POSTED 29 OCTOBER, 2017
“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 would be born blind?’ Yeshua answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.’ When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, ‘Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?’ Others were saying, ‘This is he,’ still others were saying, ‘No, but he is like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the one.’ So they were saying to him, ‘How then were your eyes opened?’ He answered, ‘The man who is called Yeshua made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash”; so I went away and washed, and I received sight.’ They said to him, ‘Where is He?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’ They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind. Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Yeshua made the clay and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, ‘He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.’ Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, ‘This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.’ But others were saying, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’ And there was a division among them.”
Given His previous assertion in John 8:12, “I am the Light of the world,” it should not be too surprising that in John 9:1-16 following that the Messiah heals a blind man at the Pool of Siloam. The record of the Gospels surely indicates that Yeshua the Messiah frequently healed blind people (Matthew 9:27-31; 12:22-23; 15:30; 20:29-34; 21:14; et. al.). Yeshua restoring the sight of blind people was indeed an important Messianic activity predicted in the Tanach (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:7).
In the healing of blindness recorded in John 9:1-16, is Yeshua guilty of breaking the Sabbath? A passage like John 9:1-16 is the kind that you can see various Christian people just list off—with the conclusion drawn that the Messiah broke the Torah, the Sabbath, and had every intention of abolishing everything of the presumed “previous order”—even though no real examination of what has taken place in this scene is conducted. Gary M. Burge’s remarks in the NIV Application Commentary volume on John do not really explore whether or not Yeshua violated the Sabbath in a Biblical sense. His commentary only asks the questions, “Was Jesus a sinner? Does his Sabbath violation invalidate his claims?”
John 9:1-16 is actually a passage where there are some important background opinions to be evaluated. That the Messiah healed a man of blindness, is a great miracle which was noticed by many. At the same time, there were ancient Jewish debates over whether it was permitted to apply salve to one’s eyes, or receive forms of medical treatment on the eyes, on Shabbat. Some of these discussions were likely present during the time of Yeshua, and were most especially present in later periods. Yeshua’s healing of the blind man, and His application of a mud-paste in the healing process, certainly did not violate later Sabbath halachah. Not at all to be overlooked, is how the Pharisees who heard of this healing, were internally divided (9:16).
The instruction to remember the Sabbath is the Fourth of the Ten Commandments: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:8-10a). The seventh-day Sabbath or Shabbat is widely associated with God’s creation of the world (Genesis 2:2-3) and the Exodus of Ancient Israel from Egypt (Deuteronomy 15:15). The Sabbath is one of the Torah’s moedim or appointed times (Leviticus 23:3). Desecration of the Sabbath actually brought judgment to Ancient Israel (Jeremiah 17:19-27), but blessings are offered to those who value and honor Shabbat (Isaiah 56:1-8), with a universal observance for the entire world anticipated in the Messianic Age (Isaiah 66:23).
Today’s Messianic movement is different from evangelical Christianity, in that while it affirms the Messiahship of Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth, it continues to observe the seventh-day Sabbath along with Judaism, in fidelity to the Torah or Law of Moses, and in conjunction with the example of the First Century Believers. Certainly, holding services on the seventh-day (commonly called Saturday), can be viewed as appropriate for a faith community identifying with the Jewish Synagogue, but it also raises many questions. Inquiries abound pertaining to the ongoing validity of the Sabbath in the post-resurrection era. Was not the Sabbath transferred to Sunday, in honor of the Messiah’s being raised from the dead? Was the Sabbath actually abolished by the Messiah? Inquiries abound pertaining to the observance of the Sabbath. Should not the Sabbath be kept according to the Scriptures only? Should not mainstream Jewish tradition and custom play some role in honoring the Sabbath? What does it mean to not “work” on Shabbat?
The Messianic Sabbath Helper includes a wide breadth of material, addressing a wide array of topics associated with Shabbat. This publication has been divided up into two main parts: The Significance of Shabbat and A Theology of Shabbat. You will be able to detect a progression of sorts, in our family’s own approach to the subject matter, as some things are addressed first more generally and then more specifically. In our experience, we ourselves have certainly had to move from a more elementary view of the issue of the seventh-day Sabbath, to a more developed view, and we recognize how the Messianic community needs to do the same.
This is a massive collection of material, well needed for every Messianic home and congregational library!