Work of the Devil

Continuing, finally, with this look at Jesus’s healing of a man born blind.

So Jesus departs from the temple with his disciples.  It’s fruitless, all they want to do is throw stones at him.  He leaves, and as he’s walking through the gate, leaving the temple complex, there sits a man, blind from birth.  As they pass through the gate, the disciples notice this man, begging, blind from birth.  They ask a theological question.  Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?   And so we come to a third attempted stoning on this day of stoning.

The disciples of Jesus are ready to throw stones of blame at a blind man or his parents.  This may not be a literal stoning, but it’s the same spirit, the same thing.  Let’s blame the woman and stone her.  Let’s blame Jesus, and call him a false teacher and a devil, and let’s stone Him.  Let’s blame either this man or his parents for his condition of blindness.   The satanic impulse to blame is all through this passage.   And Jesus is trying to shine a light on it because we’re blind to it.  We live in the darkness, and we don’t see how we generally try to unite ourselves by blaming others.  We don’t see how we console our own anxieties and fears by blaming others.   This is the darkness we have lived in, this is the blindness that has afflicted the human race that Jesus is trying to bring light to.  He’s trying to heal us of our blindness and show us how we behave and how destructive it is.

The satanic impulse to blame.  Very often it works like this – when we see a situation of deep misfortune, when we see people who are suffering horrible fates, we are appalled by it.  We are scared by it.  We want to assure ourselves that life itself has some semblance of order.  We don’t want to think that life is so filled with vagaries and random chance that such a thing could happen to us.  So we have to explain, in some way, exactly why this bad this has happened to this person or these people.  Inevitably it works like this – this bad thing has happened to this person or these people because they are bad people.  And to assure ourselves that nothing bad like this could happen to us, we invent a system by which we can say that if something bad happened to that group, that nation, those people, that person, then it must be that somehow they must deserve it.   After all, if the undeserving can have bad things happen to them, then it can happen to me.  I can not tolerate that idea, so I must come up with a system where I can blame the sufferer for their own suffering.  

This is the book of Job.  “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.”  Job‬ ‭1:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  God Himself testifies to this about Job.  “And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”” ‭‭Job‬ ‭1:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  Job needs no character witness, God Himself is Job’s witness.  God says “I testify that job is righteous, that he fears me, that he turns away from evil, that he is the most righteous man of the sons of the east…” So that is settled, Job is righteous.

But the Satan, the Ha-Satan, the accuser, begins to bring accusation against Job, and soon after trouble ensues.  In three thunderclaps of horror, Job loses it all.  He loses, his health, his wealth, and his children.  It’s almost too terrible to imagine.  He lost everything dear to him.

That’s when his three friends show up.  The book of Job tells the story of a righteous man who is accused by Satan, bad things happen, and then Satan disappears from the story.  Satan appears in the first 2 chapters, then we never see Satan again in the rest of the 40+ chapters of the book of Job.  So the Satan disappears from the book of Job after the first 2 chapters.

Or does He?  In fact, satan does NOT disappear from the book of Job, he is simply channeled through the three friends of Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  These three friends become possessed by the spirit of accusation, the spirit of blame, the spirit of the Satan.  They’ve come to comfort Job, but before long they have to try to explain to Job why this has happened.  But they are really not trying to explain to Job what has happened, though they think they are.  What they are really doing is trying to explain to themselves what has happened.  

They see this horrible thing that has happened to Job.  He’s lost his health, his wealth, and his children.  They want to be assured that nothing like that could ever happen to them (don’t we all?).  So, they begin to explain why such a thing happened.  Jobs three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, are the practitioners of theological certitude.  They believe they can always come up with an answer.   They are the Bible answer man.  They have an answer for every eventuality.  No doubt they would reference the book of Proverbs.

The book of proverbs says if you fear God and live righteously, you will be blessed, prosperous, and happy.   This is the overwhelming theme of Proverbs, there are dozens and dozens of verses that say exactly that.   And…it’s true.  It’s true that if you will turn away from the path of sin, fear God, live righteously, good things begin to happen in your life.   You begin to prosper.  You begin to be happy in a way you weren’t before.  I know many people who can testify to this.  I can testify to this, that in encountering Christ, putting my life in the way of righteousness and in the fear of the Lord, good things begin to happen in your life and you can be a lot happier than you’ve been in years.   

The book of Proverbs gives us this message, that if you fear God and live righteously, good things will happen.  You will be blessed, happy and prosperous.  And it’s true…except when it isn’t.   That’s why we have the book of a Job in the Bible as well.  We have the book of Proverbs balanced by the book if Job, and we have to hold them together.   Proverbs doesn’t tell the whole story.  Generally, it’s true.  You begin to fear God and live righteously, your life will get better, amen and hallelujah.   It’s true.  But it’s not a guarantee of certitude.  And just because it’s generally true that if you live righteously and fear God it leads to a good life, it does NOT mean that if anyone is experiencing pain and sorrow and suffering it must be because they deserve it, they have sinned, they are bad.  That’s what the three miserable comforters of Job said.  That was their theology.  Eventually God shows up and says “After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”” Job‬ ‭42:7-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  God, Yahweh, says that these three have spoken incorrectly of Job and Himself.   

