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Luke 11:37-54; John 9:1-10:21 Listen
In this passage, we see the following events in Jesus' ministry:
1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
8 The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.
10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.
12 Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.
13 They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.
14 And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.
15 Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.
16 Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
17 They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.
18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.
19 And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?
20 His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind:
21 But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself.
22 These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
23 Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.
Here's, perhaps, my favorite story of the Gospels. Not only is this story entertaining, it also captures the essence of the BIG problem with the Jewish leadership of Jesus' day - corruption. So...here we have a man who wasn't just blind; he was born blind. Notice in verse 2 the question that Jesus' own disciples ask, "Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" The Jewish paradigm obviously held that sickness was as a result of sin, despite the fact that the entire Book of Job (see notes) serves to dismiss this notion. For a clearer perspective, click here to read the article entitled, "Trial versus Chastisement." We'll see in verse 34 that the Pharisees also held to this incorrect notion that all sickness was as a result of sin. I suppose the Book of Job was not on the frequent-reading list of first-century Jews. However, Jesus sets the record straight in verse 3 when he tells his disciples, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." He becomes a source of real irritation to the Pharisees in this passage. After being healed by Jesus, the previously-blind man faces intense interrogation by the Pharisees; I mean intense.
The Pharisees' first tactic is to discount the miracle by instructing the healed man, "Hey man, just say it didn't really happen!" That failed; the man stuck to his story. Then they try to minimize the impact of the event by pointing out that no godly healer would do such on the sabbath. The healed man just can't buy into that theory. He maintains that Jesus is a prophet from God. Watch it now! You're about to step over the line with these guys. Don't you realize that they have the power to put you out of the synagogue if you don't cooperate? But how can the man deny what has happened to himself?
Then the healed man's parents get the call and are prompted to deny all of this really happened. They've already heard that to admit that Jesus healed their son means getting their church letter pulled (so to speak) - kicked out of the synagogue (verses 22-23). His parents acknowledge that he is their son, that he was once blind and now isn't, but how did it happen? "Search us - ask him!" So, what happens when you just report the facts - facts that the Pharisees don't want to hear? Read on!
Wait a minute! Couldn't all of this have been avoided if Jesus had not gone to the measures he did to heal this man. After all, we know from other passages in the Gospel accounts that people were miraculously healed by Jesus by actions as simple as merely touching the hem of his garment...as was the case in Matthew 14:34-36, Mark 6:53-56 (see notes). It must be that the healing procedure Jesus used in verses 6-7 was designed to challenge the hypocritical practice of Sabbath keeping by these Pharisees. There we see that Jesus used his own saliva mixed with dirt to provide an ointment for the man's eyes, after which the man was instructed to go wash his eyes out in the Pool of Siloam. By Pharisaical definition, that's work...and on the Sabbath.
By the way, the Law of Moses contained no restriction regarding the practice of doctoring on the Sabbath day. You see, oral additions to the Law by Pharisaical-style lawyers down through the centuries had determined more specific guidelines defining forbidden Sabbath practices. Therefore, even though the Law of Moses did not forbid a doctor from healing on the Sabbath, the Pharisees had their own set of rules that had deemed it a violation of the Sabbath work principle.
24 Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.
25 He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
26 Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?
27 He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?
28 Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples.
29 We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.
30 The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.
31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.
32 Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
33 If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.
34 They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
Those hypocritical Pharisees - they're still irritated over Christ having healed the man blind from birth...on the Sabbath. Of course, the real problem was the testimony of the people standing by watching this miracle. We already saw in verse 22 that if anyone confessed that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah), he would be kicked out of the synagogue. The Pharisees felt that they must do some damage control here. I mean...what are the people going to say after witnessing this? After giving up on his parents, they turn their heavy-duty questioning on the blind man again. "We know he's a sinner!" shout the Pharisees to the blind man. Frustrated, the blind man replies, "Don't know about that, but this I know, I was once blind, but now I see."
