Last night, our small group (Outpost) was studying John 9. In this chapter, there is a man born blind, who receives his sight when Jesus makes mud out of spit and dirt, puts it on the man’s eyes and tells him to wash in pool of Siloam. Upon receiving sight, the Jewish leaders are incensed. They peppered him with questions, and he answered them all. Not believing this man, they called the parents. The parents confirmed that he was their son and that he was born blind, but they would not go any further than that. You see, the leaders had already vowed to throw any confessor out of the synagogue.
We tend to not have the right idea of synagogues. We tend to look at them as places of worship. They were more like places of learning, but they were much more than that. Synagogue is a combination of two Greek words that means “gather together.” This was a place of gathering. It was a place of learning, but also very much like a community center. Being kicked out of the synagogue was practically being kicked out of the community. Thus for the parents to confess Jesus meant giving up everything–a cost too great to bear.
However, the man born blind–now healed–did not hesitate to confess Jesus. In fact, while not knowing exactly who (or what) Jesus was, he got a bit snarky with the Jewish leaders. “He answered them, ‘I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples,” (John 9:27, ESV)? What boldness! I’m not saying whether or not the snarkiness was necessary, but one cannot help but see that there is a stark contrast between parents and child. The healed man defended Jesus to the leaders, until: “They answered him, ‘You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?’ And they cast him out” (John 9:34, ESV).
This man gave up all he had known for the sake of Jesus. He was an outcast because he confessed Christ. What courage! But here is the most interesting part of all: “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man,” (John 9:35, ESV)? Jesus heard that the man was cast out and went searching for him. Jesus would not abandon the one who confessed his name before man.
It is so easy to allow the threat (real or imagined) of becoming an outcast to dictate what we say, and Who we confess. We don’t want to be shunned at next year’s Thanksgiving dinner. We don’t want to be the one person at work that no one will talk to. We don’t want to lose a friend or be the “Ned Flanders” of the neighborhood. But we have the promise, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20b, ESV).
Seven times, in the book of John, Jesus declared Himself as the I AM. In John 9, Jesus reiterated what he had already stated in John 8: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world,” (John 9:5, ESV; cf. John 8:12). Jesus made this statement in connection with the healing of this blind man. When the man became an outcast, the “I AM” found him. If we too will face the fear of being an outcast, we will find the beauty and peace that comes with the presence of Jesus in a way we never thought possible. The I AM is with us always, even to the end of the age. Let us never fear being outcast since it only brings us nearer to the I AM.