John (Part 32): Messiah Illustration – the Blind Man Healed cont’d (ch 9)
The Pharisees were in a difficult situation. For both political and religious reasons, they didn’t want Jesus gaining prominence. The problem was that he had supposedly performed a miracle—opening the eyes of the blind. They had attempted to grasp at a straw. He had performed his miracle on a Sabbath—and work on a Sabbath violated the law. Could they discredit him with that? They asked the man how he was healed and found that Jesus put mud on his eyes (9:15)—barely any work and not precisely forbidden by the law. So they tried another tack. Maybe the man didn’t credit Jesus with the miracle. But again they are disappointed. The man called him a prophet—a man from God (9:17). They had run through two syllogisms:
Pharisees’ 1st attempt to discredit – Maybe Jesus broke the Sabbath law
Major Premise: All people from God obey the Sabbath
Minor Premise: Jesus does not obey the Sabbath
Conclusion: Jesus is not from God
Pharisees’ 2nd attempt – Maybe the man doesn’t attribute the miracle to him, but …
Major Premise: Only people from God can heal the blind
Minor Premise: Jesus healed the blind
Conclusion: Jesus is from God
So the Pharisees had to forge another theory—create a different spin. Maybe this whole story of healing was just made up. Maybe they could discredit the story itself. This man wasn’t really blind before, so they said and so they convinced themselves (9:18). So they decided to check with his parents.
The first question (not recorded) must have been “Was your son born blind?” But, of course, his parents answered yes. Okay, but there’s still opportunity. The Pharisees, hoping this person was not their son who was born blind, ask, “Is this your son?” Well, again they are disappointed. Yes, that is their son. But still, hoping that there was some other explanation for his sight, they ask, “How does he now see?” And here the parents become fearful. They probably heard the story from their son, but they don’t want to be accused of calling Jesus the Messiah. They could be thrown out of the synagogue.
Being thrown out of the synagogue is not like being kicked out of class or told not to come back at some church. The synagogue was the focal point of Jewish life. It highlighted the religious, political, and social interaction of the community. To be cast out of the synagogue was to be shunned from society. And these parents probably had already had tasted that. Remember their son was born blind. Remember the disciples’ question at the beginning—who sinned, this man or his parents? Most people probably thought these parents had committed some grievous sin, which God judged by making their son blind from birth. This stigma had followed them closely now for decades. And now they could get cast out of society again because of their blind son? No, they say, we don’t know. Ask him.
Well, the Pharisees had already asked him and couldn’t get a satisfactory reply. Time again to switch gears, but they were out of options. So they revert back to the only thread of condemnation they could hold on to—he was a Sabbath breaker—a sinner. They called him back in a second time (9:24) and, using their most threatening voices, told him, “Give glory to God! We know this man is a sinner!”
The sinner label was not applied to everyone who ever sinned. It was reserved for Jews who forsook the covenant life, choosing instead some anti-Jewish way to live. Publicans and tax collectors were sinners because, although Jews, they lived outside Jewish society and worked for Rome. They chose money and profit over religious covenant connection to God. So the Pharisees reasoned that Jesus didn’t follow the Pharisees’ teaching. Jesus didn’t pay attention to Sabbath law. Therefore, Jesus, again according to the Pharisees, was outside the Jews’ covenant relationship. He was a sinner.
The Pharisees combined points of the previous two syllogisms in order to force the healed man to admit that Jesus was not the cause of the miracle. They took the major premise of the second syllogism and matched it with the conclusion of the first syllogism to form a new conclusion—that Jesus could not have performed the miracle:
Major Premise: Only people from God can heal the blind
Minor Premise (conclusion to the original syllogism): Jesus is not from God
Conclusion: Jesus did not heal the blind
By crying out, “Give glory to God!” the Pharisees could have meant one of two things—both of which would serve the same purpose of denying Jesus involvement in the miracle. First, they could simply be telling the man that instead of giving glory to Jesus for this miracle, he should be giving glory to God. Their point, again, was that the miracle was indeed a good thing, and all good things come from God. Jesus was a sinner, and therefore, Jesus could not have had anything to do with this good thing.
Or, we can understand the meaning of the phrase “give glory to God” as it had often been used in formal Jewish trial settings in which the accused is urged to repent of his wrongdoing by confessing his sin and telling the truth. The man had claimed Jesus was a prophet—a man from God. The Pharisees disagreed. They want the man to admit that Jesus is not a prophet—not a man from God. So they urge him to confess as much. In doing so—in telling the truth—this would bring honor to God. So, they call out for him to give that honor—that glory—to God by confessing he was wrong and telling the truth—that Jesus is a sinner having nothing to do with the miracle.
Whichever is meant in the phrase give glory to God, the intent would be the same: Jesus would be discredited.