Please read John 9: 1-34
As Yeshua passed along, He saw a man blind from birth.
His talmidim asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned — this man or his parents — to cause him to be born blind?”
Yeshua answered, “His blindness is due neither to his sin nor to that of his parents; it happened so that God’s power might be seen at work in him.
As long as it is day, we must keep doing the work of the One who sent me; the 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 CJB
It was Shabbat. Yeshua had left from teaching in the temple grounds, narrowly escaping the attempt to stone Him, and was walking through the city of Jerusalem with His talmidim when He saw a man who had been blind from birth. Yeshua was not dwelling on the emotion of His rejection in the temple just minutes before this, His sole focus was on the Father’s will, and God’s will in this moment centred on a man who had been born blind. The blind man could not see Yeshua and did not cry out to Him, but Yeshua saw this man and stopped for him. Messiah always sees us before we see Him.
When Yeshua looked at the blind man He saw what God wanted to do for him.
When His talmidim (disciples) looked at the blind man they saw a theological dilemma: “who sinned – this man or his parents – to cause him to be born blind?” They were convinced that either one or the other had to be the case. Like Job’s comforters, they were possessed by the popular idea that special misfortunes were the punishment of special sins. Their compassion was stunted by the belief that either this man, or his parents, deserved the punishment of his being born blind. Their theological debate centred on whether so terrible a sin could be committed by a baby in the womb or just be the punishment for the parent’s sin placed on their unborn child. Like we so often are, they were wrong on both counts, totally missing God’s heart in the situation.
Yeshua corrected them: “His blindness is due neither to his sin nor to that of his parents; it happened so that God’s power might be seen at work in him.“ How often do we focus on what we think someone deserves instead of focusing on how God’s power might be seen at work?
“As long as it is day,” Yeshua continued, “we must keep doing the work of the One who sent me.” No matter what has just happened to us; no matter what others may be plotting to do to us; no matter what our situation or circumstance; our mandate remains the same – keep doing the work of God. Even if they threaten to stone you look away from the threat and towards our Father’s will. We MUST, it is not an optional extra, we MUST keep doing the work of God while we are able to do so.
For: “the night is coming, when no one can work.” Things were going to get worse, much worse, but that was no reason to dwell in gloom and doom. The prospect of night coming when things get so dark that it is impossible to work was simply more reason to keep focused on the Father and doing His work while they were able to.
Then Yeshua reminded them of what He’d been teaching in the temple: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” While ever He had breath Yeshua would shine the light of God into this dark world, doing the Father’s work and displaying God’s power in doing good and overcoming all the works of the evil one.
This time there was no noisy crowd accompanying Yeshua and shouting His praises, no excited chatter about His miracles, no one drawing attention to Him, He had slipped away from the crowds in the temple. There was nothing to alert the blind man to Who had seen him or what He could do for him. So he had not been calling out to Yeshua, had not been asking for his sight. But this blind man was at this place in this time by God’s purpose, even if he did not yet know it – his whole life, a life of being falsely judged and cruelly rejected because of his disability, had been for the sake of this moment. His congenital blindness was not a punishment but an opportunity for all in Jerusalem to see the glory of God displayed and believe Messiah at this crucial point in His ministry to them.
Having said this, He spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, put the mud on the man’s eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash off in the Pool of Shiloach (Siloam)!” (The name means “sent.”) So he went and washed and came away seeing. John 9:6-7 CJB
Yeshua spat on the ground, the dust from which He had made man, and mixed the two together to form a holy mud to place upon these eyes which had never seen. Yeshua then sent this man to the very pool that had been the centre of a week of great rejoicing with the drawing of water for the festival. The water from this pool had been poured out with the offerings in the temple to the jubilation of all the people and now this source of joy was to be used for healing a man born blind.
The man knew this pool well, and could pick his way through the streets to get there on his own. This journey took him away from Yeshua, who continued along another path in staying hidden from the crowds. There, alone at the pool of Siloam, the man born blind washed the mud off his eyes and for the very first time in his life, they opened and he could see. Suddenly his life had been transformed and his excitement started attracting attention.
His neighbors and those who previously had seen him begging said, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “Yes, he’s the one”; while others said, “No, but he looks like him.”
However, he himself said, “I’m the one.”
“How were your eyes opened?” they asked him.
He answered, “The man called Yeshua made mud, put it on my eyes, and told me, ‘Go to Shiloach (Siloam) and wash!’ So I went; and as soon as I had washed, I could see.”
They said to him, “Where is He?” and he replied, “I don’t know.”
