From:  Busy Person’s Guide to John 1 to 10                                    Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2019

 

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Busy Person’s Guide to the New Testament:

Quickly Understanding John

 

(Volume 1:  Chapters 9 to 10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

 

 

On the Sabbath Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind (John 9:1-12):  1 Now as Jesus was passing by, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?” 

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so that the acts of God may be revealed through what happens to him.  We must perform the deeds of the one who sent me as long as it is daytime. Night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Having said this, he spat on the ground and made some mud with the saliva.  He smeared the mud on the blind man’s eyes and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated “sent”).  So the blind man went away and washed, and came back seeing.

Then the neighbors and the people who had seen him previously as a beggar began saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”  Some people said, “This is the man!” while others said, “No, but he looks like him.”  The man himself kept insisting, “I am the one!” 

10 So they asked him, “How then were you made to see?”11 He replied, “The man called Jesus made mud, smeared it on my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’  So I went and washed, and was able to see.”  12 They said to him, “Where is that man?”  He replied, “I don’t know.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

           

 

                        9:1       Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.  Disease and injury can strike a person blind in one eye or both at any point in life.  But this person had borne the affliction from the time of his birth and had never been able to see at all--the ultimate disaster in blindness.   

            The time correlation between 8:59 and this incident is unstated, but when read as a consecutive text--manuscripts were without chapter divisions--it surely causes readers to assume that this likely took place the same day near the Temple.  And what place to feel more confident of receiving charity than that place which was regarded as the center of Jewish piety?  Verse 8 tells us that he was known as regularly begging at that location.  Acts 3:2 confirms that those who had severe physical conditions--in that case lameness from birth--chose that place as well.    

 

            9:2       And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Assuming that when something bad happens to someone sin has to be involved, certain disciples wondered whether the blindness was caused by the man’s own transgression.  Or was it the sin of his parents instead?  (Note their dangerous leap from calamity being capable of being the divine backlash against sin to the assumption that in any and every case it must be so.)  The fact that they knew this piece of his history argues that the man was repeatedly “chanting” out loud the duration of his affliction to encourage donations; otherwise they would not have known it.

            Sidebar:  The idea that calamities of the current generation were due to those of the past can be found in such Old Testament texts as Exodus 20:5, Exodus 34:7, and Numbers 14:18.  All three texts refer to the punishment stretching to the third and fourth generation and none refer to physical disease as being the mode of punishment.  It makes far more inherent sense that the temporal consequences of current sin will have a ripple effect on the fortunes of the next generation:  You mess up your life morally, financially, or in any other major way, the odds are excellent that it will take multiple generations for your descendents to “get back on their feet.”  When it is a society that does so, the results are far more catastrophic for far more people are involved. 

            A goodly number of Protestant theologians are convinced that we all bear the curse of sin before we are born--not because of parental sin but because of our inheriting the sin of Adam and Eve.  One of their primary proof texts is relevant to our current theme:  Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalms 51:5).  If one but reads the text as it is clearly written, however, the point is not that David was a sinner before he was born, but that his mother was the sinner--as are all parents due to their moral and ethical failures.  Hence he was born into a sinful world--“brought forth in iniquity” . . . her iniquity and that of the preceding generation.    

            Some Jews were even convinced that the person himself would be recycled onto the earth and be punished by his bodily condition for earlier evil.  In the apocryphal book of Wisdom we read (8:19-20):  As a child I was by nature well endowed, and a good soul fell to my lot; or rather, being good, I entered an undefiled body” (RSV).

             

            9:3       Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.  Jesus responded that sin was not involved on any one’s part.  Regardless of the cause of the problem, the fact of its existence would work to demonstrate God’s power (“works”).  The answer asserts that no such connection exists [with sin], and our Lord’s words remain a warning against the spirit of judging other men’s lives, and tracing in the misfortunes and sorrows which they have to bear the results of individual sin or the proof of divine displeasure.  There is a chain connecting the sin of humanity and its woe, but the links are not traceable by the human eye.”  (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

 

            9:4       I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.  Jesus had to do such things as they were about to behold either now or in the near future because time (= “day”) was running out for Him in this life and the darkness of “night” (= death) was all too near.  Later would simply be too late for His miracles and words to be directly seen by one and all.  If all that is recorded from John 7:37 takes place on one day, these words would probably be spoken in the evening, when the failing light would add force to the warning, night cometh (no article), when no one can work. . . .  Compare . . . Psalms 104:23 [“Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening”].  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

 

            9:5       As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  The previous reference to “light” was an allusion to what Jesus Himself was--“the light of the world” and here He makes it explicit.  The time was coming when that “daylight” would be unavailable--because he was going to be judicially murdered.  He was “the light” both literally in restoring sight to the blind and also in bringing spiritual light to those who were blind in sin.  The first was cured by miracles and the second by teaching them the truth they needed to hear.  He had referred to Himself as the light of the world in the previous chapter, so this was no new teaching to those who knew Him well (8:12).

 

            9:6       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.  Whatever may have been expected by His disciples, this was probably the last thing on their minds:  He bent down and used spit and dirt to produce a kind of clay that He applied to the eyes of the blind man.  He did this, perhaps, to delay what was happening and to make the miracle even more emphatic and burnt into their memory.  (He was dealing, after all, with only one man, and there was not the press of many others to heal.)  In Mark 8:22-26 we have Him spitting on the eyes and touching the blind as part of the healing.  In Mark 7:33-34 Jesus “took [a deaf man] aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue” and commanded the affliction to depart.  The varying procedures conveyed the message that the power to heal was inherent in the Lord Himself and not in the means used to prepare the person for the healing.

            “We know from the pages of Pliny, and Tacitus, and Suetonius, that the saliva jejuna was held to be a remedy in cases of blindness, and that the same remedy was used by the Jews is established by the writings of the Rabbis.  That clay was so used is not equally certain, but this may be regarded as the vehicle by means of which the saliva was applied. . . .  Physicians had applied such means commonly to cases of post-natal blindness, but congenital blindness had always been regarded as incurable, and no instance to the contrary had ever been heard of (John 9:32). The Great Physician, then, by using the ordinary means, will teach men that the healing powers of nature are His gracious gift, and that they are increased at the Giver’s will.”  (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)   

 

            9:7       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.  The blind man had not asked for healing.  In fact, he had not verbally indicated He believed Jesus had the power to heal.  But he may well have heard passing stories of this visitor to Jerusalem and, worse come to worse, what did he have to lose?  Jesus had implied a blessing that made most sense as the gift of sight (verse 3) so at the absolute minimum he had at least enough faith to see what would happen next.   

            Having done the seemingly irrelevant act of putting the clay on the eyes, He places the future in the man’s own hands.  Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.”  The “washing” could refer to either the entire body or, more likely, washing off what was on his eyes.  If he went, it showed he had faith that he could be cured.  If he chose not to go, well the precondition for the cure had not been meant.  The man wisely chose obedience and was blessed by his eyesight.

            The command recalls that to Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5:10), and not improbably recalled it to the mind of the blind man.  In any case, it is a further stage in his spiritual education.  It is a demand on the faith which realizes the presence of the Power to heal.  The place is chosen, perhaps, as a well-known spot, or as one at some little distance, so as to afford time for reflection and a test for obedience.  It may be, however, that there is another reason for the choice.  The pool of Siloam was bound up with all the religious feelings of the Feast of Tabernacles.  A solemn procession went each morning to it, and carried water from it to the Temple.  That water had already led to the teaching of the gift of the Spirit to every man who should receive the Messiah (see . . . John 7:37 . . .), uttered, perhaps, on this very day (compare John 9:1).  There would be attached, then, to the pool of Siloam a sacred significance that would be in itself a help to faith.”  (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

           

            9:8       Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?”  This man was not an anonymous unknown from a different section of Jerusalem and or even a different city who might have been bribed to fake blindness.  His “neighbors” recognized him and wondered how he could possibly be seeing after all these years.  These would be those who literally lived in the same neighborhood as he did as well as those who regularly passed by whatever site he routinely begged at.  He might well be able to find his way slowly homeward due to years of infinite repetition and the help of a walking stick.  But now he would have moved far more quickly and without the hesitancy that would have normally accompanied him.  Surely there was also joy and happiness reflected on his face as well.

