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Luke 11:37-54; John 9:1-10:21    Listen Podcast


In this passage, we see the following events in Jesus' ministry:

Jesus heals a blind man (John 9:1-23)

1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.
2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 ¶ Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.
4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 ¶ When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.
7 And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.
8 ¶ Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?”
9 ¶ Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.” ¶ He said, “I am he.”
10 ¶ Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”
11 ¶ He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.”
12 ¶ Then they said to him, “Where is He?” ¶ He said, “I do not know.”
13 ¶ They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees.
14 Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.
15 Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”
16 ¶ Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” ¶ Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.
17 ¶ They said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him because He opened your 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 who had received his sight.
19 And they asked them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does 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 sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.”
22 His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue.
23 Therefore his parents said, “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. we have a man who wasn't just blind; he was born blind. Notice in verse 2 the question that Jesus' own disciples ask, "Rabbi, who sinned, 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 this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed 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 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.

Let's work the so-called blind man over again! (John 9:24-39)

24 ¶ So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.”
25 ¶ He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.”
26 ¶ Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?”
27 ¶ He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?”
28 ¶ Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples.
29 We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”
30 ¶ The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes!
31 Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.
32 Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind.
33 If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”
34 ¶ They answered and said to him, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out.
35 ¶ Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”
36 ¶ He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”
37 ¶ And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”
38 ¶ Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.
39 ¶ And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may 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 does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him." 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), "One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination." Then there's Isaiah 59:2 (see notes), "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So 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 have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may 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.

Some setups are just too easy! (John 9:40-41)

40 ¶ Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?”
41 ¶ Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.

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 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).

Now for a word to those rascal Pharisees (John 10:1-21)
Putting the incident between the blind man (chapter 9) and the Pharisees into perspective

1 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
6 Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.
7 ¶ Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.
9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
11 ¶ “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.
13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.
15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know 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 will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
17 ¶ “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.
18 No one takes 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 command I have received from My Father.”
19 ¶ Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings.
20 And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?”
21 ¶ Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon 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, "Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know 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, "Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, 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.

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.

Dinner with a Pharisee turns ugly (Luke 11:37-54)

37 ¶ And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat.
38 When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.
39 ¶ Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.
40 Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?
41 But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you.
42 ¶ “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.
44 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.”
45 ¶ Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.”
46 ¶ And He said, “Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.
47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.
48 In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs.
49 Therefore the wisdom of God also said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill 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 to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.
52 ¶ “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”
53 ¶ And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things,
54 lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, 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 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):

1 Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem.
2 Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault.
3 For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders.
4 When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. 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 to 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 to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, 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.