« And that is just what is wonderful! That you do not know where He comes from and you say that no prodigy points Him out as a just man. But He opened my eyes and none of us in Israel had ever been able to do that… »
– Bartholmai, a man born blind, amazed at the Pharisees’ accusations that Jesus is a sinner.
508. Joseph leads the young man into a hall, which is not the Sanhedrin, where there are many Pharisees and scribes. Joseph goes in with Bartholmai and the five men follow them. The common people of Ophel are pushed back into the court.
« This is the man. I brought him here myself, because I was present, without being seen, at his meeting with the Rabbi and at his recovery. And I can tell you that it was completely accidental as far as the Rabbi is concerned. The man, you will hear this yourselves, was led or rather invited to go where the Rabbi was, by Judas of Kerioth, who is known to you. And I heard, and these two who were with me also heard because they were present, how Judas induced Jesus of Nazareth to work the miracle. I now testify here that if there is one who ought to be punished, it is neither the blind man nor the Rabbi, but the man from Kerioth who − God sees whether I am lying in saying what I think − is the only one responsible for what happened, as he provoked it with deliberate manoeuvre. That is my statement.»
« What you state does not cancel the fault of the Rabbi. If one of His disciples sins, the Master must not commit sin. And He sinned by curing this man on a Sabbath. He accomplished a servile work.»
« To spit on the ground is not a servile work. And to touch the eyes of another person is not a servile work either. I am touching the man as well, but I do not think that I am committing a sin.»
« He worked a miracle on the Sabbath. That’s why He sinned.»
« To honour the Sabbath by means of a miracle is a grace of God and a sign of His bounty. It is His day. Can the Almighty not celebrate it with a miracle that makes His power shine brightly?»
« We are not here to listen to you. You are not accused. We want to question that man. It’s for you to reply. How did you get your eyesight?»
« I have explained that and these people heard me. The disciple of that Jesus said to me yesterday: “Come and I will have you cured”. And I came. And I felt some mud being put here and I heard a voice say to me to go to the Siloam pool and wash myself. And I did it and now I see.»
« But do you know who cured you?»
« Of course I do! Jesus. I told you.»
« But do you know exactly who Jesus is?»
« I know nothing. I am poor and ignorant. And up to a short time ago I was blind. I know that. And I know that He cured me. And if He was able to do that, God is certainly with Him.»
« Don’t blaspheme! God cannot be with those who do not keep the Sabbath » shout some.
But Joseph and the Pharisees Eleazar, John and Joachim remark: « Neither can a sinner work such prodigies.»
« Have you been seduced as well by that possessed man?»
« No. We are just. And we say that if God cannot be with those who work on the Sabbath, neither can man make a fellow born blind see without the help of God » says Eleazar calmly, and the others nod in assent.
« Are you forgetting about the demon?» shout the evil-minded enemies irritably.
« I cannot believe, neither you believe, that the demon may work a deed capable of making one praise the Lord » says John the Pharisee.
« And who is praising Him?»
« This young man, his relatives, the whole of Ophel, and I with them, and with me all those who are just and God fearing in a holy way » replies Joseph.
The evil-minded ones, now held up to ridicule, not knowing what to object, assail Sidonia nicknamed Bartholmai: « What do you say of Him Who opened your eyes?»
« As far as I am concerned He is a prophet. And He is greater than Elijah with the son of the widow of Zarephath. Because Elijah brought the soul back into the boy. But this Jesus has given me what I had never lost, because I never had it: my eyesight. And if He made my eyes in a flash with nothing, except a little mud, whilst my mother had not been able to make them in nine months with flesh and blood, He must be as great as God Who made man with mud.»
« Go away! Go away! You blasphemer. Liar! Corrupted!» and they eject him as if he were possessed.
« The man is lying. It cannot be true. Everybody knows that a person born blind cannot be cured. It must be one like Bartholmai, and the Nazarene has prepared him… or… Bartholmai has never been blind.»
Upon hearing such an astonishing statement Joseph of Arimathea bursts out: « It is known since the days of Cain that hatred blinds people. But that it makes them fools was not yet known. Do you think it credible that a man may reach maturity pretending that he is blind, just to wait for… a probable and very remote clamorous event? Or that Bartholmai’s parents do not recognise their son or that they lend themselves to this deception?»
« Money can do everything. And they are poor.»
« The Nazarene is poorer than they are.»
« You are lying! Sums worthy a Satrap pass through His hands!»