            Chronology:  The man “came back seeing”--as if “coming back to Jesus” is under discussion (verse 7).  He summarizes to these “neighbors” what Jesus had done in verse 11 and in verse 12 we are informed that Jesus was elsewhere.  Hence this section seems to describe what happened a bit later after he had returned to his own neighborhood.   

            Sidebar:  The “critical text” substitutes “beggar” for the word “blind,” but the fact that they recognized that his physical condition had dramatically changed is shown by their recognizing him with amazement (verse 9)--implying a visually dramatic change in how he appeared and acted.  This is followed by their referring to how that previously he had not been able to see (verse 10), i.e., as having been blind.  “Blind” and “begging” normally went hand-in-hand.  Not synomyns but close.

 

            9:9       Some said, “This is he.”  Others said, “He is like him.”  He said, “I am he.  Some were immediately confident it was him.  Others, realizing that the impossible had happened, were equally convinced it had to be a look alike:  It “couldn’t” happen; therefore it “hadn’t.”  “The circumstance of having received his sight would give him an air of spirit and cheerfulness, which would render him something unlike what he was before, and might occasion a little doubt to those who were not well acquainted with him.” — Doddridge.  (Benson Commentary)

 

            9:10     Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”  What more natural question could there be?  They could see that the “impossible” had occurred and they would be less than human if they did not want to know how.  The question also implies that any temporary doubt had been removed.

 

            9:11     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.”  He explained to them the simple but odd procedure.  At the worst, he would be wasting a little time.  But blind as he was, he really didn’t have anything to lose by following His instructions.  Furthermore Jesus’ behavior of “anointing” his eyes conveyed the confidence that it would be beneficial for the sufferer.  Again we work from an “absolute minimalist” interpretation of what happened, but fully aware that word of mouth about the Lord may have caused the faith level to be considerably above this.  At this point, though, he unquestionably believes in the incredible power of this Jesus--regardless of whether he was yet aware of anything else about Him.

            Sidebar:  Note the gradual development of faith in the man’s soul, and compare it with that of the Samaritan woman (see . . . John 4:19) and of Martha (see . . . John 11:21).  Here he merely knows Jesus’ name and the miracle; in John 9:17 he thinks Him ‘a Prophet;’ in John 9:31 He is ‘of God;’ in John 9:35 He is ‘the Son of God.’  What writer of fiction in the second century could have executed such a study in psychology?”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges) 

 

            9:12     Then they said to him, “Where is He?”  He said, “I do not know.”  The neighbors and acquaintances naturally wanted to see this Healer who could do the impossible, but he confessed that he had no idea where He might be found.  We may see here the slightest hint of why Jesus did not remain around:  He had already been in conflict with the religious authorities and this situation would easily come to their attention.  He wished to provide assistance, but this simply did not seem an expedient time to engage in further immediate conflict.  There is a prudential line between defending the truth and being foolish in courting more trouble than is currently wise.  Remember that in 8:9 they had been ready to stone Him to death.   

 

 

The First Interrogation of the Healed Man by the Pharisees (John 9:13-17):  13 They brought the man who used to be blind to the Pharisees.  14 (Now the day on which Jesus made the mud and caused him to see was a Sabbath.)  15 So the Pharisees asked him again how he had gained his sight. He replied, “He put mud on my eyes and I washed, and now I am able to see.”

16 Then some of the Pharisees began to say, “This man is not from God, because he does not observe the Sabbath.”  But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such miraculous signs?”  Thus there was a division among them. 1 7 So again they asked the man who used to be blind, “What do you say about him, since he caused you to see?”  “He is a prophet,” the man replied.     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            9:13     They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees.  We aren’t told of their motives.  Hostility is not mentioned.  Perhaps they were just doing what a good citizen should do:  bring to the authorities knowledge of something important that has happened and of which they are presumably unaware.  Perhaps even with the thought that if this man had been benefited, perhaps others could be as well.  Furthermore these were supposed to be the religious “experts” of the day.  Of all people, surely the report should be promptly brought to them! 

 

            9:14     Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.  If the neighbors who brought the formerly blind man were anticipating anything favorable, they overlooked the fact that the healing had occurred on the Sabbath day and as ultra-observant technicalists on such matters, many of their “theologians” would be unlikely to view it with sympathy.

            Sidebar:  There were seven miracles of mercy wrought on the Sabbath:  1. Withered hand (Matthew 12:9); 2. Demoniac at Capernaum (Mark 1:21); 3. Simon’s wife’s mother (Mark 1:29); 4. Woman bowed down eighteen years (Luke 13:14); 5. Dropsical man ([= man with “abnormal swelling,” NIV], Luke 14:1); 6. Paralytic at Bethesda (John 5:10); 7. Man born blind.” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

            9:15     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.”  The man explained to them how the healing had occurred, just as he had earlier explained it to his neighbors.

            Sidebar:  The nature of Jesus’ “sin” in surviving ancient rabbinic interpretation:  Nor can any doubt arise that Jesus had violated the rabbinical rules of the Sabbath, though his act had been in perfect harmony with the spirit and even letter of the Mosaic Law.  The making of clay with the spittle and the sand was an infringement of the rule ('Shabbath,' 24:3).  It was curiously laid down in one of the vexatious interpretations (preserved in Jerusalem Gemara on 'Shabbath,' 14) that while ‘wine could by way of remedy be applied to the eyelid, on the ground that this might be treated as washing, it was sinful to apply it to the inside of the eye’ (Edersheim).  And it was positively forbidden (in the same Gemara) to apply saliva to the eyelid, because this would be the application of a remedy.  All medicinal appliances, unless in cases of danger to life or limb, were likewise forbidden.  Consequently, the Lord had broken with the traditional glosses on the Law in more ways than one.”  (Pulpit Commentary)

 

            9:16     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.  One faction was convinced that Jesus could not be “from God” because He had defiled the Sabbath.  They centered on the “legality” of the act.  Another faction centered on the beneficialness of the act and responded, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?”  Implicitly they were opening the door to the possibility that the real difficulty lay not in Jesus healing on the Sabbath but in their interpretation of what Sabbath holiness required.  In its own way that was quite daring since multiple “infringements” of proper Sabbath observance had occurred (cf. verse 15).

            Sidebar:  Who were the dissenters?  If Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, both members of the sanhedrin were now present, they would naturally distinguish themselves on this occasion; and Gamaliel too, on the principles he afterward avowed (Acts 5:38-39), must have been on their side.”  (Benson Commentary)

 

            9:17     They said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?”  He said, “He is a prophet.”  Asking the blind man his opinion of the healer, he gave a great logical response.  He might not understand the theological subtleties of the Torah, but he certainly could recognize the impossible when it had happened.  Who else could do such a beneficial thing unless He be at least a prophet sent by God?

            Although he does not mention it--perhaps doesn’t even realize it--his rabbinic listeners would automatically have grasped that that identification automatically solves any question of the propriety of acting on the Sabbath.  Prophets, as divinely sent men, are even more authoritative than learned rabbis.  If Jesus has broken through some of these restrictions by which they have ‘placed a hedge about the Law,’ surely he had a prophetic right to do it.  The healing marks a Divine commission, and the healed man owned and freely confessed to so much as this:  ‘He is a Prophet.’  [The great medieval rabbinic scholar] Maimonides (quoted by Dr. Farrar) shows that the idea was current that a prophet might, on his own ipse dixit, alter or relax even the Sabbath law, and that then the people were at liberty to obey him.”  (Pulpit Commentary)  

            Sidebar on the nature of a “prophet:”  It is important to note, that even in the language of the ordinary people, the word ‘prophet’ did not mean simply a predictor of events in the future, but one who was [present] as the representative of God.  He was not only or chiefly a ‘fore-teller,’ but a ‘forth-teller,’ declaring God’s truth, revealing His will and character, bearing the witness of divine works; but as the future is ever present to the divine counsels, prophecy, in the narrower sense, may be part of the work of the true prophet [as well].”  (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

 

 

The Interrogation of the Parents of the Formerly Blind Man (John 9:18-23):  18 Now the Jewish religious leaders refused to believe that he had really been blind and had gained his sight until at last they summoned the parents of the man who had become able to see. 19 They asked the parents, “Is this your son, whom you say was born blind?  Then how does he now see?” 

