Monday, May 21, 2007

comments on John 9

I’m in the book of John today and you know how tempting it is for me to go to chapter one, (or go and comment on 1 Peter one…or for that matter begin at Genesis 1, but since I am on chapter 9, that’s where I’ll begin.

The first three verses tell of the disciples question about the man born blind. Whose sin is this poor man being punished for. Jesus answer of course is that he’s not being punished for anyone’s sin but that he was born blind “in order that the workings of God should be manifested.”

This is evidence to me that ALL THINGS are of God. In this case, a miracle of healing was going to be performed to bear witness to the power of God manifested by Christ. I believe that God is sovereign and that what He does is good, even if it doesn’t seem to be in human terms. Even if there are not signs, wonders and miracles, what He has done is good, and His testing and challenges, are not to destroy us but part of the creation process. We would not be who we are without the sufferings of molding and the times in the kiln.

In verse four Jesus says, WE must work the works of Him Who sent ME. I notice the word WE and I don’t think He is using the royal we….I think he is including us….as his own body….partnering with Him in doing the work of Our Father.

In verse five, he says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the world’s Light.” This reminds me that He also said in Matthew 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Also Acts 13:47 he says, “I have set you to be alight for the Gentiles….and it also reminds me of the first chapter of John verse 4 - 9….”In Him was life and the life was the light of men…that illumines every person.” We are his body and we share his function of illuminating the world with the light…which is life of God….which is the eternal kind of life. Often people have expectations of us, and will be disappointed in us if we don’t live up to those expectations, but as Jesus said, in the previous chapter – John 8:29, “I do nothing of Myself (of My own accord or on My own authority), but I say [exactly] what My Father has taught Me.” This is our pattern and our ideal as we make choices whether to please men or to please God. Jesus was a disappointment to those who expected Him to set up an earthly kingdom, and we will disappoint people too, whose expectations for us conflict with the way Father wants us to live His life… Anyhow…moving along….

I would love to know why Jesus chose to use mud and saliva in healing the man….His methods are sometimes surprising to say the least….in any case, I suppose there is demonstrated a trusting and obedience on the part of the man healed…or maybe Jesus didn’t want him to be able to see Him and identify Him until after the Jews had grilled him. But when he was asked he bore witness that he had been healed by Jesus, but he did not know where he was….perhaps he wouldn’t have recognized Jesus as he had never seen Him yet.

In v. 16 where the man has been brought to the Pharisees, they said, “This Man (Jesus) is not from God, because He does not observe the Sabbath.” Once again, Jesus didn’t live up to the standards that the Pharisees had set, but He certainly was sent from God….and pleased God. We are always doing this to each other….”If you loved God, you would do ___.” (Fill the blank with what the speaker expects) If you loved your children you’d spank them….If you loved your children, you would never strike them…. So they got the “therefore” wrong. Because Jesus didn’t conform to their interpretation of the Sabbath, they ruled Him not to be of God. The arrogance of the elite. It’s why we need to do only what we see the Father doing….and we have to know Him personally not just through the interface of the elite.

So the Pharisees next interviewed the parents…who chose the institution over the Life/Light. Afraid to lose their place in the synagogue, they pled ignorance. Verse 22 demonstrates that even before the crucifixion of Jesus, believers were being expelled from Judaism. They couldn’t follow Jesus and have the institution too. Some weighed the cost longer than others. Look at Nicodemas and Joseph of Arimithea…secret believers….but eventually they had to make a choice whether to be a pillar in the synagogue or a lively stone in the body of Christ. The parents, in this story bowed to social pressure to avoid becoming pariahs.

Meanwhile, the Pharisees went back to the man and harassed him until in verse 25 he says,” I do not know whether He is a sinner and wicked or not. But one thing I do know that whereas I was blind before, now I see.” He seemed to be trying to preserve his place in the mainstream too, but they prodded him until he was frustrated and said, “I already told you and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Can it be that you wish to become His disciples also?”

