DIG: What were the three messianic miracles? What did these three specific miracles convey to the people during the time of Christ? Why were they so important? What were the Pharisees and teachers of the law so afraid of? What effect will this Highway of Holiness have on people in 35:8-10?
REFLECT: Who are the spiritual lepers in your life? What are you doing to help them be healed? How are you voicing the Good News of Jesus Christ in your sphere of influence? Before you were saved, you were spiritually blind. But after being born again you can see spiritual realities. How has this changed your life?
Changes will occur in the people and the Land when the Messiah comes. Isaiah describes these changes when he prophesies: Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. The people will be healed of all diseases and there will be an abundance of water that will transform the wilderness and the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, and thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow (35:5-7). These things are always true when the King is present. These signs were present in His First Coming and they will be present in His Second Coming. This message has to do with the three messianic miracles in rabbinic Judaism during the time of Christ.125 This study is taken from Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s classic book Footsteps of the Messiah.
Sometime prior to the birth of Jesus, the ancient rabbis separated miracles into two categories. First were those miracles anyone would be able to perform if they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so. The second category of miracles was called messianic miracles, which were miracles only the Messiah would be able to perform. These messianic miracles were taken from Isaiah 35:5-6 because the rabbis understood them to be clearly messianic. Christ did miracles in both categories: general miracles but also messianic miracles. Because of rabbinic teaching that certain miracles would be reserved only for the Messiah to do, whenever He performed a messianic miracle it created a different type of reaction than when He performed other types of miracles. Here we will study the reaction and results of the three messianic miracles.
The First Messianic Miracle: The Healing of a Jewish Leper
Speaking of the coming Messiah, Isaiah wrote: Then will the lame leap like a deer (35:6a). The first messianic miracle was the healing of a Jewish leper. Under the Torah, the only time it was possible for a person to be defiled by a living human body was if he or she touched a leper. Normally, under the Torah, one could only become ceremonially unclean or defiled by touching a dead human body, touching a dead animal’s body, or touching a live unclean animal such as a pig. But the only time defilement came by a living human body was by coming in contact with a leper.
From the time the Torah was completed there was no record of any Jew who had been healed of leprosy. While Miriam was healed of leprosy, this was before the completion of the Torah. Naaman was healed of leprosy, but he was a Syrian Gentile, not a Jew. So, from the time the Torah was completed there was never a case of a Jewish leper being healed.
Leprosy was the one disease that was left out of rabbinic cures; there was no cure for it whatsoever. Yet, Leviticus Chapters 13 and 14 gave the Levitical priesthood detailed instruction as to what they were to do in the case of a leper that was healed. On the day that a leper approached the Levitical priest and said, “I was a leper but now I have been healed,” the Levitical priest was to give an initial offering of two birds. For the next seven days the priests were to intensively investigate the situation and to determine three things. First, was the person really a leper? Secondly, if he or she was a real leper, was he or she really cured of the leprosy? And thirdly, if the leprosy was really gone, what were the circumstances of the healing? If after seven days of investigation they were firmly convinced that the man or woman had been a leper, had been healed of the leprosy, and the circumstances were the proper circumstances, on the eighth day there would be a lengthy series of offerings. Altogether, there were four offerings. First, there was a sin offering (see my commentary on Exodus Fc - the Sin Offering); secondly, a guilt offering (see my commentary on Exodus Fd - The Guilt Offering); thirdly, a burnt offering (see my commentary on Exodus Fe - The Burnt Offering); and fourthly, a grain offering (see my commentary on Exodus Ff - The Grain Offering). Then came the application of the blood of the sin offering upon the healed leper, followed by the application of the blood of the guilt offering upon the healed leper. The ceremony would then end with the anointing of oil upon the healed leper. Although the priesthood had all these detailed instructions as to how they were to respond in the case of a healed leper, they never had the opportunity to put these instructions into use because from the time the Torah was given, no Jew was ever healed of leprosy. As a result, the rabbis taught that only the Messiah would be able to heal a Jewish leper. The healing of a Jewish leper was then classified as the first of the three messianic miracles.
