Healing a Man Born Blind: A Novelization

“A penny?” asked the man, sitting at the side of the road.
A few of the disciples looked over, and Nathaniel put a hand on Judas’ arm. “We can spare a bit, right?”
The group’s treasurer grimaced a bit, but he unslung the money satchel and reached in. He pulled out a pair of coins and passed them to his companion, who dropped them in the beggar’s bowl. “You are welcome to these,” said Nathaniel. “How did you become blind?”
“Oh, thank you, sir,” said the man, “but I’ve always been this way. I was born blind; I grew up blind; and I’ll always be blind.”
Nathaniel shook his head. “Rabbi,” he said, turning back to the group, “it can’t be that he sinned to make himself blind if he was born this way. That doesn’t make any sense, so did his parents sin somehow that he would be cursed this way?”
Jesus shook his head. “It’s not a matter of sin, Nathaniel. He’s not blind because he sinned or because his parents sinned. He is blind so that people could see the power of God at work. We all need to be at work, doing the will of the one who sent me while it’s still daylight. Night will fall soon, and then nobody will be able to do anything, but so long as I’m in the world, I am the light of the world.”
He stepped to the side of the road and stooped down. “What is your name?” he asked.
“I am Benoni.”
“I am Jesus.” he replied, “and I’m about to give you something. Don’t be alarmed; it may feel strange.” He lowered his head and spat heavily. Reaching down, he rubbed the spittle into the dust until it was mixed in, creating a thin paste. Then, looking into the beggar’s face, he gently instructed, “Close your eyes.”
Slowly, Jesus touched the man’s eye with the mud. Benoni flinched at the unexpected touch, but curiosity won out, and he stilled himself enough to let Jesus finish. The rabbi anointed his eyes with the paste of mud, first the left and then the right. Nothing happened for a moment, though the beggar thought he could hear whispering, as if someone were praying just quietly enough to not be understood.
Then Jesus stood up. “Benoni, there is a pool, Siloam, not far from here. Go wash your eyes there, and may the Lord be with you.”
He couldn’t think of what to say, and as he struggled to find words, he heard the men resume walking down the road. “Thank you?” he called as they left, though he couldn’t be sure if they heard him over the noise of the city.
Benoni sat a while by the road, wondering what had just happened. Eventually, he decided that since there was mud or something on his eyes, he needed to wash anyway, and he might as well wash at Siloam. He grabbed the bowl and jingled it, hearing the few coins he had collected in the morning hours. He slid them into a pouch at his side and stood up, brushing the dirt from his cloak, and began making his way along the building walls.
As he approached, he could hear a few people, filling their bowls with the water from the pool. He had been there enough times that he knew roughly where the edge was, and a subtle change in the ambient sounds around him told him he had reached the edge. Kneeling down, he reached into the water and cupped his hand, bringing it back to his face and rubbing away the mud, now dried since the anointing. A second handful washed away the rest of it, and he rubbed his face, shaking the water from his hand.
He froze, completely uncertain what was happening.
He sensed something. It was like he heard it, but it wasn’t hearing. He had no idea what it was at first, but it was only a moment before the only possible explanation came to him: he was seeing. He hardly knew how to describe it. There weren’t words, or at least he didn’t know them. He’d never needed them before.
Before long, tears were streaming down his face as he cried with joy. Sight! He laughed out loud and clamped his hand over his mouth, trying to contain the flood of emotions that were rushing through him.
“Benoni?” called a voice. It was Jamin, his neighbor. He turned to take in what his neighbor, the man he had lived next to for nearly a generation, looked like. “Benoni, what’s happening?”
“I can see!” he cried.
“I can see!” His shouting was gathering attention with many curious people stopping to look.
Jamin was shocked. “Really? Truly, Benoni? That’s wonderful! Praise the Lord!”
A few others had come closer to find out what the commotion was. One of them squinted, looking at Benoni. “Aren’t you that blind beggar who used to sit three streets over?”
“No,” insisted another before Benoni could say anything. “Look at him! He’s not blind.”
“Well, yes, that’s obvious, but he certainly looks like him. You’re not him, are you?”
Benoni beamed with joy. “Yes! I am the man, but I can see now!”
Someone snorted from the other side of the gathered people. “This is a terrible joke you are making, man. You have no heart to mock a poor beggar this way.”
“But I am the beggar! I’m not mocking anyone!” he insisted. “I swear by heaven and earth that I am the man!”
“Then, Benoni,” urged Jamin, “what happened?”
“The man, Jesus, he spat in the dirt and made mud with it and rubbed it on my eyes. Then he sent me to wash in the pool here, so I came and washed my eyes, and now suddenly I can see!”
