Friday, January 11, 2008

Repost with comments

I received a comment today from an anonymous visitor who read my John 6:52-59 post. Here is the original post, the anonymous comments, and my reply:

52Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?" 53Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

At each point in the conversation, the Jews become more offended at Jesus’ difficult teachings. Here, utterly appalled at His teaching that men should eat His flesh and drink His blood, they argue and debate amongst themselves. It was unthinkable to them that He could give life to the world through His flesh; and they did not understand the symbolism of “eating” His flesh. Have you ever devoured a book? It was so good that you couldn’t put it down. That’s what Jesus is saying. “You’ve got to want Me bad enough to eat Me; I’ve got to be your hunger and thirst, your passion. Don’t grumble about My teachings; don’t argue about My words. Want Me – not My miracles, just Me. Unless you are filled with Me – My Spirit as in the New Testament (Romans 8:4-12) – you have no life in you. If you deem My body inedible, if you can’t stomach Me, there is no hope of life for you.” There’s a deep and mystical, intensely intimate union. That’s what Jesus says.

The concept – seemingly easy to grasp – is that if one should eat physical bread, his life would be sustained, and thus applying this to true life, which involves eternal, joyful fellowship with God, the Jews could have understood Jesus to be speaking of the sacrifice of His body and His shedding of His blood to grant eternal life – and a Jew could make this connection with an understanding of the Old Testament. Anyone who believed in Christ’s becoming a perfect blood sacrifice in his own place, and for his own sins, would pass into eternal life. The feeding of the 5000 with physical bread signified the spiritual reality to which Jesus was now speaking. Just as the Son has the eternal life in Himself, through his inter-Trinitarian relationship with the Father, so anyone who ate Christ’s flesh would be given this same eternal life, through his relationship with the God-man, who can be united both to the Father and to mankind, by means of His divine and human nature, which exist in His one Person. Consider views of communion.

Catholicism takes this passage to support their view of the Eucharist (communion), or the Lord’s Supper, that of transubstantiation, where the bread and wine are said to actually become the body and blood of Jesus. Luther disagreed with this interpretation, and to this day, Lutherans hold to consubstantiation, where the Spirit and power of Christ is within the elements of communion; but they are not to be taken as the literal flesh and blood of Jesus – that would amount to cannibalism, said the Reformers. Other Protestants, however, hold neither of these views and claim rather that the elements are merely symbolic to help us recall the sacrifice of Christ as that which saves us. And still others liken communion to something in between Luther’s view and the symbolic-only view. For me, communion has power.

But notice what Calvin says commenting on this passage, and specifically Jesus’ repetitive use of the phrase, “And I will raise him up on the last day”: “It ought to be observed, that Christ so frequently connects the resurrection with eternal life, because our salvation will be hidden till that day. [We must hope for] the last resurrection. From these words, it plainly appears that the whole of this passage is improperly explained, as applied to the Lord’s Supper. For if it were true that all who present themselves at the holy table of the Lord are made partakers of His flesh and blood, all will, in like manner, obtain life; but we know that there are many who partake of it to their condemnation (1 Corinthians 11:26-29). And indeed it would have been foolish and unreasonable to discourse about the Lord’s Supper, before He had instituted it. It is certain, then, that he now speaks of the perpetual and ordinary manner of eating the flesh of Christ, which is done by faith only. And yet, at the same time, there is nothing said here that is not figuratively represented, and actually bestowed on believers, in the Lord’s Supper; and Christ even intended that the holy Supper should be, as it were, a seal and confirmation of this sermon. This is also the reason why the Evangelist John makes no mention of the Lord’s Supper.” So this passage often drums up that to which it doesn’t even speak. Rather it points to the unity of Christ and the Father, and the unity of Christ to the believer. Jesus is saying that His work is sufficient and efficient to accomplish the salvation of all united to Him by faith.

