John 9:18-23 is a sub-plot in the story of the healing of the man born blind, and introduces us to two minor characters, the man’s parents. I think there is a great lesson for believers and a warning to unbelievers in what might be skimmed over as unimportant to the main narrative.
The Jewish religious leaders (Pharisees) tried very hard to discredit Jesus’ miracle of giving sight to a blind man. They heard the townspeople talking, and so they went to investigate. From their perspective, Jesus was disturbing the status quo. Just a few chapters later, in John 11:47-48, the real cause for their angst against Jesus was revealed: they feared the Romans would come and take away their “place” and their “nation.” They were holding on to what little status and position they had and would do whatever it took to squelch anyone or anything that threatened it. For this reason, they had made it known that anyone who confessed that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah, the Christ, was to be “put out of the synagogue.”
In this current culture, we wouldn’t think twice about being asked to leave a church; we would simply go find another church or denomination to join. But this meant a great deal more in those days. The rabbis had established three levels of ex-communication, ranging from limited contact with any person (no closer than 4 cubits) for a period of 7-30 days to being placed under the “ban,” which essentially assured you would die alone in poverty. The ban meant that you could not speak to any Jewish person, would often be denied an opportunity to buy and sell, and were essentially treated as dead. To a faithful Jewish follower, your life was over. You were treated like a leper in every sense of the word, and your place in the Jewish community would be lost.
This was the fear that the blind man’s parents faced when asked about their son’s healing. They capitulated to the fear. They admitted nothing, denying they knew how he could see, or who opened his eyes. The fear of what might happen to them prevented them from acknowledging Jesus.
Proverbs 29:25 – The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.
Here is the lesson for those who follow Christ. Does the fear of man keep us from acknowledging Jesus, in any context or setting? What pressures silence our testimony? When do we just “keep quiet” rather than be looked down upon, or judged, or even persecuted by people who think religion in general and Jesus, in particular, is foolish?
Mark 8:34-38 – And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
And how about those who refuse Jesus? Does the fear of man keep you from considering that He might indeed be the Son of God, and the words of the Bible just might be true? There was a time when being considered a Christian was a good thing, and even if you didn’t really buy into “all” the Bible, it was good for your business or your standing in the social community to go to church and by all appearances be a “Christian.” But that’s not true anymore. In fact, to state openly that you believe in Jesus and that the Bible is true, and that there is only one way of salvation is to make yourself a target of culture and open yourself to mockery. Does this influence your thoughts, when the Spirit of God whispers your name and calls you to examine your soul?
Luke 12:4-5,8-9 – I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes I tell you, fear Him! … And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.
And what of the disinterested? Those who are not drawn to believe, nor care if anyone else believes. Is tolerance of Jesus the same as acknowledgment, or will you be judged as one who denied Him? According to Jesus, we don’t have to be hostile toward Him to reject Him. The outcome is the same.
Luke 11:23 – He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.
Where do you stand with Jesus? When the Pharisees come knocking at your door, what will you say?