Who is the man born blind? Who do you think he is? How do you picture him? When Jesus went looking for him (John 9:35), after he had been thrown out, who did he ask for? Did he have a name?
John leaves him anonymous. He may be Bartimaeus but if it is John has stripped him of his name. Anyway, Bartimaeus is another man who is blind in Mark’s gospel – it’s the other one (also nameless) that Jesus uses spit on to help him see (Mark 8:22-26).
Even if it is Bartimaeus the meaning is unclear, for if Bartimaeus is an Aramaic name his name means “unclean”, but if it is a Greek name his name means “honoured”. He certainly isn’t unclean in the eyes of Jesus and John. In fact he is a man whose blindness is accompanied by other gifts – a kind of biblical sage who is such a contrast to the able-bodied disciples.
Is he then, the model disciple?
We guess the identity of the “beloved disciple”. There are theories – could be John, Peter, Lazarus – but there’s no settled answer.
It might be that John has deliberately anonymised both of them, the man born blind and the beloved disciple.
Who is the beloved disciple? My suggestion is that the beloved disciple is whoever has his or her head on the bosom of Jesus (John 13:23), so that he/she can hear the whispered will of God, so that he/she can feel how the heart of Jesus ticks.
And similarly I wonder, is the man born blind the one who comes to see? – was blind, but now s/he sees – not through their own efforts, experience, wisdom or learning but through the gift and creation of God.
I don’t know whether you ever call rain “spit”. Our dog always pokes her nose out of the door warily to check whether it is spitting. Even if it is just spitting she turns tail and heads back in.
The rain is the spit on the earth, and the making of mud. It was from the mud that the Lord God formed humanity to become a living being (Genesis 2:7) and it was with the mud and a rub of the eyes by the lord both of light and darkness that the man born blind could see (John 9:6).
But is this just about the one man born blind? Is it about all those who “come to see”? And is the man born blind a new Adam? Is the man born blind the beloved disciple?
Just speculating. Who do you think he is?