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Paper 164
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At the Feast of Dedication

4. Josiah Before the Sanhedrin


By midafternoon the healing of Josiah had raised such a discussion around the temple that the leaders of the Sanhedrin decided to convene the council in its usual temple meeting place. And they did this in violation of a standing rule which forbade the meeting of the Sanhedrin on the Sabbath day. Jesus knew that Sabbath breaking would be one of the chief charges to be brought against him when the final test came, and he desired to be brought before the Sanhedrin for adjudication of the charge of having healed a blind man on the Sabbath day, when the very session of the high Jewish court sitting in judgment on him for this act of mercy would be deliberating on these matters on the Sabbath day and in direct violation of their own self-imposed laws.


But they did not call Jesus before them; they feared to. Instead, they sent forthwith for Josiah. After some preliminary questioning, the spokesman for the Sanhedrin (about fifty members being present) directed Josiah to tell them what had happened to him. Since his healing that morning Josiah had learned from Thomas, Nathaniel, and others that the Pharisees were angry about his healing on the Sabbath, and that they were likely to make trouble for all concerned; but Josiah did not yet perceive that Jesus was he who was called the Deliverer. So, when the Pharisees questioned him, he said: “This man came along, put clay upon my eyes, told me to go wash in Siloam, and I do now see.”


One of the older Pharisees, after making a lengthy speech, said: “This man cannot be from God because you can see that he does not observe the Sabbath. He violates the law, first, in making the clay, then, in sending this beggar to wash in Siloam on the Sabbath day. Such a man cannot be a teacher sent from God.”


Then one of the younger men who secretly believed in Jesus, said: “If this man is not sent by God, how can he do these things? We know that one who is a common sinner cannot perform such miracles. We all know this beggar and that he was born blind; now he sees. Will you still say that this prophet does all these wonders by the power of the prince of devils?” And for every Pharisee who dared to accuse and denounce Jesus one would arise to ask entangling and embarrassing questions, so that a serious division arose among them. The presiding officer saw whither they were drifting, and in order to allay the discussion, he prepared further to question the man himself. Turning to Josiah, he said: “What do you have to say about this man, this Jesus, whom you claim opened your eyes?” And Josiah answered, “I think he is a prophet.”


The leaders were greatly troubled and, knowing not what else to do, decided to send for Josiah’s parents to learn whether he had actually been born blind. They were loath to believe that the beggar had been healed.


It was well known about Jerusalem, not only that Jesus was denied entrance into all synagogues, but that all who believed in his teaching were likewise cast out of the synagogue, excommunicated from the congregation of Israel; and this meant denial of all rights and privileges of every sort throughout all Jewry except the right to buy the necessaries of life.


When, therefore, Josiah’s parents, poor and fear-burdened souls, appeared before the august Sanhedrin, they were afraid to speak freely. Said the spokesman of the court: “Is this your son? and do we understand aright that he was born blind? If this is true, how is it that he can now see?” And then Josiah’s father, seconded by his mother, answered: “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind, but how it is that he has come to see, or who it was that opened his eyes, we know not. Ask him; he is of age; let him speak for himself.”


They now called Josiah up before them a second time. They were not getting along well with their scheme of holding a formal trial, and some were beginning to feel strange about doing this on the Sabbath; accordingly, when they recalled Josiah, they attempted to ensnare him by a different mode of attack. The officer of the court spoke to the former blind man, saying: “Why do you not give God the glory for this? why do you not tell us the whole truth about what happened? We all know that this man is a sinner. Why do you refuse to discern the truth? You know that both you and this man stand convicted of Sabbath breaking. Will you not atone for your sin by acknowledging God as your healer, if you still claim that your eyes have this day been opened?”


But Josiah was neither dumb nor lacking in humor; so he replied to the officer of the court: “Whether this man is a sinner, I know not; but one thing I do know—that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” And since they could not entrap Josiah, they sought further to question him, asking: “Just how did he open your eyes? what did he actually do to you? what did he say to you? did he ask you to believe in him?”


Josiah replied, somewhat impatiently: “I have told you exactly how it all happened, and if you did not believe my testimony, why would you hear it again? Would you by any chance also become his disciples?” When Josiah had thus spoken, the Sanhedrin broke up in confusion, almost violence, for the leaders rushed upon Josiah, angrily exclaiming: “You may talk about being this man’s disciple, but we are disciples of Moses, and we are the teachers of the laws of God. We know that God spoke through Moses, but as for this man Jesus, we know not whence he is.”


Then Josiah, standing upon a stool, shouted abroad to all who could hear, saying: “Hearken, you who claim to be the teachers of all Israel, while I declare to you that herein is a great marvel since you confess that you know not whence this man is, and yet you know of a certainty, from the testimony which you have heard, that he opened my eyes. We all know that God does not perform such works for the ungodly; that God would do such a thing only at the request of a true worshiper—for one who is holy and righteous. You know that not since the beginning of the world have you ever heard of the opening of the eyes of one who was born blind. Look, then, all of you, upon me and realize what has been done this day in Jerusalem! I tell you, if this man were not from God, he could not do this.” And as the Sanhedrists departed in anger and confusion, they shouted to him: “You were altogether born in sin, and do you now presume to teach us? Maybe you were not really born blind, and even if your eyes were opened on the Sabbath day, this was done by the power of the prince of devils.” And they went at once to the synagogue to cast out Josiah.


Josiah entered this trial with meager ideas about Jesus and the nature of his healing. Most of the daring testimony which he so cleverly and courageously bore before this supreme tribunal of all Israel developed in his mind as the trial proceeded along such unfair and unjust lines.

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