John 9 & 10
The synoptic Gospels are written from the point of view of fact, what happened and where. John, however, writes from a completely different point of view. He enlightens us to the spiritual ramifications of what happened and if his point can be made better by a different location, or a different time, he doesn’t hesitate to use it. I find it fascinating that the entire chapter nine is devoted to a man born blind and his healing as an adult. John uses this one story to teach spiritual truths.
In verses 1 through 5 John poses many questions. Is sickness or disability linked to sin? This is an age-old question, and Jesus answers it here. Who is to do the works that will demonstrate what God can do? What is the connection between God and man in regard to the works? What is the night that is coming? John defines the Light that is in the world.
Throughout the ages man has assumed that where suffering can be found, sin will somehow be connected. Jesus pretty much says, “Piffle!” If, when we encounter suffering, we focus on the “whys,” and we will miss the message of what God can do. There’s a saying I like: “It doesn’t matter what you look at, what matters is what you see.” When you see suffering, do you see shame, or even sin? Or do you see salvation? If you can see what God wants to have happen—which is healing—then you see yourself, the agent of change, the bearer of healing.
When John writes about miracles like this one, he always points to the glory of God. When the other Gospel writers encounter miracles, they point to Jesus having compassion. So, which is it? God’s glory or the compassion of Jesus? Aren’t they the same thing? Frank Laubach says, “…when Christ, who is the Way, enters into us, we become part of the Way. God’s highway runs straight through us.” To help someone in need, especially one of God’s own, we are manifesting the glory of God and showing compassion.
As to light and darkness, there are various ways of looking at that. Light can be the working hours and darkness is the night when it is impossible to work, or at least it was when candles and campfires provided the only light. It also could mean the Light is the time when Jesus was on the earth, and the darkness came with the cross. But I see it like this: Jesus is the Light of the world because He is all truth and all power. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to discover the reality of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who takes away the sin of the world. We are, actually, all born into sin, and even after our Spiritual New Birth, our souls still sin. I mean, who among us has never had a negative thought, or harbored a grudge, or refused to forgive? But this lifetime is the only time given to us to receive Jesus as Lord! In this New Birth we receive His Light and become His lights in the world. As we die, the light will either go out as we descend, or shine brighter as we enter His Presence.
Twice in the Scriptures, Jesus used his spit in the healing process, and this healing is one of them. I’ve just been reading a book called “Gulp,” and it is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a long time. It’s all about spit. In Jesus’ day spit was commonly used for its curative attributes. History books recount stories of diseased eyes being cured by spit, as well as other diseased body parts. It was used to cure snake bites, epilepsy, bodily fungus, and leprous spots—to mention a few.
Jesus gave sight to the blind man on the Sabbath, thereby breaking the Sabbath law. That law is and was all about rest. Our Sabbath, given to us in the New Testament is about continual rest. We cast all our cares on Jesus, and we no longer carry them. That’s pretty restful, in my opinion. But Old Testament Sabbath was all about works. In a society where cutting one’s fingernails or pulling out a single hair from the head or beard, was considered work and therefore was against the law, making the clay was work. The only medicinal help that could be administered was if the person’s life was in danger. Being blind from birth did not constitute danger; therefore, Jesus also broke the Sabbath law by using His spit.
The blind man, now healed, painted a picture of spiritual growth. First, when questioned, he called Jesus a man. He progressed to calling Him a prophet. He ended by calling Him the Son of God. Napoleon once said to a dinner table of sceptics who had, over dinner, reduced Jesus to being a very great man and nothing more, “Gentlemen, I know men, and Jesus Christ was more than a man.” The more we know Jesus, personally, the bigger He grows. Throughout history, even to this day, the final argument about Christianity ends with the man who can say, “I know Jesus.”
For the study of this chapter I am relying heavily on a fabulous book that I recently found: The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of John, Volume 2. If I read the Introduction correctly, the Daily Study Bible Series came into being through the writings of the Committee on Publications of the Church of Scotland. Then in 1975 William Barclay revised and polished it into the Series now available. I highly recommend reading these volumes for a deeper comprehension of the New Testament.
If you’ve ever been to Israel and have traveled from stem to stern, you can attest to the fact that the land is more adept for pasturing animals than it is for cultivating crops. That is not to demean the heroic efforts the Israelis have done in conquering the land and producing fabulous harvests; it is simply to say the land is rocky and rough. That being the case, throughout history shepherds have been important members of society. When the Old Testament called God the Shepherd of Israel, every Jew had an immediate understanding of what that meant. He was constantly looking out for the sheep, hence, we are the sheep. He had courage against the wild animals; He protected His sheep, healing them when they floundered, finding them when they wandered away. He slept in the doorway so no one could enter and no one could leave without Him tripping them up.