“Jesus?” said Jamin. “Where is Jesus now?”
Benoni stopped. In his excitement, he hadn’t thought to go back to say anything, and by this point, Jesus had probably wound his way around the city far enough that he’d be impossible to find. Slightly deflated, he said, “I don’t know.”
Most of the curious onlookers had started to disperse, but a few stayed. “The Lord has healed your blindness,” said one of them. He recognized the voice as another neighbor. “What thank offering do you make for that?”
Nobody had an answer. After some moments, Jamin volunteered, “The scribes should know. One of them can tell us what you should do.”
The crowd agreed, though none of them knew where any scribes lived. One of them, Seraiah, however, knew of a man who lived nearby who belonged to the Pharisees and who hosted groups of people in his home to study the Torah. As they moved through the city, Benoni marveled at everything, overjoyed at putting together the sounds he had always known with new sights. So much that was ordinary to everyone suddenly became new in his eyes, and his happiness was infectious, lifting up the whole group. By the time they reached the Pharisee’s home, several were talking and laughing at the beggar’s excitement.
Seraiah knocked on the door and called for the men inside. When the portal was opened, they could see several men gathered around a scroll. They looked as if they had been caught in the middle of a discussion. “The Lord bless you,” said the man at the door. His cloak was ornate and delicately embroidered. “Were you wanting to join us to discuss the scriptures?”
“No,” said Seraiah, gesturing toward Jamin and Benoni, “but these men have a question that we hope you could answer.”
Jamin greeted them, “The Lord bless you. My neighbor, Benoni, was healed from blindness. We know that he should offer a sacrifice of thanks to the Lord, but we don’t know what the appropriate gift is.”
“Healed from blindness?” called a voice from inside. “When?”
“Just now!” said Benoni, nearly shouting in elation.
“On the Sabbath?” asked the man at the door.
The others from inside frowned at one another, then got up to gather around the entryway. “Was he a doctor?”
“I don’t know, but what doctor heals blindness?” Benoni aked. “He must be from the Lord.”
“No man of God works on the Sabbath,” insisted one of the Pharisees. “How were you healed?”
“A group of men stopped to give me some coins while I was begging by the road. One of them, a man called Jesus, put mud on my eyes, and I washed it off, and now I can see.”
“Jesus,” spat the man who opened the door. With a scowl, he added, “He is not from the Lord. He doesn’t keep the Sabbath.”
“How else do you explain this wonder? This man received back sight,” challenged another man beside him. “It must be of God.”
“God rested on the Sabbath,” said another, “and commanded that we rest as he did. No one working on the Sabbath is with God. This Jesus is a sinner.”
Another voice: “But no one against the Lord could perform such a miracle.”
The argument went on for several minutes while the men stood outside the door at a loss. They still hadn’t been given an answer to their question, but neither could they leave without greeting their host and not offend him. Finally, one of the Pharisees shouted, “Men! Men, we are arguing with each other to no end. What about this man standing here? He was the one healed. What does he say?”
They all turned to him. “You said he’s not a doctor. What kind of man is he?”
“Surely he’s a prophet like Elijah,” he replied.
“Wait,” said one of them. “We don’t even know if he was ever blind. We could be arguing over a story.”
Benoni insisted, “I was born blind!”
“So you say,” contended the home’s owner. “But we do not know you. You could be telling fables, and we could be wasting our time with all of this.”
“He’s a young man,” suggested another. “What does his father say about him?”
“You,” said the host, pointing at Jamin. “You know his parents?” Jamin nodded. “Go bring them. We want to know what they say about all of this.”
Jamin looked at Benoni, hesitating, but his neighbor waved him off. Meanwhile, the Pharisees continued to argue with each other, leaving the rest of the men standing outside. Several of them had begun dispersing while the religious leaders were paying no attention, but a few remained. Frustrated, Benoni slid to the ground and leaned against the outer wall with a sigh, and the others followed suit, finding places to sit out of the way of the sun.
The former beggar shook his head in frustration. This should have been joyous. He had received a miracle, and yet somehow it was all turning into chaos. Something that should have been cause for celebration was turning into anger and arguments, and he felt caught. His initial excitement was starting to sour.
Several minutes later, while the Pharisees continued to argue inside, Jamin returned with Benoni’s parents behind. Benoni’s mother looked at her son, sitting by the side of the building, and she gasped. He turned to look at her, but having never seen her, it didn’t register at first who she was. When she whispered his name, suddenly his face brightened. “Mother!” he cried. “I can see!”
“How can this be?” she marveled.