The synoptic gospels detail the account of the healing of a Jewish leper (see my commentary on the Life of Christ Cn - The First Messianic Miracle: The Healing of a Jewish Leper). Matthew and Mark merely state that a man was a leper, but Luke, who by profession was a medical doctor, gave more details. According to Luke 5:12 a man was covered with leprosy. What that means is that the leprosy was then fully developed and it would not be very long before it would take his life. Covered with leprosy that man came to Yeshua and said: Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean. The leper clearly recognized the authority of Jesus as the Messiah and, therefore, had the to power to heal him. The only question on the part of the leper was the willingness of Jesus to do so. At that point, we read that Jesus touched him and immediately the leprosy left him (Luke 5:13). Then Yeshua ordered him: Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them (Luke 5:14). Them refers to the priesthood of Israel. Jesus sent that man directly to the priesthood in Jerusalem in order to force them to follow through the commands of Moses in Leviticus Chapters 13 and 14. When that man appeared before them and declared himself to be a cleansed leper, they needed to offer up two birds as a sacrifice that same day. For the next seven days they intensively investigated the situation and discovered three things. First, they discovered that the man had been a leper. Secondly, they discovered that he was perfectly healed of his leprosy. Thirdly, they also discovered that Yeshua of Nazareth was the One who healed him. Immediately the leprosy left him and he was healed (Mark 1:42). Because the rabbis taught that the healing of a leper was a messianic miracle, anyone healing a leper would by that very act claim to be the Messiah himself. Jesus deliberately sent the cleansed leper to the priesthood in order to get the leaders to start investigating His messianic claims and to come to a decision regarding those claims (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Bf – John the Baptist and the Brood of Vipers). Was Yeshua an impostor, or was He the Messiah who was offering Israel the Kingdom of the Jewish prophets? Having sent the healed leper to the leadership of Israel, Jesus then withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16). Jesus went into the desert where on an earlier occasion He had fasted and was tempted by Satan. But this time He went into the desert for the purpose of praying. What was He praying about? He was praying for what would happen next. He was praying that the Great Sanhedrin would accept Him as the Messiah.
The Jewish response is found in three of the Gospels (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Co - Jesus Heals a Paralytic). Mark points out that this incident occurred in Capernaum in Galilee, many, many miles from Jerusalem. Yet Luke 5:17 states: One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for Him to heal the sick. What we do not have here is merely a few Jewish leaders from the town of Capernaum listening to Jesus’ teaching. Luke’s account very clearly states that these were all of the Jewish leaders that had come together from all over the country (Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem). Why are all these Jewish leaders suddenly having a convention in Capernaum? This was their response to the first messianic miracle. They knew that Yeshua had healed a leper. And they knew what that meant. If Jesus had healed the leper it could very well mean that He was the Messiah. They came from all over Israel to investigate Jesus.
According to Sanhedrin law (see my commentary on the Life of Christ Lg – The Great Sanhedrin), if there was any kind of messianic movement, the Sanhedrin had to investigate the situation in two stages. The first stage was called the stage of observation. A delegation was formed to investigate only by way of observation. They had to observe what was being said, what was being done, and what was being taught. They were not permitted to ask any questions or raise any objections. After a period of observation they were to return to Jerusalem, report to the Sanhedrin and give a verdict: was the movement significant or was the movement insignificant? If the movement was declared to be insignificant, the matter would be dropped. But if the movement was declared to be significant, there would be a second stage of investigation called the stage of interrogation. In this stage they would interrogate the individual or members of the movement. This time they would ask questions and raise objections to discover whether the claims should be accepted or rejected. This incident records the first stage, the stage of observation. They were there to observe what Jesus was saying and doing. At this point they were not allowed to raise objections or ask questions. Because a messianic miracle had been performed, all the leaders from all over the country had come to Capernaum to perform the stage of observation; to observe what Jesus was saying, doing, and teaching.
As Jesus was teaching, four friends of a paralytic tried to get him to Yeshua so that he could be healed. Because all the Jewish leaders were blocking the doorway, they were not able to get in. They climbed onto the roof, made a hole in the roof and lowered the paralytic to the feet of Jesus. At this point, Jesus departed from His normal procedure. On previous occasions He simply proceeded to heal the sick one brought to Him. But here He did something different. When Jesus saw their faith, he said: Friend, your sins are forgiven. Rather than healing the man, He forgave his sins. Jesus had prayed that the leadership of Israel would recognize and accept Him as the Messiah. But right there in Capernaum they started to harden their hearts towards Him. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, because they couldn’t question Jesus. This was the stage of observation. They could only observe; they were not allowed to raise questions or objections. They began thinking to themselves: Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone (Luke 5:21)? Their theology was absolutely correct. No one could forgive sins except God. Since Jesus declared the prerogative of forgiving sins, it meant one of two things. First, it could mean that He was a blasphemer. But the second possibility was that He was who He claimed to be, the Messiah. It was at this point that Jesus turned to the leaders of the Sanhedrin who were present there that day and questioned them! Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Get up and walk” (Luke 5:22)?