The blind man is no theologian, but he makes a very doctrinally-sound statement to the Pharisees in verse 31, "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth." Oops...newly-sighted man - you've gone and said the politically incorrect thing now! Of course he just captured the essence of Proverbs 28:9 (see notes), "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination." Then there's Isaiah 59:2 (see notes), "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." Let's face it, the Pharisees certainly had their opportunities to heal this previously-blind man themselves, had they the ability to do so. So, what happens to this man on his first day ever of seeing a Pharisee? Those arrogant, white-robed, tefillin-wearin', holy-actin', prayer chantin' hypocrites kick him out of the synagogue! Who wants to be a member of a synagogue like that anyway.
So, when the newly-sighted man meets Jesus again after being ejected from the synagogue, Jesus shows him something better than mere religion...and he accepts (verses 35-38). That's when Jesus characterizes the events of this day in verse 39 when he says, "For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind." Hmmm...obviously there is a spiritual lesson in that statement, and the Pharisees just can't let this opportunity to challenge Jesus pass by. Read on.
40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
Well...some of the Pharisees overhear Jesus talking to the newly-sighted man in verses 35-39. They are particularly interested in Jesus' acknowledgement of being the "Son of God." Some setups are just too easy...as in the case of the question the Pharisees ask Jesus in verse 40, "Are we blind also?" Nope! Blindness is not really what your problem is; it's much worse than that. With these words, Jesus goes into the monologue of chapter 10 (see below).
1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
19 There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.
20 And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?
21 Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
So, what about those rascal Pharisees that kicked the blind man out of the synagogue after he was healed in chapter 9. It's their turn to go a round with Jesus, the Messiah. Let's do a shepherd analogy. This "shepherd" theme will hit home with the Pharisees because of the use of this term by many of the Old Testament prophets with regard to leading the people of Israel. Jesus makes a sharp comparison between a "good shepherd" like Christ, or hired hands like the Pharisees in this passage. Read it through and realize that Christ is tagging these Pharisees as thieves and robbers. After all, how else do you explain their self-serving actions of chapter 9 of ejecting the healed blind man from the synagogue. But back to the good shepherd - how committed is the good shepherd, Jesus? Verses 17-18 say it all, the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep - and takes it back again. That's a direct reference to his voluntary crucifixion and resurrection!
Notice the characters in this analogy:
Now, read this passage again inserting the substitutions above. Here's the bottom line to this passage. If you Pharisees really were shepherds instead of hired hands, you would not have kicked this innocent man out of your synagogue as you did in 9:34 (see above). Since you did so, you just demonstrate that you're really just a bunch of thieves and robbers. Even though he speaks using this analogy, do you think these Pharisees got the message? Ohhhhh...I think so. Look at verses 19-21. Yeah...they understood.
Let's look at some of the finer points of this parable. First of all, notice verse 5, "And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers." There's a Greek double negative (ou me) to add strength there...similar to our southern slang, "There just ain't no way they're going to follow a stranger!" In verses 11-18 Jesus makes it clear that he will be giving his life for the sheep; that's what a dedicated shepherd does...unlike the Pharisees who have just booted a man out of the synagogue. Notice the division among the Jews as a result of Jesus' words here. All of these were religious people, but some of them allowed their religion to get in the way of an authentic relationship with God.
So, here's the question. Since this parable was given in response to the Jews' question of John 9:40 (see above), how universal are the statements of this parable? In other words, are the thieves, robbers, strangers and hirelings only a reference to the Pharisees in Jesus' day? Here's what I say, "If the shoe fits, wear it." Generally speaking, professional religionists should take this parable to heart. If form is more important than meeting peoples' spiritual needs to you, put the shoe on. If you're absorbed in man-made traditions to which you have attached the same weight as scripture, put the shoe on. Let's face it: There are many practical Pharisees in fundamental churches today.
