A blind man's healing sparks a theological debate, challenging the Pharisees' beliefs about the Sabbath and Jesus' identity.
John 9:17-23 — Witness Under Pressure — Aneel Aranha
Hello and welcome to the Bite-Sized Gospel with Aneel Aranha. Today we will reflect on John 9:17-23. Listen.
Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
“We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
This passage highlights the complexities of truth-telling in the face of authority. A man born blind can now see and unwittingly finds himself in the center of a theological storm. The Pharisees and the Jewish leaders are not just grappling with a miraculous sign; they are wrestling with the implications of what this sign means for their understanding of the Sabbath, the Law, and the identity of Jesus.
Interrogation of the healed man leads to a division among them. Some cannot reconcile the healing with their interpretation of the Law: "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." Others are perplexed by the undeniable evidence of a miracle: "How can a sinner perform such signs?" The healed man's own testimony is simple yet profound: "He is a prophet."
When the Pharisees call the man's parents to testify, their responses are marked by caution and fear, indicative of the social and religious pressures of the time. They acknowledge their son's blindness from birth and affirm that he now sees, but they refuse to speculate on how the healing occurred or who performed it. Their statement, "He is of age; ask him," reveals their fear of being "put out of the synagogue."
This passage invites us to reflect on the nature of testimony under pressure. The parents' reluctance to speak fully and freely is a stark contrast to the boldness of their son. It raises questions about our own willingness to bear witness to the truth, especially when doing so may cost us our standing in our communities.
Moreover, the text exposes the vulnerability of human institutions, even religious ones, to the corrupting influence of power. The fear of excommunication reflects a system where adherence to the letter of the Law overshadows the spirit of the Law. It is a cautionary tale about how people can wield religious authority to suppress truth and maintain control.
Amid this, the healed man stands as a beacon of integrity. He is not swayed by the controversy surrounding him. He speaks of his experience without embellishing it or evading it. In doing so, he embodies the kind of witness that all followers of Jesus are called to be: one grounded in personal experience and unshaken by external pressures.
How do we respond when our understanding of God's work in the world is challenged by the institutions and communities to which we belong? Are we prepared to testify to the light, even at a personal cost? Something to ponder today.
God bless you.