…for that eye that is turned from the light is the blind, and leads into the ditch. (Works, Vol. IV, p.25)
In this study, I have been looking at the book of John through the lens of the Jewish Passover. Therefore I am attempting to see what the text has to say about our passage from death to life, our passage from slaves of Satan to becoming sons of God.
It is not clear from the text that the events of chapter nine and all of chapter ten are linked to the Feast of Dedication or Festival of Lights. I am treating them as though they were joined in theme; an approach you may disagree with.
Chapter nine contains the story of the man born blind, how Jesus gave him sight, the astonishment of all who had known the blind man as a poor beggar, and the Jewish authorities rejection of the once blind man. This chapter sets the background for Jesus’ discourse about the good shepherd, the sheep, and the sheepfold. We then get to the subject of the Feast of Dedication and a discussion between Jesus and the Jews concerning who he is.
What does all this have to do with the Feast of Dedication? How does the history of that feast give us a different understanding of the events of this portion of John? And how does this fit with our theme of passing from death to life?
The Feast of Dedication is centered around the history of the overthrow of the Seleucid (Greek) control of Israel. The Greeks had conquered Palestine, they disrupted temple worship, they put out the light that God had commanded should always be burning in the temple, but when they offered swine on the altar, the Jews rose up in revolt. They threw out the Greeks, cleansed the temple, and rekindled the flame. Thus the second name: Festival of Lights.
Lets look at the events of chapter nine with this in mind. A blind man is a man without light. He was considered defiled, unfit for service in the temple, and thought to be cursed by God. (“Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind.”) It is significant that the man was born blind, it was not a temporary loss of sight, it was not a consequence of something he did.
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” said Jesus. And he spat on the ground, made clay from the spittle, smeared this clay on the man’s eyes, and sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam.
Let’s pause the script. We are witnessing the cleansing of the temple and the kindling of the eternal flame that lights our way to the presence of God. This is taking place within this blind man. Jesus gives the man instruction, the man obeys, he receives sight, and he receives insight sufficient to counter the Jewish authorities. All this takes place on the basis of hearing and following Jesus’ teaching. “If you would be my disciples, abide in my word, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” [from the blindness of following Satan], Jesus stated in John 8:31. Here is our theme of passing out of the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God, from death to life.
The man, no longer blind, is immediately put to the test. Will he stand by his newly found sight or will he repudiate it to stay in the “comfortable curse” of the religious elite? He stands, he is thrown out of the synagogue as a total outcast. Jesus finds him and asks, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” This is a “believe” that has had consequences and will have further consequences. This is a “believe” that defines the rest of life.
This man has put his life on the line in response to a brief encounter with Jesus. Jesus does not abandon him but seeks him out.
Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” asked the man. Jesus openly identified himself to this no-longer-blind man, who then worshiped Jesus.
One question is “What does it take to believe?” You could argue that the blind man believed because of the miracle. The miracle was substantiated by two or more witnesses (the legal requirement for a fact admissible in court) before the Jewish authorities, who wouldn’t believe.
Jesus’ statement gives us a clue:
For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
Even though the event of this chapter concerns physical sight, Jesus’ statement is about that “seeing” within ourselves that shows us our standing before our Creator. In order to believe, we must accept this sight and live by it. The eye that claims to “see” by some other source than the light of Christ must be made blind before the person is convinced of their true blindness. When we come to know that our temple is foul and desecrated, that our “seeing” has been only deception, we can cry out like blind Bartimaeus saying, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.”
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. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. (John 9:39-10:5)
In the first chapter, the author of the book of John introduces the Word (i.e. the Voice) in whom is the life that is the light of mankind. This voice, this light, this Word, is Christ the teacher that gives us sight to find our way to God. This voice is both our haven of safety (the sheepfold) and the shepherd who reveals to his sheep the pastures of life. In the following two quotes, an epistle addressed, “A WORD FROM THE LORD TO ALL THE WORLD…” and from a letter to Priest Lampitt [“a deceiver, surfeited and drunk with the earthly spirit” (Vol.1, p.167)], George Fox spells out this process of cleansing and enlightening the temple.
And this light is your teacher, which teacheth you holiness, and teacheth you the fear of the Lord; and this light hating of it will be your condemnation, and then you stumble…the earth must be removed, and the earth must be shaken when the glory of the Lord ariseth. This is witnessed…And if you take heed to that light which will exercise your consciences, it will let you see yourselves…and this light will let you see God; but if your minds go forth, the God of this world cometh in and takes the dominion, and so your minds are blinded, and your understandings darkened…mind the pure light of God within, which will teach every one to know God, (Vol. IV, pp. 28-29)
And this light will teach thee, if thou lovest it, it will teach thee holiness and righteousness, without which none shall see God;…The Lord is coming to teach his people himself…The Lord is opening the eyes of foolish people that they shall see such as bear rule over them…Therefore to the light in you I speak…Your teacher is within you; look not forth; it will teach you lying in bed, going abroad, to shun all occasion of sin and evil. (Journal of George Fox, Nickalls Edition, p. 143)
I will look at the rest of Chapter 10 in the next post.