We hold these things in tension.  To blame the victim is the work of Satan.  It’s the work of darkness.  It’s common, it’s repeated throughout history.  It happens all of the time.  We want to believe that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.  But sometimes, bad things happen to good people.  Sometimes, the worst things happen to the best people.  That’s the book of Job, and the life of Jesus.

To blame the victim is the work of Satan, the work of darkness.  Jesus does not come to do the works of Satan, Jesus comes to do the works of God.  Whose work are we doing?

“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.”
‭‭John‬ ‭9:1-7‬ ‭ESV


John Lewis

8 thoughts on “Work of the Devil

    1. “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;”
      ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭35:5-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

      “And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.””
      ‭‭Luke‬ ‭7:22-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

      “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’”
      ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:35-36‬ ‭ESV‬‬

      Mercy, healing, and forgiveness.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. So these guys are arguing about WHY this guy is blind. And to my modern, American ears, it sounds like some kind of philosophical debate… a little detached, a bit esoteric, sterile, and misses the point.

        But I don’t know that. I am just saying that is MY initial reaction. To me is sounds like that.

        I am trying to think biblically about it, but I am not seeing it. Is there some story LIKE this elsewhere, probly in the OT, that this one is bouncing sparks off of? Cant think of it. Probly should get a reference Bible and see if it points me somewhere interesting. Maybe do a word study on pertinent words in the pericope. That kind of thing, but I am not up for it at this time.

        Still, that doesnt mean that is THE RIGHT approach necessarily, but I think it would be a good place to start.

        But on the OTHER SIDE of the coin, Jesus gives an answer to their question, and it’s a completely different option than the one these guys are discussion. In fact, its a whole other category different. THIS GUY was born blind SO THAT God can DISPLAY his works in him.


        This opens up a lot of interesting questions too, but staying with the text, with the story being told, it appears that AT A MINIMUM the work of God here is the restoration of sight. In fact, most pointedly it is. This is the immediate work at hand, yet it represents other kinds of things too.

        Sight restored CAN represent cleared up thinking too. We see Mark do this very purposely in chapter 8 where Jesus heals a blind guy twice (the ONLY time a miracle of Jesus is recorded as NOT taking full effect instantly – as if he failed at it), but really it is a metaphorical teaching device demonstrating that the disciples are not understanding his mission and will need a second attempt to get it cleared up. BUT, that is Mark, not John, and I want to be careful about making Mark answer John questions. But it shows this KIND of thing is not foreign to Gospel writers.

        So what is JOHN doing with it?

        Well, on the surface of things, it looks to me like for what ever reason (and I think there is one, and I think if I knew it, it would enhance my understanding, but currently I don’t) these guys are taking this marvelous thing Jesus has done and turned it into this debate about who sinned when according to Jesus it wasn’t about that at all, but rather about God displaying his works. AND THAT observation really does demonstrate that these guys are barking up the wrong tree altogether ON THE ONE HAND… meaning they don’t know as much as they should… meaning THEY ARE BLIND to what God is doing. And that could be the point, or part of the point.

        But of course “the work of God” is a broad topic, certainly if not limited by this context. And I wonder if we aren’t meant to see it as a much bigger category than just healing the blind. Is there something here in John that opens that door, or is it just my curiosity? Not sure. Will need to put this on my research to-do list.

        I like your response. You certainly go to the Bible for it. And the Luke passage, to my mind resonates most, except for it being a Luke answer to a John question (sometimes that is warranted, but always doing hermeneutical contortions, I think).

        BTW, really glad to have you tearing in to LUKE with me on the LUKE study. In fact, I need to get back to that just now.

        God bless…


        Liked by 1 person

        1. Real quick…remember the order of events here. This transfers straight from John 8, which begins and ends with attempted stonings. First of the adulterous woman, then Jesus himself, along with quite the confrontation between Jesus and a group of Jews who were actually coming to believe in him (Jesus blew that out of the water. Kind of like they were trying to “spiritualize” the gospel or something!). John 8 ends with this – “So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.”
          ‭‭John‬ ‭8:59‬. John 9 begins directly from this – “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?””
          ‭‭John‬ ‭9:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬. These chapter and verses are chopped, but not the actual story itself. This is still the same day, almost the same event. Jesus hasn’t healed the man yet. This questions is based on assumptions which commonly existed about people who were sick or lame or blind. There may be mo story in the OT that parallels this, but there are assumptions drawn.