And notice v58. Jesus returns to the comparison between the manna and His flesh, with which He had begun this discourse; for it was necessary that He should close the sermon in this manner: “There is no reason why you should prefer Moses to Me, because he fed your fathers in the wilderness; since I supply you with far more excellent food, for I bring heavenly life with Me.” And finally in v59, John almost says it in passing that Jesus was teaching these things in the synagogue. Why? John wants us to understand that it is possible to be in a place of worship, in a place where the Scriptures are opened up on a daily basis, and yet to not understand anything at all about Jesus. People may be very religious, found often in church, where the Gospel is preached – even taking regular communion, thinking they are feasting on Jesus’ body and blood; yet many are still unconverted and have no idea what it means to feed on Christ for eternal life. My father-in-law visited Southeast several years ago now, and we were working out in the gym. We were jogging on the track and a lady in front of us was wearing a Biblical T-shirt, and he asked her the two questions that are useful for determining one’s understanding of Christianity. She failed the test, and he explained the Gospel to her. She was astonished that she could know she had eternal life, and she had been faithfully participating in service and worship at Southeast for 12 years.
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that you did not read the rest of John Chapter 6. This could be because it pokes some wholes in your theology.

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.

Jesus is not stuttering. The word is means "is" not "isn't".

How about when Jesus asked his 12 followers after the 5000 left. "Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"

Jesus knew exactly what the Jews thought he meant. He did not stop them and tell them "hey wait a minute guys. I meant that figuratively." No he asks them if they are going to leave also.

Again I think you have missed some very obvious things in your study of this saying. And it means everything. I suggest that you not be so critical of the Catholic view. It is the biblical view.
The Jews did not believe that he was the lamb. For the passover the Jews ate the lamb. They had to eat the lamb or they would not be spared. Jesus is the sacrificial lamb of god. We must eat the lamb. Literally.

1/10/2008 5:27 PM

Blogger Chip Crush said...

I find it interesting that you posted anonymously. I also find it interesting that you think I failed to read the rest of John 6. If you notice, your comment was left in the middle of a walk through the entire Gospel of John, including the whole of chapter 6. Furthermore, I don't mind having "wholes" poked in my theology, because it makes it more complete. Now, when "holes" are poked in my theology, that helps too, as I am encouraged to learn and carry on dialogue with those who hold different views. However, it's hard to dialogue with "anonymous."

To address your point, if you read the "whole" of John's Gospel, you'll notice that Jesus is nearly always referring to spiritual truths, and His audience is nearly always hearing Him thinking about the physical. Thus they nearly always miss the point. Take, for example, the conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. You who say that John 6 supports transubstantiation, do you also side with Nicodemus in John 3 that a man must come from his mother's womb a second time to be born again? Of course not. You're missing the spiritual reality to which Jesus is pointing. He is fulfilling the imagery of the Tabernacle completely.

You say in your conclusion that "this means everything." What do you mean? Why? Also, in my original post, I was not critical of the Catholic view. I laid out a brief synopsis of the different views on the communion elements. That's all.

Lastly, you say that Jesus is the sacrificial lamb of God. While I agree that He fulfilled the imagery of the Passover Lamb, He was not a literal lamb, which you would have to admit is your view, since you take things so "literally." When John the Baptist said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world," did he really see a lamb? Or did he see a Man who would fulfill that imagery, as the author of Hebrews tells us?

John 10:19-24

19At these words the Jews were again divided. 20Many of them said, "He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to Him?" 21But others said, "These are not the sayings of a Man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?" 22Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. 24The Jews gathered around Him, saying, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."

As Jesus explains His teaching, division among the people arises once again. Some of them claim that He is a demon-possessed lunatic, to teach things so contradictory to all the religious leaders of the Jews. This is the depth of great wickedness, to call Jesus a demon-possessed lunatic. But the truth, strong enough to maintain itself, cannot be undermined, as others are convinced that no demon-possessed person could speak with such reason and authority. Furthermore, these right-minded folks remind themselves of the blind man’s restored sight. We ought to be deeply grieved that the Church is torn by divisions arising among those who profess the same religion. When schisms arise, note that one or both parties are revolting from God’s pure doctrine. Yet, the fact that wicked men will never be able to hinder the power and goodness and wisdom of God from shining in the Gospel is the only protection of our faith.

So from this passage, let’s take six things away. (1) Jesus knows His sheep (intimately; He knows your name). (2) Jesus leads, as opposed to drives, His sheep; He goes before us down the right path. (3) Jesus feeds His sheep; remember the command to Peter at the end of this gospel; the feeding of the sheep is a great concern of the Good Shepherd. (4) Jesus saves His sheep (v7,9,11,15,17-18), by purchasing them with His life. He is the only Savior. (5) Jesus guards and protects His sheep (v12-13). (6) Jesus seeks His sheep (v16).

