“If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”
The words of this morning’s verse were uttered by a man who had been born blind and given sight by Jesus. The story is one of the more detailed accounts of Jesus’ miracles, in that John records not only what Jesus did (made clay and put it on the man’s eyes) and what He told the man to do (go wash the clay off in the pool of Siloam), but also the aftermath of the miracle — the Pharisees’ interrogation of the man and his parents and the subsequent expulsion of the man from the synagogue. The account ends with Jesus finding the man and the man believing in Christ, but this verse shows up during the interrogation.
The Pharisees knew that God had given Commandments to Moses (undisputed fact) and that one of those Commands was to remember the Sabbath (rest day) and keep it holy (different than other days; special). None of this is contested — not by Jesus or anyone else in scripture. But they had interpreted the Command over the years and wrapped it up in specifics that God never included. They defined what it meant to rest — hint: it meant to not work — and what constituted work. Jesus making a bit of clay out of spit and dirt and rubbing it on the man’s eyes constituted, in their thinking, work. The problem is that they narrowly defined what they thought God meant; they got hung up on the letter of the Law and missed its spirit entirely.
I can do the same thing as those Pharisees: get so hung up on the letter of the Law that I miss the spirit of it. I can get so focused on the “Do”s and “Don’t”s that I completely lose sight of the God Who told me I should do one thing and not do another; I can forget the why behind the command.
The Pharisees, in their myopic view, missed something terribly obvious: Jesus had just given sight to a blind man. Modern medicine is still working on trying to accomplish this sort of thing. What had never been done before and is still only possible with lots of equipment and extensive surgery and whatnot Jesus did with some saliva, dirt, and a wash in a local fountain. Let me put aside, for a moment, the question of whether or not this is even theoretically possible to modern medicine and realize that Jesus did this with dirt, spit, and a face wash. The blind man saw what the sighted Pharisees missed: Jesus had done the impossible; had performed a miracle. And the formerly-blind man notes something important: If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.
Jesus tells the apostles — and, by extension, me as His disciple — that apart from Him we can do nothing to please God. He (Jesus) is the Vine and we are branches connected to the Vine, taking our nourishment and life and ability to produce fruit from Him. If I am not producing fruit — i.e. a life that pleases God — then it is likely because I am not abiding in God. If I am not in God, I can do nothing to please Him.
Let me do two things today. One, let me focus on the Lawgiver instead of the Law; on loving Him instead of trying to obey a set of “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not”s. Two, let me abide in Him that I might do the things that please Him. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. In Him, I shall do valiantly.