Greetings, everybody! God’s grace, mercy, and peace to each of you in our Lord Jesus, and welcome to Wednesday’s edition of EDiBS. Thanks for being with me today as we open God’s Word together where, as most of you know, we’ve been moving steadily through the Gospel according to John for some time now. Today finds us closing in on the backside of John 9, so let’s pray as we go to the Scriptures together.
Father, you are great and mighty, and we praise your holy name today as we come before you. Thank you for the gift of your Word and the gift of being able to study it as your people. We ask for wisdom today; wisdom and understanding, that we may embrace and appropriate by faith all that you desire us to learn. Thank you again for this time and for your presence with us now. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
As we get started today, we continue with the saga of the man born blind but who has been given sight by the Lord Jesus. It’s a truly amazing story – so amazing that some think it’s a hoax. How to solve the matter? That’s our focus for the day!
18The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man's parents. 19"Is this your son?" they asked. "Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?" 20"We know he is our son," the parents answered, "and we know he was born blind. 21But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself." 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. 23That was why his parents said, "He is of age; ask him."
My son had some kind of an ear/nose/throat infection, and his ears were plugged up. He was talking funny, and he was hearing funny as well – a little bit like that seemingly selective hearing that we talked about here a few days back! The way his condition manifested itself on one particular morning was when I told him to make sure and bring the eggs in after he fed the chickens. He went out, fed the animals, and came back in without the eggs. “Jacob, where are the eggs?” I asked.
“Eggs?” He said.
“Yes, eggs. I told you to bring in the eggs when you were done feeding the animals.”
“No you didn’t,” he said.
All you parents know what I’m talking about, right? This is the very personification of exasperation in action! After a little bit of fatherly interrogation, I was finally able to surmise that what Jacob thought I had said to him was to “use his legs;” in other words, to get moving and do his job promptly. That’s actually not an unreasonable rendering coming from him, because like most fathers, I’ve been known through the years to tell my boy to pick up the pace every now and then. But on that occasion, regardless of what was said and as direct as my words were to him, it was as if he had never heard them at all.
Verse 18: As we pick up our reading today and continue on with the account of the blind man who now can see, we do so at a remarkable point in the narrative. It’s remarkable because when we left off yesterday, we had just covered five explicitly detailed verses wherein our main character plainly told the Pharisees that yes, he had been born blind, that yes, he could now see, and that yes, it was through the actions of Jesus that he came to be healed. But now as we move into verse 18, the first thing we see is that after all of that, it’s as though he had never said anything at all. The Pharisees don’t believe his testimony. They have dismissed his words as a fairytale because to them there is no logical way that what he is saying could be true. As a result, they move to put a stop to all of this folly rot, and the way they do it is by summoning his parents to tell the truth about the situation. What they get, however, is not a debunking of the story; it’s a confirmation of it.
Verses 19-21: In verses 19-21 we have the exchange, and right off we see that it’s an exchange laced with threats on the one hand and fear on the other. Mom and Dad know that the Pharisees are not to be tangled with, but they also know that there’s no denying what has happened to their son. Is there any way out of this dilemma? Yes, there is one way, though it’s not the most honorable thing to do. Instead of standing by their son, his parents let their fear get the best of them, and essentially, they hang him out to dry. “You know what? He’s our son and all, but we don’t know anything about how he came to see, and besides, he’s an adult; let him speak for himself.”
Verses 22-23: At this point we need to ask ourselves why this man’s folks would do this to him. What is driving their fear? Sure, it’s an intimidating thing to be on the witness stand, as it were, being questioned by a group of powerful men...but what’s really going on? Why let your own child be fed to the wolves?
We get the answer in the final section of today’s passage. First, we would do well to remember that by this time in our Lord’s ministry, the Pharisees are quite familiar with Him. It’s no secret around town that they can’t stand the Guy, and it’s also no secret that they’re out to get Him. So incensed are they by the ministry of Christ that a decree has been made: anyone caught perpetrating the idea, or even acknowledging the idea, that Jesus is the Christ will be put out of the synagogue. What does that mean? It means they’ll be excommunicated. And in Jewish culture, to be excommunicated from the synagogue doesn’t simply mean that you lose your church membership, it means that you experience the complete ostracizing of the entire community. You become persona non grata. People no longer do business with you, no longer talk to you, no longer acknowledge your presence on the street. You literally do not exist anymore, and as such, to be put out of the synagogue is to be consigned to a life of exile. There’s no longer a way to support yourself; no longer a way to have any kind of standing in the community. Basically, you’re toast. And for our formerly blind man’s parents this is a double threat, because number one, the community already assumes something is wrong with them due to their son’s blindness, and number two, if they’re put out, it’s not like their son has a flourishing career whereby he can support them. The only option this mother and father see for themselves is the option of self-preservation. And so it is that they put the responsibility of this mess back on the shoulders of their offspring. When we come back together next time, we’ll begin to find out how he does with it all.
As we wrap things up for the day, it’s striking to me that so much trouble can come through one man’s witness to a simple truth..and yet, the gospel of our Lord Jesus tends to do that, doesn’t it. I’m also struck by the action of the blind man’s parents...not because they acted like snakes, but because it causes me to ask myself how often I’ve opted for self-preservation in similar situations — something, perhaps, for us all to think about as we close.
I’m so grateful for your time today, everyone; I hope to see you back here tomorrow to have at it again, and until then, God’s joy and peace be your strength as you go through the rest of your day! Blessings in Christ, and take care!