The question was, what is an easier thing for a man to say? Is it easier for someone to say to another, “Your sins are forgiven?” Or, is it easier for someone to say to a paralyzed man, “I’m going to heal you, so get up and walk?” Which is the easier thing to say and which is the harder? The easier thing to say was, "Your sins are forgiven." That required no tangible outside external and observable evidence. But to state that a paralyzed man was going to be healed was a harder thing to say because that did require external and observable evidence.
Jesus went on to say that He was going to prove that He could say the easier, "Your sins are forgiven," by performing the harder, healing the paralyzed man. Consequently, he proceeded to heal the paralyzed man. There was instantaneous observable evidence because the man was able to stand up, walk around and even carry his own bed. If Yeshua could say the easier, it meant that He was who He claimed to be, the Messiah.
In response to the first messianic miracle in the healing of a Jewish leper, the intensive investigation of His messianic claims began. They observed Jesus claiming the right to forgive sins. Therefore, He was either a blasphemer or He was the Messiah. It was evident that the leadership of Israel would return to Jerusalem and decree the movement of Yeshua as significant. After this event Jesus began undergoing the second stage of the Sanhedrin investigation, the stage of interrogation. Between the first messianic miracle and the second messianic miracle, everywhere Jesus went a Pharisee was sure to follow. But this time they were no longer silent. They were always asking questions or raising objections. There were trying to find a basis for rejecting His messianic claims.
The Second Messianic Miracle: The Exorcism of a Mute Demon
Between the first messianic miracle, the healing of a Jewish leper, and the second messianic miracle, the leadership of Israel had investigated Jesus. He was interrogated and questioned everywhere He went. The leadership learned several things. The crucial thing they realized was that Jesus simply was not going along with Pharisaic Judaism. But His most important rejection of Pharisaic Judaism was that of the Oral Law (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Ei – The Oral Law), or the tradition of the elders in Matthew 15:2 (Isaiah 29:13-16).
The circumstances of the second messianic miracle are recorded in Matthew 12:22-37 and Mark 3:19-30 (see my Commentary on the Life of Christ Ek - The Second Messianic Miracle and the Rejection of Christ). Mark reminds us: When His family heard about this, they went to take charge of Him, for they said, He is out of His mind (Mark 3:21). There seems to be a general recognition by this stage in the gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus that a high point was about to be reached. Even His friends considered the fact that Yeshua needed protection from Himself, because they felt He was bordering on insanity. Then Jesus was presented with a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and He healed him so that he could both walk and see (Matthew 12:22). The act of throwing out demons was not all that unusual in the Jewish world of that day. Even the Pharisees, rabbis, and their followers had the ability of throwing out demons. But throwing out demons within the framework of Pharisaic Judaism required one to use a specific ritual, which underwent three stages. First, the exorcist would have to establish communication with the demon; the exorcist would then have to find out the demon’s name. Thirdly, after finding out the demon’s name he could, by use of that name, throw the demon out. There are occasions that Messiah used the Jewish methodology as in Mark 5 where being confronted with a demonic, Jesus asked the question: What is your name? The answer Yeshua received on that occasion was: My name is Legion, for we are many. But there was one kind of demon that caused the person controlled to be mute so he could not speak. Since he could not speak, there was no way of establishing communication with this kind of a demon, no way of finding out this demon’s name. So within the framework of Judaism, it was impossible to throw out a mute demon. The rabbis had taught, however, that when the Messiah came, He would be able to cast out this type of demon. This is the second of the three messianic miracles: the exorcism out of a mute demon.
