Sunday, August 20, 2006

Weekly Reflections and John 9-13 The Healer

This week I traveled to Mexico City on business and missed updating the blog daily, so today I am catching up with the 5 chapters from 9-13 in the book of John.

The first chapter of this week's study continues the theme of Jesus quietly demonstrating His power by healing a blind man. Again, the Pharisees attacked Jesus, this time for healing on a Sunday.

In verse 39 of chapter 9 Jesus says "I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind." 40 Some Pharisees overheard him and said, "Does that mean you're calling us blind?" 41 Jesus said, "If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you're accountable for every fault and failure."

Jesus had a way of plain speaking that cut right to the heart of the matter. This angered the Pharisees, because they knew that he was right. Amongst the Pharisees were some who knew instinctively that the good things that Jesus were doing had to be of God.

In John 10 Jesus continues his plain way of communicating - first beginning with an allegory about sheep and a gate and the role of the shepherd in protecting the sheep from those who would come to steal and harm. The people didn't understand what He was trying to say, so He spoke even more plainly about the fact that He was the gate and the good shepherd. The Pharisees were angry and even tried to stone Him. In this chapter Jesus also talks about laying himself down for the sheep, which was another allegory about being nailed to the cross. At this point, it wasn't time for this to happen, so the end of the chapter says that Jesus slipped away back across the Jordan river.

John 11 is the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. It is interesting that first upon being told that he was sick by his sisters Mary and Martha, Jesus elected to wait a few days before coming to the town where they lived. By the time He arrived, Lazarus was dead. Jesus knew that this was the chance to reach Jews who previously just would not believe. After all, who could deny that someone who was dead was now alive?

Here I was struck by the fact that something bad had to happen to allow God to be glorified. How many times have you heard people say "Why would God allow this to happen?". Whether cancer or a tragic accident, each thing that creates deep need is an opportunity for God to show His power.

Even though Jesus knew that His own life would be in danger by performing such a stark miracle, he called to Lazarus, dead for 4 days, and he came back alive. The word spread and Jesus went to a place where He would be safe with the disciples until it was time.

He knew the "script" and the perfect timing of God's plan, so He was at peace.

John 11 begins with the story of Mary annointing Jesus' feet with precious oils. She came under criticism for that move, with Judas who would betray him saying "why didn't you sell the oil and give the money to the poor?". Again, knowing the script, Jesus said that Mary was honoring Him and that the poor would always be there, but He was not going to be with them much longer.

Meanwhile, the Pharisees were plotting to kill Lazarus, as he was drawing much attention to Jesus - the last thing that they wanted!

When it was time, Jesus returned to Jerusalem. He was greeted by people who had heard the first hand account from Lazarus. This angered the Pharisees even more, as if they needed igniting. Yet some of them did believe, but "were afraid of getting kicked out of the meeting place. When push came to shove they cared more for human approval than for God's glory."

In Chapter 12, verses 44-46 Jesus summed it all up when he cried out, "Whoever believes in me, believes not just in me but in the One who sent me. Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won't have to stay any longer in the dark. 47-50"If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn't take it seriously, I don't reject him. I didn't come to reject the world; I came to save the world. But you need to know that whoever puts me off, refusing to take in what I'm saying, is willfully choosing rejection."

Chapter 13 takes us to the upper room where the infamous Last Supper would be served. Jesus begins by washing the feet of the disciples. In verse 10 Jesus said, "If you've had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you're clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene."

The chapter continues with the recognition of Judas as his betrayer, in fulfillment of the prophesy in the Scriptures. Then he lays down his instructions to them - a New Commandment:

34-35 "Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other."

The final verse in this chapter is about how Peter will deny Jesus before morning. We know what is coming and so did Jesus.

On Friday I had lunch with my friend Thristene who just returned from 2 1/2 months in Mozambique. As I've written before, she was part of an amazing missions community there where people were regularly being healed miraculously. She herself prayed for people in Africa whose eyes were opened after being blind. This is Chapter 9 in action - TODAY, not 2000 years ago. Someone sitting across from me eating Mexican food in a restaurant in Tampa, not Jesus.

In Chapter 13, verse 19 Jesus said
"I'm telling you all this ahead of time so that when it happens you will believe that I am who I say I am. Make sure you get this right: Receiving someone I send is the same as receiving me, just as receiving me is the same as receiving the One who sent me."

Thristene was one of many in Africa who were sent to minister to the local people. Their ministry reached literally hundreds for the Lord. It isn't about the miracles, although as shown in these few chapters in John, Jesus clearly saw the value of miracles in making people believe.