20 So his parents replied, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.  21 But we do not know how he is now able to see, nor do we know who caused him to see.  Ask him, he is a mature adult. He will speak for himself.” 

22 (His parents said these things because they were afraid of the Jewish religious leaders.  For the Jewish leaders had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be put out of the synagogue.  23 For this reason his parents said, “He is a mature adult, ask him.”)     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            9:18     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.  Note how their judgment of what was important was so thoroughly screwed up.  Their first reaction was that whether there was a healing or not, it was irrelevant because the “real” issue was whether it was sinful to do such a thing on the Sabbath (verse 16).  Realizing that there was far from a consensus even among their own people (verse 16 also), they now raise the question that should have been central from the very beginning:  Did a miracle really happen at all?

            A standard modern criticism of the miracles of Jesus is that His miracles weren’t investigated.  Here they were--by those who vehemently wanted a way to discredit the doer.  Yes many ancients were gullible, just like many people of today.  (Don’t think so?  Look at the array of strange conspiracy theories of an incredibly wide variety that are kept floating around!)

            Yet there were also those then and today who wanted to find out the objective truth.  Not that strange malady of 21st century thought, “my truth,” but objective reality (or, at least, the closest one can come to it), “the truth.”  Those existed in major numbers back then as well.

            However a large number were also so prejudiced that they were determined not to admit the genuineness of a miracle from someone whose teachings they disliked.  Period.  Hence, upon at least some occasions, they did carefully investigate specific healings with the knowing and conscious intention of discrediting them.  And that is what we have here:  An investigation for the purpose of proving it didn’t and couldn’t have happened.  It was never more than misrepresentation and distortion.  Even so their best effort to discredit the event isn’t going to work out so well.

 

            9:19     And they asked them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind?  How then does he now see?”  The enquirers wanted his parents to answer three questions.  First, is he your son?  Second, was he born blind?  Third, how was his sight restored?

 

            9:20     His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;    To the first two questions they had no difficulty in providing an answer.  He was their son and he had been born blind.  They knew that from the day he was born.  In none of the Gospels, and in no narrative of this Gospel, is more certain proof given of the reality of a perfectly inexplicable phenomenon.”  (Pulpit Commentary)

 

            9:21     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.  On the third question they dodge, saying they don’t know how the cure was brought about and since he was an adult they should be able to find that out from questioning him themselves.  It is probable that they are playing word games with the word “know” since their denial is based upon the fear of consequences (verse 22).  They may well not know it first hand, not having been present at the time of the healing.  But even a casual “we were told by him” would be potentially hazardous before this extreme an audience.  And even more so, “our son told us and he’s always been truthful.”  

 

            9:22     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.  They dodged the question because the story was afloat that those religious authorities hostile to Jesus were going to expel from the synagogue anyone who confessed allegiance.  And in Jerusalem they could surely make that “stick” even if it might be difficult in other parts of Judea and outright impossible in Galilee.  They might not be able to keep you from believing it, but they were going to invoke their full influence to keep you from saying it publicly.  That might encourage others to do so as well.  And if enough did, their own pre-eminent influence and authority might well be endangered.

            Fascinatingly the son’s own evaluation (so far) was simply, “He is a prophet” (verse 17).  But his parents are clearly afraid of even going that far.  They were fearful that any words of praise would be dangerous--not to mention any that might ultimately lead to the conclusion “that He was Christ” as well.

 

            9:23     Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”  Out of fear of the consequences, his parents avoided the question by passing the buck back to their son.  Not an outstanding example of bravery, but certainly one of reasonable prudence.  (For a modern rough parallel:  Would you feel comfortable speaking words of praise to your congregation’s leaders when it is clear they resent and despise the person?)

 

 

The Second Interrogation of the Healed Man by the Pharisees (John 9:24-34):  24 Then they summoned the man who used to be blind a second time and said to him, “Promise before God to tell the truth.  We know that this man is a sinner.”  25 He replied, “I do not know whether he is a sinner.  I do know one thing—that although I was blind, now I can see.” 

26 Then they said to him, “What did he do to you?  How did he cause you to see?”  27 He answered, “I told you already and you didn’t listen.  Why do you want to hear it again? You people don’t want to become his disciples too, do you?”

28 They heaped insults on him, saying, “You are his disciple!  We are disciples of Moses!  29 We know that God has spoken to Moses!  We do not know where this man comes from!” 

30 The man replied, “This is a remarkable thing, that you don’t know where he comes from, and yet he caused me to see!  31 We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but if anyone is devout and does his will, God listens to him.  32 Never before has anyone heard of someone causing a man born blind to see.  33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 

34 They replied, “You were born completely in sinfulness, and yet you presume to teach us?”  So they threw him out.

--New English Translation (for comparison) 

 

 

            9:24     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.”  Attempting to bias the answer they receive, this time they loaded their query of the formerly blind man, “Give God the glory!  We know that this Man is a sinner.”  In other words, in order to “give God the glory” he needed to find some way to brand Jesus as “a sinner.”  Anything else was to not give God the deserved glory. 

            Their wording conveniently overlooks the fact that the parents had confirmed that he had been born blind.  By not even alluding to it, they might convince this man--who was not present during the rabbinic inquisition of his parents--that they had said something negative about him.  Now he needs to be honest with them about what really happened; give God the glory by telling the real truth about what had occurred.

            “Give God the glory” is used in this sense in Joshua 7:19:  My son, I beg you, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”   

 

            9:25     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.”  He wasn’t about to get into that theological mud wrestling match of whether and to what degree Jesus might rightly be branded a brazen “sinner.”  He sidestepped it by admitting that he had no way of knowing whether Jesus was such or not.  What he did know for a fact was that he had been blind but now he saw.  If they really thought Jesus was a brazen sinner, let them reconcile that with His miraculous ability to heal a person who had never seen before.

 

            9:26     Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you?  How did He open your eyes?”  They insisted on knowing more about the mechanism, the procedure associated with the healing.  Perhaps they thought that any genuine healing had to be carried out in a certain manner.  Alternatively, that if this were a case of some magical incantation working—a not uncommon belief in the ancient world—he would describe that incantation and they could point to it as the “real” source of the healing:  It wasn’t anything to do with Jesus but solely with the “right words” He had chosen to use.  The same words would probably have worked from anyone else!

            Then again they may not have had anything specific in mind, but were casting about desperately in the hope that in repeating his story he might say something that could be twisted into an “inconsistency” with what he had said earlier.  Or revealing “something else that Jesus had said or done,” which they could try to use against the Lord.  They needed a “fig leaf” to hide their prejudice behind and this unlearned “layman” is not helping them find it.

 

            9:27     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?”  By this time, the man was becoming impatient himself.  He had already told them the story before.  Why do they wish to hear it yet again?  Were they trying to reconstruct every detail perfectly because they were considering “becom[ing] His disciples?”  (How that must have stung their egos!  Yet they had opened themselves to the challenge.)

           

            9:28     Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples.  They “reviled” (= insulted, rebuked, condemned) him, insisting that such words could only come from one of Jesus’ disciples.  Unlike that, they were followers of Moses--whose teachings he should be praising and following instead of Jesus.  By this point, as he has gone through in his mind time and again all that he had gained when all hope was lost, he probably had begun to consider himself a disciple.