Isaiah had written that when the Messiah came the mute tongue would shout for joy (35:6b). As a result, the throwing out of a mute demon raised quite a stir among the Jewish masses. All the people were astonished and said: Could this be the Son of David? They would ask each other, “Is this the Messiah?” After all, He was doing the very thing that the prophet said the Messiah would do. They never asked this question when Jesus cast out other types of demons. However, when He threw out a mute demon they did raise the question, because they recognized from the teachings of the rabbis that it was a messianic miracle.
However, the Jewish masses have always tended to labor under something called the leadership complex. Whichever way the leaders went, the people were sure to follow. Consistently throughout the TaNaKh, when the king did that which was right in the eyes of ADONAI, the people followed. But when the king did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, the people also followed. Even in this day, when Jewish believers witness to their nonbelieving friends, they consistently hear the same objection: If Jesus really is the Messiah, then how come our rabbis have not and do not believe in Him? In New Covenant times, because of the stranglehold that Pharisaic Judaism had upon the masses, this leadership complex was extremely strong. So while the Jewish masses were willing to raise the question: Could this be the Son of David? They were not willing to make that decision for themselves. Instead, they looked to their leadership to make that decision for them.
In light of the second messianic miracle, and in light of the questioning by the Jewish masses, the Jewish leaders realized they had to make a public declaration concerning their final decision about Jesus and His messianic claims. They had two options. First, declare Him to be the Messiah in light of all the evidence. The second option was to reject His messianic claims. If they took the second option and rejected His messianic claims, they also had to explain to the Jewish masses why Jesus was able to perform the very miracles that they had said only the Messiah could perform. The Great Sanhedrin took the second option and declared that He was able to perform such miracles because He was demon possessed. But when the Pharisees heard this, they said: It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons (Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15-16; John 7:20). They claimed that Jesus Himself was possessed or demonized, not by some common demon but by the prince of demons, Beelzebub. This name is a combination of two Hebrew words that means the Lord of the Flies. The real reason that His claims had been rejected was because He had rejected the Oral Law, but the stated reason for the rejection of Jesus was that He was demon possessed. This action by the leadership of Israel set the stage for Jewish history for the next 2,000 years. To this day Jews believe that Jesus was demon possessed.
Yeshua Messiah responded in two ways. First, He defended Himself with four statements (Matthew 12:25-29). He said this could not be true because it would mean a division in Satan’s kingdom. Secondly, they themselves recognized that the gift of exorcism was a gift of the Spirit and even their followers were able to throw out demons (although these were not mute demons). Thirdly, this miracle authenticated the claims and the message of Yeshua of Nazareth. Fourthly, it showed that Jesus was stronger than the devil rather than being subservient to Satan.
The second response was a condemnation (Matthew 12:30-37). In this condemnation Jesus said that this generation was guilty of the unpardonable sin, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Because this sin was exactly what it said it was, unpardonable, judgment was now set against that generation, a judgment that could not be alleviated under any circumstances. It came forty years later in 70 A.D. with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Exactly what is the unpardonable sin within the context in which it is found? It is not an individual sin, but a national sin. It was committed by the Jewish generation of Jesus’ day and cannot be applied to subsequent Jewish generations. The context of the unpardonable sin was the national rejection by Israel of Jesus as the Messiah while He was present on the grounds of being demon possessed. And because it was a national sin and not an individual sin, people of that day could and did escape that national judgment. Nor is it a sin that anyone can commit today. On this point the Bible is very clear. Regardless of what sin anyone commits today, every sin is forgivable to that individual that will come to God through Yeshua. The nature of the sin is irrelevant; however, for the nation, this sin was unpardonable.
At this point, the ministry of Jesus changed dramatically in four major areas. These four changes can only be understood in light of the commitment of the unpardonable sin in response to the rejection of the second messianic miracle. The first change concerned the purpose of His miracles. Before His rejection, the purpose of miracles was to authenticate His Messiahship, but after His rejection they were for the training of His disciples. The second change concerned the people for whom He performed the miracles. Before His rejection Jesus performed miracles for the benefit of the masses and did not ask for a demonstration of faith, but after, He only performed miracles on the basis of individual need and a demonstration of faith. The third change concerned the message that He and His disciples gave. Before His rejection when Jesus would perform miracles He would say: Go and tell, but from His rejection on, He would say: Do not tell anyone. The fourth change concerned His method of teaching. Before His rejection Yeshua taught the masses clearly, but after, He would only teach in parables. The very day that Jesus was rejected He began to speak to them in parables (Matthew 13:1-3, 34-35; Mark 4:34). It is impossible to understand why His ministry changed in these four areas unless we first understand how critical the unpardonable sin was. The rejection of His Messiahship on the grounds of demon possession was a direct response to the second messianic miracle. Therefore, sufficient light had been given to them. They had rejected the light and no more would be given.
