Hi I’m Josh Hawkins and this is Episode 97 of Opening Up the Gospels. In the last few episodes we’ve been looking at Jesus’ journey to the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem in December of 28 from Luke 13 and 14. In Episode 96 we saw Jesus in the home of a ruler of the Pharisees, which would have most likely been in Jerusalem. At the dinner, He further exposed the arrogance of the Jewish authorities and boldly told them that they would not participate in the promised feast in the age to come. Instead, faithful Gentiles, ones not even invited to the feast promised to God’s covenant people Israel, would participate. As Moses said in Deuteronomy 32, this inclusion of the Gentiles would anger the Jewish people and would be one of the ways God would continue to seek His people’s repentance. Well in today’s episode we’re going to spend some time in John’s Gospel looking at Jesus' time at the Feast of Dedication. Before we jump there, I want to take a quick look back at our timeline to refresh your memory. Jesus had ministered at the Feast of Tabernacles back in October of 28. We looked at that back in Episode 90 and 91.
- then Jesus’ teaches on prayer, which we commonly call the Lord’s prayer.
- then Jesus pronounces judgment on His generation and talks about the sign of Jonah
- then we see a meal with the Pharisees and Jesus pronouncing more judgment and woes
- then we see Jesus giving a large discourse including many parables
- then Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath
- then Jesus gives still more discourse and parables
- then in the last episode we saw Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath and eating a meal at a ruler of the Pharisees’ house.
- and now today Jesus is in Jerusalem for the feast of Dedication, this is now December of 28. This is narrated in John’s Gospel.
In looking at John’s gospel, it’s pretty difficult to determine exactly when John ceases his account of Tabernacles and resumes with Dedication. If you can, grab your Bible and follow along with me for a second because I think if you can see this, it will help. Turn to John chapter 10. Take a look at verse 22. There, John says:
"At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon."
(John 10:22–23 ESV)
So we know that the events we see after John 10:22 are part of the Feast of Dedication. Now go back and look at the end of John 8. In John 7 and John 8, Jesus was at the feast of Tabernacles in the Temple, then He left the Temple after angering the Jews:
"Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple."
(John 8:58 ESV)
After we looked at Jesus at Tabernacles, I jumped to Luke’s Gospel where we saw Jesus ministering in Judea and Perea between these two feasts in October and December. But look back at your Bible for a second - what about all the material we see in John 9:1 through 10:21? There are two possibilities - either that goes with Tabernacles somewhere in October and immediately follows Jesus exiting the Temple, or it goes with Dedication somewhere in December, in the days leading up to the feast. Of course we can’t be totally sure, and it’s not clear cut either way. But I think I would put it immediately prior to Dedication in December. Why? The Jews had just tried to kill Jesus, so He leaves the temple and is hidden from them. Because of that rage against Him, it seems like Luke’s Gospel indicates that Jesus leaves Jerusalem altogether. Therefore I would see John 9:1 through 10:21 as happening as Jesus is returning to Jerusalem for Dedication in December. Does that make sense? Again, I think it’s possible to see it either way. So with that in mind let’s read from John 9:
"As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing."
(John 9:1–7 ESV)
So as Jesus is returning to Jerusalem, He encounters a man born blind and sees it as an opportunity to show forth His glory. He uses commonly understood "night and day” symbolism to represent good and evil, saying that there is a specific window of time for Jesus to appeal to Israel before the people act on their hard heartedness and put Him to death. Jesus makes some mud with his spit and some dirt and puts it on the man’s eyes, then tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Jesus has used spit twice already in the Gospels back in Mark 7 and Mark 8. Jesus using spit and mud here is somewhat reminiscent of Genesis 2:7, where God mixed His breath and the dirt of the ground to form a living human. Some rabbis also believed that spittle had healing powers, but other rabbis believed that it was magic and thus against the Torah. Whatever it was, Jesus is certain to offend the Jewish authorities in one way or another. Jesus goes on to tell the man to wash in the pool of Siloam. John adds that Siloam means “sent”, which certainly has some significance here in light of the miracle Jesus had performed. First of all, Jesus was the sent one of God, the promised king of Israel, and this miracle attested to that truth. Secondly, the blind man was “sent” to the pool of Siloam. The Pool of Siloam was strategic for the people of Jerusalem. In 2 Chronicles 32 (verses 2-4), King Hezekiah dug a water tunnel from the Spring of Gihon to bring water into the city of Jerusalem. During a siege of the city, the inhabitants would have a source of life-giving water. As I talked about back in Episode 90, water from the Pool of Siloam was used in the great water ceremony in the Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles. The priests would draw water from this pool and bring it back to the Temple and offer it in thanks to God for a bountiful crop. In more ways than one, the Pool of Siloam is representative of life and provision.
So this man was then questioned by neighbors and those who knew him as a blind beggar beforehand. They were in shock and couldn’t believe that it was the same man they had known. They end up bringing him before the Pharisees, who then also questioned him. Let’s read a bit more from John 9:
"They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them."
(John 9:13–16 ESV)
In past episodes I’ve developed themes I trust you will see again here - first, the whole Sabbath controversy Jesus has with the Jewish authorities on what is lawful and unlawful, and second, the idea of the word “sinners" being a term that the Jewish authorities used for those who were not keeping their traditions. There was a controversy and a division among them because the miracle was undeniable. Either the Man who did the signs was from God or had a demon.
John goes on to tell us about how the man’s parents were brought in for questioning by the Jews. They bore witness and said that the man was indeed their son and that he had been born blind. But then they deflect the rest of the questions and tell them to ask their son directly, because they feared being cast out of the synagogue. John tells us in 9:22 that the Jews had agreed that if anyone confessed Jesus as the Christ, they would be put out of the synagogue. So this likely implies that the man had reached the legal age of maturity where he could respond and bear witness for himself. The next part of the scene in John 9 has the healed man standing before the Pharisees a second time. They pressure him again to give some kind of testimony that would contradict his earlier story and thus implicate Jesus as a lawbreaker and a sinner. But the man becomes impatient and sarcastically asks the Pharisees if they want to become Jesus’ disciples. They respond in self-righteousness by saying they are Moses’ disciples, the one whom God has spoken to. As Jesus said back in John 5, the Jewish authorities didn’t actually believe what Moses said, because Moses wrote about Him and they were not believing Him. This miracle, just like so many others, is exposing the Pharisees’ inner hatred for God. The blind beggar had come to see and believe, literally, that Jesus was who He said He was. It was because of this that the Pharisees cast the man out of the synagogue. John goes on to say:
"Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains."
(John 9:35–41 ESV)
The beggar responds to Jesus’ testimony about Himself, that He is indeed the one whom God had promised. After having been cast out of the synagogue, the assembly of worshipping Jews who believed they would inherit the promises to Abraham, the man worships Jesus instead, putting his faith in Him and rightly recognizing His identity. This miracle is yet another example of the theme of division that we see in the Gospels. Along those lines, Jesus goes on to say that He came for judgment - to reckon with His people Israel and to cause those who think they see to be blinded, and to cause those who are blind to see. The Pharisees knew Jesus was talking about them as the blind ones. They assumed that among all of the people of Israel, they would be the ones who were seeing clearly because of their understanding of the Law. Yet it was their own claim that they could see clearly that made them culpable. They claimed they could see, yet they rejected Jesus and would go on to kill Him. Sin truly deceived them so that they lived in complete falsehood, and because of their self-reliance and pride, they would go on to murder Jesus.
In the next episode we’ll take a look at John 10 where Jesus continues His condemnation of the Pharisees. If you’ve missed any episodes in this series, you can find them all on my website, www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. Blessings to you, come back next time.