            Sidebar on “reviled:”  The verb means to reproach or scold in a loud and abusive manner.  Calvin, on 1 Corinthians 4:12 (‘being reviled we bless’), remarks: "Λοιδορία is a harsher railing, which not only rebukes a man, but also sharply bites him, and stamps him with open contumely [= insult].  Hence λοιδορεῖν is to wound a man as with an accursed sting." (Vincent’s Word Studies)

 

            9:29     We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”  Geographically speaking, this was absurd; how could they not know He was from Galilee?  Indeed such folk had specifically said of Jesus, “we know where this Man is from” (John 7:27).  Clearly here the word “from” carries the greater weight of who He was representing, who He was speaking on behalf of.  The origin of His authority and power. 

            This fits well with the beginning of their assertion:  “We know that God spoke to Moses.”  Hence Moses’ teaching came “from God.”  The identity of who it was that Jesus’ teaching came from was what left them mystified.  Alternatively, who had commissioned Him to go out and preach?  Or did either actually do so?  They had no problem with attributing Jesus’ exorcisms to the power of the Devil (Matthew 12:24).  Perhaps even in an embittered state where they felt free to viciously “revile” the healed man (verse 28), they were still reluctant to go this far--at least of a physical healing rather than a demonic possession.  At least not explicitly.  

 

            9:30     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!  Whatever implications they were placing on the word “from” in verse 29, the previously blind man thought the whole matter absurd.  He considered it incredible that they could not know such a thing about a man who had cured the blind.  It just made no sense to him.  (He was quite right to react that way as well.)  Then he turns to teaching very simple and logical truths that they were clearly trying not to consider. . . .

 

            9:31     Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.  As to the accusation that Jesus was a “sinner,” that didn’t work any better than their first denial.  Everyone knew that the chronic “sinner” was rejected by God.  Had not David written, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (ESV)?  The Proverbist had warned, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous” (15:29).  Even the Torah required sacrifices of such a person was counted as “an abomination to the Lord but the prayer of the upright is His delight” (15:8). 

            Hence only the prayer of the sincere and faithful “worshiper” of God was accepted (= “He hears him”).  So how could Jesus have healed him born blind if He had been living in rejection of God and His will?  However you might define what Jesus “was,” He had to be more than a brazen “sinner!”  Even a man who was untutored--because of blindness if nothing else--knew that much.

 

            9:32     Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind.  In the Old Testament there are no references to the blind being miraculously cured of their affliction at all.  Yet these words may well indicate that it was the common assumption that such had occasionally occurred--whether recorded or not and whether miraculous or not.  But of one thing no one had ever claimed or speculated--that of the “born blind” being restored to sight.  Jesus had done what no one ever had been able to do or even rumored to have done.  Which powerfully argued that. . . .

 

            9:33     If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”  Jesus was not going about killing people or destroying lives.  He was not only not doing anything destructive, His actions were positive and concrete in a manner that could only be attributed to God.  If he were not “from God”--in at least the sense of representing and doing what the Father wanted--then it would have been manifestly impossible for Him to carry out any such unprecedented healing.

 

            9:34     They answered and said to him, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?”  And they cast him out.  Faced with questions they did not want to answer, they resorted to character assassination.  The healed man had been “born in sins” and it was arrogance that such as he would attempt to “teach” his betters.  Remember that they are regarded as the spiritual elite.  In contrast he was from the lowest societal class:  (1) so poor (2) he had to be a beggar (3) because of his blindness.  Furthermore (4) he obviously had no opportunity for the special education in “theology” as they had.  By definition (in their eyes) he was a worthless “know nothing.”    

            Although the accusation of being “born in sins” carries the connotation that he had been born blind because of sins in the past, whose (parental or even that of the child--cf. verse 2) is left unspecified.  And to them, it probably didn’t matter.  They simply wanted to avoid doing any more thinking about the testimony he had given.  If you can’t refute, then you can always choose to stubbornly ignore the evidence--and insult the one who has provided it.

            Sidebar on “cast him out:”  This probably does not mean ‘excommunication’ [= formal casting him out of the Jewish people].  (1)  The expression is too vague.  (2)  There could not well have been time to get a sentence of excommunication passed.  (3)  The man had not incurred the threatened penalty; he had not ‘confessed that He was Christ’ (John 9:22).  Provoked by his impracticability [= unwillingness to embrace their conclusions] and sturdy adherence to his own view they ignominiously dismiss him—turn him out of doors, if (as the ‘out’ seems to imply) they were meeting within walls.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

 

 

Jesus Seeks Out the Interrogated Man (John 9:35-41):  35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, so he found the man and said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  36 The man replied, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 

37 Jesus told him, “You have seen him; he is the one speaking with you.”  [38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.  39 Jesus said,] “For judgment I have come into this world, so that those who do not see may gain their sight, and the ones who see may become blind.”

40 Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and asked him, “We are not blind too, are we?”  41 Jesus replied, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin, but now because you claim that you can see, your guilt remains.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            9:35     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?”  Having been blessed with such a great healing, he was quite willing to do so:  If this man who had done the impossible act of healing one born blind tells me to believe in someone I’m smart enough to say “where is he?”  This also shows that he was not acquainted with Jesus and the prior use of the expression in regard to Him.

            Sidebar:  Jesus normally uses the expression “Son of Man” rather than “Son of God” in this gospel--the latter usage, however, is found in John 10:36 and 11:4.  Advocates of the “critical text” substitute the first one here in their translations.  If “Son of Man” be accepted, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it must carry far more “conceptual freight” than referring to any normal human being.  At the bare minimum it would surely have been regarded by him as confirmation that Jesus was, as he himself had told his interrogators, “a prophet” (verse 17).  Furthermore--clearly in some special since of the expression--that he was also “from God” in having and using supernatural powers (verse 33).      

 

            9:37     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.  If any person deserved honor for their special relationship to God, it was this Man who had done so much for him.  So he immediately responded both with “I believe” and falling down in respect, reverence, and “worshipped Him.”  That last expression can be taken in connection with any of these.  But in the context of his miraculous healing, how can we possibly avoid taking “worshipped” as not only encompassing the other terms but being literal “worship” as well?  And does that not argue that “Son of Man”--if that be the reading that one accepts in verse 35--must also carry at least a “supernatural tinge” just as “Son of God” would?

 

            9:39     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.”  In a play on words, Jesus compared the physical healing with spiritual healing and blindness.  Part of His mission in this world was to open the eyes to spiritual sight of those who had previously rejected or neglected God’s will.  But this had a “down” side as well.  The mission’s success and unorthodox means resulted in those who had previously been regarded as pillars of spiritual insight now losing their compass and being “made blind” to God’s fuller truth.  God didn’t make them “blind;” they did it to themselves through their prejudice and bias.

            Sidebar:  The precise form of word for ‘judgment’ occurs nowhere else in this Gospel.  It signifies not the act of judging (John 5:22; 5:24; 5:27; 5:30) but its result, a ‘sentence’ or ‘decision’ (Matthew 7:2; Mark 12:40; Romans 2:2-3, &c.), Christ came not to judge, but to save (John 3:17, 8:15); but judgment was the inevitable result of His coming, for those who rejected Him passed sentence on themselves (John 3:19).”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)  

 

            9:40     Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?”  Certain Pharisees heard Jesus’ claim and were angered by it.  One can easily imagine something resembling a snarl or grimace accompanying their response.  Jesus is quite happy to answer them though. . .

 

            9:41     Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’  Therefore your sin remains.  Their sin did not primarily lay in being wrong.  Their sin lay in being wrong while so loudly and vehemently insisting that they were the sole people in the right—were the ones who actually “saw” the truth while everyone else was blind.  So long as they insisted on that mindframe “your sin remains.”  For a rough parallel:  The person who loudly gripes “I can’t see” but has simply refused to open his or her eyes.  They are self-blinded to the truth.  No one else has done it to them.