It is about love - Jesus loving people enough to stop, listen, touch, pray, heal. Healing not only their bodies, but their lives - cleansing their hearts and filling them with life - removing the effects of death. We can be the man who had been blind, we can be Lazarus.

Jesus is here today. Let Him touch you and be your healer.

Chicke Fitzgerald

1 comment:

Thristene said...

Interpreting the scripture from the underside: John 9

While living in Mozambique, I encountered many blind Mozambicans that were somewhat of a depiction of the blind man in John 9. As I observed them the first few weeks, I was somewhat uncomfortable around them because I felt as though I was only useful to them if could give them something. I can still hear their desperate voices “Senora, Senora, dinero por favor, fome fome, Senora, fome.” In english this means “ please give me money, I am hungry.” The cries of the poor in Mozambique were overwhelming at times. I did not know how to deal with their pain, so sometimes I closed my eyes, or I pretended to have deaf ears. But when you’re smacked in the middle of poverty everyday, it is hard to ignore their cries. Though I tried to remain hard, I eventually broke. I cried “Lord what are you doing to me, I can’t take this, there is too much need, I am dying. The Lord convicted about this as he said “how can you say you love God if you can’t love the one that he puts in front of you to love. In myself, I knew that I could not stop for these people, so everyday I asked God to change my heart so that I could stop for his bride. The Lord relieved me of feeling overwhelmed when he revealed to me his love for the one, he told me that I needed to look in the face of one. He told me to love one at a time, hold one at a time, befriend one at a time, and in doing this he would reveal his heart to me for the one. Later along down the line, we were asked to take a passage of scripture and approach it as if we were poor and prepare a message on it. I chose John 9, and it is amazing how God used my experience with the poor to help me to preach on John 9. Here are the main points:

In the culture that Jesus lived in: If you were blind or had some kind of physical impairment it was reasoned that the condition had resulted from sin. People perhaps thought that he was rejected from God, hence he is excluded from the community around him.

Jesus fulfills the law. He loves God and loves others by stopping for the man and not just by observing religious tradition. Jesus leads his disciples through practical demonstrations. Jesus is inviting his disciples to partnership with what he is doing ( “We” should do the works, not just “I”

The way Jesus approaches the healing of the man is messy, not clean. Jesus is willing to get in the dirt in order to heal the marginalized.

Jesus finds worth and meaning in a man that is considered meaningless in society. Jesus says, “he is born to bring God Glory.” He moves from the place of insignificance (beggar) to significance.

The man is dehumanized by his neighbors and the Pharisees. He is nameless to those around him who see him daily. He is labeled a beggar. (that beggar!) His worth lies in his ability to beg. This hit me really hard in Mozambique because before I came face to face with the poor, they were nameless. They were “the poor, the crippled lady, the blind man.” Once I came face to face with them, I realized that they were human beings that we shared similar human characteristics. (the need to be loved, accepted, protected, etc)
Once Jesus heals him, he emerges with a voice, but still he is ignored. Even his testimony is not valid. It is quite patronizing that the Pharisees would request the testimony of his parents to prove that he is indeed telling the truth.

The man that was once blind becomes the teacher of the Pharisees as he explains that the works that Jesus has done is evidence of Jesus’ divinity. The Pharisees should be schooled in the things of the Kingdom after being in the synagogue all their lives, but instead the one who has spent less time in the synagogue becomes their teacher.

The Blind man’s declaration of his encounter with Jesus is simple. (I don’t know how…
I ‘m blind but now I see) whereas the Pharisees want explanations, and the how’s. Some need to figure everything out intellectually before they believe. The poor in Mozambique showed me the simplicity of receiving the gospel.

Though the once blind man is kicked out of the synagogue, Jesus does not forget him. Jesus returns a second time to give him the free gift of salvation. The man does not have to be in the synagogue to worship God. Jesus is not bound to any specific place of worship. The once blind man has church right where he is.

Jesus touched him with hands of love by healing him, and then Jesus returned with salvation. Jesus is about restoring the whole person.


1. I see this passage as a call to be open to the things of the Kingdom. It is not enough to do the ritualistic church events. We need a relationship with God. Our hearts should be constantly open with a cry to see the Kingdom of God come in our lives and the lives of people around us. We need to constantly be in a place of needing God.
2. We need to ask for eyes to see the marginalized. We need to stop for them and bring them back into our church community.
3. We are called to minister to the whole person (body, mind and spirit) not just bring the message of salvation, but be active in showing people love.