John 9 and 10 are discussed in both our current manual and in this lesson from a 1935 seminary text, Obert C. Tanner, The New Testament Speaks. Salt Lake City: Church Department of Education, 1935.
EVENTS AT JERUSALEM
Jesus Heals the Man Born Blind. (Read from the Bible: John 9.)
“Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” It was a general belief of the Jews in that day, that every physical ailment or sickness was a punishment from God for some sin that had been committed. This sin might have been done by the individual in this life, or it might have been committed by one of his ancestors. The Book of Job, in the Old Testament, is a discussion of the question: Why do righteous people have to suffer? It states clearly the truth that righteous people do suffer, though they have done no wrong. That is, it denies this old Jewish belief that people suffer only when they, or their parents, have sinned. But that book had little effect upon the popular beliefs of Jesus’ day.
“Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents”: Thus, the answer of Jesus was in direct conflict with Jewish ideas of the time. But notice, too, that Jesus does not deny that sin will bring suffering.
“Go, wash in the pool of Siloam,” Jesus instructed the man. The pool of Siloam is one of the few places associated with Christ’s ministry in Jerusalem which time has not erased. Indeed, this pool had been a source of water for the people living in its vicinity for many centuries before Christ. Back in the time of King Hezekiah’s reign, about 715 B.C., when the cities of Judah were threatened by the conquerors from the East, these few wells or springs of water were of the greatest importance to the inhabitants. For example, there is today a tunnel leading from a spring to the well of Siloam, dug through 1,750 feet of solid rock. In 1880 A.D., a Hebrew inscription, the oldest known, was found upon the wall of the tunnel, giving a description of the completion of the work. When Hezekiah was resisting his Assyrian conquerors and was “like a caged bird in Jerusalem, his capital city,” he dug “one of the most interesting tunnels of history” in order to bring more water into the pool of Siloam. One can walk through this tunnel today. The waters of Siloam are described by one historian at the time of Christ as “sweet and abundant.”
If a Jew offended the elders of the local synagogue, or church, he “was put out of the synagogue.” That is, eh was cut off from the congregation. To the Jew this was a disgrace. It made of him a social outcast. “And they cast him out”: the man whom Jesus now healed lost fellowship with them because he believed in Jesus. the very name “Pharisee,” or “Separated One,” meant those who had cast all sinners out from among them.
“If ye were blind, ye should have no sin”: To Jesus, sin was the conscious doing of a wrong. Persons who were blind, that is, could not see the truth, were not guilty of sin because they were without responsibility. But the Pharisees believed that to be sinless one must obey all laws. And to obey them, one would need to know them. Hence they said: “The ignorant are sinners.”
The Good Shepherd. (Read from the Bible: John 10:1-21.)
“He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber”: Jesus refers to a thief and a robber as one who seeks to establish a kingdom by force. In contrast to this way, the plan of Jesus was to establish a kingdom founded upon love. These two ways, the one of force, and the other of kindness and loving patience, were spoken of in the Old Testament. (Jer. 23:1-4; Ezek. 34:1-16; Micah 5:5) the way of force was contrasted with the way of a good shepherd. He came in meekness and gentleness as the True Shepherd sent of God, to those who might willingly follow. Through him and his wonderful way of living, one might pass as through a door. Mankind, through him, is to know the way to salvation and satisfaction. “I am the door of the sheep,” he said.
