13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
18 They 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. 21 But 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.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
(John 9:13-23 NIV)
Jesus has healed a man who was blind since birth. News spread like wildfire – no one has ever experienced, much less heard of such a thing in their lifetime. This miracle is history in the making, as they live and breathe!
The Jewish religious leaders hear about this and immediately launch an investigation. The investigation, unfortunately, was not to verify the miracle and give glory to God. John reveals the controversy and the reason for the inquiry in verse 14.
The Jewish religious leaders held God’s laws and commandments in high regard and the Fourth Commandment (keep the Sabbath day holy by not working) in particular (Exodus 20:8-11). To ensure they obeyed the Fourth Commandment, they added many oral traditions on top of God’s Law to make sure they didn’t cross the line. One of those oral traditions was that spitting was forbidden on the Sabbath. They reasoned that spit could roll downhill and make mud, and making mud was work; therefore, spitting was forbidden to be sure no one would offend God and break His Fourth Commandment.
As we have studied earlier in our walk through the Gospel of John, the religious leaders were so wrapped up in the legalism of keeping their oral traditions that they completely missed the fact that God’s grace, mercy, and love does not take a day off. God’s love for His creation is in operation all day, every day. Likewise, we are to show grace, mercy and love to others around us all day, every day. That is what Jesus was doing when He healed the blind man, even on the Sabbath.
As the Pharisees continue their investigation, they are again divided over Jesus’ miracle. Some Pharisees are completely caught up in the fact that Jesus had broken their oral tradition, and therefore, could not be Messiah. Others focused on the miracle and claimed that Jesus had to be from God to perform such an incredible wonder.
After bickering back and forth about Jesus, the Pharisees realize they are wasting their time. They refocus and ask the formerly blind man what he thinks about Jesus. The man says that he thinks Jesus is a prophet.
The Pharisees still are not convinced that this is an actual miracle. The conspiracy theorist in them believes that this could be a hoax set up by Jesus or His disciples to make them look like idiots and further discredit them and steal their power and sway over the Jewish people. Jesus saw this as compassion; the religious leaders saw this as a popularity contest and a power struggle for the hearts and minds of the Jewish populace.
Undeterred, the Pharisees send for the man’s parents to validate the man’s story of being blind since birth. The parents are brought before the Pharisees and vouch for their son’s blindness since birth and the fact that he now sees.
When the Pharisees press further about how this could have happened (especially on a Sabbath), the parents recognize their precarious position and choose to protect themselves over vouching for their son’s story that Jesus healed him.
John reveals the “story behind the story” in verses 22 – 23. The parents knew that the religious leaders had put a ban on anyone who acknowledged Jesus as Messiah. The religious leaders could not stop Jesus from preaching, but they could attempt to take all His followers away from Him through fear and intimidation. To step across this line meant that the Pharisees would excommunicate you from the synagogue, which also meant that you were also banished from Jewish life and relationships. You would become anathema (nothing) to those around you. Others would treat you as if you did not exist.
If we are to call ourselves followers of Christ, we must choose to cross the line and acknowledge Jesus as Messiah, just as the formerly blind man was willing to do. Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33 NIV).
When faced with the choice, what is your answer? How will you and I respond?