On Matters of Faith
[John chapter nine part two]
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
Last week when we left off at verse 23, I was comparing the Pharisee’s shabby treatment of the blind man who had been healed by Jesus to that of many aspiring Christians who have been driven away from mainstream churches. I then took an entire paragraph to comment on how this horribly negative attitude toward the less fortunate continues to permeate American society today. The Pharisees even tried to get his own parents to testify against their son, but to no avail. Once they realized they weren’t going to get what they wanted from the formerly blind man’s parents, they brought the blind man who Jesus healed back before the council at the Temple and the chief priests, presumably from his holding cell. That’s where we’ll take up where we left off last week, beginning at verse 24.
“A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. ‘Give glory to God’, they said. ‘We know this man is a sinner’. He replied, ‘Whether he is a sinner or not I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!’ Then they asked him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He answered, ‘I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?’ Then they hurled insults at him and said, ‘You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from’. The man answered, ‘Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the Godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ To this they replied, ‘You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!’ And they threw him out.” John chapter 9, verses 24-34, NIV)
“A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. ‘Give glory to God’, they said. ‘We know this man is a sinner’.” What were the Pharisees talking about here? On the surface it may seem to be the Pharisees talking among themselves about the formerly blind man who was standing before them. But, I think it’s much more likely the Pharisees were talking to the man born blind about Jesus, the man who healed him, and in a pretty disrespectful way, presumably as a snub to the blind man who had been healed. Churches and their various denominations are still doing the same thing today. One denomination preaches and rails against another, and even individual churches within a community do the same. Churches that behave this way towards one another invariably have pastors who have never learned that it’s always bad business practice to bad-mouth your competition. As it is with businesses, so it is with houses of worship as well as other charities. Trashing those who think differently than oneself inevitably comes around and bites you in the backside, sooner or later. The childhood game of ‘my religion’s better than yours’ is never played in genuine churches who follow exclusively the sacred teachings of our Lord Christ Jesus! If any of you have experienced such behavior in your current church, go find a better one! Seriously, get out of there ASAP.
So then the formerly blind man says in response, “‘Whether he is a sinner or not I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!’” ‘He’, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth, the man who had healed the formerly blind man. The Pharisees were accusing the blind man of collaborating with Jesus by allowing himself to be healed on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were putting Jesus on trial in absentia by accusing him of breaking the Sabbath, one of the Ten Commandments, by performing a work of healing on the man who stood before them. “I was blind but now I see. What’s wrong with that?”, is the formerly blind man’s response to the Pharisees line of questioning in a modern context. Another way to put this could be, “If Jesus sinned by healing me, then why did he do such a perfect job?” Clearly there is a contradiction in all this that the formerly blind man could readily see, but which completely escaped the “educated” Pharisees who were interrogating him. The reason simply was their refusal to believe what was standing right before them – a miracle of Almighty God, done at the hands of his only Son, Jesus the Christ, the anointed one!
Then the Pharisees continued their interrogation: “‘What did he do to you. How did he open your eyes?’ He answered, ‘I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?’ Then they hurled insults at him and said, ‘You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from’.” How did Jesus do what he did? This takes us back to verse 17 from last week, when the formerly blind man responded, “He is a prophet”, as he was referring to Christ during his initial line of questioning before the high priests. Even after the man’s parents verified that he had been born blind, the Pharisees still did not believe any of them. “As for this fellow (Jesus), we don’t even know where he comes from”, retorted the Pharisees to the blind man who had been healed. They placed their faith in Moses, who they had not seen, but they adamantly refused to believe in Christ or his miracle which they were seeing right before their eyes. When the Pharisees said, “As for this fellow, we don’t know where he comes from”, they were prophesying against themselves without realizing it. If we go back six chapters in John’s gospel, Jesus taught Nicodemus about this very same topic when he said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit”. (John 3:8) Jesus was referring to his earlier statement in that same chapter when he taught Nicodemus, “No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born again of the water and the Spirit”. (John 3:5) So we can say for sure that you must be born again to be able to inherit eternal life, like a mandatory first step, such as charging up your phone when the battery goes dead prior to using it again. So since the Pharisees failed to perceive, or maybe didn’t want to see, that the blind man’s healing had come from God, they were not born again either, meaning they will not inherit eternal life when they die. Eternal death will be their only companion forever.
John’s gospel continues at verse 30: “The man answered, ‘Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners…..” In modern terms the man was saying, “I am a walking, talking miracle of God and yet you still refuse to believe? You Pharisees, who depict yourselves as being so well educated and so Godly, can’t even see what is in plain sight?” As you can see from the original text, the formerly blind man is astonished and incredulous at the Pharisees refusal to believe despite the fact that the proof they needed was standing in front of them. The man who had been born blind then says, “Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ To this they replied, ‘You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!’ And they threw him out.” The Pharisees were exhibiting arrogance and conceit in their most extreme, having contempt for the handiwork of the Lord. People who hate other people do basically the same thing. It’s as if they’re saying, “How dare you refuse to be more like me!” If such people would stop and think for a minute about what they are really saying when they say stuff like that, a lot fewer people would be engaging in such behavior. It’s time for all of us to collectively grow up already! With that in mind, let’s finish up John chapter nine, “On Matters of Faith”, beginning at verse 35.
“Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Who is he, sir,’ the man asked. ‘Tell me so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking to you.’ Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and he worshiped him. Jesus said, ‘For judgment have I come into this world, so that the blind will see, and so that those who see may become blind.’ Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains’.” (John chapter 9, verses 35-41)
In these closing verses, Jesus goes and seeks the man out after finding out he had been ejected from the Temple at Jerusalem. It could have been to tell him what Jesus told the crowd of people he taught at the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are you when you are persecuted for my name’s sake, for great is your reward in the kingdom of heaven. For in the same way their ancestors treated the prophets who came before you.” However, in this case Jesus must have seen that this wasn’t necessary because the formerly blind man’s faith was so strong. Instead, Jesus came right out and asked the man if he believed in “the Son of Man”. When the man who had been born blind asked for the identity of such a person, Jesus identifies himself as being that person, but in a very low-key manner that I find refreshing. Notice that there was no announcer saying, “May we have a drum roll, please?” just before Jesus’ answer, or anything like that. Jesus could have sought fame and fortune as the Son of God, but he rejected them instead, something that some members of humankind still needs to learn. “‘ Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and he worshiped him. Jesus said, ‘For judgment have I come into this world, so that the blind will see, and so that those who see may become blind.’” So then one of the Pharisees who was within earshot of Jesus says to him, “So you think we’re blind too?” Translated into modern English, Jesus told that Pharisee he had just snitched on himself! The main lesson learned here is that Jesus still heals today just like always. But a secondary, and perhaps equally as important lesson is that the more that religious people claim to be able to see and communicate with God (both figuratively and literally), the farther away they actually become. On the other hand, those who worship in Spirit and in truth from afar will be drawn closer by that same Spirit. Sometimes the answers we seek are hidden within the deep knowledge of God. Other times they are hidden in plain sight. The reason God never makes it easy for us is so he can make us stronger. And, stronger people make better workers for His kingdom.