had been lost. He was pointing out how very far the Jewish leaders had gone astray from that Covenant. In doing so, He was nearly stoned to death at the end of the previous chapter.
Instead, He walked away. And as He was departing the Temple plaza, He and His disciples passed by a blind man. The man had his beat, a place he sat every day to ask for charity. The disciples asked a question that arose from too much Pharisaical teaching: Who sinned so that this man was born blind? It never occurred to them how silly it was to ask if this man had sinned before birth, since he was born blind. But just in case, they included in the question whether perhaps his parents had sinned, thus causing him to be born blind.
This was the kind of thinking that the Pharisees used to maintain their position. This was a standard Talmudic myth that human suffering was always caused by sin. And while it sounds like the Pharisees were talking about the Fall when they said the peasants were born in sin, what they meant was that they were themselves not born in sin. For them, the obvious proof was their prosperity and power over the common people. God favored them, obviously. And equally obvious to them was that this man was not favored by God.
Jesus denounced that notion. It had nothing to do with his own sin, nor the sins of his parents. Nor would it serve any purpose to simply blame the political leaders and false teaching. Sometimes bad stuff happens to decent people. That’s what it’s like living in a fallen world. Life isn’t fair, and we should not expect it be fair. This life isn’t worth anything in the first place, so stop thinking God needs to fix this mess. This world is doomed and our lives in it will be forgotten some day when The End comes.
To find meaning in this man’s life, we need to think about the only meaningful thing anyone can find in this world: the glory of God. Jesus said the only “reason” anyone needs for the man’s blindness is that it provides an opportunity for the glory of His Father. In this case, the glory of the Father is the work of the Father. What was the works of the Father? It was wrapped up in the revelation of the Covenant. Adhere to the Covenant, which includes the philosophical traditions that came with it, and you can get in on the works of God.
Jesus then points out how that won’t always be easy to do. Especially in this dark age of Hellenized corruption of the Hebrew traditions, it’s dangerous to point out the truth to those responsible for hiding that truth. Jesus came to carry out the mission for which His Father sent Him. The time was limited, so He had to keep at it. Up to now, the daylight of God’s patience was shining and He could bring the blessings of the Covenant. But given how close He had just come to being killed, it was for sure the day was approaching its end. The dark night of persecution was coming when it would be impossible for Him to perform any more miracles, or even teach in private, for that matter.
Jesus said that for as long as He was in the world in His human form, He was the clearest revelation of God that was possible. Everything that actually mattered in God’s eyes for His Creation was bound up in the person and work of the Son.
Indeed, as readers will know, the miracle healing of this blind man, such a mighty act of God’s glory, would become the excuse the Sanhedrin would need to make the world even darker. Jesus didn’t play it smart, as the world thinks of such things, but continues to provoke them with glorious acts of His Father’s power, and reaffirming the Covenant.