Culture Wars–Jesus vs the Pharisees

Week 9  John 9  Focus–A Blindness Jesus Could Not Heal

(Link to Outline of John)

John’s Theme: John 20:31 … these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.




John 9:1 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.  2 And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”

The prevailing assumption in Jesus’ day was that physical ailments were a direct result of sin.

  • Jesus’ own disciples (read: the good guys) thought that.
  • The Pharisees (read: the bad guys) thought that: “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?”–vs 34.

The difficulty the disciples were having was trying to understand how a baby in the womb could sin sufficiently in order to be born blind. That is why they thought that perhaps it was the parents’ sin the child suffered for–therefore, their question to Christ–“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”

There was some Old Testament evidence perhaps partly responsible for the strong assumption that physical afflictions (“defects, hardships, suffering, accidents, sickness, death”) were the direct result of sin. (Hendriksen, Vol. 2, 72)

1. Adam’s sin

Genesis 3:17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned–

2. Sins of Parents

Exodus 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,

Jeremiah 31:29 In those days they shall no longer say: “‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’

3. A Person’s Own Sins

Deuteronomy 28:15 “But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. (See also vss 16-68)

Jeremiah 31:30 But everyone shall die for his own sin. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.

Jesus himself did not think this way.

John 9:3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

 Luke 13:2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Jesus said, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:4-5)


How Do We Respond When Someone Crosses Our Path? (Think: Trump and his followers vs Clinton and her followers–Do these two groups in the end both behave very much like the Pharisees in this account?)

Possible Behaviors

1. We can attempt to malign and annihilate the one who is different–the one who arouses our envy or fear.

2. We can examine them intellectually and endlessly–never offering a hand to help.

3. We can love and help them, interacting with them, giving of ourselves to them.

Jesus Is About to Perform His Sixth Sign

  1. The text will show that Jesus fell into category 3 above–loving, helping, interacting, giving of himself–towards BOTH the man born blind and the Pharisees. The Pharisees fell into categories 1 and 2

Prejudice Blinds

Who was blind in the passage covering all of John 9?

  • the man born blind (physical blindness)
  • the Pharisees (spiritual blindness)

Jesus loved them both

  • he healed the physical blindness of the one (John 9:6-7)
  • he performed spiritual follow-up for this outcast (John 9:34-38)
  • as ambassador for Christ, the healed man tried his best to open the eyes of the Pharisees (John 9:8-34)
  • Jesus pointed out the error of the Pharisees (John 9:39-41)

The Pharisees’ Blindness

The Pharisees were certain that Jesus was a sinner, because Jesus was so unlike themselves.

John 9:22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.)

1. They could not accept Jesus’ parentage, as it was so different from what they expected.

John 7:27 But we know where this man comes from, [Mary and Joseph in Nazareth] and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.”

John 9:29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” [God sent Moses; we do not believe that God sent “this man”]

2. Jesus had not gone through the normal channels of being educated among themselves, within the “establishment”–he was an outsider.

John 7:15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”

Matthew 13:54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”

3. Jesus continually broke one of their most important customs–the keeping of the Sabbath according to their own traditions.

John 5:9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.”

John 5:16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.

John 5:18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

John 7:23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?

4. Jesus hung out with those the Pharisees regarded as sinners.

NET  John 7:48 None of the rulers or the Pharisees have believed in him, have they? 49 But this rabble who do not know the law are accursed!”

The Pharisees’ Prejudice Prevents Them from Considering as Valid the Amazing Miracle Christ Accomplished

1. The Pharisees’ beginning assumption is that Jesus is a sinner, because he healed on the Sabbath (see prior section).

ESV  John 9:13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.

2. They therefore steadfastly refuse to believe that he could perform a miracle as amazing as giving sight to a man born blind.

3. They cross examine the man, his parents, and the man again, trying to demonstrate that this miracle had not in fact occurred.

• the man

John 9:15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight.

• the man’s parents

John 9:19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

• the man again

John 9:24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.”

25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”

30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” b

34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

4. Unable to disprove that the miracle had really occurred, they attack the man from their prejudice — “You were born in utter sin” — and cast him out, most likely with complete excommunication.

