This week we’re looking at the story of the man who was born blind, found in John 9. Specifically, we’re looking at the three responses made to Jesus in this story. You might want to start with yesterday’s post to catch up, or quickly read the first 15 verses of John 9.
Some will be prejudiced against Jesus from the beginning
And the first type of response Jesus encountered is no different from many of the responses we get today: some people will be prejudiced against Jesus from the beginning. Like much of the Jerusalem elite, they won’t give him a fair hearing. Why is that?
In the case of the Pharisees, John gives us a few clues. Firstly, as we said before, the healing occurs on the Sabbath, which conflicts with their idea of “the rules.” It led to a division amongst them:John 9:16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
In other words, the evidence didn’t support their prejudice. Jesus’ actions seemed to be in conflict with their understanding of how God works. And so some of the Pharisees chose prejudice over the evidence.
We see this again later in the story, when the Pharisees line up behind traditional, established religion:John 9:29 “We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
We’ll stick with what we know, thank you very much! We’ll take the law of Moses any day over some Yeshua-come-lately who hangs around with sinners like you. And so many of the Pharisees end up rejecting the blind man’s testimony about Jesus on the basis of prejudice, rather than the evidence:John 9:34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
And this hints at another, darker reason for rejecting Jesus. It wasn’t just because Jesus seemed to go against their traditional understanding of how God works, and who he works through. It was also because Jesus challenged the Pharisees’ authority. They were the ones who held the power in the Jewish world. Their position as God’s gate-keepers gave them great status. Their worldview put themselves above everyone else. So they didn’t need some upstart coming along and rocking the boat! In short: they were threatened.
John highlighted their response in his story, of course, primarily to warn his readers not to respond in this way. But he also highlighted it, I suspect, to let the early Christians know that they should expect this kind of response. It shouldn’t come as a great surprise to us that people will be so prejudiced against Jesus, so prejudiced against the gospel, that they don’t even give it a hearing.
And it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that even religious people are prejudiced against the gospel; especially religious people. They already have a belief system, a worldview which judges themselves favourably. They think they meet the requirements, and they’re happy to go along the way they are. But Jesus threatens to upset the apple-cart when he turns religion upside down and offers right-standing with God as a free gift. And so they’re prejudiced against a message that tells them they are not right with God; a message that puts them on the same level as everyone else – even the worst of sinners!
So don’t be surprised when you bring people this life-giving message, and they don’t want to hear it. When they reject it out of hand, on the basis of prejudice rather than the evidence itself.
A number of times over the twelve years I was a young adults’ pastor, I was asked by a Christian parent to help their non-Christian children. And by help, I mean fix. ‘Pastor, can you fix my son please – he doesn’t believe in the gospel.’ Sure thing; nothing a quick course of apologetic antibiotics won’t cure…
And so it was that one time I ended up with a 20 year old guy in my office; let’s call him Peter. Peter clearly didn’t want to be there, but he’s doing it to keep his mum happy. For form’s sake he brought out a few objections to the historical basis of Christianity; I helped answer some of them, and lent him a book on the subject (which I still haven’t got back…)
But after about 15 minutes it became clear that Peter didn’t so much not believe Christianity was true; he simply didn’t want it to be true. He was threatened by it. And no amount of rational proof was going to change that. Peter wasn’t in my office to find out anything. He’d already decided that he was going to be the one running his life. His prejudice had already got in the way of the evidence. Some people will be prejudiced against Jesus and his gospel from the beginning.
To think about
How do you respond when someone you know is prejudiced against Jesus and the gospel from the beginning?