discrimination

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1-2)

This man who was born blind had it rough since the day he was born. In the context of the Jewish community, in the days of Jesus, his birth defect was discriminated as “sin”. It was an unfortunate social stigma which caused much unease and strain for his family too.

The tone and speeches of the Pharisees against this man (John 9:34), brought to light the injustice he suffered.

How long was he in that condition before Jesus healed him? His parents’ reply to the Pharisees provided some clues – “He is of age, he will speak for himself” (John 9:21)

In the context of their customs, there were two possible “of age” which address their role in society. At age twelve, he is no more a child, time to bear responsibility for one’s reasoning and action. At age thirty, the legal age where priest enter their office, scribes officially begin their teaching, and the common folk’s marriageable age, time to start your own family.

In consideration of the context in John 9, this man appeared much older than just a teenager. Chances were this man who was born blind was about the age of thirty and in the same age group with Jesus and John the Baptist.

Imagine those estimated 30 years of discrimination against him.

It was more than enough to break one’s spirit and hope. On the other hand, the synagogue and the Pharisees had more than 30 years of chances to fulfill their obligations as ‘shepherds’ to him. What had they done? Should they had made the least effort to nullify such discrimination and social stigma?

For whatever the reason for his blindness, Jesus was there to make things right. In fact this man having received the miracle confronted his critics and left us a powerful testimony. It’s been about 2000 years, this blind man’s testimony is as great as Lazarus raised from the dead, and the impact as honorable as when the centurion witness Jesus’ death on the cross (Luke 23:47).

Prior to his healing, Jesus’ explanation to His disciples seems interesting –

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:3-5).

What does this man who was born blind had to do with the “works of God”?

The whole situation about this man who was born blind had a direct link between his birth defect, how the synagogue leaders reacted, and the purpose Jesus came.

With reference to a passage of scripture from the Old Testament (Ezekiel 34:1-16) – God was angry at those ‘shepherds’ who failed to perform their due diligence in taking care of the common folks of Israel.

In delivering His warning and judgment against those ‘shepherds’, God declared that “I myself will search for my sheep and look after them”, and “I will shepherd the flock with justice”.

What Jesus did was a direct challenge against the synagogue leaders. Jesus did something which they should have done.

Before the healing, Jesus judged that ‘neither this man nor his parents sinned’.

It was very unfortunate that this blind man was discriminated due to people’s perceptions of ‘sin’, and who was it that instilled such social stigma into the minds and hearts of the community? These community ‘shepherds’ had failed to teach and encourage the common sense of truth!

Indeed how ironic, instead of rejoicing with the family that the blind man had received his sight and was in good health, the Pharisees kicked up a big fuss about Jesus not keeping the Sabbath (John 9:16) ! Now put yourself in the position of his parents, your kid who was born blind now can see! So what about the Sabbath?!

Did God ordain the Sabbath to set us free from the yoke of labor so that we can rest, or to bind us with extra burdens? Isn’t the Sabbath a day we can enjoy and worship God?

This man who received his sight was even excommunicated, because the Pharisees could not win against his faith and confession –

The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. (John 9:30)

Well, apparently his bold statement wasn’t appreciated, sounded more like mockery to them although he spoke the truth!

It has become obvious, this man’s courage and boldness could have stem from his years of frustration against these flawed ‘shepherds’. Being a Jew himself – had his membership with the synagogue and living among the Jewish community of his days, he should have known excommunication is a severe punishment. It not just about being kicked out of synagogue, it usually meant to sever social and economic support completely, to ostracize with intend to kill, to leave the person to his own death and destruction.

If you feel how resolute this man was, you can understand his determination. With or without the synagogue and these ‘shepherds’, life moves on. In fact he was prepared for stoning, a form of death penalty, knowing fully well how he had confronted the Pharisees.

This man who was born blind was bold enough not to appeal and asked to be received back to the synagogue. All those years in blindness, what had he learn or not learn about God from the those ‘shepherds’?

Rejected by these synagogue ‘shepherds’, he walked and moved on with his life, and was found by the true Shepherd.

Jesus declared His position and status to him –

Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:38)

So this man who was born blind, got healed, and enjoyed his real Sabbath!

As promised since the days of old, God Himself will seek after His sheep and look after them – Jesus found this man and restored him to fellowship with God.

In Jesus, he was healed of his physical blindness. In Jesus, he found his purpose of life and sense of direction; he now can walk in the ways and teaching of Christ and enjoy his Sabbath and fellowship with God.

In Jesus, he found the true Shepherd of his soul.

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