We encounter some recurring themes this week. First, we see another bout of geographic classicism. By that, I mean, we keep hearing people ridicule Jesus’ roots: Born in Bethlehem, that little blink-and-you-miss-it town? A prophet from Podunk Nazareth? Unlikely. While Jesus is known in the countryside for his works of turning water into wine, healing a royal official’s son, feeding of the 5,000, his brothers insist that it’s time to move from the honky-tonk stage to the Grand Ole Opry. They urge him to go to Jerusalem for one of the big religious festivals and show his signs to the big-city folk.
But Jesus—understatement alert—is not one to be peer pressured. He will go to the festival in God’s time, not the time prescribed by man but rather when the opportunity for his witness is at its height.
A few days into the festival, Jesus arrives and is met with a range of reactions: from bemused tolerance of a country yokel to outright hatred by some of the religious leaders. They question: Is he simply a good man, a prophet, a deluded madman, a seducer? He is the Christ, but most do not have the ears to hear this astounding news. Only Nicodemus offers a defense for Jesus. We end chapter seven with the same old saw: “You will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.”
In chapter eight, we encounter another common theme: The religious leaders try to trip Jesus up on the letter of the law. They present a woman caught in the unlawful act of adultery (side note: where was the adulterer partner in this story?) and ask Jesus about her punishment. After all, even Moses was clear that death by stoning was the punishment for adultery. Lesser men would fail at this legal and linguistic challenge but Jesus is, obviously, not your ordinary man. He counters, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” As the kids might say, Jesus’ response is pretty lit.
And speaking of light…in the next verse, we encounter another of John’s classics: Jesus proclaims, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Jesus continues on for several verses, trying to explain what he means and who he is. His speech convicts many who come to believe in him, but others can’t or won’t see the light and they decide to cast some stones at him. Jesus ducks out and heads to the temple.
In the final chapter for the week, we’re back to the same tune on another broken record: the issue of Jesus healing on the sabbath. And not only are the religious leaders mad about the broken sabbath laws, but also they’re perplexed about exactly how Jesus healed a blind man with a mixture or mud and saliva. Repeatedly they ask a variant of, “How did he open your eyes?”
It’s a question we face today as we consider our own blindness. Will we open our eyes to see the Christ? Will we invite the healing power of Christ into our lives so we might see anew the Light?