Hanukkah is, as Adam Sandler sings, “The Festival of Lights.” That title, of course, fits perfectly with our tour of tabernacle through John’s Gospel, given that Jesus is fulfilling the tabernacle imagery, including here the golden lampstand. Hanukkah (The Feast of Dedication) was not an Old Testament feast day; it was added during the inter-testamental period during the Maccabean revolt, in which Judas Maccabeus led a successful uprising against King Antiochus Epiphanes, who had harshly persecuted the Jews and profaned the Temple by sacrificing a pig to Zeus at the altar in 164 BC. The Jews celebrated their deliverance by the grace of God by lighting candles throughout the city. They remembered the renovations of the Temple, as the word translated “dedication” would better be rendered “renovation” – they had to clean up the mess left by the evil tyrant Antiochus. It’s similar to the Feast of Tabernacles, in the way it is carried out; and John relates this detail, because Jesus is the fulfillment of both feast days. Some say this description by John lends creditability to the apocrypha, especially the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees, which is found in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament – the Septuagint. The apocryphal books represent, in most cases, true historical accounts. But they fall short – even self-admitting in some places – of being the inspired word of God. We should, nevertheless, familiarize ourselves with them.

During this feast, there is still a controversy as to whether or not Jesus is the Messiah; and the people ask Him to tell them plainly. They charge His doctrine with obscurity, which, on the contrary, was abundantly plain and distinct, if the men who heard it had not been deaf. Of course, Jesus has already declared to be the Christ, at numerous times, but they have not believed Him on account of their wicked blindness.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

John 10:7-18

7Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before Me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14"I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me-- 15just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father--and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd. 17The reason My Father loves Me is that I lay down My life--only to take it up again. 18No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father."

First, Jesus is the door, or the gate, of the sheepfold. If the sheepfold signifies the elect, the true Church, eternal life, security, and good pasture, then it is only through Jesus that the sheepfold may be entered. When Jesus says, “All who ever came before Me,” He is not speaking of God’s prophets, but of everyone who offers life and salvation through some other way; and He calls them thieves and robbers. When Jesus says that the one who enters through Him will “come in and go out,” that is a phrase that means, “to dwell.” Those who are in Christ dwell in Christ, abide in Christ, rest in Christ, and find pasture. A pasture is a good place for sheep to stay. Jesus says that thieves come only to steal and kill and destroy. We are to be on guard, expecting assault, just as Paul tells us in Colossians 2:8. Jesus contrasts Himself with thieves, for He has no intentions of stealing, killing, or destroying; we ought to take comfort in His rod and staff (Psalm 23:4). He is life; He is truth; He is the only way, and in Him, there is not just life, but abundant and full life – eternal (high quality) life. Calvin says, “Life is continually increased and strengthened in those who do not revolt from [Jesus]. And, indeed, the greater progress that any man makes in faith, the more nearly does he approach to fullness of life, because the Spirit, who is life, grows in him.”

Second, Jesus is the Good Shepherd; He is so focused on the salvation of His sheep, that He does not even spare His own life. We saw that thieves, false teachers, destroy the sheep; now we are introduced to the hired hands, who are just nominal, uncaring shepherds; they may have sound doctrine and by such lead people to Christ, but their motives are impure, perhaps selfish, and not driven by and for Christ’s glory. The hired hands are not willing to sacrifice for the good of the sheep (unlike the pastor in The Mission). While they rightly take no ownership over the flock, as tenants of the owner, they ought to show care for His possessions. But they do not, and by fleeing in the face of danger reveal their hypocrisy.

On the other hand, the Good Shepherd lays His life, as the Lamb of God, down for His sheep. The Old Testament speaks of God as shepherd (Genesis 48:15; 49:24; Psalm 23; 28:9; 78:52; 80:1; Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 31:10; Ezekiel 34; Zechariah 13:7). The New Testament also speaks of Jesus this way: Matthew 26:31; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 7:17. Jesus, knowing that His sheep were in mortal danger, because of their sins, voluntarily sacrificed His own life, so that they would be saved. This is an example of paternal affection, as in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus implies that knowledge proceeds from love, and is accompanied by care. And just as He loves, knows, and cares for His sheep, His sheep love, know, and care for Him. Our intimacy with Jesus is likened to Jesus’ intimacy with God the Father. To say that God knows you is to say that He is committed to your redemption. This is how we can tell if we are His sheep – not that we won’t have moments of fleeing in the face of danger – but that we are driven by love for Him and His sheep and by progressing in obedience and knowledge of His ways.

