Letters to the Prison - Week 93

Hello, everyone.  We are so glad to be studying God’s word with you.  Join in!
Last week, at the end of John 8, we saw Jesus slipping away from the crowd that wanted to stone him to death for blasphemy…claiming to be God.  The trouble is:  Jewish law requires that people who claim to be God (and are not actually God) be stoned to death.  Jesus claims to be God –and he truly is God.  So, he’s not actually guilty of blasphemy.  It’s ok to call yourself God… as long as it’s true.  In any case, chapter 8 ends with Jesus escaping the angry mob.
John 9 opens with the phrase “as he passed by…”  The pronoun “he” refers to Jesus in the last verse of chapter 8.  Meanwhile, the reference to the “pool of Siloam” in John 9:7 clearly shows that Jesus and his disciples are still in Jerusalem.   So, the implication is that this is the same time in Jerusalem.  But where’s the pursuing crowd looking to stone Jesus to death?  How did he escape them?  We’re not told.  So, there could be a gap in time between chapters 8 and 9 recording two separate visits to Jerusalem, or the record could just be continuing the report of a single visit to Jerusalem with no gap.  Either way, Jesus’ escape from the mob wanting to kill him remains a mystery but is nevertheless another indicator that Jesus wouldn’t be arrested until the proper time… God’s time.  
As John 9 begins, Jesus encounters a man known to be “blind from birth” (John 9:1).  Jesus’ disciples ask him a totally loaded question about the man:
•Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?-John 9:2
The question is loaded because it presumes that someone must have sinned for this man to be born blind.  There’s no other option in the disciples’ minds.  The common thinking of that day was that someone blind from birth must be suffering the consequences of someone’s sins.  We might be tempted to think that it had to be the parents’ sin… after all, how could an unborn infant sin enough to merit blindness?  So, the parents must have done something terrible.  Do we ever catch ourselves thinking this way about people?  We see someone in dire circumstances… either physically or socially… maybe they’re destitute, homeless, or severely disabled in some way… do we assume that their deeds (or misdeeds) had something to do with their problem?  Or maybe it’s the other way around.  We see someone who has their health and their wealth, and we think they must be blessed.  Maybe they even think they’re blessed.  Ask a healthy, wealthy-looking church-goer how they’re doing and they might even respond, “I am so blessed.”  This thinking that there must be a cause-and-effect relationship between our physical and monetary well-being and our moral behavior is prevalent and subtle even today.  But it was especially so in Jewish thought in the time when Jesus walked the earth.  For further reading, consider Job chapter 4.  That’s just the beginning of a long (40 chapters –the entire book of Job) discussion about this very thing…  and Job was innocent in God’s eyes (Job 1:8).  So was the blind man in John 9 –at least as far as his blindness was concerned.  Look what Jesus says:
•“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.-John 9:3
Jesus has much more to say about this circumstance –and himself.  We’ll look more closely next week.  Until then, we love you!  Keep reading!  Explore the book of Job!

Dean A.

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