Friday, February 8, 2013

Judging the Blinded

After Jesus' Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem, some Greeks sought out an audience with Him. Jesus replied to that request indirectly by predicting His death, telling people to hate their lives and follow Him, getting God to speak, giving reminder of the impending Judgement Day, and then hiding from everyone.

Judging the Blinded
If you are denied access to knowing the right thing to do, should you be punished for not doing the right thing? Have you got an answer in your mind? How would that change if I told you that the person in charge of distributing that knowledge, the one who denied you access to that information, was the same person judging you and assigning the punishments for not knowing what to do? What then? But what are our thoughts worth here, really? Why not check in to see what God thinks about the matter?

We start our study with John 12:37-38. This is immediately after Jesus had talked to crowd and then hid Himself away. In these verses John stated that despite the signs that Jesus performed in their presence, "they" (contextually meaning most of the Jews) did not believe in Jesus, and this fulfilled the prophetic verse from Isaiah 53:1. Isaiah 53 is the longest single Old Testament prophesy which has been applied to Jesus, and, unlike many other alleged prophesies, it actually appears to be somewhat accurate at first glance. However, in a recent post I explained the contextual reasons why that prophesy is unlikely to be meant for Jesus.

Next we come to two of the most revealing verses about the nature of God. In John 12:39-40 we see:
For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
"He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them." NIV
First note that "they could not believe," as in they had no choice in the matter. Belief was not possible. That feeds into the quote from Isaiah which followed.

If you are unfamiliar with the source of this quote, you might think that that "He" is supposed to represent Satan. After all, who else would be blinding people from the truth and deadening their hearts to prevent them from repenting and being healed by God? Well, guess again.

John has misquoted Isaiah 6:10, which reads:
"Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed." NIV
If you read the entire short prophesy of Isaiah 6, you will see that the context of this verse is that God was cursing the Israelites/Jews because He really wanted to punish them. It was God who was blinding their eyes and making their hearts hard. They had been in a cycle of backslide-repent-backslide, and so God wanted to send them a message that they would not forget so quickly; exile from the Promised Land. But He was afraid that if they repented, He would then be obligated to forgive them and subsequently would be prevented from getting His memorable message across.

By John using those verses here, he provided a crystal clear meaning: God prevented them from believing. However, as opposed to a seventy-year exile which happened the first time, this time there were more eternal consequences involved. God damned them to Hell; not even giving them the option to choose to believe in the Salvation offered through Jesus.

Those of you who are long-time readers of this blog may remember that I highlighted how Jesus had quoted this same verse from Isaiah as a response to the question of why He spoke in parables. The purpose of the parables was to exclude certain people from the Salvation option.

Ironically the next verse, John 12:41, states how Isaiah had said this because he had seen Jesus' glory. In my opinion, there is nothing glorious about judging against the blind for not being able to see, especially if you are the one who blinded them. In fact, it is morally reprehensible.

Moving on to (perhaps) less repugnant matters, John 12:42-43 is a good example of pious fiction in the Gospels:
Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in [Jesus]. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. NIV
This is the kind of passage you read without giving it a second thought, because it seems reasonable. This is better than the Isaiah reference above, because clearly these people did have a choice in the matter of their Salvation. But when you think about these verses, you may realize that they have to be made up, because if these believers would not confess their faith, how is it then possible that John knew that they had believed?

In yet another seemingly odd splice(?), John 12:44 begins "Then Jesus cried out..." As you may remember from the previous study, the last thing that we have record of Jesus doing was leaving the crowd and hiding from them (John 12:36). So apparently Jesus yelled out the subsequent monologue after He had hidden Himself away from everyone. Jesus howling this speech to an absent crowd is not the only strange thing about it...

John 12:44-45 begins by discussing the vicarious nature of Jesus. If you believe in Jesus, you believe in God. Etc. Nothing too strange there, but let us move on to the next verse.

In John 12:46, Jesus claimed that His purpose was to be a light to the dark world. That in itself is not strange, until you consider another factor. In Matthew 5:15, Mark 4:21, Luke 8:16, Luke 11:33, Jesus Himself explained (metaphorically) that you should not hide that kind of light, but instead let it shine in a way that people can see by it. Yet, as noted above, Jesus said this after hiding Himself from the crowd (John 12:36)!

As Jesus continued on in John 12:47-48, we get the picture of Jesus playing a little bit of the "good cop/bad cop" routine. He said that He came to save the world, not to judge it, and explicitly claimed that He would not be the one to judge it. That is the "good cop" version of Jesus. Jesus had already played the "bad cop" in John 5:22-30 and John 9:39, where He explicitly claimed that He would indeed be the judge of all.

Jesus closed out His screaming schizophrenic soliloquy in John 12:49-50 by explaining that He had only said what God had told Him to say. If that is the case, either God morally disgusting and mentally disturbed, or God was playing one tremendous practical joke on Jesus. Or maybe, just maybe, this is all a myth.


  1. I'm going back and forth on whether it matters that God is the one who blinded people. On one hand, the fact that he is essentially taking blind people and punishing them for not seeing makes him a monster. Suppose it was, in fact, Satan who blinded those people, it's still terrible for God to punish them for it. He's still punishing people for things completely out of their control, really screwed up.

    On the other hand, what kind of a dick move it is for him to actually blind them?

  2. Yeah Hausdorff, in the grand scheme of things, it does not really matter if it is God blinding people, or if God allowed Satan to blind people, because either way the net effect is the same and God was ultimately in control of the situation.

    However, I think where it really is important is in the mind of the "common believer," so to speak, because I believe they use the whole "free will" argument to consider God as being not ultimately responsible for the judgement of condemnation because it was each particular individual who chose to reject God. Yet if God actively prevents people from being able to accept Him, then believers must come to terms with that fact. They must accept that God condemned people without giving them a chance to choose to love Him and accept His Salvation. And that, my friend, is very difficult to reconcile with the concept of a perfectly good God with perfect justice, because, as you say, it is a "dick move." :-)

  3. You are absolutely correct. On an emotional level, it is much worse if God blinded them in the first place. Definitely takes things from bad to worse.