The Third Messianic Miracle: The Healing of a Man Born Blind
Isaiah had written that when the Messiah came, the eyes of the blind would be opened (35:5). The third messianic miracle was the healing of anyone born blind. The rabbis taught that anyone empowered by God could heal someone who simply had gone blind. But when the Messiah came, they said He would be able to heal someone born blind. The details of this third messianic miracle are taken from John 9:1-38 (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Gt - The Third Messianic Miracle: Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind).
As Jesus went along, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Neither this man nor His parents sinned, said Jesus, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I Am the Light of the World (John 9:1-5). This incident occurred on the Sabbath day as they walked in the streets of Jerusalem and passed by a man who had been born blind. Not only was it the time of the Sabbath, it was also the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, which makes the Sabbath an especially high or holy Sabbath.
The question of the disciples appear to be very strange: Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Who committed such a terrible sin that this man was born blind? The strangeness in the question is not if this man’s parents sinned and as a result, he was born blind. There is a principle in the Torah that God punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 34:6-7). To the disciples, it was conceivable that the parents had committed a specific sin and God visited that sin upon their son; therefore, the son was born blind. But that was not the strange part of the question. They also asked: Or was it this man that sinned and then he was born blind? In light of the fact that Judaism did not believe in reincarnation, how could he have first sinned and then be born blind?
The question asked by the disciples actually reflected the theology of the Pharisaic Judaism in which they had been raised. The rabbis taught that a birth defect, such as being born blind, was due to a specific sin, either committed by the parents or committed by the individual. But again, how could an individual have sinned first and then be born blind? The rabbis taught that at the point of conception, the fetus has two inclinations. In Hebrew they are called yetzer hara and yetzer hatov, which means the evil inclination and the good inclination. They believe that these two inclinations are already present within the new human being who has just been conceived in the womb. During that nine-month development within the womb of the mother, there is a struggle going on for control between the two inclinations. And the rabbis would say that it just might have occurred that at one point the evil inclination got the better of the fetus and in a state of animosity or anger towards his mother, he kicked her in the womb. For this act of sin he was born blind. Therefore, the disciples’ question actually reflected the Pharisaic Judaism in which they had been raised. So they asked: Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?
The disciples were guilty of two fallacies. The first fallacy was to accept the Pharisaic teaching that the child could have sinned in the mother’s womb and therefore be born blind. The second fallacy is that a birth defect, such as being born blind, is due to some specific, terrible sin. Jesus dispelled that teaching very quickly saying: Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. In other words, he was born blind not because of any specific sin committed by his parents or by himself. All physical problems and death are due to Adam’s fall and are a result of the general problem of sin and fallen humanity. However, to say that a specific birth defect, sickness, illness, or injury is always due to some particular sin or a particular demon is false teaching. Jesus clearly dispelled this teaching by saying that this man did not sin, nor did his parents. Quite the contrary, God arranged for this man to be born blind so He could gain the greater glory by accomplishing a great work in his healing.
Having dispelled and corrected the false theology of His own disciples on this point, Jesus then proceeded with the healing. He chose to heal the person in such a way that it was somewhat of a process and at this point, the man never really saw Him. What Yeshua did was to spit on the ground. Mixing the spit with the dirt He made a substance of clay and then smeared the clay on the man’s eyes. He sent the man to the Pool of Siloam (this word means sent) and wash the clay from his eyes and he would be able to see (John 9:6-7).
It is very significant that of all the places Jesus could have sent the man to wash his eyes, He sent him to the Pool of Siloam. This pool was not easy to get to from the main part of Jerusalem, because he had to walk down a sloping hill. This was during the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. During the feast, there was a special ritual called the pouring of the water. In this ritual, the priests came down from the Temple Mount, down to the Pool of Siloam, filled jugs with the water of the Pool of Siloam, marched back up the Temple Mount, and poured the water out into the bronze basin within the Temple compound (see my commentary on Exodus Fh - The Bronze Basin in the Tabernacle: Christ, Our Cleanser). This was followed by great rejoicing. During the Feast of Tabernacles the Pool of Siloam was the center of Jewish attention and had the greatest number of people present who would observe this third messianic miracle.
