Greetings, everyone! Blessings to you in Christ Jesus our Lord, and welcome to Friday’s edition of EDiBS. Thanks for your commitment to be here on this final day of the week as we study through the Scriptures together, where today we begin to move toward the end of John 9. I’m so glad that you’ve come along — let’s pray and go to our Bibles.
Heavenly Father, thank you for this day and for this time to be together in your Word with our EDiBS family. We love you, we praise you, and we thank you for the gift of your grace and mercy in our lives. Help us to be focused in our study time today, and help us to grasp with sure faith all those things which you would teach us. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
As we get started today, the growing conflict we’ve been observing between the formerly blind man and the religious leaders who are questioning him reaches its high point. Our focus: Judgment; but on whom does it rest?
28Then they hurled insults at him and said, "You are this fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where he comes from." 30The man answered, "Now that is remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." 34To this they replied, "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!" And they threw him out.
One of my church body’s traditions, like that of many churches, is the rite of Confirmation. Confirmation, to just briefly describe it, is where a person – usually a young person around grade seven or eight – makes a public profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and it’s also a time to embrace and reaffirm the blessings that were brought to that person through the gift of his or her Baptism. Confirmation takes place only after a lengthy period of instruction, and in my teaching, I’ve always emphasized two things: a growing knowledge of and facility with the Bible and its chief doctrines, and an ever growing, ever developing personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the projects my students work on as the time of their Confirmation grows near is the preparation of an essay on a topic of faith or Christian doctrine of my choosing. After I review it and sit down with them to discuss what they’ve written, they then get ready to share it with the congregation on their Confirmation day. Every time that day comes around, every time I hear my students share what they’ve learned about the Lord and His Word, I’m astounded by some of the things that come out of their mouths. They speak with such assurance and eloquence, and yes – knowledge! I suppose I should expect that of them, but the wisdom they share always seems to be beyond their years, and because of that it’s something I love and look forward to every year.
Verses 30-34, Summary: I mention my confirmands and their wisdom today because it distinctly reminds me of what we see happening in our text today. You’ll recall from yesterday’s study that the Pharisees have begun a full-court press on the man who was blind but now can see. They are furious with him for his insolent attitude and for the way he is questioning them; questioning specifically their knowledge and authority as teachers of the things of God. At first the man seems to wonder why the Pharisees don’t get it; that is, why they’re having such a hard time understanding the simple fact of his healing and the way that it came about. But over the course of this increasingly contentious conversation, the man now realizes that it’s not an issue of them not understanding at all, but that they flatly refuse to accept what has transpired. They are entrenched in their unbelief, and they are intent on manipulating him into changing his story so that Jesus can be condemned over what has happened.
Now – let’s recollect something for a moment. This man has been an outsider for pretty much his whole life. Yes, he’s part of the community, and yes, he’s also part of the community of faith. But he was born blind, which means that in the eyes of his neighbors he is tainted. Remember, the common idea of the day is that the people think there’s sin in his family, obviously some great and shameful sin, for him to have been born with this condition. Furthermore, he has as a result spent the bulk of his life doing the only thing really open for him to do as a blind man – begging in the streets. So in essence, though it’s sad and unjust and a whole lot of other things, for all intents and purposes this man is looked at as a throwaway in his culture. A nobody. A person garnering no respect, and a person who’s probably not considered the sharpest knife in the drawer.
It is this person, with this label attached to his existence, with this lack of status and with a complete absence of any standing before anyone, who now rises like cream to the top of a milk can to speak with authority and conviction and truth. And as he speaks to this group of men who are belittling him, both they and we are astounded by what comes out of his mouth. Why? Because he speaks with assurance and eloquence, and yes, knowledge...and the wisdom he is dispensing is most certainly beyond his station in life — beyond what anyone would have ever expected him to pull out of a hat. That, in fact, is part of what makes his rebuttal, his rebuke of the Pharisees, such an amazing thing.
We don’t really need to rehash what the man says, because it is plain for us to see, isn’t it. We can simply summarize by saying that in contrast to the insipid theological mumbo-jumbo being spouted by religious pros in his midst, the blind man who was made to see points out to those in authority that they are more blind than he ever was – and the fact that they can’t see his point proves it. With that, of course, the deal is sealed. Our passage ends today with the thoroughly embarrassed, completely outwitted, totally shamed Pharisees putting the man out of the synagogue, excommunicating him from the community of faith, and consigning him to a life of exile.
As we wrap things up for the day, if that were the end of the story we might go away sad, shaking our heads and clucking our tongues that this man should suffer such a fate. But it is not the end of the story, and because it is not the end, we can look forward to an exciting conclusion. Even more, I would say to you that the conclusion we will witness is not only the formerly blind man’s conclusion, but by a grand and beautiful extension it is our conclusion as well. Stay tuned, and we’ll talk about that when we come together again on Monday.
Have a wonderful weekend everyone, be assured of the Lord’s gracious presence with each of you, and God-willing, we’ll all be together again at the first of the week to continue our time in God’s Word. Thanks so much for your time — take care, and I’ll see you again soon!