When all else fails, try insults

Maybe you’ve been in an argument with someone whose words cut you to the quick. Deep down, part of you knows that what the other person is saying has some truth to it. But you’re not ready to give up the fight. You have a choice. One possibility is to step back emotionally and consider the truth of what the other person is saying.

Or you can resort to verbal abuse. Don’t respond to the argument; attack the person instead, and see if you can bully them into submission.

As we’ve seen in previous posts, the Pharisees refused to believe who Jesus claimed to be, even in the face of the stupendous miracle of healing a man who had been born blind. The man himself was no wallflower. When the Pharisees dragged him in to ask yet again what Jesus did to him, the man shot back, “Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” (John 9:27b, CEB).

The Pharisees, of course, weren’t about to take that lying down:

They insulted him: “You are his disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t know where this man is from.” (vss 28-29)

They insult the man for his cheekiness, and take refuge in their presumed superiority. You can follow this nobody if you want to, but we know better. God spoke to Moses directly, and that’s who we follow. This other guy named Jesus? Who knows where he’s from?

John probably wants his readers to appreciate the irony of this. First, in John 5:46, Jesus clearly told his opponents, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, because Moses wrote about me.” Second, the issue of where Jesus is from has already been dealt with in 7:27-29. The fact that they don’t know where he’s from — that is, from his Father — is an indictment against their unbelief.

Again the man responds clearly and forcefully:

This is incredible! You don’t know where he is from, yet he healed my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners. God listens to anyone who is devout and does God’s will. No one has ever heard of a healing of the eyes of someone born blind. If this man wasn’t from God, he couldn’t do this. (vss. 30-33)

His words suggest that the healing itself isn’t half as wondrous as the fact that the Pharisees, who pride themselves on their religious expertise, can’t see the obvious. There was no precedent for such a miracle; it had to be from God. And Jesus was the one who did it. So the conclusion should be…?

But the Pharisees can’t follow the logic, because they’re unwilling to give up their self-righteous starting premise: Jesus is a dirty sinner, because in their eyes, he broke the rules of the Sabbath.

They cannot see that their rules don’t apply to someone who has been sent directly from God, because they refuse to acknowledge the evidence that is right in front of them. So they respond to the man’s logic in the only way they can: with more abuse. “You were born completely in sin!” they sputter, throwing his former reputation back in his face. “How is it that you dare to teach us?” (vs. 34).

In other words, Who do you think you are?

That’s the thing. He knows exactly who he is: “I was blind and now I see” (vs. 25). As we’ll see in the next post, what remains is for him to know exactly who Jesus is.