Tuesday, October 11, 2011

John 10, Part One

The true and the false (vs. 1-6)--From all appearances, the first half of this chapter is a continuation from chapter nine.  Jesus uses a very poignant and relevant illustration.  Since He's in the temple area, where sheep are being brought for sacrifice, He borrows that to make His current point.  His main idea initially is that error tries to use deception and trickery while truth needs no such dishonesty.  The sheep will know the voice of their true owner and follow him; and, indeed, "he calls his own sheep by name" (vs. 3-4).  But they won't follow a stranger (v. 5).  Those who want(ed) to follow God would know/ recognize Jesus for who He was (is).  This section is as much a slap at the Pharisees as anything, and they didn't understand it (v. 6).

The Good Shepherd (vs. 7-18)--Jesus uses two metaphors in this section, "I am the door" (vs. 7, 9), and "I am the good shepherd" (vs. 11, 14).  People enter into salvation through Him; "if anyone enters by me, he will be saved" (v. 9).  There had been counterfeits (v. 8); history tells us of some false Christs who arose.  The true sheep will only hear and follow the true Shepherd.  In verse 11, He hints at His coming crucifixion--"the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep."  A "hireling"--false teacher--won't do that (v. 12), but leaves the sheep to the wolf.  He "does not care about the sheep" (v. 13).  An interesting commentary on false teachers; they "serve their own belly" (Rom. 16:18).  To make His crucifixion allusion even clearer, He says in verse 15, "I lay down my life for the sheep," and because of His willingness to do so, the Father loved Him (v. 17).  God loves all of mankind (John 3:16), and needed some way to try to bring men back into fellowship with Him.  Jesus was willing to pay the price to do that.  How could the Father--or any other right thinking person--NOT love Him?  Jesus did this voluntarily (v. 18).  The Father didn't force Him to do it, and the Jews couldn't kill Him without His permission.  The "other sheep" of verse 16 almost surely refers to Gentiles, to whom the gospel would also be sent.  "There will be one flock and one shepherd."  All of mankind, Jew and Gentile, can unite in the Lord's church.

Opinions about Him (vs. 19-21)--Nothing Jesus had said, or could say, lessened the division He caused.  Some claimed--with absolutely no proof--the He was insane or had a demon (v. 20).  Others, more reasonably, pointed to the evidence--"Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"  Only God has that kind of power, of course.  But, some people were, and are, immune to evidence, especially if it would force them to change their lifestyles and give up their sin.  That's the commitment Jesus demands and it's too high a price to pay for too many people.  So, find an excuse, and pretty much any excuse will do as long as it convinces the one making it.  It doesn't fool God, though, or those who are knowledgeable of the truth.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

John 9

Healing the blind man (vs. 1-12)--This is a very interesting story.  We see a lot of 1st century Jewish philosophy here, and much of it is wrong.  When Jesus' disciples saw the blind man, they asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"  The underlying presupposition of the question is erroneous:  God was punishing this man with blindness because somebody had sinned.  Sin can have physical consequences, but not like this.  And they should have known better.  This is the same philosophy Job's friends had--"Job, you must be a wicked person for God to do what He's doing to you."  Job knew he hadn't sinned, at least not like his friends were accusing him, so he couldn't understand what God was doing either.  In the case of the blind man, Jesus tells His followers that nobody sinned, but this case will be used "that the works of God should be revealed in him" (v. 3).  And Jesus would keep working the works of God as long as He was here because He is the light of the world (vs. 4-5).
So Jesus made clay from dirt and spittle and anointed the blind man's eyes, telling him to go wash in the pool of Siloam (vs. 5-6).  The making of clay was symbolic; Jesus had, many times, healed with a word.  But Christ wanted the man to do something towards his own healing, and the fellow did.  And he "came back seeing" (v. 7).  Can you imagine what it would be like, having been blind from birth, and now able to see?  It must have been a marvelous thing.  And indeed, it attracted attention (vs. 8-12), so much so that he was taken to the religious leaders for cross-examination (v. 13).

The blind man's conversation with the Pharisees (vs. 13-34)--John informs us that the healing had taken place on the Sabbath day (v. 14).  That meant more to the Pharisees than an incredible miracle being performed.  They asked the man what had happened and he explained (v. 15).  The Pharisees were incensed; Jesus can't be from God because He broke the Sabbath, or at least their interpretation of it.  But some of them were confused.  "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" (v. 16).  It was a legitimate question, but too many of the Pharisees were simply immune to examining their own religious doctrine.  The blind man himself, understandably, claimed Jesus was a prophet (v. 17).  What the Pharisees did next is not necessarily to be condemned, except they weren't properly motivated:  they asked the blind man's parents about him.  Getting confirmation was a good thing, again if motivated correctly.  There were then, as there are today, a lot of tricksters and shysters who made (make) their living through deception.  The blind man's parents claimed their son (v. 20).  When asked how he was now able to see if he was born blind, the parents, reasonably, replied, "ask him.  He will speak for himself" (v. 21).  John does note that they were intimidated by the Pharisees (v. 22).  So, the religious leaders turn back to the blind man.  "Give God the glory!  We know that this Man is a sinner" (v. 24).  The blind man rips their argument apart.  "I don't know if He's a sinner or not.  All I know is, I was blind and now I see" (v. 25).  In other words, "you draw the conclusions from that."  The Pharisees asked the man again how he had been healed (v. 26).  "I've already told you.  Do you want to be His disciples, too?" (v. 27).  That really angered the Pharisees.  "We're Moses' disciples.  We don't where Jesus came from" (v. 29).  And once again, the blind man makes a fool of them.  "This is amazing.  A sinner couldn't do this, only somebody who truly worships God" (vs. 30-31).  Actually, his "we know that God does not hear sinners" (v. 31) is more inaccurate Jewish philosophy.  Depending upon circumstances, God will hear "sinners"; Cornelius in Acts 20 is an example.  But because the Jews would agree with the blind man's philosophy, he has them cornered.  "He's performed a miracle that is unheard of 'since the world began'"--an interesting observation on the economy of miracles in human history (v. 32).  So, the man's conclusion was logical, given his doctrine:  "if this Man were not from God, He could do nothing" (v. 33).  And there was no way the Pharisees could counter that--except by force, so they kick him out of the synagogue.  This was something of an excommunication, separation from those who would worship God at that place.  His parents had feared this would happen to them if they supported Jesus (v. 22).  The blind man's adherence to logic and truth cost him his place in the Jewish religion.  But gained him something better.

Notice also in verse 34 that the Pharisees, too, accept the idea that the man must have been a sinner to have been born blind.  God blesses the righteous and He curses sinners.  If rich people can't go to heaven, who can? (Matt. 19:25)  It was the common belief of the Jews of that day but it was wrong.

Jesus' conversation with the blind man (vs. 35-41)--Jesus apparently went looking for the fellow (v. 35) and directed him to saving faith.  The miracle wouldn't have done much good if the man hadn't been taught what to do with it.  Jesus came to the world for "judgment" (v. 39).  In other words, those who will "see," will be judged righteous and be granted eternal life.  Those who will not see will be judged and condemned to eternal separation.  The Pharisees, hearing this, wanted to know if Christ considered them among the spiritual blind (v. 40).  Jesus' enigmatic statement in verse 41 probably confused them.  "If you were blind, you would have no sin"--if they didn't already have their minds made up, they would be open to His message--"but now you say, 'We see.'  Therefore your sins remain."  They thought they already had the answers, thus they were not willing to listen to Jesus.  Their rejection of him was their ultimate sin.