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COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD

The Healing Of The Man Born Blind (John 9).

It is no accident that this incident follows Jesus’ claim to be ‘the light of the world’ (8.12) who enables those who ‘walk in darkness’ to see. And as He had a habit of doing Jesus now took the opportunity of performing a miracle in such a way as to teach an important spiritual lesson. That it was Jesus Who intended the lesson and not just the writer comes out in His use of spittle in the healing, to show that it was from His mouth that sight came, and His sending of the man to the Pool of Siloam, which meant ‘sent’. While the pool was probably called this because the water was artificially fed to it, it is clear that John sees significance in the name for he mentions it twice.

For such an acted out parable we can compare Mark 8.22-25 where the story of the man who was healed in two stages comes before the gradual opening of the eyes of the disciples at Caesarea Philippi.

The placing of this miracle of the man born blind after the arguments of John 8 is thus not coincidental. In John 8 we have seen men who were unwilling to see the light of the world, and refused to believe that others could see, and in John 9 they are unwilling to believe that a man born blind can be made to see. And certainly, to the blind man Jesus becomes the light of the world twice over (see v.5 and compare 8.12).

One other thing which we should consider about this miracle recorded here is its Messianic significance. In the Old Testament it was God himself who was associated with the giving of sight to the blind (Exodus 4.11; Psalm 146.8), and in a number of passages in Isaiah it was considered to be a Messianic activity (29.18; 35.5; 42.7; 61.1 as quoted by Jesus in Luke 4.18; compae also Matthew 11.5), in words applied by Jesus to Himself (Luke 4.18). Thus Isaiah 29.18 tells us, ‘On that day the deaf will hear words from a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see,’ and Isaiah 35.4-5 adds, ‘Behold, your God will come with vengeance, the recompense of God will come, but He will save you. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.’ While to the Servant of God in Isaiah 42.6-7 the promise is given, ‘I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.’

So when Jesus gave sight to the blind, He was fulfilling Messianic prophecies and showing that as the Light of the world He had defeated the darkness (compare 1.5). This Messianic significance comes out later in the chapter in that the crowds were discussing whether Jesus was the Messiah, although secretly for fear of the Jews. All this then leads up to Jesus’ revelation of Himself as ‘the Son of God’ (or ‘the Son of Man’) in Whom men must believe, which is found in 9.35-37.

The miracle recorded here has, therefore, significance for John as one of the seven ‘signs’ which he employed to point to Jesus' identity as Messiah and Son of God (20.31). That the man was ‘born blind’ was also significant, for it spoke of the spiritual condition of all who are in the world.

9.1-2 ‘And as he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him saying, “Rabbi, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”.’

As Jesus was going on His way, He and His disciples saw a man who had been blind from birth. The fact that the disciples knew this suggests that the man was well known, and a kind of landmark. It was something ‘everyone’ knew. The fact was general knowledge.

But this time when they saw him it raised a question in the disciples’ minds. They had been brought up to believe that misfortune was the result of sin, and that the two were directly linked, (this was certainly central in later Rabbinic thought) so they asked Jesus, ‘Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Their point here was that the man was born blind, so it was a question of whether he could be seen as guilty at birth, having sinned in the womb, or whether his misfortune should be seen as due to the sins of others. It was a theological question.

Rabbis taught that a babe in the womb could be guilty of its mother’s behaviour while bearing him. Thus where a pregnant woman engaged in idolatry her child was also seen as engaging in idolatry. Certainly the Bible does link behaviour as producing judgment and that this sometimes follows a particular sin (see for example Exodus 20.5; 34.7; Ezekiel 18.4), but it nowhere declares that individual sin can always be directly related to individual misfortune. Indeed the book of Job stresses the opposite. In that book it was the good man who suffered misfortune, and it was his comforters who had been proved to give false advice, who claimed that he suffered because of his sins.

It is significant that when the disciples saw the man the thought does not seem to have crossed their minds that he could be healed. As far as they were concerned the man was an institution. In their view he would always be there like that. Perhaps they thought that as it was a matter of how he was born nothing could be done about it. So the only question that came to their minds was a theological one.

9.3 ‘Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God might be revealed clearly in him.”

Jesus replied, ‘It was not this man or his parents who sinned. It happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’ The answer negated any suggestion of linking his blindness with sin. Nor was it intended to mean that God deliberately made the man blind for this purpose. What Jesus was really saying was that, rather than being seen as a punishment for sin, the man’s blindness was a natural occurrence that should be seen as presenting God with an opportunity to take advantage of the position to reveal His glory.

9.4-5 “It is necessary for us to work the works of him who sent me while it is day. The night will come when no one can work. As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.”

Jesus recognised in the blind man something which necessitated His use of His ability to heal, ‘to do the will of Him Who sent Him. ‘It is necessary’ (dei) for us ---’. There was a sense of urgency in these words, a stress on the divine necessity. Jesus was here stating that ‘we’ (He and His disciples - but we can include ourselves) must be ready to take every opportunity to do God’s work while the opportunity is here, because there will come a time when the opportunity is no longer here.

