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 Monday’s post to catch up, or quickly read the first 15 verses of John 9. Yesterday, we saw that some people (like the Jewish leaders) are prejudiced against Jesus from the beginning. Today, we encounter another kind of response.
Some will be interested, but competing concerns will win out
Because others, will show some interest. At least initially. But as we see in John chapter 9, competing concerns end up winning out. We see this implied in the division between Jewish leaders. Some were prejudiced against Jesus:
John 9:16b But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
The trouble is, the ‘others’ aren’t heard from again in the story. It’s the nay-sayers who carry the day; who dominate the discussion. The Pharisees who were interested learned pretty quickly to keep their mouths shut, if they wanted to stay in good with their peers.
And it wasn’t just them; the man’s parents also allowed the fear of others to outweigh the evidence of the miracle. To suppress their desire to investigate further. John tells us so explicitly:John 9:18-23 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?””We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.”His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue [or a better translation: made synagogue outcasts]. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
Any attraction to Jesus, any interest in finding out more about this amazing man – it’s drowned out by the demands of society. Don’t be different. Don’t risk rejection by your family, your community, your friends – being assigned the status “outcast.” Don’t risk your livelihood by living counter to the prevailing culture.
As you share the gospel, you’re going to face this time after time. People who seem interested in Jesus, but outside pressures get too much and they don’t follow through. People in whom you invest time and energy, who then go on to break your heart when a year later they’ve even stopped returning your calls.
Sometimes it’s pressure from family. Particularly those whose families are from a different religious background. (Or even from different church denominations that have more in common with the Jewish leaders: where it’s primarily about belonging to a particular community and observing certain practices, rather than a personal allegiance to Jesus.) Those pressures are real and severe, and they face them every morning when they wake up. A few years back, one girl in our church was kicked out of home; another girl’s father hid her car keys every Sunday when it came time for church; someone else had to postpone her baptism. All because they wanted to follow Jesus.
But none of them has given up. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of one person who has walked away from Jesus because of direct, overt persecution by their family. In my experience, the ones who tend to walk away are the ones for whom the pressure is subtle and gradual. The ones who worry about what the rest of society thinks; their friends, their workmates. The ones who realise that they’ll have to change their lifestyle if they want to follow Jesus, and decide it’s not worth it. Or not so much decide, as just sit on the fence until they drift away on the cultural tide.
Take the story of Julie. She’s not a real person; she’s a product of my imagination; a mash-up of a bunch of real people I’ve seen over the years. But the pattern she represents is real enough.
Julie hangs around church, attending a home group. She’s been there for a year or so. She’s made some good friends here at the church. She turns up to most of the social events. Now Julie’s not against Jesus; she hasn’t rejected him. In fact, she seems in general, quite positive toward him. Yet in eternity, feeling positively toward Jesus isn’t going to cut it. It doesn’t count for anything, just like it didn’t count for Jesus’ followers in John chapter 6, who turned back once things got tough; or for the blind man’s parents here in chapter 9!
But Julie seems to be enjoying the fence. She likes the Christian community she gets to hang around with, but as far as anyone else can tell, she hasn’t come to that saving faith where she acknowledges Jesus as Lord. The competing concerns of family, friends, wealth and pleasure seem to drown out his claims.
To think about
How do you respond when someone you know once started following Jesus, but hasn’t taken the step of pledging loyalty to Jesus above everything else – who have settled for the fence?