Day by Day on the Damascus Road : 366 Reflections for Your Journey

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Barrett that Irenaeus's interpretation is "improbable" Barrett , the association with the prologue actually makes it likely--all the more so as this story follows directly Jesus' clear expression of his claim to divinity The healing was not effected until the man obeyed Jesus' command: Go.

Why didn't Jesus just heal him on the spot, as he did others? Why send a blind man, in particular, on such a journey? There must be something involved here that contributes to the revealing of God's work. Perhaps the man's obedience is significant, revealing that he shares a chief characteristic of Jesus' true disciples.

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Like Naaman the Syrian 2 Kings , this man obeys God's command to go and wash and is healed. Also like Naaman, he is able to bear witness to God as a result 2 Kings But John's parenthetical note that Siloam means Sent v. Sanhedrin 94b; 98b.


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This fits with the emphasis in John's Gospel on Jesus as the one sent from the Father, including such an emphasis in the immediate context , 18, 29, 42; Thus, both the healing itself and the details involved point to Jesus as the Messiah. Here is an example of the triumph of the light over the darkness The man uses the same language Jesus has used to identify himself, ego eimi, though here it does not allude to the divine name but is used as an identification formula: I am the man v.

Once they have established that he is indeed the blind beggar they had known, they ask the obvious question of how he came to have his sight v. This question will be asked four times in this story, stressing that something highly unusual has taken place, something that cannot be explained in the categories of this world Beasley-Murray Unlike the man by the pool of Bethesda, this man does realize from the beginning that Jesus is the one who has healed him v.

This ignorance will be resolved soon enough. The deeper ignorance of the opponents, who do not know where Jesus is from v. The man's admission of ignorance is an attribute of a true disciple, revealing him to be honest and humble. He stands in marked contrast to the Jewish opponents in this story, for they claim to know what in fact they realize they do not really know v. It is precisely this lack of integrity and self-awareness that Jesus criticizes in his conclusion to this story vv.

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The Pharisees Interrogate the Man The neighbors bring the man to the Pharisees, presumably because something unusual has taken place and they are the recognized experts on the things of God. There does not seem to be anything sinister in their going to the Pharisees, unlike the contact between the Jewish opponents and the man at the pool of Bethesda The fact that this healing took place on the sabbath is mentioned in dramatic fashion midway in the story v.

In healing the blind man Jesus broke the sabbath rules in several ways, at least as they appear in later texts. Healing was permitted on the sabbath since "whenever there is doubt whether life is in danger this overrides the Sabbath" m. Yoma ; cf. Yoma 84bb; Lohse But, as in the case of the man at the pool of Bethesda, Jesus again heals what is not a life-threatening condition. Furthermore, just as his command to the man to carry his mat violated sabbath rules , so now Jesus' own activity of making mud violated the prohibition of kneading on the sabbath m.

It is possible that his use of spittle also violated sabbath rules, since later at least "painting" the eye, that is, anointing it for healing, was clearly prohibited b. Beasley-Murray Finally, it was unlawful to take a journey of more than 2, cubits 1, yards on the sabbath cf. A trip to Siloam and back from the nearest wall of the temple, for example, would be about 1, yards. It is perhaps likely that the trip to and from Siloam was further than was allowed, though we cannot be sure since we do not know where the healing took place.

Jesus may be not just breaking the sabbath, but trampling on it, at least according to the views of these Jewish opponents! The former blind man has to tell the story a second time, this time speaking to a new audience and adding the dramatic note that it was the sabbath.

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They can only repeat once more their questions of what happened v. As in the case of Pharaoh, God's hardening of one who rejected his call to repentance revealed God's own glory as the one greater than Pharaoh and as the one who redeems his people from evil Ex , 14; , He was to be the bearer of a severe rebuke to the Corinthians, who were giving scandal and were wavering in their faith ; and at the same time he was to put their charity to a further test by calling upon them for abundant alms for the church at Jerusalem. A night and day of corn-husks had given me a rococo appearance that I only half suspected before my arrival at a mountain village late in the afternoon. The way led through narrow, winding streets. On that second evening, I reported at a wharf peopled by a half-hundred men whose only basis of fellowship, apparently, was pennilessness and riotous desire to secure passage to the British Isles.

The crowd had wanted to know how the healing had happened out of understandable curiosity. The Pharisees now ask the same question but with different intent, for they want to determine whether any sabbath laws have been broken. The man recounts his healing with great brevity v. Many scholars see in this brevity an exasperation with having to retell his story, but this is only the first time he has told it to these people. Perhaps he senses their displeasure and sticks to the bare facts, as peasants have a tendency to do when interrogated by the junta--not an inappropriate image for this story, as we will see.

The Pharisees are divided over the man's witness v.

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The division among his opponents bears witness to Jesus' identity as the light of the world cf. Lohse But here the light is shining through this man's testimony, providing an example of what all disciples are to do in the future The Pharisees face a dilemma for Jesus' sabbath breaking suggests he is not of God whereas his extraordinary power to heal suggests he is of God.

