29 July 2017

John 9:13-23

“Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’ And they were divided.” (v. 16)

Psalm: Psalm 44:1-8


The healing of a blind man (John 9:1-12) might seem to us to be a purely good act, what's not to like here? Unfortunately from the perspective of 1st-century Judaism there is quite a lot not to like. As with many other events, Jesus' actions here seem to divide opinion. The initial difficulty is that Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath, the day of rest, when no work should be done, and by the interpretation of the time Jesus had broken the Sabbath law and worked. Even Jesus had commented that "we must work the works of him who sent me" (John 9:4).

For the Jews, the law was God's greatest gift to them. So how could Jesus claim to be from God, but not keep God's laws? He did not conform to their expectations. So they set up an investigation or even a trial, interrogating the key witnesses. The blind man's understanding of Jesus seems to have grown a bit, for now he is not just a man called Jesus (verse 11) but a prophet (verse 17).

The danger or threat of the situation is more apparent in the parents' response. They do not want to get involved in the sign or its significance at all. They will acknowledge him as their son, but refuse to answer the difficult questions deflecting them back at their son. They are clearly worried about being "put out of the synagogue" (v. 22), in other words being disowned by the community. A fate that it seems often befell Paul as he travelled around the Mediterranean with the gospel. It is likely that this happened to many early Christians - the blind man seems to represent them, for he was later thrown out.

Of course, they were not thrown out because Jesus healed on the Sabbath; but because many could not accept him as God's Son. To use the terminology of John's Gospel, they would not see. It is sad that Jesus was such a divisive figure for his own people.

To Ponder

  • In our day Jesus is still on trial; how can we explain our faith in terms that people can understand?
  • To what extent are we the parents and afraid of being rejected by our communities and so we fail to speak out? How might we overcome this?

Bible notes author

June Feather

June Feather is a manager and Religious Studies teacher in a sixth form college. She preaches in the Cleveland and Danby Circuit, and feels privileged to live in such a lovely area with its country and coastal walks.