            Sidebar:  The apostle Paul warns Christians against a variant of this:  There were those who loudly insisted that “you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish” and yet did not apply the truth they knew to their own lives.  They even engaged in rationalizing away the most obvious evils, causing outsiders to reject God’s will because of their brazen hypocrisy (Romans 2:17-24).  Jesus spoke of how many Pharisees were similarly willing to parse God’s law so that the most brazen violations could actually be engaged in (Matthew 15:1-9). In both cases they blinded themselves to the truth as inapplicable to themselves and those they did not want it applicable to--but fully applicable to everyone else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

 

 

Jesus Describes Himself As the Shepherd Controlling Admission and Departure from God's “Sheepfold” (John 10:1-10):  1 “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber.  The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep hear his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 

“When he has brought all his own sheep out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.  They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice.”  Jesus told them this parable, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus said again, “I tell you the solemn truth, I am the door for the sheep.  All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and go out, and find pasture.  10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            10:1     “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.  Jesus next illustrates their blindness to their sin (9:41) by a description of God’s sheepfold and how they were outside it.  The only way to enter it was “by the door;” trying to enter any other way, one was either “a thief and a robber” or something equally bad--you were actually up to no good however much you may have deluded yourself otherwise.

            Sidebar:  The comparison of God’s people to a group of harmless sheep was nothing new:  The example we would be most acquainted with are the famous words beginning Psalms 23:  The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (verses 1-3).  But this is far from the only text on the theme.  For example Isaiah 40:11:  He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.”  Ezekiel 34:31:  “ ‘You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God,’ says the Lord God.  The Messiah--the Messianic new David--would play this role of shepherd as Ezekiel 37:24 prophecies:  David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them.”   

 

            10:2     But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  It is not the role of the sheep to control the gate; it is the role of the appointed shepherd.  Through their traditions they had arrogated to themselves the role of shepherd when it was not actually their’s.  However well intended their doing so, didn’t actually change the reality that it was not their fundamental function to lead but to obey.  In inventing their varied traditions, they landed up giving new laws--grafted on as more or less “interpretations” of the written Law--and they considered them obligatory to follow in order to fully obey the Divine code.  By playing this role they had promoted themselves--without Divine sanction--from faithful sheep to decision making shepherd.

            Sidebar on the possibility that this illustration may have been prompted by what could be seen in the distance:  Neander, Godet, and Watkins think it possible that the whole imagery may have been borrowed from the eye.  The shepherds towards evening were probably gathering their scattered flocks, according to Oriental custom, into their well-known enclosures, and Jesus with his audience might have seen them doing it if they gazed out from the courts of the temple over the neighboring hills. . . .  There is no absolute need that the customary and well-known habit of the country-side should have been visible at the moment.  The abundantly attested practice furnished to his hearers all needful corroboration.  (Pulpit Commentary)

 

            10:3     To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.   The gatekeeper gladly opens it because his own role is a limited one and the shepherd carries the weight of over-all responsibility.  The sheep then follow the shepherd’s voice since he knows the name of every single one.  Applied in a supernatural context, that would require that the shepherd have omniscience:  You can’t hide whether you are really a “sheep of God.”  He always knows whether you belong to Him through loyalty and obedience or whether it is actually directed to someone or something else.

 

            10:4     And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  Those sheep he owns follows him not only because he knows their names but also because they recognize his voice.  In other words they are familiar with him--just as so many were familiar with Jesus having heard His teaching time and again during His ministry.  Today we are familiar with Him through His word and we “follow His voice” by obeying the teaching He gave both personally and through the apostles.

            Nothing is here said of ‘lost sheep’ or of ‘goats;’ these are all the ‘ideal sheep’ of the flock, individuals who recognize the voice of the true Leader, and discriminate their own shepherd from all others, whether pretenders to their affections or destroyers of their lives--wolves or butchers, thieves or robbers.”  (Pulpit Commentary)

 

            10:5     Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”             Anyone unknown to them they will not follow because they do not recognize him as having the right voice.  The spiritual point so far is the loyalty of the sheep to their shepherd Jesus.  They won’t follow people like the Pharisees because they recognize that they are not hearing the “voice” (name / authority / teaching) of Jesus.  What the pretenders have to say and demand simply does not match up with the standard of truth they have been provided through the Lord.  Nor should we today follow anyone who substitutes some other standard of authority.

            Sidebar on the reason for the flight among physical sheep:  A strange word is a source of alarm to them.  With the known tone of the shepherd’s voice they have learnt to associate protection, guidance, food.  His voice recalls these associations.  A stranger’s voice is something unknown, and therefore feared.”  (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

 

            10:6     Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.  His Pharisee listeners simply did not comprehend what He was talking about.  While attempting to decide what the application was intended to be, they had to be suspicious that it carried negative implications for themselves as well.  They were quite right. . . .       

 

            10:7     Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  He attempts to give them insight into what He is talking about by stressing that he Himself was the “door” by which to gain access to the sheep.  This can be taken in one of two ways.  (1)  It is only through Him that one can enter into the flock to have legitimate authority and influence over God’s sheep (cf. John 14:6:  “I am the way,” i.e., the only way).  This would be a blow at the Pharisees’ opposition; opposing Jesus they had no legitimate claims to authority at all.  Similarly the apostles only had authority due to their loyalty to the Lord.  (2)  He is the “door” in the sense that He is the shepherd who has the authority to order the gate opened to let in or take out--the one who has control over the admissions and leavings.  Hence whether you are genuinely part of God’s people is exclusively His decision.  

            Either way He is the central religious authority in regard to those seeking to have leadership over God’s people--not them.  Without His opening the gate for them, they will never be able to enter into the “flock of God’s faithful” or have legitimate influence over it--their pious indignation notwithstanding.  He is the only genuine authority figure present.

            Sidebar:  Up until this point we would think that Jesus’ role in this spiritual illustration is that of the good shepherd.  Indeed He explicitly calls Himself that in verse 11.  So either He is playing two distinct roles in this story (leading us to interpretation one) or in this verse He is simply the one in full control of the “door” (leading to the second approach).   

 

            10:8     All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.  Those who came before and claimed to be controlling the door to acceptance for God’s flock were actually “thieves and robbers”--their genuine authority was nonexistent; whatever authority they had was gained by stealing it from where it actually was (in God’s law). 

            And this continued to be true even as Jesus spoke:  note the present tense “are” rather than the past tense “were.”  By and large the sheep refused to “hear” and follow them.  In one sense the Pharisees were very popular, but as a percentage of the population a tiny one.  By the very extreme to which they developed their religious traditions, they effectively kept most people from embracing their practices.  (Respect them for their religiosity, quite possibly; but consider themselves of their number was a quite different matter.)

            As to those who “came before Me,” the allusion would be to those of a similar mentality.  And they certainly existed.  For example Ezekiel rebukes contemporary religious leaders with the words “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel.  Prophesy to these shepherds.  Tell them, ‘This is what the Almighty Lord says:  How horrible it will be for the shepherds of Israel who have been taking care of only themselves.  Shouldn’t shepherds take care of the sheep?  You eat the best parts of the sheep, dress in the wool, and butcher the finest sheep.  Yet, you don’t take care of the sheep.  You have not strengthened those that were weak, healed those that were sick, or bandaged those that were injured.  You have not brought back those that strayed away or looked for those that were lost.  You have ruled them harshly and violently” (34:2-4, GW).

               

            10:9     I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  In order to enter God’s flock in this day and ago, one must enter via the “door” Jesus has provided and none other.  Therein will be found salvation and a permanent place of refuge and nourishment (“pasture”).  “Go[ing] in and out” is language to connote having the respected status of being free to enter and leave (and return) at one’s leisure (Deuteronomy 28:6; 31:2).  The imagery of “the door” conveys the same idea of an entranceway conveyed by “gate” in Matthew 7:13-14.  

 

            10:10   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.  Those before who had claimed the ability to gain access to and control over God’s flock had actually been out after their own interests.  They had no compunction against “kill[ing]” and “destroy[ing]” others.  Today we would probably use the imagery of:  “Whoever got in their way they rolled over and crushed into the dirt.”

