Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

March 06, 2004

John 9 & 10

Well, this week I've been reading John 10 every day, and about half way through the week I realized that it was, in large part, a commentary on John 9. See, this is why I like re-reading frequently. I'm slow, but I get it in the end.

In John 9 Jesus heals a fellow who has been commonly identified ever since as "the man born blind."Right at the beginning of the chapter some disciples ask Jesus an obtuse question. They have a mechanistic quid pro quo understanding of sin. "Teacher," they ask. "Who sinned, causing this man to be born blind. Him, or his parents?"

Obtuse, yes. Look closely at the logic of the question. The man would have had to have sinned in his mother's womb to have caused, in this view, his own blindness. But so wedded are they to this notion that the malady must have been caused by a particular sin, that they leave all logic behind. But as long as we hang on to this notion of sin, we hang onto the corresponding notion that we can be saved by means of our own righteousness. In other words, if this man's malady could be traced to a particular sin, then all that was needed was to identify the sin and then make the appropriate penance or sacrifice. You see, the question the disciples asked reveals their legalistic mindset and their continuing failure to understand the grace of God on offer from the man they called "teacher."

But at least they asked! Later in the chapter, the Pharisees condemn the same man (now miraculously healed of his blindness) by saying, "Get out of here! You were steeped in sin since birth!" The undeniable fact of his healing was an affront to their whole understanding of sin and righteousness. If this man's healing represented the grace of God to one who must certainly have been a deeply sinful being (for what other explanation for his former blindness could there be), then their whole legalistic mindset was called into question. God's grace to a blind beggar amounted to a rebuke of the Pharisees and their ilk, and they saw that immediately. So in desperation they toss the man out of the synagogue and reinforce their own prejudice with a priestly condemnation. "You may have been healed, but you're still no good. Get out, for your presence here is a challenge to our authority, and that can't be allowed."

Up to this point, the blind man wasn't sure what to think of Jesus. When the Pharisees gave him their ultimatum, forcing him to choose them or Jesus, he refused to condemn the man who'd healed him. Only then was he able to finally draw the last necessary conclusion. Confronted again by Jesus, he worships Him. "Lord, I believe."

Which brings us to chapter 10, or just about. Christ's commentary on these events begins in the last verse of chapter 9. There are those, He says, who can be considered my sheep. They hear my voice and recognize me for who I am. By implication the formerly blind man was one of these. Also, there are those who are in essense false shepherds, usurpers, who "call" the sheep, just as any shepher would, but who are really sheep-stealers. But the good thing is, those who belong to Christ are able to recognize the imposter-shepherds for what they are. This was the situation in the chapter 9 dialogue between the Pharisees and the formerly blind man. In essence, the Pharisees were saying, Quit following that Galilean. He's not your shepherd, we are. But the man did not recognize their voices. They did not sound like the shepherd he knew. Immediately after, meeting Jesus in the Temple court, and hearing Jesus declare Himself to be the Son of Man, the formerly blind man instantly recognizes his true Shepherd. The others, making their rival claim on the flock, came only to kill and destroy. But Jesus, the good shepherd, comes to lead His flock to green pastures, and beside still waters.

And now may I just add, Glory be to God on high! His grace is incredible, is it not?


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