A note about the chronology
We see that Jesus had gone to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7:10-11 (see notes). There is no indication that Jesus had left Judea between then and this occasion. The Feast of Tabernacles takes place each year in the seventh month (Tishri) of the Jewish calendar. That places it in September/October, in the fall season of the year. The chapter divisions in the Bible were added in 1205 by Stephen Langton, a professor in Paris (he later became Archbishop of Canterbury), who put these into a Vulgate edition of the Bible. It was Robert Stephanus, a Parisian book printer, who took over the verse divisions already indicated in the Hebrew Bible and assigned numbers to them within the chapter divisions already assigned by Stephen Langton. While riding on horseback from Paris to Lyons he affixed his own verse divisions to the New Testament and numbered them within Langton's chapter divisions. Prior to that time when folks looked at Old and New Testament manuscripts, there were no divisions - just one continuous long epistle from beginning to end.
That being said, there seems to be a break in time between the occasion covered in John 9:1-10:21 (see above) and John 10:22 (see notes). Verse 22 states, "And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter." The Feast of Dedication, now known as Hanukkah, was established as a memorial to the purification and rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabeus on Kislev (December) 25, 165 B.C. There can be no question, therefore, that we are now (verse 22) in the 25th day of the 9th month (Kislev), when this eight-day festival began each year. In the Greek construction of this sentence, the "and" (Greek: "de") at the beginning of verse 22 is not really indicative of a continuation of the events found in John 9:1-10:21 as might be suggested in the KJV.
So, plainly stated, there seems to be a two-month lapse in time between John 10:21 and 22, even though when reading this passage, it appears that perhaps we are looking at one contiguous event. (Click here to read the commentary beginning with John 10:22.)
So, in between John 10:21 and John 10:22, we have placed an entire section of Luke from Luke 11:37-54 (see below) into Luke 12 and all the way to Luke 13:21(see notes). This chronological order is preferred because of the fig-tree parable found in Luke 13:1-9 (see notes). That would place the event found there between the seventh and ninth months of the year. Luke 11:37 through 13:21 seem to be chronologically contiguous.
37 And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat.
38 And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.
39 And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.
40 Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?
41 But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.
42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
43 Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.
44 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.
45 Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also.
46 And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.
47 Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.
48 Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres.
49 Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute:
50 That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation;
51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.
52 Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
53 And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things:
54 Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.
Now that seems nice - an invitation to dinner at a Pharisee's house. On second thought, maybe this wasn't intended to be a friendly dinner after all. Things turn ugly when the host (a Pharisee) "marvelled" that Jesus did not wash his hands before eating...in front of all his professional religious buddies who were also present. To the Pharisees, this was a violation of their religious practice. Note Mark's detail of this practice on another occasion in Mark 7:1-4 (see notes):
Mark 7:1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.
Mark 7:2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
Mark 7:3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.
Mark 7:4 And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
So, you see, it was just another addendum to the Law of Moses which the Pharisees observed as though it were an integral part of the Law of Moses. It's bad form for the host Pharisee to comment; he invites the reply and commentary from Jesus regarding their long list of man-made religious requirements. As a matter of fact, we observe that this statement and the reply of Jesus were made in the presence of not only other Pharisees, but scribes (verse 44) and lawyers (verse 45) as well. Obviously, this was just another occasion in which the Jewish leadership sought to discredit Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus begins his reply by addressing them as "fools." As a matter of fact, Jesus several times in this discourse uses the phrase, "Woe unto you!" The Greek word for "woe" (ouai) means "disaster." In other words, Jesus is saying to them, "You bring disaster upon yourself." Those are pretty strong words and a grave indictment against the Pharisees, lawyers and scribes in this passage.
Jesus issues the following indictments against these Pharisees:
Jesus then tears into the lawyers in the group:
Obviously this meal invitation had only been an opportunity for the Jewish leaders to discredit Jesus as evidenced in verses 53-54, "And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him."
Carefully note what brought on this pointed criticism by Jesus: Giving the weight of God's Law to extra-scriptural practices. I can't help but think of all the extra-scriptural practices that exist in churches today - practices that are treated with the same level of importance as scriptural standards for Godly Christian living. What would Jesus say? If it was wrong for the Pharisees to do then, it's still wrong to do so now.