Third, Jesus speaks of His sheep. The sheep in the fold are the people of Israel, whom the Pharisees were supposed to protect – but not all of them are Jesus’ sheep. Which sheep do belong to Jesus? Those who hear His voice and follow Him. Just as we saw in chapter six, those whom the Father has not given to Jesus will flee at the sound of His voice and refuse to believe Him. But those who are His are taught by the Father and will hear and follow Him. Jesus is going to take His true sheep, which hear His voice, out of the midst of the sheep of Israel, which belong to a different master. But that is not all: for He also has sheep who are not from the fold of Israel – and so He is going to call out His sheep from the Gentiles, just as He did from Israel, and bring them all together as His true people. There would no longer be any distinction between Jew and Gentile, but there would be one fold and one shepherd.

Augustine said that just as there are many wolves within the fold, there are many sheep outside the fold. Here Jesus calls certain unbelievers “sheep;” in so doing, not only does He point out what they will be, but He refers this to the election of God. We are already God’s sheep, before we are aware that He is our shepherd. Romans 5:10; Galatians 4:9 And He must bring them also. His mission is round up all those whom the Father has given Him, and He’ll do it perfectly and completely (John 6:37; 17:12). We see it evidenced by so many different kinds of people from all over the world following His voice (Revelation 5:9).

V17-18 are amazing, because Jesus actually says that He will lay His life down and take it up again. It has been said that nothing that happened on Good Friday cost Jesus His life. The thorny crown, the beatings, the weight of the cross, the nails through the hands and feet were not responsible for His death. A “normal” man undergoing that same crucifixion would have taken much longer to die than did Jesus, and the cause of death would have been asphyxiation for a “normal” man. But Jesus determined the right time for His death, and it wasn’t due to any outside cause. He laid down His life once His work was finished.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

John 10:1-6

1"I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." 6Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what He was telling them.

This chapter includes Jesus’ monologue after restoring the blind man’s sight and His later teaching at the Feast of Dedication. He calls Himself the gate, or the door, and the good shepherd; and He explains His authority to both lay down His life and take it back up again. And the audience is still divided and in suspense over His identity. In our tabernacle tour, we’re gazing at the golden lampstand, as Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness.

The first half of this chapter (21 verses) has clear ties to the previous one. The Pharisees, considered shepherds of the people of Israel, did not care for the blind man but harshly “drove” him – rather than “leading” him – out of the synagogue. Jesus found and brought the man to saving faith and then addressed the Pharisees who were with Him (the disciples were presumably with Him as well). After explaining that the Pharisees were truly the blind ones, Jesus then speaks this parable to everyone in earshot. John included very few parables in his Gospel – and even this parable is different from the typical parables of the synoptic gospels. For one thing, there is not one single point of similarity that Jesus is emphasizing, but He makes use of several different images of the illustration to apply to Himself in different ways. He speaks in v1-6 of three primary features: first, the door to the sheepfold, second, the good shepherd, and third, the good shepherd’s sheep.

The Pharisees were the thieves and robbers who were destroying the sheep by failing to enter the sheepfold through and lead the sheep (the children of God) to the gate, or the door, as other translations declare, which is Jesus Christ. The true shepherd, also Christ Himself, cares for the sheep and leads them to Himself as the only valid entrance to the sheepfold. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Some have said that the shepherd here can also be equated with the faithful Pastor or Minister or layman who leads people to Christ. It is certainly true that we (pastors, ministers, and laymen) are to shepherd the flock, but the context here is speaking of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

The watchman in v3 is God the Father, who opens the door for the Good Shepherd (Jesus has earned the “open door” by His works, unlike mere men), and the sheep (God’s children by election) listen to Jesus (efficacious grace), who knows them each by name (intimate foreknowledge) and leads them (rather than drives them) on the path to righteousness. The sheep (namely the blind man healed in this context) do not follow the stranger’s voice (the Pharisees), but they follow the Good Shepherd, because the Holy Spirit, who has regenerated them, gives them discernment. The elect cannot be led astray (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; 1 John 2:19). Though this truth does not prohibit warnings or encouragements.

When the Pharisees – and the rest of the audience – heard this parable, they did not understand. They should have thought of Ezekiel 34. There, God berates the religious leaders of the Jews as wicked shepherds who destroy the sheep. Therefore, God Himself, in the Person of the Son of David, will come to shepherd the sheep. Jesus is basically telling the Jewish leaders that this prophecy is coming true; they are the wicked shepherds of Ezekiel 34 for failing to enter the sheepfold through the gate and lead the sheep through the only door.