John 9:8-12 CJB
Notice who the people were who saw that the man born blind could now see – neighbours and those who had previously seen him begging. No mention of friends. No one in this crowd really knew him, no one had helped him to the well – they even debated whether he was that blind man they’d seen begging or someone else. This was a man who had largely lived alone in society, begging for his needs, but rarely had anyone paid him much attention. None had bothered to get to know the blind beggar. Suddenly he was the centre of attention because of what Yeshua had done for him.
They took the man who had been blind to the P’rushim. Now the day on which Yeshua had made the mud and opened his eyes was Shabbat. So the P’rushim asked him again how he had become able to see; and he told them, “He put mud on my eyes, then I washed, and now I can see.”
At this, some of the P’rushim said, “This man is not from God, because he doesn’t keep Shabbat.”
But others said, “How could a man who is a sinner do miracles like these?” And there was a split among them.
So once more they spoke to the blind man: “Since you’re the one whose eyes he opened, what do you say about him?”
He replied: “He is a prophet.” John 9:13-17 CJB
Over and over again Yeshua demonstrated that the Jewish religious leaders had misunderstood His Shabbat commandment as He perfectly kept God’s law with God’s intent. Never had God designed Shabbat to limit compassion or healing. Whenever Yeshua came across someone who needed healing He healed them, whether it was Shabbat or not. So it was with this man born blind – God’s purpose was that His power would be seen at work in this man, Yeshua acted in accord with the Father’s purpose and did a creative miracle in healing this man on Shabbat.
WHAT THE TORAH COMMANDS CONCERNING KEEPING SHABBAT
The first reference to the day of rest in scripture is Genesis 2:2-3 “On the seventh day God was finished with his work which he had made, so he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. God blessed the seventh day and separated it as holy; because on that day God rested from all his work which he had created, so that it itself could produce.” CJB
The next reference is in Exodus 16 when God taught them practically through providing bread from heaven, Manna – twice as much on the sixth day and none on the seventh: “And the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day.” Vs 28-30 NKJV This rest was to take precedence even over the necessary work of providing for their family, as an expression of trust in God’s provision.
Then in Exodus 20 God gave the 10 Commandments and the 4th Commandment is: “Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God. You have six days to labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat for Adonai your God. On it, you are not to do any kind of work — not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your livestock, and not the foreigner staying with you inside the gates to your property. For in six days, Adonai made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. This is why Adonai blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for Himself.” Vs 8-11 CJB
For the next several chapters God gives Moses the laws that are to govern the nation of Israel and in Exodus 23:12 declares: “Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.” NKJV All who dwelt with them were to be blessed with Shabbat, even the lowliest of slaves, even their work animals. This was so different to the cultures around them where workers and servants were expected to work every day, seven days a week. Here we see how, as Yeshua said in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was created for the sake of man and not man for the sake of the Sabbath.” ABPE
Then, in Exodus 24, the people of Israel affirmed that they would do all that God had said and Moses was called up to God on Mt Zion for 40 days and nights – for the next 7 chapters God teaches Moses how the people were to build the Tabernacle, dress the priests, and worship Him. At the end of this teaching God says: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ Exodus 31:13-17 NKJV
After the sin of the golden calf, in Exodus, when Moses went back up the mountain God gave him instructions for when they would enter the Promised Land and declared: “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in ploughing time and in harvest you shall rest.” Exodus 34:21 NKJV Even in the midst of the urgency of ploughing or bringing in the harvest they are to set aside the seventh day for rest and cease from this necessary work of providing for their family and community to set aside the day to God.
When Moses came down from the mountain, before giving the instructions for building the tabernacle he first taught the people: “These are the words which the Lord has commanded you to do: Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” Exodus 35:1-3 NKJV It was not just outside work like ploughing and harvesting that was prohibited on Shabbat, but also the inside work of forging metals for their religious duty of making the tabernacle. Resting relationship with God was more important than the work of making the physical place for sacrifices and worship.
In Leviticus 19:3, 19:30, 23:3 and 26:2 God reiterates the command to keep Shabbat. Then Numbers 15:32-36 provides a solemn warning and example of profaning Shabbat: “While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. And the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” What a solemn warning of the seriousness of breaking this command! There was only one reason for gathering sticks – in order to kindle a fire.
Numbers 28:9-10 provides instructions for special offerings to be made each Shabbat.
Deuteronomy affirms the Shabbat command and links it to God’s deliverance of them from the slavery in Egypt: “‘Observe the day of Shabbat, to set it apart as holy, as Adonai your God ordered you to do. You have six days to labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat for Adonai your God. On it you are not to do any kind of work — not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your ox, your donkey or any of your other livestock, and not the foreigner staying with you inside the gates to your property — so that your male and female servants can rest just as you do. You are to remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Adonai your God brought you out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore Adonai your God has ordered you to keep the day of Shabbat.” Deuteronomy 5:12-15 Shabbat was a reminder of God’s deliverance and a command to show His love to all, enabling all to enter into His rest.