5. Being so completely stubborn in their prejudices, the Pharisees refuse to even acknowledge the possibility that a man might be from God who performed a miracle so great that no one had ever laid claim to it before in the whole history of the human race. Only someone connected with the power of God could have performed such a mighty miracle. They choose to allow the fact of the miracle to remain as evidence sitting abandoned right in front of them–rather than choosing to abandon for even a second their prejudice against the one who had performed the miracle.

6. Nor do they consider the possibility that their own Sabbath traditions may be at fault, since objectively God had indeed appeared to work an astounding miracle through a man, Jesus, even on the Sabbath day.

7. There was this spiritual blindness in them that even the light of Christ himself was not able to penetrate. It was the blindness of sheer, willful, stubborn, angry pride that led this group of holier-than-thou religious people to crucify the Lord of glory in the end.

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6:65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Application Questions: How Could the Pharisees Have Gotten It So Wrong?

1. If a godly miracle occurs in a way that contradicts my own “holy rules,” what should be my response?

For example, many living Christians in the world give firsthand testimony of amazing miracles that they have either witnessed or that have occurred to them, yet other Christians condemn these folk as deluded, or even stronger, as emissaries of Satan. If I myself have never witnessed or experienced an amazing miracle, how might I respond to the testimony of others in a way that would save me from the condemnation of judgment Jesus himself pours out upon the religious leaders in this account?

John 9:39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

2. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day failed to recognize the arrival of the Son of God, mostly because he did not match up with their prior expectations of what their Messiah should look like. Their prejudices blinded their judgment.

In those days, the expectations of Messiah were mixed–the entire religious culture was composed of many strands which emphasized different aspects of Scripture or religion. There was no uniformity across the various factions of 1st century Jewish culture of that day. There was no single, clear picture of what or who Messiah would be when he came. Nevertheless, it appears that the religious leaders expected a messiah who would bring back the glories of King David–the military victories and the independence from foreign rulers that King David had achieved. Jesus severely disappointed these expectations, so much so that these same religious leaders asked the Roman government (represented by Pilot) to crucify him.

Is our Christian religious culture making similar errors today?

For example, one issue that divides is the expected Second Coming of Christ. What are some of the different views concerning how this will happen?

Given the account in John 9, how certain should a Christian be that their own viewpoint is correct?

Based upon the occurrences in John 9, as a Christian, do I allow my own views to sway me too heavily in my attitudes and responses towards those who hold a different view?

Do I allow my own views to influence my political expectations of those who are not even of the Christian faith?

3. The formerly blind man’s parents were so afraid of the leaders’ power to expel them from the synagogue that they failed to really rejoice and glorify God over the miraculous and amazing gift of vision for their son.

What are the metaphorical “synagogues” in my life from which I fear expulsion if I testify too strongly of Christ? (social groups? peer groups? family groups? work groups?)

Who are the metaphorical Pharisees before whom I hide my testimony of Christ in fear?

How real/deep/genuine is my faith if I let these fears dominate me?

4. Are there “religerati” in my life of whom I am afraid? (Are there factions or people in the church I attend whom I allow to dominate the expression of my beliefs in my own church?)

5. The Pharisees approached this amazing miracle of Jesus with a ferocious and predetermined bias against him that affected their judgment in every way.

What are my predetermined biases and against whom are they aimed?

6. With which character(s) in this story do I mostly identify?

7. Why does this blog’s author think that the scriptural account in John 9 has anything at all to do with the most recent presidential election?

In this presidential election of 2016, is it likely that either of the two sides is completely, or even mostly, correct?

What aspects of the “other group’s” lives, fears, hurts, and needs am I failing to see in an understanding way?

What really makes them tick?

What  exactly were they voting for, rather than against?

What about them am I missing?

Where are my blind spots?

Where are my prejudices?

Can I pray and ask God to help me clear away my blind prejudices in order to create solutions to problems that that will allow pathways that don’t transgress the differences as much as the currently proposed pathways do? (In other words, can God help me create pathways of peace to accomplish my goals, pathways that walk around the other’s sore spots rather than tromping right through them?)

Am I the Pharisee in this story, completely loveless and blind to the needs of the life that Jesus came to save–that is, am I loveless and blind to the needs of the blind man for whom Jesus gave his life?

Am I one of the Pharisees, blind to my own blindness towards others?


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