« But don’t stay there for a moment. That money is for the poor. It is used for a good purpose, not for falsehood.»
« How you defend Him! And you are one of the Elders!»
« Joseph is right. The truth is to be told whatever the office a man may hold » says Eleazar.
« Go and call the blind man back. Make haste and bring him here again. And let others go to his parents and bring them here » shouts Helkai opening the door and giving orders to some people waiting outside. And his mouth is almost covered with foam, so much is he choking with anger.
Some people run here, some there. The first to come back is Sidonia nicknamed Bartholmai, who is surprised and annoyed. They push him into a corner watching him as a pack of hounds gaze at game… Later, after some time, his parents arrive surrounded by a crowd.
« You two come in. All the others out!»
The two go in looking frightened. They see their son in the corner, unharmed, but under arrest. His mother moans: « Son! And this was to be a happy day for us!»
« Listen to us. Is that man your son?» asks one of the Pharisees rudely. « Of course he is our son! And who would it be if it were not him?»
« Are you really certain?» The father and mother are so amazed at the question, that they look at each other before replying. « Answer my question!»
« Noble Pharisee, do you think that a father and a mother may be deceived with regard to their child?» says the father humbly.
« But… can you swear that… Yes, that for no amount of money you have been asked to say that this is your son, whereas he is one like him?»
« Asked to say? And by whom? Swear? Yes, a thousand times, in the name of the altar and in the Name of God, if you wish so!» His assertion is so resolute that it would discourage the most pigheaded person.
But the Pharisees are not disheartened! They ask: « But was your son not born blind?»
« Yes, he was. His eyelids were closed and there was nothing under them…»
« How come he can now see, he has eyes and his eyelids are open? You are not going to tell me that eyes grow just like that, like flowers at springtime, and that an eyelid opens just like the calyx of a flower!…» says another Pharisee laughing sarcastically.
« We know that this man has really been our son for almost thirty years and that he was born blind, but we do not know how he can now see or who opened his eyes. In any case, ask him. He is not an idiot or a little boy. He is well on in age. Ask him and he will tell you.»
« You are lying. In your house he said how he was cured and by whom. Why do you say that you do not know?» shouts one of the two men who had always followed the blind man.
« We were so dumbfounded with amazement that we did not listen to him » the two reply apologetically.
The Pharisees turn to Sidonia nicknamed Bartholmai saying: « Come here. And give glory to God, if you can! Don’t you know that He Who touched your eyes is a sinner? Don’t you know? Well, you had better know. We are telling you because we know.»
« Who knows! It may well be as you say. I don’t know whether He is a sinner or not. I only know that previously I was blind, and now I can see, and quite clearly.»
« But what did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?»
« I have already told you and you did not listen to me. Now you want to hear it all over again? Why? Do you want to become His disciples?»
« Fool! You can be the disciple of that man. We are the disciples of Moses. And we know everything about Moses and that God spoke to him. But of this man we know nothing, where He comes from and who He is, and no prodigy of Heaven points Him out as a prophet.»
« And that is just what is wonderful! That you do not know where He comes from and you say that no prodigy points Him out as a just man. But He opened my eyes and none of us in Israel had ever been able to do that, not even the love of a mother and the sacrifices of my father. But there is one thing that we all know, both you and I, that is, that God does not hear sinners, but only those who fear God and do His will. In no part of the world it has ever been heard that anyone was able to open the eyes of a man born blind, but this Jesus has done that. If He did not come from God, He would not have been able to do it.»
« You were born a sinner through and through and you are as disfigured in your spirit as you were in your body and even more so, and you pretend to teach us? Go away, cursed abortion and become a demon with your seducer. Go away, all of you, foolish sinful populace!» and they eject the son, father and mother, as if they were three lepers.
The three go away quickly, followed by their friends. But when he is outside the enclosure, Sidonia turns round and says: « And you can stay where you are, and say what you like. The truth is that I see and I praise God for it. You may be demons, not the Good One Who cured me.»
« Be quiet, son! Be quiet! Lest it should be detrimental to us!…» moans his mother.
« Oh! mother! Has the air in that hall poisoned your soul, as you used to teach me to praise God in my misfortune, and now you cannot thank Him in our joy and you are afraid of men? If God has loved me and you so much as to grant us the miracle, will He not be able to defend us from a handful of men?»
« Our son is right, woman. Let us go to our synagogue to praise the Lord, since they have driven us out of the Temple. And let us go at once before the Sabbath is over…»
And hastening their paces they disappear in the lanes in the valley.