LIGHT (continued) – With Friends Like This

As we continue our examination of the story of the man born blind (from John 9) we are reminded of the old saying, “With friends like this who needs enemies?”  The man has been given the gift of light and sight.  You’d think somebody would be happy.  Yet they are all lined up against him – his neighbors, the preachers and deacons down at the church, even his parents.

First it’s his neighbors – the folks from across the street and around the corner.   They are all incredulous at the sight of this formerly blind man now walking about town, his eyes wide opened and able to see.

“What happened to you?” they asked.

“A man named Jesus anointed my eyes with clay and told me to wash.  I did as he said and now I see.”

“Where is this man?” they ask.

“Well, duh.  I couldn’t see him when he did what he did.  I was blind.  Remember?!  When I washed the mud from my eyes he was gone.  I don’t know where he is.  I don’t even know what he looks like.”   

Next enter the Pharisees.  After all, you just can’t have miracles like this taking place without somebody from religious hierarchy knee deep in on the process.  So the man’s neighbors take him down to the church so he can been debriefed.  My old pastor, Steve Shoemaker, calls it “theological quality control” — or just control!

This is not the only time this sort of thing shows up in the scripture. 

Do you remember that story from the Book of Acts when the Apostle Paul cast an “unclean spirit” out of a slave girl?  The demon that possessed the girl had given her the power to predict the future – a skill that had earn the girl’s “owners” a great deal of cash.  Her healing cut off their stream of income so that slave girl’s “owners” grabbed hold of Paul and dragged him before the authorities.  Control!

Or how about when Jesus disciple’s stumbled upon some folks who were casting out evil spirits.  “We tried to get them to stop,” they told Jesus.  Why in the world would they want to stop such an action?  They told Jesus that they tried to get these people to stop because “they were not one of us.”  Control!

It’s happening again here.  The neighbors drag the formerly blind man before the Pharisees, who begin their interrogation.  That seems like a strange word to use with religious leaders, doesn’t it?  Interrogation!  Yet it is the only word that fits.  They interrogate the man.  You’d think they’d at least want to start off saying, “Well, brother, we sure want to ‘praise the Lord’ that you once were blind, but now can see!”  But there is none of that.  They just want to interrogate the man!  Control!

The man tells his story and the religious leaders are stymied.  They listen to the man and then huddle together off in a corner to debate what’s happening. 

“This Jesus is obviously a sinner,” one person says.

“I agree,” says another.  “He’s breaking the Sabbath laws.”

“Wait a minute,” says somebody else.  “He’s performing a great miracle by giving sight to the blind.”

“That’s right,” somebody else says in agreement.  “He’s obviously from God.”

You know one of the toughest things to deal with is seeing the work of God taking place in a way that is bigger than your own theological presuppositions.

Isn’t it tough when God acts in a way that doesn’t fit in our little box? 

The circle comprising the Pharisees and their variety of opinions about Jesus now gets a good bit smaller, made up of the few at the top who are opposed to Jesus and his teachings.  John’s gospel simply calls them “the Jews” which is a reference not to all Jews, but rather this small circle of leaders.  They now make a ruling about the miracle, which seems rather presumptuous – but they do it.  It’s obvious from the subtext of the story that they think the miracle to be a hoax!  Now they’ve got to prove their claim. 

So what do they do?  They drag in the man’s parents for interrogation. 

“It’s true that this is our son!” they tell the leaders.  “It is also true that he was born blind.  If you want to know how it is that he can now see, you’ll have to ask him.”

The text says that they were afraid to say anything more – afraid to sound like they might be followers of Jesus.  They had heard the news that anyone who confessed Jesus as the Christ would be put out of the synagogue.   So the parents are shown to be timid and fearful, which is sort of sad, really.  I mean, shouldn’t your mom and dad stand beside you and stick up for you?

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