In SUMMARY, the Torah teaches that Shabbat (the 7th day):
1) is blessed and separated from the other days as holy;
2) precluded collecting Manna, God provided twice as much on the 6th day so they would have no need to go out and collect it on Shabbat;
3) was to be a day of rest;
4) to be set apart for God;
5) all were to be given rest from any kind of work, including foreigners, slaves and animals;
6) to enable everyone to be refreshed;
7) any who worked on Shabbat were to be put to death;
8) even at the busiest times of the year, ploughing time and harvest, all were to stop and rest every 7th day;
9) forbidden to kindle a fire in their dwellings (burn in order to purge and utterly remove waste) to do the metalwork required in building the tabernacle – even this service to God is to be rested from on Shabbat;
10) a man who profaned Shabbat by going out and gathering sticks was to be stoned outside the camp;
11) special offerings were to be made in the tabernacle / temple each Shabbat;
12) give Shabbat rest to all, including servants, in remembrance of God’s deliverance from their slavery in Egypt.
In their development of Shabbat laws the Sanhedrin focused on God’s rest from creating on the seventh day and thus concluded that man is likewise to refrain from any constructive, creative effort that demonstrates man’s mastery over nature. To determine what constituted human acts of creation they looked to the juxtaposition of the endeavour to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle) with the commandment to observe Shabbat in Exodus 24-35, and from that deduced that the melachot (work forbidden on Shabbat) was any type of labor involved in construction of the Mishkan.
With typical Jewish regard for the importance of specific numbers their Oral Torah, as later written in the Mishnah, stated: “The primary categories of prohibited labors are forty minus one:” (Mishnah Shabbat 7:2). Forty days it rained to flood the whole earth; forty days Moses was up on the mountain neither eating or drinking as he received the Ten Commandments and instructions for worship; forty days the spies explored the Promised Land; forty years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness after their disobedience; forty days Elijah walked to Horeb the mount of God after Jezebel’s threats against him, and the inhabitants of Nineveh were given forty days notice of God’s impending judgment.
Thus, the Jewish Rabbis designated forty minus one, ie 39, categories of activities forbidden on Shabbat, and each of these represented many different activities which they deemed unlawful on Shabbat.
THE 39 PROHIBITED MELACHOT
The first 11 melachot encompass all the steps that go into producing bread, from plowing the soil to baking the dough: (1) sowing, (2) plowing, (3) harvesting, (4) binding sheaves, (5) threshing, (6) winnowing, (7) selecting, (8) tochen (grinding), (9) sifting, (10) kneading, (11) baking.
The next 13 melachot encompass all the steps that go into making material curtains: (12) shearing wool, (13) bleaching it, (14) hackling it, (15) dyeing it, (16) spinning, (17) stretching the threads, (18) making two meshes, (19) weaving two threads, (20) dividing two threads, (21) tying, (22) untying, (23) sewing two stitches, (24) tearing in order to sew two stitches.
The following 7 melachot encompass all the steps that go into making leather curtains: (25) hunting a deer / animal, (26) slaughtering it, (27) flaying it, (28) salting it, (29) curing its hide, (30) scraping it, (31) slicing it.
The next 2 melachot were connected to the Krushim (beams of the Mishkan) which were inscribed with letters to facilitate matching them each time the Misgkan was erected: (32) writing two letters, (33) erasing in order to write two letters.
The following 2 melachot were connected with putting up and taking down of the Mishkan: (34) building, (35) pulling down.
The last 4 melachot were related to the final touches of the Mishkan: (36) extinguishing, (37) kindling, (38) striking with a hammer and (39) taking out from one domain to another.
Each one of these 39 categories of work is considered to have many “children”, related activities that are thus also forbidden – providing a very long list indeed of activities one must avoid doing on Shabbat.
Other parts of the Oral Torah developed by the Rabbis had additional activities forbidden on Shabbat: Mishnah Shabbat 12:2 prohibits plucking, trimming, and cutting; and Mekhilta d’Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, prohibits other activities “unbecoming the tone of Shabbat“, such as: buying, selling, loaning, placing an article in deposit, legal judgments, legal claims, appeals, other court activities, marriage, divorce, and accounting.