At that point in time it was ‘day’. It was a period when the light was shining, for the Light of the world was there. But there would also come times of darkness when the works of God could not be wrought because of the circumstances of life. And there have been such times when the works of God have been at a low ebb. They exist in certain countries today where other religions hold sway, and the light can only shine dimly in the darkness.

Jesus was speaking with a realisation of impending death. In view of that, He knew that He must carry out His responsibility to be the light of the world while He could. And He wanted His disciples to have the same sense of urgency when their turn came. None of us knows when our opportunity of service might be taken away by death, incapacity or circumstances. We also should therefore strive to do what we can while we can.

Note that it was Jesus Who connected what was to happen with His claim to be the Light of the world (see on 8.12). He wanted the opening of the man’s eyes to be taken as a lesson that all men are born spiritually blind and need their eyes to be opened by the Light of the world.

But Jesus was not saying that when He went total darkness would descend. That is why He included the disciples in His words. The light would go on shining through them and they too must work while it was day.

9.6 ‘When he had thus spoken he spat on the ground, made clay with the spittle and anointed the his eyes with clay.’

The fact that Jesus was able to put the clay on the man’s eyes demonstrates that there was already some faith in the man’s heart. The man was willing for Him to do it. He would have been told who this was who wanted to do this thing, and he gave his consent. Then he waited patiently while the process was carried out.

It is true that spittle was looked on as an ancient medicine, and because of this some have suggested that this was an aid to faith for the blind man, but it is evident from previous healings that Jesus did not need to resort to such methods, and it is therefore far more likely that we are to see it as symbolic of His word of power coming from His mouth opening the eyes of the spiritually blind. It also demonstrated that he required active faith from the man. The man could do nothing towards his healing, but he could refuse or show willingness to respond to Jesus’ word. We too can do nothing towards the opening of our spiritual eyes, but whether we respond or not will be determined by whether there is faith in our hearts.

9.7a ‘Then he said to him ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’, which is by interpretation ‘sent’.’

The author draws attention to Siloam as meaning ‘sent’. We are thus almost certainly intended to see it as meaning that, just as the pool which was ‘sent’ caused the blind man to see, so the One Who was sent from God was at work opening the spiritual eyes of men. Furthermore the pool of Siloam was where the water was drawn for the ceremonies at the Feast of Tabernacles (see on John 7) and this linked it with the coming work of the Holy Spirit, and the times of refreshing, symbolised by those waters, when the eyes of the blind would be opened (Isaiah 29.17; 35.5 compare also 42.7).

It is very probable therefore that it was this also which was to be seen as ‘sent’. The man blind from birth had met the light of the world Who was ‘sent’ to drench (baptise) men with the Holy Spirit that God has promised to ‘send’ into the world, and as a result he saw.

9.7b ‘So he went and washed, and came back seeing.’

The blind man was obedient to Jesus’ words. It was no simple matter for a blind man go to the pool but he did what Jesus told him to do without question. After a life of hopelessness he had met Jesus and hope had arisen in his heart, a hope accompanied by faith. How simple the words are. He responded obediently to Jesus and stumbled on his way to the pool of Siloam and washed his eyes, and at once the miracle happened, he could see. The world’s blindness must be dealt with in the same way. The water of the word of God can wash away the blindness and darkness, and open the eyes of the blind and of those who sit in darkness (Ephesians 5.26). But just as the blind man had to go and wash so those who would have their eyes open must go to the word of God and partake of it in responsive faith. Then they too will come back seeing.

9.8-9a ‘The neighbours therefore, and those who saw him in the past, and knew that he was a beggar, said, “Is this not the one who sat and begged?” Others said, “It is he”. Others said, “No, but he is like him”. ’

The man was clearly well known. He had been begging since he was a child. So those who had known him in the past, especially those who lived nearby, were amazed to see him walking about as a seeing man. They found it hard to believe, so much so that some merely thought he was the man’s double. John is conveying the impression of the great stir caused by the incident locally. The series of questions parallels those asked about Jesus. It is intended to indicate people who hesitate about whether they will believe. It mirrors a hesitant world in the face of truth. vv. 9.9b-12 ‘He said, “I am he”. So they said to him, “How then were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man who is called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes, and said to me ‘Go to Siloam and wash’, so I went away and washed and received sight”.’ And they said to him, “Where is he?” He says, “I do not know”.’

When the man met some who had known him as a beggar, the general stir made them discuss whether it could indeed be the same man, and if so what could have happened to him. So he answered their questions by outlining in full the way in which he had been healed. This detailed repetition confirms that the details of the cure are all to be seen as significant.

‘A man who is called Jesus.’ This makes specifically clear that the blind man previously knew little about Jesus. Sitting where he did in his blindness the world had passed him by. He was simply ‘a man called Jesus’. Yet within a short while the same man would be a full disciple of Christ. This was in strong contrast with the Pharisees who had had many chances to know Him but had refused to let their eyes be opened. They were still questioning.

