Friday, March 7, 2014

Love On John's Terms (part 20)

Jesus, apparently uninterested in the background of the blind man that He understands Himself as charged to heal, and concerning Himself only with the fact that He must “perform the deeds of the one who sent me as long as it is daytime” (John 9:4a), took steps to deliver sight to this previously blind individual.  The result of Jesus’ action seems to have generated confusion along with a bit of anger, while also demonstrating that this man was well-known to the community and that his condition was common knowledge.  Questions were asked:  “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” (9:9a)  Some confidently answered “yes,” while others said “no.” 

Undoubtedly, a natural incredulity was at work here, in that even if a person may have been reasonably certain that this was indeed the beggar with which they were familiar, the fact of his now being able to see was something of a confusing matter, as people simply did not go from being blind for an entire life to seeing---such was entirely unexpected and contrary to human experience (this then is not unlike the Resurrection).  Eventually, the matter and the man was brought to the attention of the Pharisees, who offered up their own line of questioning, while the author take the opportunity to insert the previously unknown fact that Jesus had performed this act of healing on the Sabbath. 

Presumably, for the author, until those concerned with the important matter of covenant markers (Sabbath-keeping, circumcision, and dietary/purity laws) were involved, healing on the Sabbath was not an issue.  This, of course, becomes the primary concern for the Pharisees, as they say “This man, “ meaning Jesus, “is not from God, because He does not observe the Sabbath” (9:16b).  Others disagreed.  The formerly blind man, when queried, offers his own assessment, which was “He is a prophet” (9:17b).  This, just as was the case with mentions of “Samaritan” in the eighth chapter, provides another connection with what has been previously heard.  This use of “prophet” again links Jesus to Moses, which is an ongoing theme of this Gospel.

The man’s parents become involved in the matter, and as it appears that they wanted nothing to do with this controversy because it will risk their standing in the synagogue (9:22), they insist that their son is more than capable of answering for himself.  Accordingly, yet another inquiry is made.  The formerly blind man is told “Promise before God to tell the truth.  We know that this man is a sinner” (9:24b --- a sinner understood as somebody who does not possess right covenant standing, rather than somebody who performs or fails to perform acts according to a subjective standard or morality and perceived righteousness). 

The man who was blind, but who now has sight, responds to this assertion by saying “I do not know whether he is a sinner.  I do know one thing---that although I was blind, now I can see” (9:25).  When asked to again recount the story of what happened, he again proceeds, perhaps unwittingly, to stir a pot of underlying anger directed towards Jesus by saying “I told you already and you didn’t listen.  Why do you want to hear it again?  You people don’t want to become His disciples too, do you?” (9:27). 

This produced an inflamed response of “You are His disciple!  We are disciples of Moses!  We know that God has spoken to Moses!” (9:28b-29a)  Of note, Moses comes into play again, which the audience (reader or hearer) should take as a rather ironic statement, as it has clearly been an ongoing point of the author to explicitly connect Jesus to Moses.  It also serves as an indication that a part of the stories that had been circulating about Jesus in His day, as well as being an indication that part of the ongoing means, in the author’s day, by which Jesus was either being discredited or by which adherents to His cause were being won, was whether or not He fulfilled the role of the prophet to come that would be like Moses.  This fits well within the overall sense that the Gospel of John serves in an apologetic function concerning Jesus’ role as the physical revelation and incarnation of the Creator God, while also doing a form of historical rendering. 

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