SHABBAT ACCUSATIONS AGAINST YESHUA THIS TIME
The Sanhedrin reasoned that each of the above 39 categories of forbidden acts is a “father” that has many “offspring” that are also forbidden due to their intrinsic similarity to the parent act. An example of this is the rabbinic decree that refu’ah (an act of healing) is forbidden on Shabbat because it might violate the prohibition of the 8th category, tochen, by grinding herbs to produce medicine. Thus, they judged Yeshua guilty of breaking Shabbat for healing the man born blind. They also wanted to know how Yeshua provided the healing to determine if that was another violation of their Shabbat laws. Thus also judging Him guilty of breaking Shabbat for “toladot” – mixing sand or earth with liquid, as He did in making the mud that He placed on the blind man’s eyes – which they had forbidden as an “offspring” act to their 10th melachot of “kneeding”.
Straight after receiving his miracle the man born blind faced a character test – would he have the strength to stand on the truth under questioning and pressure from the Jewish leaders who refused to believe in Yeshua?
The Judeans, however, were unwilling to believe that he had formerly been blind, but now could see, until they had summoned the man’s parents. They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind; but how it is that he can see now, we don’t know; nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him — he’s old enough, he can speak for himself!”
The parents said this because they were afraid of the Judeans, for the Judeans had already agreed that anyone who acknowledged Yeshua as the Messiah would be banned from the synagogue. This is why his parents said, “He’s old enough, ask him.” John 9:18-23 CJB
To be banned from the synagogue was to be shunned and ostracised from their whole community, with the religious assumption that this represented total rejection by God. The man’s parents were still trying to earn their place in society after suffering the shame of having a son born blind. They were honest, would not lie, but they had not encountered Yeshua and did not have the courage to stand up for their son and risk rejection from their community, expulsion from the synagogue. So they refused to answer how their son had been miraculously healed and instead let him stand alone on this.
So a second time they called the man who had been blind; and they said to him, “Swear to God that you will tell the truth! We know that this man is a sinner.”
He answered, “Whether he’s a sinner or not I don’t know. One thing I do know: I was blind, now I see.”
So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
“I already told you,” he answered, “and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Maybe you too want to become his talmidim?”
Then they railed at him. “You may be his talmid,” they said, “but we are talmidim of Moshe! We know that God has spoken to Moshe, but as for this fellow — we don’t know where he’s from!”
“What a strange thing,” the man answered, “that you don’t know where he’s from — considering that he opened my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners; but if anyone fears God and does His will, God does listen to him. In all history no one has ever heard of someone’s opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, He couldn’t do a thing!”
“Why, you mamzer (born in sin)!” they retorted, “Are you lecturing us?” And they threw him out. John 9:24-34 CJB
These religious leaders made a pretence of wanting to know the truth while hating every word of truth that was spoken. The hypocrisy of it was glaring. The man born blind could see it clearly and became more and more emboldened in his replies to these deliberately blind guides. In the end they admitted that they knew he had indeed been born blind as they hurled their derogatory accusation against him referring to the belief that his blindness had come from pre-natal sin: “mamzer!”
They were not willing to believe the truth so they threw this man out whose very presence shouted the truth that Yeshua is the Son of God. Those who reject the truth will reject any who speak truth and want nothing to do with them. Those who love truth will welcome any who speak truth and want to hear all they have to say.
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4. OU Staff. The 39 Categories of Sabbath Work Prohibited By Law. Orthodux Union. [Online] July 17th, 2006. https://www.ou.org/holidays/the_thirty_nine_categories_of_sabbath_work_prohibited_by_law/#23.
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13. Chabad Editors. Melacha – A Unique Definition of Work. Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: March 19th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/95906/jewish/Melacha-A-Unique-Definition-of-Work.htm.
14. Aknlah Editors. 39 Melachot – 39 things prohibited on Shabbat. Akhlah: The Jewish Children’s Learning Network. [Online] [Cited: March 19th, 2022.] https://www.akhlah.com/jewish-holidays/shabbat/39-melachot/.
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In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
- Jesus healed all who came to Him, but this time the blind man had not come to Him nor called out to Him. Share an experience when God put on your heart to go to someone who had not been seeking God, and pray for them.
- The disciples had missed God’s heart in the situation and instead were concerned with who was right about the reason for this man’s blindness. Share an example of where Christians have been more concerned about which one of them was right than what God wanted to do in the situation.
- How can we keep from missing what God wants to do?
- The Sanhedrin had turned God’s command to rest on Shabbat into a multitude of man-made rules. What man-made rules have you come across in churches in your region?
- Church discipline is needful but must be motivated by love for the body of Christ and based on God’s word not man-made rules. Do you have any examples of God directed church discipline and what fruit it brought?