“A man, Jesus, healed me. He put mud on my eyes, and when I washed it off, I could see! It’s a miracle!”
She embraced her son and kissed him, tears filling her eyes. Her husband hugged the both of them, and they stood, celebrating in silent joy together.
When they let go, Benoni saw the Pharisees at the doorway. They motioned for everyone to enter, and the group finally made their way into the house. They gathered around, eyes adjusting to the dimmer light, and the house owner turned to the parents with a curt greeting. “This is your son, then?” They nodded. “And you affirm that he was born blind?” They gave affirmation again without speaking, feeling vulnerable in an angry man’s home. “Then how is it that he can see now?”
Benoni’s father spoke, “This is the first we have heard of it. He was blind this morning when he went to beg by the road. We … we don’t know what happened to him,” he stammered in nervousness. “He’s old enough to … to speak for himself. Why don’t you let him tell his story?”
The group turned back to the beggar. “Tell the truth before God! This Jesus could not have healed you. He is an unrighteous man!”
Benoni opened his hands in helplessness. “I have no idea whether or not he’s a righteous man,” he said. “All I know is that I was blind this morning, and I see now.”
“How did he do it?” shouted one. “What did he do to you?”
Benoni’s patience had broken. He glowered at them all, exasperated with the entire exchange. “I’ve told you several times now, and you’re not listening. Why do you want to hear it again? Are you trying to figure out how he did it? Do you want to know the exact technique? Do you want to become students of his? It would save us all a lot of argument,” he growled.
As he spoke, the Pharisees’ eyes grew wide in shock, and the house was hushed for a moment as they stared at the man who was openly chastising them. “How dare you?” said the host. Then again, with intensity, “How dare you! We have dedicated our lives to studying the teaching of Moses! You may be a student of that man, that Jesus, but we follow the Law. God himself spoke face to face with Moses, but God would never speak to such a man, one who mocks the Lord’s Sabbath! There’s no telling where such a man came from!”
“Well, that’s very interesting,” retorted Benoni. “You don’t have any idea where the man came from, yet he made me see. That’s the kind of thing that only God can do, but God doesn’t listen to sinners. He only hears the prayers of people who worship him, the ones who do his will. Where in the history of the world has there ever been a man who healed someone born blind? Born!” he repeated with intensity. “If the man weren’t with God, he wouldn’t have been able to do anything, let alone heal someone who was blind from birth!”
“Get out!” roared the Pharisee. “You were steeped in sin from the beginning, and you have the audacity to tell us what is in the Law? You have no place with the righteous! Get out!” The men roughly pushed the group out of the house, nearly slamming the door behind them.
They all stood in the street, looking at the house, stunned by the exchange. After a few moments, Semaiah shook the dust from his feet and walked away. The rest of the group went their way as well, saying nothing. Jamin, Benoni, and his parents started back towards their homes, Jamin providing the little guidance necessary to show the way for the former blind man.
After a few streets, Benoni turned toward his father while they walked. “I’d rather you would have defended me more. You know this is a miracle, but you hardly said anything.”
His father deflated a bit, hanging his head lower. He didn’t even look at his son as he spoke. “I know. But I’ve heard about this Jesus. The Pharisees and scribes are saying he’s a menace, and if anyone supports him, they’ll throw him out of the synagogue.” He struggled to find what more to say. “What do I do? If I say the man healed you, we lose our community. I didn’t know what to say, so I…”
“You threw me into the gladiator pit,” finished Benoni.
Shame nearly choked the man as his throat tightened and tears began filling his eyes.
“Father, I don’t hold this against you. We still have one another. And we have a miracle. I can see!” With a grin, he continued, “And now I need you.” His father turned to look at him, his brow creased with confusion. “I can’t be begging anymore, so you’re going to have to teach me a trade.”
The father laughed, relief and joy mixing together. They continued on to their homes, singing their gratitude to God and reciting Psalms they knew. The argument with the Pharisees mostly faded from their minds as they celebrated a miracle.
After several hours of singing, feasting, and imagining together what this new future would be like, Benoni tipped his head to the side. “After everything with those Pharisees, I didn’t even get an answer to my question!”
“What’s that?” asked his father.
“What do I sacrifice for this? What’s the appropriate offering to the Lord?”
His father grimaced. “Well, we can’t go back and ask now.”
“Someone will still surely be at the synagogue. They’ll know what to do,” ventured his mother. It wasn’t yet evening, so they set the house in order and made their way toward the synagogue. Benoni was still elated at being able to see all the things he had only known by hearing and touch, and everything new and a delight.