Calvin says of v1-6, “It is useless, I think, to scrutinize too closely every part of this parable. Let us rest satisfied with this general view, that, as Christ states a resemblance between the [true] Church and a sheepfold, in which God assembles all His people, so He compares Himself to a door [or a gate], because there is no other entrance into the Church but by Himself. Hence it follows that they alone are good shepherds who lead men straight to Christ; and that they are truly gathered into the fold of Christ, so as to belong to His flock, who devote themselves to Christ alone.” In v7-21, Jesus comments on those three features, explaining them in order.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

John 9:35-41

35Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when He found him, He said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" 36"Who is He, Sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in Him." 37Jesus said, "You have now seen Him; in fact, He is the One speaking with you." 38Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped Him. 39Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." 40Some Pharisees who were with Him heard Him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?" 41Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains."

After all this, Jesus found the healed man, now hopelessly excommunicated from the synagogue, which would have been the only spiritual hope he likely thought he’d ever had, and explained to him who He truly was. The man did not know then who was the Messiah, or the Son of Man, that he could believe in Him; but Jesus told him, “You have seen Him” – which was a statement that summarized the true meaning of the miracle. By the mighty work of Christ, the man had come to see Jesus, with physical eyes, when he had always been blind before; but in the same way, it was through Jesus’ work that he came to see Him with spiritual eyes, and so have eternal life. This is another example that perfectly fleshes out the process of John’s purpose statement in John 20:31. And the man worshipped Jesus. Convinced that Jesus was Messiah, the man, in complete admiration, bowed down before Him. It calls to mind John 6:37, “All the Father gives Me will come to Me and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”

Jesus then expanded the principle taught to the healed man to a general truth taught to all around Him: only the blind need to be given sight, and so He came to give sight to the blind. But when He says, “For judgment I have come,” He means to make those who already see become blind. When one recognizes that he cannot see God because of his sin and ignorance, Jesus is always willing to give him spiritual sight. But He hardens in their blindness those who believe they are already spiritually knowledgeable – they are “blinded by the Light.” This was the purpose for many of the prophets, including Isaiah and Jesus, who, as Isaiah did, fulfilled Isaiah 6:9, which reads, “He said, ‘Go and tell this people: ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’” If the Pharisees knew of their blindness, Christ would forgive their sins – but since they already thought that they could “see,” in a spiritual sense, He left them in their sinful state. This hardening of sinners, or giving them over to their sins, is a terrible and righteous judgment of God (see Romans 1:18-32). Let us be thankful that, in His great mercy, He has chosen to show us our need and open up our eyes instead!

Some of the Pharisees acknowledge that Jesus insults them, so they ask, “Are we blind too?” First we see their pride, manifested by their being satisfied with themselves and refusing to have anything taken from them, and their anger at Christ by arguing with Him, because He has pointed out their wound. Second, the word “too” is emphatic; for it means that, though all the rest be blind, still it is improper that they should be reckoned as belonging to the ordinary rank. It is too common a fault among those who are distinguished above others, that they are intoxicated with pride, and almost forget that they are men. The rhetorical question is meant to draw a negative answer, “Of course you’re not blind.” But of course, they were blind! And Jesus’ response is not a simple, “Yes, you are blind.” Rather it’s as if He says, “If you would acknowledge your disease, it would not be altogether incurable; but now because you think that you are in perfect health, you continue in a desperate state.”

Finally, one commentator points out the interesting fact that there’s no mention of the blind man’s name. Why didn’t John slipped in the man’s name? Was he Peter or Joseph or Matthew? Perhaps John is saying, “Look, I don’t want to tell you his name, because slip in your own name, because this is every man’s name. This is your name; this is my name. We need the touch of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to see. John Newton, blinded by then broken in then healed from his sinful state, wrote, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see!”

Monday, January 07, 2008

John 9:18-34

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." 24A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. "Give glory to God," they said. "We know this Man is a sinner." 25He replied, "Whether He is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" 26Then they asked him, "What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?" 27He answered, "I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become His disciples, too?" 28Then they hurled insults at him and said, "You are this Fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this Fellow, we don't even know where He comes from." 30The man answered, "Now that is remarkable! You don't know where He comes from, yet He opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does His will. 32Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing." 34To this they replied, "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!" And they threw him out.