My son took a trip to Israel with his Bible School. The man driving their tour bus stopped at the bottom of a hill and asked the students to watch the rim. Soon five shepherds came over the top with hundreds of sheep surrounding them. Each shepherd was singing, and each sheep knew exactly who its shepherd was because of the sound of his voice. Jesus said His sheep will know His voice and follow it.
There are dozens of Scriptures in the Old Testament about God the Shepherd and the Jews, His sheep. But let’s look at the New Testament, since that’s where we live.
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying” (Matthew 18:12)?
Luke 15:4 also asks this question. In both cases, they are describing Jesus Christ, the Great Shepherd of the Sheep, His people.
And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things (Mark 6:34).
Matthew 9:36 also speaks of His compassion for the sheep without a shepherd, which is what we were before we surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ. Even when Jesus described His future fall, He used the image of shepherd and sheep. Because of His death, we would be scattered. Perhaps learning to flock is one of the most important lessons to learn. We are also caretakers of His sheep, even as fellow sheep.
Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered,’” (Mark 14:27).
The flock is the total Church of Jesus Christ; every believer is a part of His Body. In the flock, we have the caretaking of our High Priest, Jesus Christ, and overseers under Him. If we stay strong to the leadership and example the Lord sets for us, if we are obedient and faithful to other sheep who have been entrusted with our care, then we will be strong in all aspects of life. But if we back pedal—turn aside to our own ways once again—and if our overseers are weak in faith—untrustworthy—then we are in a really fine mess, as Laurel and Hardy would say. Therefore, it behooves every Christian to maintain his or her own stature, to help his brother and sister, and to keep the hierarchy reliable.
One day all people will know Jesus as the Great Shepherd, but we’re not there yet. We sheep are also known as the Army of God. It is our orders to go into all the world and lift up the name of Jesus in such a way as to draw all men to Him. The only way the world will become one is for all to belong to Jesus. Right now, everything is divided: families, nations, the world. Yet our mandate is to become one. That does not mean we all join the same church. It means, as Church, as members of Jesus Christ, we share our love for and our adherence to Jesus Christ. This call demands an enormous missionary outreach. As a missionary, I cannot help but admonish the Body of Christ—are you going to other nations and bringing them the Gospel of Jesus Christ? If not, are you sending a missionary in your place? It’s required.
Jesus saw Himself as being constantly obedient to God. Have you ever tried obeying God just for a day? I mean in everything you do, say or think? Not taking any direction from yourself? Try it. What a world this would be if all people would obey Him! You might say that is too hard. Anything worth having is going to be hard to get, and worth every effort you make to have it. Is your Father God proud of you? It’s worth every effort you can make to make Him proud of you. I’ve had Him say “Thank you.” to me. Even now, thinking of those times that same quivering happiness flutters through my body!
That’s how Jesus died for us: obedient, willing. As William Barclay says, “Jesus laid down His life because He chose to do so…. The Cross was not thrust upon him; he willingly accepted it—for us.” This is our model. Choose to lay down our lives. Accept our destiny, don’t think God is going to chase us down. Choose to do it, whatever your call may be. Don’t put it off for another day because that day will probably never come.
To those who accept and then follow Jesus—actually making Him their Lord—He gives them eternal life, to life forever. For millenniums, man has been looking for a way not to die. Now if Jesus just plain-out did that, eliminate death, and we just keep on living here forever, then everyone would join Him and become His disciple. But God wants something more. He wants those who choose Him, not those who choose His benefits. Those who choose Him can never be snatched away because they become one spirit with the Lord.
Those who choose Him also receive a special calling from God. A destiny. A task that God chooses and thus anoints the called one to accomplish. Nothing in my daily, physical life has ever given me the satisfaction that my calling has given me. The Lord told me He created me to write. He and I do it together. We are one.
Before the hour of Jesus’ triumph—yes, that is what I call it, though it took more determination to approach that hour than I have ever known—He went out to a quiet place, the place where He had been baptized by John the Baptist. It is imperative that we follow His example. Always spend time with the Lord before spending time with your contenders.
Home should be a place where we can go and find rest, comfort, acceptance, love, and understanding, but Jesus had no place like that. Heaven was His home. He could spend time with His Father and find all the comforts of home. Sometimes our homes are not as they should be, but we can find all that we need in the arms of our Savior. Jesus holds out His arms and says, “Come to me.” Go!
Writing has been in my blood, so to speak, but when I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ and He told me to write, all my trepidations rolled away and I began in earnest! After all, if God Almighty says it was His idea that I be a writer, who am I to stand in His way? My hope is that you not only like what I write, but that your life is moved by it, and that your party to Jesus and with Jesus turns your life into days of Heaven on Earth.