When they neared the synagogue building, a voice called to them, and they saw a group of men near the door, one of them motioning for them to come. Benoni and his family looked at each other for clarity. None recognized anyone from the group of men. They continued toward the building and the man who was calling them.
Once within reach of the door, Benoni’s father asked, “What do you want from us?”
“I heard there was an argument recently, and as I understand it, you were at the center of it,” said the man.
The former beggar’s eyes opened in surprise and joy. “Your voice! You’re the one who healed me!”
Jesus smiled. “It is God who has healed you, even if the Pharisees you went looking for don’t believe it.”
“But they’re the experts on the Law,” Benoni replied with a troubled look. “Why don’t they believe?”
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” asked Jesus.
“I know the Son of Man is prophesied to come. Has he come already?” Jesus nodded. “Then who is he? If I can’t trust the Pharisees, I will trust him!”
“You know him, Benoni. You are talking to him now,” stated the rabbi.
“Then praise the Lord for letting us see this day!” he exclaimed. His parents added their own blessings and cheers of joy. “I believe you, rabbi! I believe you are the Son of Man!”
“Bless you and your family. There are divisions happening, and my presence here is a judgement – a judgement that those who do not see may see, but those who see may become blind.”
There was a snort from the portal to the synagogue, and they looked to see three men, their phylacteries marking them as Pharisees. “Are we blind then?”
Jesus said, “If you said you were blind, you would be guilty of nothing. But you say you see, and that’s why your guilt remains.
“Let me tell you something: if somebody climbs into the sheep pen any other way but the door, he’s a thief. He’s there to steal the sheep for himself. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd, and the gatekeeper knows him and opens the gate. Even the sheep know him. They recognize his voice. He knows each of their names and calls out to them, and they come running so he can lead them out into the fields. He takes them out to eat, and they follow him because they know him, and they trust him. On the other hand, they won’t follow a stranger. They don’t know his voice, and they’ll bolt. They don’t trust a voice they don’t know.”
One of the Pharisees in the doorway sighed loudly. “What nonsense is this? Why are you telling these silly stories?”
“Let me say it plainly, then: I am the gate to the sheepfold. Everyone who’s come up until now was a thief. They wanted to take the sheep for themselves, use them for their own ends, but the real flock didn’t pay any attention to them. I am the gate, and anyone who enters by me will find freedom. They will be led into green pastures. The thieves only care about themselves. They come to the flock to steal, kill, and destroy for their own ends, but I have come so that they will enjoy life – a full life. I am the shepherd, and I care about the sheep. The good shepherd will die for his flock, not like the day worker who’s just in it for the paycheck. That man sees danger and bolts. He doesn’t care about the sheep, and under his eye, wolves and wild animals will tear through the flock. He doesn’t care about them, but I do. I know my sheep, and they know me, just like the father knows me, and I know the father. I will die for my sheep.”
Several more people had come to the door of the synagogue as he spoke, and a number of others had stopped to listen as they walked along the street. “Some sheep aren’t yet part of my flock, but I will bring them in. They’ll recognize my voice, and we will be one flock, one shepherd.”
He continued, “The father loves me because I love the sheep, because I am willing to lay down my own life for them – and when I do, I will take it up again. That death for the sheep, that is my choice. Nobody takes my life; I give it up of my own will, and I take it back of my own authority. In truth, this is the very thing the father sent me to do.”
“He’s mad!” shouted someone from inside the building. “Why are we even paying any attention to this?”
“He healed my son!” yelled back Benoni’s father. Benoni looked at his father with pride at his sudden courage. “What kind of madman can cure a blind man?”
“It’s obviously demonic,” scoffed the Pharisee in the doorway.
Another voice from behind him could just be heard, noting, “But the man has a point. Can demons make blind men see? That’s the power of God, not the accuser.” The Pharisees from the doorway turned inside, and an argument erupted.
“He’s talking about having power over life and death!” said one.
“He already has power over blindness,” retorted another.
“Even if he does, they say he healed on the sabbath. He doesn’t observe the law,” called out a third.
Jesus shook his head and sighed. Looking at Benoni, he ventured, “You’re not going to get any answers here. One heifer with bread and cakes.”
Benoni peered at him. “I’m sorry?”
“The appropriate thank offering according to Moses is one heifer or bull with bread and cakes mixed with oil to be shared among the grateful and a priest. May we join you?”
“Of course!” whooped the former blind man. “Of course! I would be honored.” He turned to his father, “Can we afford an entire bull?”
“We will purchase the best we can find,” said his father.
They left the argument in the synagogue, making their way toward the market and the temple in preparation for a feast.

John 9:1 – 10:21