            In contrast, Jesus had an entirely different attitude toward God’s flock.  He was only interested in them having “life” and having it “more abundantly.”  He got nothing out of it beyond the pleasure of serving God; they got everything.  This life is through Him given to men abundantly, overflowingly.  We are reminded of the Shepherd-King’s Psalm singing of the ‘green pastures,’ and ‘waters of rest,’ and ‘prepared table,’ and ‘overflowing cup;’ and carrying all this into the region of the spiritual life we come again to the opening words of this Gospel, ‘And of His fullness did we all receive, and grace for grace’ . . . ‘grace and truth came by Jesus Christ’ (John 1:16-17).”  (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

            Sidebar:  The language of “steal,” “kill,” and “destroy” may sound harsh language to describe Jesus’ Pharisaic foes, but remember that these are the people who argued that it was utterly impossible for Him to actually perform any miracle since He was transparently “a sinner” (9:24) . . . labeled Him demon possessed (8:48, 52) . . . and attempted to stone Him to death within the sacred precincts of the Temple itself.    

 

 

Jesus Is Also the Good Shepherd Who Will Even Voluntarily Die for His Flock (John 10:11-18):  11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  12 The hired hand, who is not a shepherd and does not own sheep, sees the wolf coming and abandons the sheep and runs away.  So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them.  13 Because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep, he runs away.

14 “I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.  16 I have other sheep that do not come from this sheepfold.  I must bring them too, and they will listen to my voice, so that there will be one flock and one shepherd. 

17 “This is why the Father loves me—because I lay down my life, so that I may take it back again.  18 No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of my own free will.  I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again.  This commandment I received from my Father.”

--New English Translation (for comparison)                 

 

 

            10:11   “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.  Shifting the image from door to shepherd, Jesus stresses His importance as shepherd over God’s people.  He would even give “His life” to protect and save the sheep. Yes, they will be able to kill Him, but only because He permits it to occur, knowing that it would only be through His death that redemption would be made possible for the human race. 

            Sidebar on “good shepherd:”  The word translated ‘good’ cannot he adequately translated:  it means ‘beautiful, noble, good,’ as opposed to ‘foul, mean, wicked.’  It sums up the chief attributes of ideal perfection.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)  Καλὸς in John is applied to wine (John 2:10), three times to the shepherd in this chapter, and twice to works (John 10:32, 33).  In classical usage, originally as descriptive of outward form, beautiful; of usefulness, as a fair haven, a fair wind.  Auspicious, as sacrifices.  Morally beautiful, noble; hence virtue is called τὸ καλὸν. The New Testament usage is similar.”  (Vincent’s Word Studies   

 

            10:12   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.  In contrast to His own loyalty to God’s will, a mere hired hand takes one look at an approaching wolf and runs in the other direction, permitting the flock to be killed and scattered.  This shepherd will be steadfast to duty in spite of the personal danger that is heading His way.  Like the prototype of the Messiah (i.e., David) did in protecting his father’s flock from attack (1 Samuel 17:34-37).

            Sidebar:  The “wolf” represents the unscrupulous foes of Christ’s sheep--ultimately, Satan of course, but in the most immediate sense any earthly individuals(s) who seek to do spiritual harm out of malignity or their own twisted religious beliefs.  The wolf is the natural enemy of the sheep, and the fit emblem of all evil persons, who are the natural enemies of the sheep of Christ’s fold. He spake of ‘false prophets’ as ‘ravening wolves’ (Matthew 7:15).  He sent forth the Twelve ‘as sheep in the midst of wolves’ (Matthew 10:16), and the Seventy . . . ‘as lambs among wolves’ (Luke 10:3).  Paul foresaw that in the very city from which John wrote this Gospel, ‘after his departing, grievous wolves would enter in among them, not sparing the flock’ (Acts 20:29).  These are the only passages in the New Testament where the word occurs, and from them we may gather that . . . wolves represent all false teachers and foes to truth. . . .”  (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)  

 

            10:13   The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.  The reason that the person runs away is because he is there only for the money involved and isn’t really all that concerned with the responsibility aspect of his job.  Especially when compared to the desire to protect his own hide.  From his individual standpoint of survival, that may even make sense; from the standpoint of the duty he has undertaken to perform, it is a betrayal.  A parallel phenomena easily occurs today:  How often do those who are a congregation’s leaders prefer to acquiesce in its growing spiritual weakness rather than openly challenge those who are encouraging the compromise?  They are unwilling to take the risk of criticism and potential ouster; they “flee from the battle” by their silence. 

 

            10:14   I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.  In contrast to the one who shirks his duties in the previous verse, Jesus is “the good shepherd” because He fulfills them.  As the result of this, His own sheep are aware of just how intensely loyal He is to them and their needs--He is “known by My own” for this trait.  Others may think the worst thoughts possible of the Lord, but His own followers recognize both His loyalty and His love.

 

            10:15   As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.  Since both the Father and Son “know” each other fully, they both realize that Jesus will unquestionably fulfill His plan to “lay down” His life on behalf of the sheep.  He doesn’t claim it will be easy, but no matter how hard it is, He is going to do it anyway.  Should not the earthly church shepherds that work in His behalf exercise similar determination no matter what the risk of lost prestige or position might be?

 

            10:16   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.  Jesus had in mind far more than those who were currently part of God’s flock.  He saw others that had a real or potential loyalty to Him--perhaps thinking specifically of the Samaritans who had embraced Jesus earlier in the book--and the day was coming when they would all constitute one flock under the shepherdship of Jesus. 

            The “reunion” (so to speak) of Jew and Samaritan was a startling idea in itself, but the longer term goal was actually far broader than even that and encompassed the Gentile world as well.  Of the Gentile city of Corinth Jesus assured the apostle Paul, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10). 

            God had told the ancient prophet Micah of how “many nations shall come” and serve God and how the Divine “law shall go forth” out of Jerusalem to accomplish this purpose (4:2).  Paul wrote to the Ephesians about how “He Himself is our peace, who has made both [faithful Jew and Gentile] one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation” between them (Ephesians 2:14-17).  He writes of how Old Testament precedent about Jews was now true of all mankind, “For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame’ [Isaiah 28:16].  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.  For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’ [Joel 2:32]” (Romans 10:11-13).

 

            10:17   “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  Jesus’ “reward” for complete loyalty to the Father’s plans was the deepening of His Father’s love for Him even further:  Jesus would be proving that loyalty by as extreme a sacrifice as anyone could possibly make.  But the sacrifice had a personal “up” side as well:  Jesus knew full well that He was not going to remain dead.  And would be made King over the long promised spiritual kingdom the Jewish writings had long prophesied.

 

            10:18   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.”  Jesus had powerful enemies in Jerusalem, many of whom wished Him dead.  That was no secret.  But they should remember that even death would not be a permanent triumph over Him for He had been given the authority to take His life back again after He died.  That was something none of their hate, none of their ranting and raving, could ever take from Him.

 

 

Jesus’ Foes Are Horrified at His Teaching (John 10:19-21):  19 Another sharp division took place among the Jewish people because of these words.  20 Many of them were saying, “He is possessed by a demon and has lost his mind! Why do you listen to him?” 21  Others said, “These are not the words of someone possessed by a demon. A demon cannot cause the blind to see, can it?”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

           

 

            10:19   Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings.  These words produced yet another splintering of sentiment among those critics who had heard them:  Note the “again.”  This had not been the first time. 

 

            10:20   And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad.  Why do you listen to Him?”  A large number of the critics--still presumably the Pharisees who were so upset earlier--were convinced that Jesus had to be insane and demon-possessed to be saying these things.  (They had been through the demon possessed libel twice previously:  in chapter seven [verse20] and chapter eight [verses 48, 49, 52].)  They challenged others why they wasted time listening to such a person.  If their charge had been true this would have made absolute sense:  We can’t understand the words because you don’t expect to understand the words pouring out of the mouth of someone who is crazy!  However if He is not crazy, then the problem is clearly in the listeners.        

