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John 9:18-25, NIV
18 The 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. 21 But 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." 22 His 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. 23 That was why his parents said, "He is of age; ask him." 24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. "Give glory to God," they said. "We know this man is a sinner." 25 He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!"
August 29, 2011The man who had been born blind was telling them the story of how, after talking to Jesus, he was suddenly able to see for the first time in his life. But they refused to take his word for it. And ordered his parents to come in for questioning.
Not believing anything we don't want to believe--that might be human nature. We are all guilty of skepticism, many times over. Anything can happen in the world of children, but when we grow up, we know better. Or do we?
This past Saturday I went to see a delightful rendition of "Peter Pan." The child Wendy was fascinated by the bravery and independence of Peter. Peter was fascinated by all the stories Wendy knew. In no time at all, Wendy could fly across the stage with Peter and do all sorts of wonderful and exciting things. Peter informed Wendy that a fairy dies whenever a child no longer believes in fairies. However, the audience believed and was able to restore life to a dying fairy. I was there and saw it happen. Had anyone admitted to being skeptical, that person would have been booed right out of the theater.
After Wendy became an adult, she lost her sense of wonder and didn't believe in flying anymore. Grownups know better, don't they! Isn't it interesting that in Luke 18:17 Jesus is quoted as saying, "Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Maybe these old men, who felt so righteous as they stood in judgment of anyone associated with Jesus, needed to rekindle the child that had died within them. It might do us good to hang out with the little ones and experience again the marvels of childhood.
More journal entries
December 19, 1983If this man had really been born blind, it was an extraordinary miracle. Even in our day, with all our advanced technology and medical know-how, it would still appear to us as an extraordinary event.
The blind man seems to have been emboldened by the miracle Jesus did for him. The words he speaks to his critics and not the words we expect to hear from a blind beggar. But this courage did not spread to his parents. They feared being excommunicated, isolated, shunned by their local community. They were not prepared to survive that kind of treatment.
These Jewish leaders are forcing people to take a stand. Are you for Jesus and against us; or are you for us and against Jesus?
Was Jesus from God or was he a sinner, just a regular guy? These men will forever wrestle with that question. The blind man had evidence and knew Jesus was not a sinner, because once he was blind and now he can see. But the inquisitors would not believe, preferring to think of Jesus as an impostor.
December 20, 1983They didn't want to believe yet persisted in their questioning. Why? They were looking for the evidence that would discredit their opponent. They had to prove Jesus wrong. They should have put their energy into trying to open themselves to the truth.
It's so easy to understand these men. Defenders of the faith, champions of religious tradition and practice. Here in America we could have used these men back in the 50's when prayer was removed from the public schools. We were hoodwinked by an emotionally disturbed and vindictive woman. Now that we have 20 years to reflect on that decision, the progress made since then does not seem beneficial. The same will probably be true for Sunday merchandizing. All the stores are open for business on Sunday now. How long will it take for people to acknowledge that we all need a Sabbath day of rest?
Open to God, openness to truth--What does that look like? Openness leaves room for all sorts of ideas to come in, so in fear we keep the door closed. These religious leaders closed the door on Jesus, locked it and threw the keys away. Their hearts were so hardened, they couldn't believe in a God who might surprise them in unexpected ways.
December 21, 1983Is this your son. . . ?We know he belongs to us. We know he was born blind. But we don't know anything beyond that! Their knowledge didn't go far enough. They knew what everyone else knew, but when their answers required faith and courage, their knowledge withered, just melted away. They knew what it was safe to know and would go no further.
They implied they had no idea how it happened that now he can see. There's fear and cowardice behind those words. They had been told many times by their son how it happened and it should have been easy enough to track Jesus down. When blind Bartimaeus was healed the crowds knew Jesus by name. Why didn't this crowd know who Jesus was?
Fear and cowardice. I know those words. I'd like to invite a friend to go with me to the Needlework Christmas Party tomorrow at church, but. . . What am I afraid of? A "no" to my invitation? Or the responsibility of a "yes"? Instead of expecting too much of people am I expecting too little? Afraid of a challenge so I succumb to mediocrity? Afraid of doing the unpopular thing and not being appreciated or liked? Appearing stupid, strange? Afraid of hearing myself talk for fear I may say something stupid or I may stutter and make a fool of myself?
Fear and cowardice. Sometimes it's just a matter of survival. It's smart to live; foolish to die.
December 26, 1983We don't know, ask him. . .This story is getting no where!Fear. That's something I know about. It determines my behavior also. Fear of the consequences. What will happen if I do or say this thing? Fear of consequences can be a deterrent against bad and foolish behavior, and in that sense fear is good. Fear can also be a deterrent to honest communication when what I think and feel is not OK to the other.
His parents were afraid of the consequences of being honest!
December 27, 1983"Give glory to God." Was that phrase the equivalent of swearing to tell the truth? A reminder to this man to tell the truth? Yes, they were correct, everyone should give glory to God, but they didn't know who God was. They claimed to know that Jesus was a sinner. They could never believe the Trinity!--three in one. They couldn't even believe two in one. Belief begins with desire and their problem was they had no desire to believe Jesus and God were one.
December 28, 1983He is a sinner. A sinner meant Jesus is a man like us. The blind man was no authority on the origins of Jesus. But this much he did know, he had been blind all his life until Jesus healed him.
It seems they meant Jesus was working against God and therefore was a blaspheming heretic Then
In one Scripture Jesus himself said a good tree bears good fruit and an evil tree bears evil fruit. I keep coming back to this thought, just think what God would do through us if we were so totally committed to him, desiring only his will, loving only him.
In my observations, good fruit doesn't necessarily follow being good. I bet the lives of our greatest media evangelists are not as good as the lives of many of the people they are preaching to. I'm being cynical now which will lead me nowhere. Think what great works they would do if they surrendered themselves totally to God! Yes, God does use sinners to do good works, and when things go right these sinners have less and less desire to sin. Time with God changes our interests and desires. Glimpses of heaven keep our gaze off the things that distract. If God could just get his people to look at him instead of at their natural circumstances. My sin is not going to prevent God from working through me. But my sin will prevent God from working in me fully.
How can good works come from an evil life?--it's not likely but it can and does happen. How can sinners do good things?--it happens all the time. The people in our text were arguing about something that wasn't the real issue and for which there can be no definitive answer. The issue was in recognizing God. Who was blind? The blind man or the Jewish leaders?
Recognizing God was/is good; failing to recognize God was/is evil. John Wesley said read the Bible with the intent of encountering God. How do I encounter God in this passage? With the blind man I can say, "Jesus, thank you that I am not what I used to be. Thanks for opening my eyes to your presence, your love, forgiveness, mercy, gentleness, loving-kindness and faithfulness." Once I lived as though you were not important. You hardly existed for me at all. Now you are real, vital to my living. You have set my face on a path toward Home, where my heavenly Father waits eagerly for me. Words cannot express my gratitude, only a lifetime of commitment on my part will do.