We are halfway through the Gospel according to John. In chapter nine, Jesus heals a man born blind. When this man refuses to reject Jesus, he is kicked out of his synagogue. Many readers of John have concluded that this chapter not only records an experience of Jesus but also reflects the experience of John’s first readers. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, word of the Messiah spread around the world. Many Jews who were drawn to Jesus and His church found their synagogues intolerant of any talk of Jesus.
John 9:16 says, “There was a division among them.” Indeed, the book of Acts describes this as well. Christian missionaries would go first to synagogues, and often the synagogue would divide between those who believed in Jesus and those who refused. Acts 14:1-2 says, “Now at Iconium they entered into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.”
We see “poisoning” tactics in John 9. Verse 16 shows that even while investigation is going on, there is a pre-judgment. If Jesus healed on the Sabbath, He must be a sinner. In verse 17, the man born blind only calls Jesus a “prophet.” The man born blind is not yet a Christian in the sense of believing Jesus to be Lord. But even the first investigations of a budding faith receive a harsh response from the synagogue leaders. In verse 18, the leaders of the synagogue question whether the man was even born blind. So they drag in his parents. His parents are clearly afraid (verse 22).
The synagogue leaders bring the man born blind back again. In verses 24-34, their unreasonable opposition pushes the man born blind towards greater understanding of who Jesus must be. He cannot just be a prophet (see verses 35-36).
When the man is cast out of the synagogue, Jesus finds him. John 10 explains what we see in John 9. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He seeks out and cares for the lost sheep. “All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them” (10:8). In order to save the flock, the good shepherd gives up His life (10:11,15).
In this way, the Gospel according to John explains both the rejection of Jesus by the Jews and the experience of His disciples as we grow in faith. Jesus is still rejected by many. As we grow in faith, we often find their intolerance turns upon us, too. But the good shepherd does not fear the wolves. He has faced them, and He will protect His flock. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (10:27-28). Drawing nearer to the Good Shepherd, our eyes are opened, both to know Him and know ourselves in Him.