          As I wrote, proverbs lays out a framework that if you live righteously and fear god, you will be healthy and life will be good. And of course, in general, this is true. If we live well and do right, our lives go pretty well. But the assumed extension here is that if all is not going well for you, then you must not be living righteously and fearing god. And – the OT in multiple places speaks of visiting the sins of the father down through multiple generations of the family. Which is the source of the question. Here is a blind man, the Bible PROMISES, after all, that if you live righteously and fear God, life will be good. Life is not good for this man, so SOMEBODY had to have sinned. It’s interesting that the disciples are open to the possibility that it the man himself who sinned, even though he had been BORN BLIND. Reminds me of our modern theology that even our cure, adorable newborn infants are born sinners and therefore DESERVE the punishment Jesus took upon the cross in themselves. A truly awful theology that dominates our western Protestant Christianity…

          So…the WHY. Of course, it’s John, so it’s a SIGN, somehow pointing us to some facet of Jesus as Messiah and his mission therein. That the grace of God may be shown to the world. Because God not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world through him might be saved. Saved even from our own awful theologies

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I think you are absolutely right to place this text in it’s wider/immediate context. That is generally a good first stop along the scenic overlook expressway of research. What is the action of the scene(s) just previous to and just after will usually shed a lot of light on the passage under examination…. And all of these Gospels (at least) are narratives, meaning each scene builds on the last to paint a much larger dramatic picture. AND not writer of narratives throws bits in that aren’t meant to advance the plot – its just the nature of narrative. If the opening scene has a gun on the desk, then you know in this movie someone gets shot or threatened or whatever WITH THAT GUN.

            There are a couple of possible exceptions to this in the Bible, and one of the really big ones occurs in Ch.8 of John. The story of the woman caught in the act has major textual issues. Of course it is such a great story and keeps well with the character of Jesus, so there is hardly a preacher around who wants to ignore it. Neither do I. However, the best evidence, in my opinion and that of loads of major scholars, is that John didn’t write that bit, and if he did, he did not originally put it in this story.

            However with the exceptions of a few words and phrases here and there… only one other passage in the whole Bible shares this level of ambiguity. And its in Mark, not John. So, the rest of chapter 8 and 9 have our complete confidence.

            I went back and looked at 8 and 9 to plug this passage in to my thinking too. And again, I have not researched this, but the larger context does seem to open up new possibilities and give some direction for where to look next, I think.

            I used to work in a psych ward, and I must say, the things Jesus says about himself and THE WAY he says them sound like many-a-psych patient to my ears. His words there are hard to sort out and seem to suggest he is from God and that is self evident and if you don’t see it then you are of this world and not from the One who sent Jesus etc…

            (hey… I’m outa time just now and too many interuptions to respond thoughtfully just now… will have to get back later.

            Love the post and the discussion…

            God bless…


            Liked by 1 person

            1. John…

              Sorry I didn’t give my attention to this better. Just juggling too much stuff.

              I asked one of my teachers at church today a quick question about John 8 & 9. I asked if its a chiasm. I am not strong in rhetorical analysis. But he affirmed it on the fly. We had no time to discuss it.

              Then I got home and had a minute to try google. I find where it seems everyone thinks John is either one big chiasm or full of them, and a few who find them disjointed… not even in the same text. What little I read, it seemed they were all making interesting cases.

              Whatever the case, I was struck when reading it myself by Jesus claiming to be light and to have TRUTH where as his interlocutors were blind and “of the your father the devil”. Then comes the guy healed blind from birth. Jesus healed on the Sabbath and it upset the authorities who wind up questioning the parents who dodge the interrogation and when it finally comes to the healed guy he gets put out of the assembly over it but still needs another visit with Jesus before he really sees who Jesus is.

              It’s the mooshe of John that gives me so much trouble. I have never undertaken a study of the whole book of John because of how the language bogs down and I get confused trying to straighten it out. Some parts are as clear as the nose on my face and others make me nuts.

              More of it makes me nuts than not, but the parts that are clear are powerful like dynamite.

              BTW, the site that claimed the whole book is one big chaism??? (I am sure there is more than one, but I found one) puts the sign of Lazarus at the apex. I found that quite compelling, alright. However, some of the corresponding points looked a big forced to me like puzzle pieces that don’t really fit, but come close so youre tempted to mash them in and force them.

              Anyway, I need to look at this closer another time. Looking forward to further studies with you. May come back to this later…


              Liked by 1 person

              1. Appreciate it brother X. Had to look up what a “chaism” was. And “mooshe”, but i think that you may have gotten hit by the spellcheck there.

                I had never heard of a Chaism, maybe this is the form of John, I can’t say. Thanks always for your input though, and I will be breaking from this particular study for Advent, and will circle back around to look at the raising of Lazarus. May also have one after that that really interests you, looking at John as a kind of second Genesis….


                1. Mooshe is not a technical term at all. That’s me saying my mind is moosh. John does that to me in several places. Its why I don’t get as ambitious as you and write studies of it. But I am always looking into it.

                  He is a fascinating writer. A lot of what I understand from his work used to be moosh to me, but now blows my mind. And while he (LIKE ALL OTHER Bible writers) harkens back to passages all through the Bible, I think he (in particular) wants to right the inside/out of Genesis (of NEW CREATION). I have seen so much through his work that just harkens back to the old creation with the new over and over and evermore mysteriously that I think holding Genesis in one hand and John in the other is the lamp that lights up everything. Its my guess. But the evidence I have for that SO FAR is really powerful.

                  I look forward to seeing what you do with the second Genesis.

                  I will come back to this as time permits.



                  Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s