To understand the beautiful analogy of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, one must know the position of an eastern shepherd. He does not drive his sheep; he walks on ahead, and his sheep follow after him. For centuries this eastern shepherd has been the symbol of loving kindness, devotion, and self-sacrifice. He knows his sheep by name. His sheep recognize him as their protector and guide. Their safety depends upon his love for them, and their love for him. “I am the good shepherd,” were his words. And when the time came that he should give his life for his sheep, he voluntarily did so. “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” (Mark 10:45)
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”: Perhaps no single verse in scripture gives a more widely accepted definition of Christ’s ministry. A study of his life reveals that he regarded the welfare and happiness of people as the one thing of real importance. He cast aside man-made religious beliefs, institutions, and traditions when the matter of human welfare came in question. He was concerned with people who were missing the abundant life. He announced this life-purpose in his first public address in Nazareth (Luke 4:17-19), and he never served from his course. The rules of Sabbath-day observance he brushed aside to help people to a freer and fuller life. The synagogue at Nazareth was in an uproar because of his teachings about what really mattered in religion. He assailed religious customs such as the ceremonial cleansing of hands, the time-honored Sabbath-day and a synagogue worship, because they were not helping people to a more abundant spiritual life.
We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial;
We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.
Jesus at the Feast of Dedication. (Read from the Bible: John 10:22-42.)
“And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication”: In the second century B.C. the Syrian conqueror from the north,. Antiochus Epiphanes, attempted to abolish the religion of Judaism. He desecrated the temple, and set up heathen altars through all Judea. but he did not succeed in his ruthless adventure. And the year 165 B.C., in the month of December, became one of the greatest of Jewish holidays – the Feast of Dedication. It celebrated the occasion of the successful revolt against the Syrians by Judas Maccabaeus. The temple and altars were reconsecrated. The occasion was called “The Feast of Dedication.” Goodspeed translates it, “the feast of Rededication.” It lasted eight days. Business and work did not stop, and very little change was made in the religious services. The special feature of the feast was the brilliant lighting of the private houses. From this fact, the occasion was often referred to as the “feast of lights.” People were gay during the festival. When they assembled they carried Palm branches and green foliage as symbols of the festival.
A Minute for Meditation:
I know not what this man may be,
Sinner or saint; but as for me,
One thing I know, that I am he
Who once was blind, but now I see.
Questions for the Chapter Review:
1. What problem is revealed in this question which the disciples asked Jesus: “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” What did Jesus answer?
2. What interest does the pool of Siloam have for a Bible student today?
3. Why did the parents of the blind man hesitate to tell the Jews what Jesus had done?
4. What did Jesus mean by these words: “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin?” (John 9:41)
5. Explain the scripture verse: “he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1)
6. Explain the analogy of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
7. Explain the origin and celebration of the Feast of Dedication.
Suggestive Problems for Discussion in Class:
1. The first part of this lesson reveals the ancient Jewish belief that all human suffering in the world was caused by the sins of the sufferer, or his parents. Is this belief present among members of your community today? Consider for an example the calamities such as floods, drought, sickness, accidents, etc. Is there a current belief in some minds that these adversities are caused by the sins of the people injured? How would you answer the expression of such a belief? Does suffering always follow the sins we commit? Explain.
2. In John 9:1`8-23, we read of the interesting search the Pharisees made to learn how the blind man had been healed. The parents of the man were afraid to tell of any personal conviction they might have concerning Jesus. “They feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.” (John 9:22) Rather than be excommunicated from their church, the parents refused to give their opinion about Jesus, or any facts concerning his work. Should a modern church of today excommunicate a person, if his personal convictions about any doctrine be out of harmony with the accepted standards of that church? Explain. What are the limits you would place upon the freedom of personal religious convictions of others, and still be willing to fellowship and worship with them in the same church?
3. In John 10:14-15, Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd … and I lay down my life for the sheep.” We know, when we read these words, that our Master was very much in earnest. Among his very greatest teachings was the inestimable worth of a human soul. He cared most of all for people. His own comfort and pleasure were easily sacrificed by him for the welfare of others. His life was a willing sacrifice to save people. And the wrongs he denounced most severely were those committed against the lives of men. Examine your own life. Are you sharing this spirit of Jesus? Do you treat human personality, wherever you meet it, as the most sacred thing in the world? Give some examples of how one might prove discipleship to Jesus in this regard: (a) at home; (b) at school; (c) at church; (d) abroad.