9:18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”

20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

The synagogues in which the religious leaders in this story serve, exist in order to be instruments of heart-opening for the people who gather for worship. Their purpose is to help people pursue truth, openness, and love.

Tragically the leaders of these synagogues do not appear to be in search of truth. They are not seeking to open their hearts. They are not operating from a desire for healing and wholeness for all people. They know the right answers and refuse to allow any evidence to the contrary to push them away from their predetermined conclusions. They viciously attack anything that threatens their unassailable convictions.

Like so many religious leaders over the centuries, they use the one weapon at their disposal to keep people in line. They wield the blunt instrument of exclusion to bludgeon people into conformity. They

had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.

Ironically, up to this point in the story, no one has even hinted at believing in Jesus as “the Messiah”. But paranoia in power always has a way of expanding to draw more victims into its nets. These leaders are eager to identify adversaries even where they don’t actually exist.

This kind of leadership can only bring about one outcome. It is always the same:

His parents said this because they were afraid.

Defensive, narrow, bigoted leadership produces communities of fear. There are fifteen questions asked in this whole story. But the only question that leads to true heart-opening and faith is the question Jesus asks at the end when he meets again the man who had been blind and asks,

Do you believe in the Son of Man?

The questions the religious leaders have been asking are all questions that intend to shut down the conversation. They are questions used to exercise control, prove people wrong, and bring their “flock” into line.

What are the questions that create opening and help bring faith rather than closing questions that produce fear?