 

            10:21   Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon.  Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”  The accusation simply didn’t fit the kind of language and teaching style Jesus was invoking:  “ ‘His words,’ they would say, ‘are words of calm teaching.  The possession by a demon disorders, frenzies, makes the slave of madness.  It is inconsistent with words like these.’   (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)  Hence whether they understood the full meaning of His words or not, the teaching could not be so cavalierly dismissed. 

            Furthermore, how in the world could a demon possessed person possibly heal the blind?  Or, for that matter, want to?

 

 

Jesus Refuses to Tell His Foes Whether He Is the Messiah Because He Had Already Provided the Answer--At Least Clearly Implied It (John 10:22-30):  22 Then came the feast of the Dedication in Jerusalem.  23 It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple area in Solomon’s Portico.  24 The Jewish leaders surrounded him and asked, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 

25 Jesus replied, “I told you and you do not believe. The deeds I do in my Father’s name testify about me.  26 But you refuse to believe because you are not my sheep.  27 My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 

28 “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand.  29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand.  30 The Father and I are one.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)   

           

 

            10:22   Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.  This is the only mention of the eight day Feast in the New Testament.  It was a period of festivity and joy in honor of how Judas Maccabeus cleansed the Temple in 164 B.C. of the pagan pollutions introduced by Antiochus Epiphanes.  It was the consensus of Judas, his brothers, and the people that the feast be continued every year indefinitely into the future (1 Maccabees 4:59).  The discussions ending in verse 21 had  occurred during the Feast of Tabernacles, which would have been ending approximately October 19th and this one begun approximately the same day in December. 

            Since this festival took place well into winter, one could count on the weather tending to be rather chilly or outright cold.   

 

            10:23   And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.  “This was a cloister or colonnade in the Temple-Courts, apparently on the east side.  Tradition said that it was a part of the original building which had survived the various destructions and rebuildings.  No such cloister is mentioned in the account of Solomon’s Temple, and perhaps the name was derived from the wall against which it was built. It is mentioned again [in] Acts 3:11. . . .” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)  It would provide some shelter against the worst of any cold weather.

 

            10:24   Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt?  If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Hostile critics “surrounded Him”--the 20th century concept of “ganging up” comes to mind, i.e., an effort to psychologically intimidate a person.  They demanded a straight and plain answer to the question of whether He was the Messiah.  In other words, He had been saying things that could easily leave that impression but He had been—at least generally—carefully imprecise as well.  A not inappropriate approach in a society in which claiming to be the Anointed One / Christ was usually taken as equivalent to having revolutionary aspirations.

            Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers suggests the conflicting thoughts that are likely going through the minds of more restrained members of the group:  The words exactly express what was probably the real state of fluctuation in which many of these Jews then were.  They do not in the true sense ‘believe’ (John 10:25-26), and they soon pass to the other extreme of seeking to stone Him (John 10:31); but in many of them the last miracle, and the words accompanying it, had left a conviction that He was more than human, and not possessed by a demon. . . .  Two months have passed away, not, we may believe, without many an earnest thought and much anxious weighing of evidence concerning Him.  And now the Feast of Dedication has come, and what thoughts have come with it?  It is the Feast of Lights, and He had declared Himself the Light of the world.  It is the Feast of Freedom, telling how the Maccabees had freed their nation from the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes, and He has declared that ‘If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed’ (John 8:36).  It is the feast which commemorates the cleansing of the Temple, and His first public appearance in the Temple was to cleanse it and claim it as His Father’s house [John 2:13-17].”

 

            10:25   Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe.  The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.  Jesus insisted that He had been as clear as He needed to be and had done so in two distinct but overlapping ways:  (1)  In what He had said and implied in His teaching--cf. the implications of John 5:19; 8:36; 8:56 10:1; (2) by the clear cut miracles He worked which pointed to His being far more than even a prophet could ever be.  Alternatively the verse can be reasonably interpreted as arguing:  “I told you through the miracles I worked the answer to your question.”
  

            10:26   But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.  His disciples accepted the authority of what He said; because they weren’t in that category, they gainsaid it.  For the bulk of them it wasn’t really a lack of evidence, but the grim determination not to follow where it went:  “His teaching couldn’t be the truth; therefore it wasn’t”--no matter how much evidence pointed in its favor.  Furthermore embracing Him would be a crushing blow to their ego and pride.  He was a nobody and a nothing.  In modern terms, they had a monopoly on PhDs while He was a mere middle school drop out coming from a despised region of the land.  They were the ones with the right expertise to be counted authoritative and right.  

 

            10:27   My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  Those who are Jesus’ disciples and followers both “hear” and “follow” whatever Jesus teaches.  You can hear all the good sermons in the world, but unless you are determined to live by the truths you heard, they are nothing but idling away the hours.  Indeed, if you do this long enough, can you be even counted as one of His followers any more?  The physical body may be there, but the heart has passed along to other places.

 

            10:28   And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  The reward for being His disciples was the certainty of “eternal life” and protection against being stolen away by others.  (Not touching on the very separate issue of what if they voluntarily decided to depart.  All Jesus has in mind is the idea of whether any one could compel the departure.)

            Here the verb is in the present, ‘I give (am now giving) them.’   (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)  “Not ‘will give.’  Here as in John 3:15, John 5:24, and often, the gift of eternal life is regarded as already possessed by the faithful.  It is not a promise, the fulfillment of which depends upon man’s conduct, but a gift, the retention of which depends upon ourselves.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

 

            10:29   My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  Their perseverance was possible because God had “given them to Me” through their obedient faith.  This vast reservoir of unlimited power assured their protection against them being stolen away in any manner.  The necessary implication is clear as well:  Any attempt to do so will not only anger Me (Jesus) but also the One you count as your heavenly Father as well.  

 

            10:30   I and My Father are one.”  In a very fundamental sense “I and My Father are one” and the same.  This--in the next section--they rightly interpret to carry an implicit assertion of personal deityship.  In an earlier visit to Jerusalem He had already asserted He had been alive in the days of Abraham and was identifiable with the great “I Am” of the Old Testament (John 8:52-59).  He returns to much the same claim here.  

            The “one” can be read as one in purpose and such like and other passages in this gospel refer, for example, to their complete and total unity in regard to both behavior (5:19) and what has been spoken to humankind (12:50).  But this interpretation of “one” hardly does full justice to the present text:  This word confutes Arius, proving the unity of nature in God.  Never did any prophet before, from the beginning of the world, use any one expression of himself which could possibly be so interpreted, as this and other expressions were, by all that heard our Lord speak.  Indeed, His hearers were provoked to such a degree by what He now said, that they took up stones, and were going to kill Him outright, imagining that He had spoken blasphemy.”  (Benson Commentary)  And unless His essence of nature was truly identical with the Father would not their accusation of blasphemy be quite reasonable? 

 

 

His Critics Want to Stone Him to Death Because He Claims “Oneness” With the Heavenly Father, But He Refutes Their Complaints From Both Scripture and From the Evidence of His Repeated Miracles (John 10:31-42):  31 The Jewish leaders picked up rocks again to stone him to death.  32 Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good deeds from the Father. For which one of them are you going to stone me?”  33 The Jewish leaders replied, “We are not going to stone you for a good deed but for blasphemy, because you, a man, are claiming to be God.

34 Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, I said, you are gods’?  35 If those people to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ (and the scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say about the one whom the Father set apart and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 

37 “If I do not perform the deeds of my Father, do not believe me.  38 But if I do them, even if you do not believe me, believe the deeds, so that you may come to know and understand that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”  39 Then they attempted again to seize him, but he escaped their clutches.

40 Jesus went back across the Jordan River again to the place where John had been baptizing at an earlier time, and he stayed there.  41 Many came to him and began to say, “John performed no miraculous sign, but everything John said about this man was true!”  42 And many believed in Jesus there.   

--New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            10:31   Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.  Note the “again:  He had skirted this punishment previously and on the same charge.  When He had insisted “before Abraham was, I Am” they had “took up stones to throw at Him” (John 8:58-59).  Neither effort kept Him permanently away from Jerusalem though the apostles later wondered about the wisdom of doing so after this current effort (11:8).

