Saturday, November 06, 2010
The Blindness of Man-John 9 ( dedicated to my brother Jacob )
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him'.
This story, as recorded in the 9th chapter of the Gospel of John, is undoubtedly a true one & based on actual events, but as God has revealed to me recently, through a friend; it is also an allegory, which is as true today as it was back then. In this sense, then; we are all 'born blind' ( the animal 'kingdom' is a good example of this ), and it is not till God shines the Light of His Spirit on us ( this could be another way to explain 'baptism of the Spirit' ) that we are able to see things as they truly are, but even then, it seems to be more of a gradual 'awakening' ( this is probably because God knows what we can 'handle' at any given time ). Those who remain 'blind' to certain truths that God has revealed to others, are so, only because, for whatever reason, God has not chosen to reveal it to them at this particular point in time.
'I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work'. 'As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world'.
Here is where the historical and covenantal context really helps us to understand Jesus' words. The historical setting in which Jesus spoke these words was 'these last days' that the writer to the Hebrews spoke about, the period where Jesus, as the embodiment of the 'new' ( Jeremiah 31:31-34 ) covenant and 'the light [ that ] shines in the darkness' ( John 1:5 ( Isaiah 9:2 ), was introducing a new era, one where God Himself would be our Teacher ( John 6:45 ( Isaiah 54:13 ); Himself revealing to His people, through His Spirit, the truths that He, as an all-knowing and gracious Father, knows that we are ready for. Covenantally; Jesus tells His people, 'You are the light of the world' ( Matthew 5:14 ), and as 'sons of light' ( Luke 16:8, John 8:12, 9:5, 11:9 & 12:46 ) we are to shine ( by reflection ) into every 'nook & cranny' ( Luke 15:8-10 ) till 'the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea' ( Isaiah 11:9 ( II Corinthians 4:6 ).
When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, 'Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which is translated, Sent)'. So he went and washed, and came back seeing. Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, 'Is not this he who sat and begged?' Some said, 'This is he'. Others, 'He is like him'. He said, 'I am he'. Therefore they said to him, 'How were your eyes opened?' He answered and said, 'A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to the pool of Siloam and wash'. 'So I went and washed, and I received sight'. Then they said to him, 'Where is He?' He said, 'I do not know'. They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees.
First; Jesus told this man, in the same manner that He spoke to Martha in chapter 11, verses 25 & 26, 'I am the light'. Although the man didn't seem to 'get it', much as we today just don't 'see' it sometimes, until it 'dawns' ( II Peter 1:19 ) on us, this man needed a physical assurance, a sign from God; so Jesus told him to go and 'baptize' his eyes, much as Elijah commanded Naaman, in II Kings 5 & when the man 'who was blind from birth' obeyed, he was delivered ( 'saved' ) from his affliction.
Many people today, often, when faced with situations like this, can't just believe it because the truth is right there, 'as plain as the nose on your face'; 'this is not normal, things like this just don't happen': a 'blind' person all of the sudden ( not even gradually, or after 'surgery' ) 'seeing', 'I don't believe it!'
Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, 'He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see'. Therefore some of the Pharisees said, 'This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath'. Others said, 'How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?' And there was a division among them. They said to the blind man again, 'What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?' He said, 'He is a prophet'. But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight. And they asked them, saying, 'Is this your son, who you say was born blind?' 'How then does he now see?' His parents answered them and said, 'We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know'. 'He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself'.
Jesus seemed to do this quite a bit, and whether because He just 'happened' to be in the 'right place at the right time', or He wanted to show that 'the Sabbath was made for man' ( Mark 2:27 ); Jesus, I believe, rather enjoyed 'thumbing His nose in their faces' ( although I'm sure it must have saddened Him, as well ), because they had missed the whole point of the Sabbath, and that He Himself, as the Savior of mankind, was the 'Rest' that the 'seventh-day rest' had pointed to, as the great Anti-type!