At this, of course, they went ballistic.I like the Amplified which states,”they jeered, they sneered…etc” and the verbal battle escalates, till in a rage, the leaders show their conceit and their utter contempt for the laity, and they shout,” You were wholly born in sin (from head to foot); and do you (presume to) teach us?” …”So they cast him out (threw him clear outside the synagogue.)

I wonder whether if he had not faced this persecution, he might just have settled back into his old life (only with his sight) and never have come to believe in and follow Christ. But Jesus, after the man had been cast out, then chose to go and look him up….anonymously, for the man had not yet seen Him….he was blind….Jesus asked him, “Do you believe in and adhere to the Son of Man?” And the man, who had nothing left to lose….he had already been kicked out….said, (this guy has some personality I think) “Who is He, Sir: Tell me, that I may believe in and adhere to Him.” When Jesus identified himself, immediately the man said, “Lord I believe”….and worshiped Him.

It seems to me that there is a very strong object lesson in this story. It wasn’t just a case of a blind man being healed. But he was showing them something about the Kingdom of God…Jesus was ALWAYS teaching about the kingdom of God. So when He stated in v. 2 that the purpose of the man being born blind was so that “the workings of God should be manifest” ….well now He comes around in the last three verses of the chapter to the moral of the story.

Jesus says in v. 39, “I came into this world for judgment (as a Separator, in order that there may be separation between those who believe on Me and those who reject me) AMP. It’s quite plain that the parents chose their status in the institution over the light and the life of Christ. Their son, chose to pay the price of losing his temporal status, in order to receive and believe In Christ. In order to drive the message home, Jesus goes on to say, “…to make the sightless see and to make those who see become blind.”

The blind man had received his natural sight, but he had also received his spiritual sight. It’s another sort of literary device…if you will… that I always see in Jesus’ teaching….what I call… “the turn”…when Jesus turns in mid sentence, or mid story…anyway…without much warning…to the spiritual.

(Like for example in Luke 21:18 where he has just given a hideous litany of persecutions which He says we will face…including being put to death….and then He ends with, “ But there shall not an hair of your head perish.” He has turned to the spiritual and though the hair of your head sounds like a very physical symbol, He obviously doesn’t mean we won’t suffer physically…even die….but that spiritually, we will be safe and secure. I digress….but this defines what I refer to when using the term “the turn”)

So this use of “the turn” is something that the Pharisees did not fail to notice, and they then asked (rhetorically I’m sure), “Are we also blind?” This very nicely set Him up, so Jesus replied, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but because you now claim to have sight, you sin remains. [If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but because you insist, ‘We do see clearly,’ you are unable to escape your guilt.]

There might be a bit of a case here for the idea that those who have never been given an opportunity to hear about Christ, will be held to a different standard than those who have …as it says in Luke 12:48 “But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” I believe that they will simply be brought in to the kingdom at another stage according to 1 Cor. 15:22-23 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

Be that as it may, I think the lesson Jesus is presenting is, that the only way to escape our guilt is to admit it. Pride keeps us blind. How can we ever be taught if we are proud enough to think we have nothing more to learn?


paige said...

i've never struggled with thinking that i have nothing more to learn ~it's always come pretty naturally that if i believe God is who He says He is, then of course He will do what is right... ~ but i love what you've written here & to me it is a reminder of all that is hoped *for*... i find so many times we are focused on the temporal realm that we miss that the things hoped for are things not yet seen. Reminds me why i need to be "joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer".
Love you mom.

mamalena said...

No...I should say not! Never was a heart more open to receive from God that yours is Paige....But yes, it's true that the temporary things seem so real. A door has to somehow open in order for us to see into that other room. Lucky for us, Jesus is the door.

I love you too! Thanks for your comments.......Mumsie

mamazee said...

i love the explanation about "if you were blind, you would be guiltless" - i've read that passage a zillion times and just glossed over those words - how often do i do that? :) - i figure it's too late, and it must mean something...