Gospel of John: The Ban


Well-meaning neighbors and acquaintances decided to take the beggar who could now see to the Pharisees, lovers of God’s word and purifiers of the people. Truth to tell, many Pharisees were also teachers of the law, rabbis, and scribes. Each were careers that overlapped well with the Pharisee sect and mind-frame.

The Sanhedrin itself was a mix of Pharisees and Sadducees. Scholars are not agreed on what the balance probably was. Some say Sadducees because they were overall wealthy supporters of the Roman empire, adherents to the traditional religion centered around the temple. They were also often chosen to be the chief priest.

Others say Pharisees because they seemed to have so much influence in Judea, and particularly in Jerusalem and in temple politics. The people favored the Pharisees, who had sought to apply God’s word and law to every possible aspect of life, every possible eventuality.

Either way, it was to the authority of the Pharisees this little band chose to go, inadvertently stirring up a controversy.


Why the Conflict?

John 9:14 explained where the conflict was going to come from. Jesus had broken the oral laws concerning the Sabbath in three ways:

  • There was a specific law that forbade people from spitting on the ground in case they might make mud, which would be considered work.
  • There was a specific law against giving medical aid on the Sabbath except to prevent death. It was acceptable, even necessary, to keep the person stable, but it was not permitted to let the person get better until the next day.
  • There was also a specific law forbidding the use of spit, since it was considered to have medicinal properties.

Issues Concerning the Sabbath

Now because it was the Sabbath, the Pharisees could not convene a court, and anyway, this was all happening “real-time,” not planned out at all. But the Pharisees were all ears when it came to Jesus breaking another one of their laws.

So in John 9:15 the Pharisees pressed the man to tell them the exact details.

By this time it seems everyone was talking around the elephant in the room. The “healer” was Jesus. Was Jesus a sinful man? Or was Jesus a prophet? His name is not mentioned in this chapter until the man’s parents arrive. But it is clear everyone meant him when they were talking.

As the man stood there and listened to them argue, the Pharisees took up one side while the little group took up the other. Remember that back in chapter 8 some of the onlookers had believed Jesus. Now these same local people recognized this miracle for what it was.

The Pharisees, however, recognized the real dilemma for them.

It had been the Pharisee sect’s fervent aim to purify the people, to finally live by God’s law fully and for real, so they might once again live in the land as their inheritance, as in the days of old. That God might be their king, and Israel’s theocracy be once more established, under the Messiah.

But, if this was from God, then their Sabbath rules, their hundreds of years of extra traditions and laws that they had said were from God, were in jeopardy of being in error. That meant they themselves would be in error for enforcing them.

This alternative was unthinkable. What other rules might be proven in error? Would all their work, their fervent, passionate commitment been not of God? In vain?

It would totally undermine their power and authority, their respected position among the people. And it would strip away all they had thought was true, all the had taught was true. They absolutely could not entertain the idea. Instead they insisted there was no way this could be from God. The healer was a sinner for breaking the Sabbath ordinances.

They were one-issue thinkers. Everything boiled down to whether or not it matched up with their interpretations and extra writings. In a sense, God had to do it their way, or they would refuse to accept or acknowledge God.

The healed man must have been listening intently and chose a side himself. The healer was a prophet.

Totally unacceptable! So the Pharisees decided the man’s story must have been fabricated. He was not the beggar born blind, he was some imposter. Or he had only been pretending all these years.

The man’s parents were summoned to get the “real truth.”

The Ban

Of course, the parents knew their own son, they had to admit he was who he said he was. But they were unwilling to go any further because the religious authorities were already ejecting people from the synagogues for confessing Jesus as the Messiah.

Court or not, Sabbath or not, they were afraid the Pharisees would put a ban on them. This was a very serious penalty that would last the rest of their lives, preventing them from associating with anyone who was in the synagogue ever again. Even with their extended family and closest friends, they would be completely cut off, not able to eat with them, or celebrate holidays, or special occasions, or anything.

So the Pharisees tried another tactic: make the man recant his story.

Bestow glory to GOD: We perceive that this person is a sinner.

Pharisees to the man who could now see, John 9:29

This was a legal phrase similar to our “Swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”

You know Jesus is a sinner, so just drop this charade and admit it, they were telling him. But the man refused. He would not recant.

There was further wrangling, it got heated, the Pharisees said they knew God talked to Moses, but who knows where Jesus came from.

The pressure, the risk, was very uncomfortable. But it was exactly here, in the suffering, that the man’s faith grew.

I picture, in the man’s mind, these puzzle pieces falling into place.

  1. God talked to Moses and God worked miracles through Moses.
  2. God does not talk to people who oppose God, as Pharaoh did.
  3. God does not work miracles through those who oppose God.

So the fact that he could now see, the fact that never before, in the history of humankind, had anyone been given sight who was born blind, actually proved that Jesus was not an opposer of God, but rather someone who God talked to and did miracles through, someone even more marvelous than Moses.

It was at this point the man was ready to take up for Jesus.

“If this one was not from God, he would not be able to do anything!”

The man who could now see to the Pharisees, John 9:33

It was flawless reasoning!

Cast Out of the Temple

There was nothing more the Pharisees could do but slander the man. “You were born in utter sin,” they threw in his face, reminding him of his previous blindness. (Remember the cloud that had hung over his family ever since he was born because of the rabbis’ teaching that babies born with disabilities were that way because of their, or their parents’ sin.) He had no right, no standing, to be teaching them, the teachers of the law and religious authorities over all Israel.

Taking a stand for Christ involves the risk of rejection

They had put the ban on him.

Imagine the stricken faces of his parents.              

This is a classic case of denial, insisting something is not so, because to accept that it is so would mean admitting personal responsibility, admitting that maybe something is wrong, maybe I need to change.

At the beginning of this chapter Jesus had helped someone who was, to everyone else’s eyes, steeped in sin because he was suffering from a disability. Others were sure this had been caused either by his own sin or his parents. He was considered dirty spiritually and dirty physically as an impoverished man, reduced to begging in the street.

Yet the one who had lived in darkness could now see.

And the ones who had lived in the light all their lives were blind.


[Cover Art, The LUMO Project | http://www.freebibleimages.org]

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