Jesus Forms a Community Around Himself Over Against Official Judaism
Jesus has just revealed himself as the light of the world and has passed judgment on the leaders among the Jews and, indeed, on the temple itself (chap. 8). Now he heals a man born blind, thus giving a sign that bears witness to his claim to be the light of the world. He also continues to condemn the opponents by accusing them of being blind spiritually, a far worse condition than the physical blindness of the man he has healed.
In the midst of these continuing themes a new element is added. When the Jewish authorities cast the healed blind man out of the synagogue, Jesus begins to form a body of disciples that are clearly separate from the synagogue. Thus the break between Jesus and the Jewish authorities (chap. 8) is now seen to characterize his followers also. This separation brings to a head the crisis that has been building for several chapters. Chapter 5 revealed Jesus as the true referent of the law, while chapters 6 through 8 showed Jesus to be the fulfillment of Judaism as represented by its feasts and temple. Now Jesus is forming a new community apart from the institutions of Judaism, with himself as its center and guide. Thus, the story of the man born blind provides a sign regarding not only Jesus, but also his opponents and the community of those believing in Jesus. All three of these themes are continued in chapter 10, when Jesus teaches that he is the Good Shepherd in contrast to the evil shepherds who have gained power in Jerusalem. In a climactic confrontation at the end of chapter 10 Jesus declares that the Jewish opponents are not members of his flock. He concludes with a clear claim to a unique oneness with God, and he grounds that claim in the Scriptures. This forms the culmination of his public ministry and prepares for the greatest of his signs--the raising of Lazarus--and the fulfillment of all the signs in his own death, resurrection and ascension.