            The blasphemer was, indeed, supposed to be stoned to death (Leviticus 24:10-16).  This was during the years of wandering in the wilderness and the instruction was that the individual was to be taken outside their camp city and punished.  Yet here the “pious” defenders of the Law proposed to do it not only within Jerusalem but within the sacred confines of the Temple itself!   

 

            10:32   Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father.  For which of those works do you stone Me?”  Jesus demanded which of His “good works” (= miracles) they planed on killing Him for.  This wasn’t just a case of one notable act but of “many.”  In contrast the death penalty required that one had done something evil.  He argues, in effect, “I’ve only done things that will benefit others.  Which of them justifies this action?”  For this line of reasoning to be relevant in the current context, it must carry the implication:  “No one capable of doing so much miraculous good could possibly be guilty of blasphemy.  You argue ‘blasphemy’ from the words I have used; I argue innocence of blasphemy by the power and evidence of my numerous healings through the power the Father has given Me.”  Which line of evidence is to be regarded as the most convincing?

 

            10:33   The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”  They insisted that it was for none of the positive good He had done for others that He deserved death.  Instead the offense, they growled, was “blasphemy” for the assertion of oneness with God; by making the claim You “make Yourself God.”  

            Sidebar:  However would they have stoned Him for His miracles as well if they had thought public opinion would have tolerated it?  The available evidence suggests they would have:  In the previous chapter we read of the charge that “this Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath” (9:16)--an accusation made due to the healing of a blind man on that day.  In regard to the same incident, later in the same day such folk emphatically insisted to the very man He cured that “we know that this Man is a sinner” (9:24).  Clearly they regarded even a miracle on the Sabbath as a violation of the observance law--the punishment for which was death (Exodus 35:1).      

 

            10:34   Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods” ’?  If they wished to quibble over words—as rabbinic style tradition so often did—well what about the words of Psalms 82:6, when Yahweh told the people “you are gods”?  In His miracles had He not done far more to justify the description?  If this language be appropriate for the judges of the nation (Psalms 82:2), how can it be evil when speaking of someone--Jesus--who has an even closer relationship with the Father? 

            These earlier ancients are called “gods” because they are administering law on Jehovah’s behalf.  They are earthly agents for God.  They are acting with Divine authority as if God--which required humility and justice in dealing with anyone who came before them.  And, of course, Jesus’ authority exceeded all of theirs (Matthew 28:18:  “all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth”).

            Sidebar:  Although strictly speaking “the Law” refers to the Torah, the term could fairly be applied to all of God’s revelations since they were equally obligatory.  In Romans 3:10-20 Paul quotes from several Psalms as part of “the law” as well as Proverbs 1:16 and Isaiah 59:7.  In 1 Corinthians 14:21 he similarly quotes Isaiah 28:11-12 as from “the law.”

 

            10:35   If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken),    This was not a matter of individuals casually or cavalierly invoking such language of themselves.  It was spoken by the Father Himself to forcefully remind them of their duties and obligations.

            And this was not a matter of oral tradition, this was something solidly rooted in the Scriptures and that “word of God” could never “be broken” in authority and reliability.  (Unlike their traditions that were subject to change and modification, the inspired written writings forever remained the same.)

            Sidebar on “cannot be broken:”  Literally, ‘cannot be undone’ or ‘unloosed.’  The same word is rendered ‘unloose’ (John 1:27), ‘destroy’ (John 2:19), ‘break’ (John 5:18 and John 7:23), ‘loose’ (John 11:44).  John 1:27 and John 11:44 are literal, of actual unbinding; the others are figurative, of dissolution or unbinding as a form of destruction.  Here either metaphor, dissolution or unbinding, would be appropriate; either, ‘cannot be explained away, made to mean nothing;’ or, ‘cannot be deprived of its binding authority.’  The latter seems better.  The clause depends upon ‘if,’ and is not parenthetical; [hence we properly read it as asserting] ‘if the Scripture cannot be broken.’   (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges) Taking for an agreed fact on both sides that it can’t be. 

           

            10:36   do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?         If they were, in some important sense, “gods” since they represented Him in judging the nation’s judicial matters (verse 35), how could Jesus possibly be blaspheming for claiming to be “the Son of God”?  After all He also was commissioned by God--to teach and, through that, “judge” both doctrine and behavior. 

            At the very minimum, He was using their kind of reasoning to expose their folly and the hypocrisy of acting against Him.  They had no problem with this kind of language being applied to themselves or their contemporaries, but indignation at Jesus using it to defend Himself.  In effect, Jesus is tackling them on their own “ball field” of playing with technicalities--and they clearly lose.

            On the other hand, the words carry far more conceptual freight when speaking of Jesus than it could any earthly governmental or religious judge.  At best they are mere reflections of God’s nature; in contrast Jesus is identical with it.  Of them the language could only be used in a loose sense; in Jesus’ case it would be quite literal.  So in the final analysis the usage rises far above “hanging the fool with his own rope”--though I suspect Jesus may have had a smile on His face when He made the argument--to presenting a startling application that was uniquely true of Himself in the Divine plan of things.     

 

            10:37   If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me;  He challenged them to judge on the basis of the actions they had seen or heard reported by credible witnesses:  If He had not performed the kind of “works” (= miracles) His Father alone could empower Him to accomplish, then they should feel justified in rejecting Him:  ought not [to believe]; not merely have no need” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges).  However the evidence argued for their genuineness and that should make credible His claim to be more than just an ordinary mortal.  They have the evidence.  Isn’t it about time that they admit the conclusions it properly leads to?

 

            10:38   but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”  If they can not stand what Jesus has claimed, they should at least not blind themselves to the evidence of His actions.  In effect:  “Don’t accept Me because of My words if you can’t; at least accept Me because of the abundant miracles I have performed.”  On that basis they should be willing to both recognize and accept that Jesus and the Father are blended together in each other—so tight are their shared intents, purposes, and actions.  (Not to mention their holy nature.) 

 

            10:39   Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand.  The worst critics were unappeased and sought to “seize” Him—having found a lack of general support for stoning, presumably they were going to take Him into custody.  Away from inhibiting crowds, they would decide what to do with Him.  Somehow (means not specified), Jesus “escaped out of their hand.”  Quite possibly as they tried to solidify support among themselves as to what specific action to take, He quietly slipped away through the more friendly witnesses in the audience.

            Sidebar:  This wasn’t the first time such an arrest had been attempted:  John 7:30; 7:32; 7:44.

 

            10:40   And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptizing at first, and there He stayed.  To allow things to calm down and perhaps to remind every one of His ties to John the Baptist, Jesus traveled beyond the Jordan River to the location where John had performed his first baptismal work.  He then stayed there for a while--out of the sight of the hostile religious leaders and beyond their easy reach.

 

            10:41   Then many came to Him and said, “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true.”  Large numbers--“many”--took the journey to see what more Jesus had to say and what He might do.  Approvingly, they spoke of both His “sign[s]” and how what John had spoken about Him had proved itself fully accurate.

            Sidebar on the miracles:  This is indirect evidence of the genuineness of the miracles recorded of Christ.  It is urged that if Jesus had wrought no miracles, they would very possibly have been attributed to Him after His death.  Let us grant this [for discussion]; and at the same time it must be granted that the same holds good to a very great extent of the Baptist.  The enthusiasm which he awakened, as a Prophet appearing after a weary interval of four centuries, was immense.  Miracles would have been eagerly believed of him, the second Elijah, and would be likely enough to be attributed to him.  But more than half a century after his death we have one of his own disciples quite incidentally telling us that ‘John did no miracle’; and there is no rival tradition to the contrary.  All traditions concur in attributing miracles to Jesus.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

 

            10:42   And many believed in Him there.  While in this rural isolation, “many” more came to accept Him--above and beyond those who already did.  Hence we know that a goodly number came not merely to see this Man they had heard so much about, but also to listen to the message He had to share. . . . and His words convinced them to embrace His cause.