Good morning! Today in John 9-10, we see the life-altering effect of an encounter with Jesus on a man born blind, and on his community. When the man’s neighbors, parents and religious authorities all fracture into different camps based on whether or not they believe this to be a valid healing, Jesus then goes into a chapter of extended metaphors around sheep and the “good shepherd”, making the point in several different ways that what matters is not so much what one believes, but whether one recognizes in Jesus a true shepherd and follows him.
The blind man healed in John 9 finds out just how troublesome it can be to get what you want. Declaring as in yesterday’s text that “I am the light of the world”, Jesus gives this blind man the ability to perceive light, to see again. So far, so good. However, then others start to treat him differently, presuming that he must be a different man. When he declares himself the very man they knew as a blind beggar, his change in status upsets their world. (I see some connections to the Gerasene who was freed of his demon-possession, and then treated differently by the townspeople around him.) Pharisees open a sacerdotal investigation, interviewing key witnesses including the blind man and his parents. Religious authorities struggle to accept this man’s liberation, and make his life a living hell because of their tireless probing. I give the healed man credit for stating his truth and testimony in the face of pressure from the Pharisees to change his mind. Eventually he is even driven out by the Pharisees, for the way his facts contradict their theology. Jesus meets the man, confirms his faith, and points out the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees.
In John 10, Jesus holds forth with several interconnected and rapidly-changing metaphors. Following close on “the light of the world”, here Jesus is “the door” (or gate) and the good shepherd. When he speaks as the shepherd, notice that the sheep know the shepherd’s voice (like the blind man at first knew only the voice of Jesus, but sensed enough to receive his mud-in-the-eyes of healing). Jesus casts the Pharisees as false shepherds, the ones that sheep will not follow because they don’t recognize the voice. But when the religious authorities don’t understand the shade he’s casting their way, Jesus changes metaphors. He next says that he is the gate by which the sheep come and go, finding true pasture. Other gates (leaders) are false, giving access to the thief who wants only to destroy. Next comes another metaphor shift, back to the first: “I am the good shepherd”. This time the shepherd takes on a further dimension of loyalty, that of dying for the sheep (unlike the hired hand who runs away). This sacrifice is willingly given for the sake of the sheep, a testament to how dearly the shepherd holds the flock.
Finally, at another festival in Jerusalem, “the Jews” (religious authorities) get into another confrontation with Jesus. They ask for a plain answer whether he is the Messiah or not. Jesus replies that his answer will never sound plain to them because they are not among the chosen flock. He asserts again his unity with God (“the Father”), and narrowly evades being stoned for blasphemy through some clever biblical interpretation. Escaping for now, Jesus goes to where John had been baptizing, where “many believed in him”. Which is to say, they heard his voice and recognized it as that of their shepherd. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is John 11-12. Thanks for reading!