The man went to the pool of Siloam, washed his eyes, and when he opened them, for the first time in his entire life he could see. Since everyone knew this man and knew he was born blind, this created quite a stir. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked: Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg? Some claimed that he was. Others said: No, he only looks like him. There was much confusion because many people recognized him to be that same man, but others had a hard time believing that a man who was born blind had actually been healed. Finally, ending the debate he said: I am the man. Then the crowd asked the crucial question: How then were your eyes opened? These were high stakes because everyone knew that this was a messianic miracle. He responded: The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see. Then they asked him: Where is this man? He said: I don’t know. Remember, when Yeshua sent him away to the pool of Siolam, he was still in a blind state and never saw Jesus. Even now when he was able to see, he still did not know who Jesus was or what He looked like (John 9:8-12).
Then the man is interrogated for the first time (John 9:13-17). Because this was a messianic miracle, the man was taken to the Pharisees for investigation and explanation (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Bf – John the Baptist and the Brood of Vipers). Because Jesus chose to heal the man on a Sabbath day, a stir was created on the part of the masses. The Pharisees knew very well that they must somehow act on this issue. As they began to interrogate the man to discover the circumstances of his being healed of the blindness with which he was born, a division developed among them. Some of the Pharisees said: This man is not from God, for He does not keep the Sabbath. Because they felt that healing on the Sabbath was a violation of their interpretation of the Torah, so they did not believe that Jesus could be a man of God, let alone the Messiah Himself. But others, even among the Pharisees, were asking the question: How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?
Notice the emphasis, not just upon signs (because false prophets could also perform miracles), but upon such signs, those particular signs, those special messianic miracles. When they asked the man who was born blind and then healed of his blindness what his opinion was about Jesus, the man simply concluded that at the very least He was a prophet. However, according to Pharisaic teaching, though a prophet might be able to do miracles (like Elijah and Elisah certainly did), to do a messianic miracle was not the right of a prophet, but rather the right of the Messiah alone. So the first interrogation of the man did not lead to any specific conclusions.
The possibility of a false claim arose among the Pharisees. “Suppose the whole thing is not true to begin with. What if the man was never born blind and the whole thing is just a trick.” So the parents are interrogated (John 9:18-22). The parents confirmed two things. First, that the man was definitely their son and there was no doubt about it. The second thing they affirmed was that he was born blind. So there was no longer any possibility that there was any type of subversion going on, or that someone was trying to play a trick on the Pharisees. When they asked the parents during the interrogation that if their son was really born blind how was he now able to see, they decided to say nothing more. His parents refused to say anything more because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue (John 9:22). They would be excommunicated, or put out of the synagogue. It was obvious that the parents wanted to believe in Jesus, and perhaps at this point had become secret believers in Yeshua, because they saw that He not only performed a messianic miracle but performed that miracle on their own son!
In Pharisaic Judaism, there were three specific levels of excommunication. The first level is called the heziphah, which is simply a rebuke that lasted anywhere from seven to thirty days and was merely disciplinary. It could not be taken unless pronounced by three rabbis. That was the lowest level of excommunication. An example of heziphah is found in First Timothy 5:1. The second level is called niddui, which means to throw out. It would last a minimum of thirty days or more and was also disciplinary. A niddui had to be pronounced by ten rabbis. An example of this second type is found in Second Thessalonians 3:14-15 and Titus 3:10. The third and worst type of excommunication is called cherem, which means to be devoted to destruction. This third level was permanent. It means to be unsynagogued, or to be put out of the Temple and to be separated from the Jewish community. The rest of the Jews considered someone under the cherem curse to be dead and no communication of any kind of relationship could be carried on with the person whatsoever. This third type is found in First Corinthians 5:1-7 and Matthew 18:15-20. In extreme cases the cherem judgment would mean death as in found in Joshua 6:18 to 7:26.
