[On Sabbath] A House Divided (John contd.)

Bible opened to John 7 with Lily's 55% Cocoa Almond Dark Chocolate on snowman plate

Today’s Chocolate: Lily’s 55% Cocoa Almond Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassageJohn 9:13-16

We need to tie up a loose end from yesterday before we get into today’s passage. Yesterday, while driving to my evening job right after finishing up the day’s post, it hit me: what if Jesus has been arguing from his opponents’ perspective in these problematic passages from John, in order to point out the flaws in their reasoning? What if he’s in essence saying, “If you think my healings qualify as ‘work,’ you’d better be prepared to admit a whole host of other lesser things into the can’t-do-it-on-Sabbath club–including the stuff you do for your animals and sons, and even the stuff the Law requires you to do?” This interpretation certainly seems in keeping with Jesus’ indictment of the Pharisees: “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger” (Matthew 23:4). And from his exchanges with the religious leaders in the gospels, I’ve known Jesus generally to be a sophisticated debater. The shoe fits.

And with that much under our belt, let’s move on to our next mention of the Sabbath. In this incident, Jesus has restored the sight of a blind man on the Sabbath. The event causes no small amount of consternation among the Pharisees. John reports:

Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.

The latter group is beginning to realize: why would God work miracles of healing through a man practicing and advocating sin? The morally perfect God that they worship wouldn’t break his own law in order to heal these people, and he wouldn’t work through a man who deliberately broke the Sabbath by administering God’s healing. If you assume that Jesus’ healing acts are work, it leads to a contradiction by which the healing acts should not even be possible. It seems that even some of the Pharisees have picked up on Jesus’ arguments concerning the previous two Sabbath incidents in John’s gospel. Actions, as they say, speak louder than words.

The Sabbath also comes up in John 19:31-33, but the fact that the religious leaders didn’t want bodies to remain on the cross on the Sabbath doesn’t do very much at all to inform our own theology of the Sabbath. Similarly, every mention of the Sabbath in Acts is a matter of chronology: this or that happened on the seventh day. So, next week we’ll get into the Sabbath in the epistles, and in the meantime, have a good Sabbath tomorrow and a good weekend. I’m out!

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