The Pharisees (here called Jews) are not willing to believe that this man was truly healed of blindness until they had called his parents to testify. They had just divided over the miracle, and now they try to justify their disbelief by saying that there really is no miracle – only some kind of hoax. They find the man’s parents, hoping that their testimony will prove their faulty thinking to be correct, but instead, the parents testify that this man is their son, who had been born blind.

However, unlike the man himself, as we will see by his second testimony, his parents are afraid of the Jews, and so they refused to answer any questions beyond the circumstances of his birth, pointing out instead that he was of legal age to answer for himself. They prudently avoid danger in the presence of the Jewish leaders, though they reveal their ingratitude by their unwillingness to glorify God by attesting to the miracle. By this time, the Pharisees had already made it clear that they would expel from the synagogue anyone who professed that Jesus was the Christ; being excommunicated was not a sacrifice they were willing to make, and so they chose not to pursue any further knowledge of Jesus, being content with their comfortable ignorance. And they further shift this burden of testimony onto their son. How many today are the same, and would rather live in their comfortable sins than be willing to listen to the truth that Jesus will one day come to judge the world! Let us assure our hearts that the pursuit of the truth, which is in Jesus, is well worth any sacrifice that comes with it, including excommunication. Consider Martin Luther and countless others…

The Pharisees question the man again, this time exhorting him (ironically) to “give glory to God” by telling the truth – which for them seems to be that Jesus is a sinner (Joshua 7:19 – “Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give Him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.’”). They don’t really want the truth, which would glorify God, unless it happens to coincide with their beliefs. The man claims nothing about Jesus’ moral condition, but simply restates that he has experienced an extraordinary miracle. He does not fear those who have the power to excommunicate him, for he has been an outcast his whole life. He knows what Jesus has done for him, and he will not deny it. But the Jews continue to press him, asking him again of the details of the affair. At this point, he turns to sarcasm – he has already told them all about the healing, so maybe the reason they want to keep hearing about it is that, deep down, they actually want to be Jesus’ disciples.

Calvin says, “Not only does he persist in his opinion, but he freely and severely reproaches them, that after having abundantly ascertained and known the truth, they endeavor to bury it by their continual inquiries. He charges them also with wicked hatred of Christ, when he asks, ‘Do you want to become His disciples, too?’ For he means that, though they were a hundred times convinced, they are so strongly prejudiced by wicked and hostile dispositions that they will never yield. It is an astonishing display of freedom, when a man of mean and low condition, and especially liable to be reproached on account of his poverty, fearlessly provokes the rage of all the priests against himself.”

In a way, this man was similar to the crippled man at the Pool of Bethsaida (John 5) – Jesus healed him physically, at first, but the man did not yet know and believe in Jesus as the Christ until He came to him later and explained the Gospel. But in another way, he was much different. The crippled man seemed unwilling to say anything definite about the Man who had healed him, for fear of the Jews. But this man is very straightforward and unafraid. In fact, he becomes very critical with the Pharisees, and is eventually driven out of the synagogue. Even though he had not yet learned the truth about Christ, he emphatically states that he must be a prophet, come from God.

The Pharisees’ response, hurling insults at the man and accusing him of being Jesus’ disciple, reveals the heart of the dispute: they still believe they are following the Law of Moses, whom they knew was from God. They did not know if Jesus was from God, so if He disagreed with Moses, Jesus must be wrong. Their reasoning is certainly correct, but their understanding of Moses is woefully inadequate. Moses did not contradict Jesus – he prophesied of Jesus. And Jesus, as we know, was far superior to Moses. But they were blinded by their own prideful tendency to use Moses as a guide to earning self-righteousness, and completely missed the Gospel truths about Jesus that Moses had proclaimed.

The healed man did not undertake to argue about the interpretation of the law with the Pharisees, but still declared, all the more emphatically, that if Jesus was a sinner, it is certainly remarkable that God would use such a Man to give sight to the blind, given that this type of healing had never been done by all the prophets before Him! The man uses this logic to confirm his prior assessment that Jesus was no sinner, but rather a prophet from God. The Pharisees were outraged at this rebuke, and, making a snide comment about how his birth as a blind man indicated that he was a sinner from the womb, they expelled him from the synagogue (excommunication). The man is cast out. (See John 6:37).