The fact that the expression would be put out of the synagogue is used, tells us which level of excommunication the Pharisees had chosen for one who would believe in Jesus as the Messiah. It was the third and most severe level, the cherem – to be unsynagogued, to be put out, and to be considered as dead to the Jewish community. So the Pharisees were threatening Jewish believers with not only a rebuke, or merely being thrown out temporarily, but being put out permanently. Because the parents knew what the Pharisees had decreed concerning belief in Yeshua Messiah, that the third level of excommunication would be used, they chose not to make any further comments. That was why his parents said: He is of age; ask him (John 9:23). They would only confirm two things: that he was their son, and that he was born blind. Therefore, the interrogation of the parents, as the first interrogation of the man, also ends inconclusively.
This led to a second interrogation of the man (John 9:24-25). During that time, the Pharisees began to lose their sense of logic. They called him in for the second time and said to him: Give glory to God; we know this man is a sinner. Notice how illogical this statement is. “Praise the Lord,” they said, “because we know so-and-so is a sinner.” But this is not something to praise God for. It is a sad thing when people commit specific acts of sin. The Pharisees, however, were so beside themselves over Jesus' healing that they were no longer able to think straight. At that point, the man that had been healed was able to keep somewhat calm and exercise some degree of control. He said: Whether He is a sinner or not, I don’t know. But one thing I do know. I was blind, but now I see. The statement he made was not just a statement of fact; it was a challenge to the Pharisees, one that they had to answer. What he was saying to them between the lines was this, “I was a man who was born blind, not simply a man who went blind. You are the ones who taught me that only the Messiah would be able to heal someone like me. Well, a man named Jesus healed me. So I would think you would want to proclaim Him to be Israel’s Messiah. Instead you call Him a sinner. Then he said to them: Whether He is a sinner or not, I don’t know, but one thing I do know. I was blind but now I see. Please explain this to me!
The Pharisees took up the challenge and asked him two questions: What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes? The healed man had already explained to the Pharisees more than once, so he responded to them by saying: I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become His disciples, too? Of course, that was not a very smart thing to say to them because that was the last thing they were interested in. At that point, he was no longer being tactful. They replied in kind, and hurled insults at him. They began to mock him, saying: You are this fellow’s disciple! But we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where He comes from. The implication was that ADONAI did not speak to Jesus, so to be a disciple of Moses was far superior to being a disciple of Jesus. But the man would not keep silent. He went on to answer: Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where He came from, yet He opened my eyes. He went on to remind them of their own theology. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does His will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind (in other words, this was a messianic miracle). If this man were not from God, he could do nothing. To this the Pharisees replied: You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us! And they threw him out (John 9:26-34).
There are records of the healings of people who went blind, but not one record of someone who was born blind. This was a messianic miracle from 35:5, and for the first time in all of human history it was performed. The man simply said to the Pharisees that they had no basis or grounds for rejecting the messiahship of Jesus. The Pharisees responded: You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us! And they threw him out. The man was excommunicated.
Lastly, that man born blind experienced not only a physical healing, but also a spiritual healing. Jesus heard that he had been put out of the Temple and found him. The Messiah approached the man and asked him: Do you believe in the Son of Man? The man answered: And who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him? Remember, the man had not yet seen Jesus. You have now seen Him; in fact, He is the One speaking with you. Then he said: Lord, I believe, and he worshiped Him and was born again (John 9:38).
The result of the first messianic miracle was the intensive investigation of His messiahship. The result of the second messianic miracle was the decree that Jesus was not the Messiah on the basis of demon possession. And the result of the third messianic miracle was that anyone who believed in Jesus as their Messiah would be put out of the Temple and disfellowshiped.
When the Messiah returns there will be an abundance of water. Water will gush forth in the (Negev) wilderness and streams in the (‘Aravah) desert (35:6b). The Negev is now a sandy desert that cannot produce. It has good soil; the problem is the lack of water. But that will not be a problem in the Millennial Kingdom. Some people say that today Israel is making the desert bloom like the rose (even though the Bible does not have the word rose in it). But whoever has said that has never been to the deserts of Israel. The Negev is still unproductive today. The northern area that is productive never was desert, but merely swamps that needed to be drained. The ‘Aravah has the same problem now, which is a lack of water. But in the Millennial Kingdom the ground will produce pools of water.
Not only that, but the burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay in Babylon and Edom, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow (35:7). The way of man is to make the inhabited world unlivable; the way of the LORD is to take the barren world and make it plentiful.
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2017