Some of the Pharisees ask, How can a sinner do such miraculous signs? The plural, signs, indicates a larger familiarity with Jesus' activity. Perhaps we may assume that we are hearing the voice of Nicodemus, who has already said the same thing to Jesus himself If so, then the one who came to Jesus at night is now sticking up for him once again while it is day.

source url Divided amongst themselves, the Pharisees ask the blind man for his opinion of Jesus, given that it was his eyes Jesus had opened v. It is ironic that these Jewish leaders, who are so proud of their possession of the law and their ability to evaluate religious claims, are asking this man for his opinion on a religious matter.

The Christians in John's own day would have loved this verse, since they were being persecuted by these same authorities for their loyalty to Jesus. This scene is like an underground political cartoon that deflates the self-important persecuting officials. The man responds that Jesus is a prophet.

This is true as far as it goes, though it is not in itself adequate. He clearly thinks Jesus is on the side of God, despite such supposed abuse of the sabbath.

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The crowd has also viewed Jesus as a prophet , as have those so misguided as to want to make Jesus king But the Samaritan woman also held this view , and Jesus went on to lead her into a deeper understanding of himself. Jesus will lead this man in the same way. The Pharisees Interrogate the Man's Parents Jesus' disregard for their sabbath regulations is so blatant the opponents cannot accept the idea that God would honor such lawlessness. So to reconcile what has happened to their presuppositions, they assume that the man must not have been blind.

Not only do they reject the man's evaluation of Jesus as a prophet, they don't even accept his testimony about his own former condition! Instead, they investigate. They call in the parents and ask them to identify the man, confirm whether or not he was born blind and explain how he gained his sight v. The parents clarify that he is indeed their son who was born blind, but they refuse to speculate on how he gained sight.

This is now the third time the question of "how" has been asked. But here the parents understand the question to be asking for more than what mechanism enabled him to receive his sight, because they say they know neither how nor by whom this happened. The issue now is by what or whose power this unheard of event took place. To answer this more serious "how" question would require a confession regarding Jesus and his relationship to God, as the explanation makes clear v.

Such a confession has implications for one's life within the community, and the parents are not willing to be put out of the synagogue for the sake of Jesus. The parents fail to stand up for Jesus in the face of the Jewish opponents, so it is clear they do not model discipleship. Their son is of age, that is, thirteen years old or older, so he must answer such a question for himself.


This scene is full of tragedy, for these parents are not allowed to give thanks to God for the great thing he has done for their son. They must have agonized over his blindness and the begging he was forced into. Now he has been miraculously healed, and they must put aside the overwhelming parental joy and knuckle under to the goons from the committee for the investigation of un-Jewish activity, as it were. The parents' agony would have been very great, given the guilt over the possibility that it was their sin that had been responsible for their son's blindness.

In such a situation Jesus' healing would have far-reaching implications concerning God's gracious acceptance of sinful humanity. Not only was their son released from the bondage of his blindness and its related life of begging, but they and their son would see themselves in a new relation to God.

Yet they had to stifle all of these feelings of joy and gratitude when they were called in by the authorities for questioning. The parents' fear stems from the threat that anyone who acknowl-edged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue Such exclusion was used in the Old Testament Ezra , and later sources speak of different degrees of exclusion that were exercised, from a week-long exclusion from the congregation, to a thirty-day exclusion, to an unlimited exclusion from the congregation with avoidance of all contact, to an exclusion from the entire community of Israel Schrage At the time of Jesus one of the lighter forms may have been exercised, and this continued to be the case for some time, as Paul's example indicates: he was thrown out of local synagogues for example, Acts ; cf.

Later in the first century, as the gulf between followers of Jesus and the synagogue widened, the harshest form of exclusion came into force. Many scholars see this reference to being put out of the synagogue aposynagogos poieo, v. A curse against heretics, known as the Twelfth Benediction, or the birkat ha-minim, was added to the liturgy cf. Berakot 28ba. This is taken as a way of smoking out the Christians and thus causing the separation between church and synagogue.

John is probably writing late in the first century, and although such a separation was taking place then, it is unclear whether John is referring specifically to this addition to the liturgy and whether the addition had such an intent Robinson ; Beasley-Murray lxxvi-lxxviii, ; Carson After a careful study William Horbury concludes that the addition "was not decisive on its own in the separation of church and synagogue, but it gave solemn liturgical expression to a separation effected in the second half of the first century through the larger group of measures to which it belongs" Horbury ; cf.

Lindars Given such separation, this story would have particular relevance for John's first readers. Under this threat of expulsion we can see the nucleus of a community gathering around Jesus, clearly distinct from these officials who represent what emerges after A.

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Jesus has withdrawn from the temple , and now he is gathering a group around him over against the structures and leadership of Israel. Jesus will set this process in place as this story continues The full expression of this split will not emerge for some years, but its seed was planted, John says, by Jesus himself. The Pharisees Interrogate the Man a Second Time When the Jewish authorities put the "how" question to the man himself they get a very different response than they got from the parents, and the fur flies.

They begin their interrogation on a solemn, formal note: Give glory to God v. This is not an invitation to sing a hymn of praise for his healing! The expression means the man is being exhorted to confess his guilt cf. Josh ; m. Sanhedrin The man has told them the truth, but they don't really want the truth, they want their own answer.

These people, whom Jesus called liars , are trying to force this man to lie, and they are doing so in the name of truth. Double talk is not an invention of the twentieth century. The terms they use are full of irony.