Because of this 'focus on the physical' aspect of the commandment, or as Paul put it, 'the oldness of the letter' ( Romans 7:6 ), the religious leaders of that day ( first century ) needed to 'wrap their brains around' this phenomena, to analyze for themselves how something like this could happen ( on their 'watch', no less )! Even though this man told them what Jesus had done, even 'spelling it out' for them,; their first ( almost automatic ) response, was according to what they had been ( traditionally ) taught: 'This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath' ( Exodus 20 said nothing about doing good on the Sabbath, in fact, much the opposite in the last 6 commandments! ) Today; one might hear the 'moral majority' say something like, 'That man was a terrible sinner; how can we believe anything he says?'
As in Jesus' day; there is much 'division' among the people of God ( both real and imagined ) because of scenarios like we've just read about; those who have seen 'the light' are at least willing, like good Bereans, to examine the facts, while others put it down as heresy because it doesn't 'fit' with what they've been taught for the last '2,000 years'.
Not being satisfied ( or happy ) with his answer ( 'He is a prophet' ) about the identity of the Man who had 'healed' him and 'opened' his 'eyes'; the Pharisees turned to the 'tack' that his friends and neighbors had taken; 'are you absolutely sure that this is the man who was born blind?' They just couldn't, wouldn't believe that this man could just all of the sudden 'see'; this was unheard of!
Turning to his 'parents' ( think 'church fathers' ) now; the religious leaders questioned them about whether this was truly their son and if he had really been born 'blind'. While his 'parents' were still willing to claim him as their son, and to verify that he had indeed been born blind; they were unwilling, out of a fearful 'focus on the physical,' and, I'm sure that they were fairly orthodox as well, to stand behind their child and witness to this divisive miracle, telling them 'He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself'! This happens today, even in many families, because God reveals certain things to one member, which goes 'against the grain' of what that family has taught, and been taught, for years.
( Fore ) Shadows of the Inquisition ( 'one last chance!' )
His parents said these because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed He Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, 'He is of age; ask him'. So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, 'Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner'. He answered and said, 'Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.' Then they said to him again, 'What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?' He answered them, 'I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?' Then they reviled him and said, 'You are His disciple, but we are Moses disciples'. 'We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from'. The man answered and said to them, 'Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes!' 'Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.' 'Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind'. 'If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing'. They answered and said to him, 'You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?' And they cast him out.
Many today, as the former 'blind man's' 'parents', are afraid to associate too closely, even if they themselves have been 'enlightened', with those who have been 'taught by God' to swim against the current, and who are not afraid to challenge, or even to teach against the 'status quo'!
Again the Pharisees asked the man, whether out of the kindness of their 'hearts', or just to let him further incriminate himself, what Jesus had done to him. The man who had been 'blind', but said 'now I see' only 'dug a deeper hole' for himself when he ( almost condescendingly ) explained to them again why they should believe his story, and why it must needs be the truth. 'The nerve of him,' they must have thought, 'to challenge our authority! We have been brought up on these teachings ( 'they were good enough for our 'fathers', and they're good enough for me' ), and he is just a lowly layman, a sinner, no less!' 'How dare he?!'
After such an 'affront' to their comfortableness; they 'naturally' excommunicated him!
Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, 'Do you believe in the Son of God?' He answered and said, 'Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?' And Jesus said to him, 'You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you'. Then he said, 'Lord, I believe!' And he worshiped Him.
Hearing that He had been 'cast out'; Jesus came to the 'heretic', and comforted him with the knowledge that he was 'on the right track',and had deduced correctly that this man WAS from God, and in fact was 'the Lord’s Christ, God Himself! When the former 'blind man' received this further knowledge; he fell to his knees in an attitude of worship! Much the same today, when we receive further revelation ( not that it is 'new', for as Solomon wrote, '[ there is ] nothing new under the sun' ( Ecclesiastes 1:9 ); we should immediately 'fall to our knees' ( really or actually ) and humbly thank God for revealing this to us!
And Jesus said, 'For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind'. Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, 'Are we blind also?' Jesus said to them, 'If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, 'We see'. Therefore your sin remains'.
Returning again to the historical context ( and His attention to the Pharisees ); Jesus reminded His listeners why He had come into their 'world'; 'I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them'. ( Isaiah 42:16 ) When Jesus told them He had come 'hat those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind' they must have remembered what God had said concerning their 'fathers', earlier in the book of Isaiah ( 9:6 ), 'Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive', and you can bet that it 'galled' them to no end, and finally 'burnt them up' beyond all recognition!
Charles Haddon Shank
( for Jacob & Luther )