We must wonder what brought him to respond in this way to a stranger. It was no easy thing for a blind man. It is clear that there was something in the voice of Jesus that the blind man immediately responded to. He could not see but he knew at once that he could trust this man. And no doubt he had heard rumours about Him. How different from the Pharisees. Perhaps if they had taken the time to listen to His voice they too might have responded differently. But they did not have the discernment of the blind.

We are reminded of the young untrained asses’ colt who also responded to Jesus. It too, unlike the Pharisees, submitted to hands that it could trust.

9.13 ‘They bring to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.’

The Pharisees were looked on by the people as their spiritual guides, so it was quite a natural act for them to bring the matter to their attention. They probably thought that they would get some good spiritual lessons from it, and hear their voice of approval. But they were to be disappointed.

9.14 ‘Now it was the Sabbath on the day that Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.’

The day of the healing was the Sabbath, and according to the teaching of the Rabbis all healing, apart from emergency work, was forbidden. And healing blindness was not seen as an emergency work. It could be done any day of the week. The Pharisees were thus concerned, and they were even more so when they learned that Jesus had actually moulded clay on the Sabbath.

This was certainly breaking their carefully worked out rules. They did not consider the wonder of what was happening. Their rules and regulations meant more to many of them than the wonder of God at work. It was this which showed them to be essentially blind. So instead of sharing in the general amazement at the miracle, and recognising God at work in a new way, something which might have meant them rethinking their position, they looked at the minor details with critical eyes and ignored the main lesson. They did not consider the amazing fact that a man who was blind from birth had wonderfully received his sight. They asked rather whether the making of clay to give sight to a man blind from birth could be justified, whether the making of clay for this reason on the Sabbath was allowable within the Law. And their view was rather that inessential healing should not take place on the Sabbath. Thus the man was a lawbreaker. They overlooked the essential difference between natural healing, and healing by the power of God.

9.15 ‘Again therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He put clay on my eyes and I washed and do see”.’

They asked the man the details of how he had received his sight, not in order to praise God and fairly assess Jesus, but in order to be able to convict Him as being a lawbreaker. Who was more blind than those who, in the face of a miracle of such wonderful proportions, asked how it happened, not in order to wonder at God’s goodness, but in order to check that the healer had not broken any religious rules? So the man explained clearly what had happened

9.16 ‘Some therefore of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for He does not keep the Sabbath’. But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?’ And there was division among them.’

The result of their questioning was that many of them concluded that Jesus was not ‘of God’. They said confidently, ‘This man is not from God.’ (Contrast Nicodemus’ words, ‘we know that you are a teacher come from God’). And why did they do this? Because in their view He did not properly observe the Sabbath. It reveals that none are as blind as those who will not see. Here was this great miracle of healing by what could only be the power of God and yet they could assert that He was not from God merely because He had broken their interpretation of the Sabbath laws. What should, of course, have happened was that they recognised that perhaps their laws needed a slight revision. But the real reason for their judgment was in fact that they resented Jesus Who was taking glory away from them. That overrode all their common sense.

Strangely if the blind man had come to them before he had allowed Jesus to touch him he would have known that he could not be healed, and then this would not have happened. He would still have been in darkness and they would have been satisfied. What upset them was that a miracle had been wrought outside their own strict conditions. But clearly they could not blame God, and so illogically they blamed Jesus.

But not all were the same. Surely, said some, someone who could do such things must be pleasing to God? He could not be ‘a sinner’.

‘Who is a sinner.’ By a sinner they did not mean someone who committed grave sins but someone who did not keep himself in a state of acceptability to God through obedience to Moses as regulated by the teaching of the Rabbis.

This argument was conclusive and irrefutable by application of their own teaching. But that was a question the others would not face. They were so bound and blinded by their religious tradition and by their hatred of Jesus that they ignored the wonderful work of God and concentrated their mind on His failure to keep the Sabbath in accordance with their rules.

‘There was division among them.’ The division brings out that there were a number of Pharisees who were honestly prepared at least to consider the evidence. This was on top of those who had actually believed in Him.

So as they could obtain no unanimity they called the man in again. This would now be an official examination of the case. It was an official preliminary tribunal which would examine the case and determine any penalties.

9.17 ‘They say therefore to the blind man again, “What do you say about him in view of the fact that he opened your eyes?” And he said, “He is a prophet”.’

They asked the man what he thought about this person who had opened his eyes. His reply was simple, ‘He is a prophet’, a God sent and God empowered man. He knew that his eyes had been opened as he stood before these ‘blind’ men and he revealed at least part of the truth. Ironically the man born blind was seeking to open the eyes of those who claimed to see.

9.18 ‘The Judaisers therefore did not believe about him that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of him who had received his sight.’

But they were not prepared to believe his words. Note the change from ‘the Pharisees’ to ‘the Judaisers’. Not all Pharisees were antagonistic to Jesus as we have seen, and they were prepared to wait and see. ‘The Judaisers’, which is John’s term here for those who were antagonistic, were not willing to be convinced and did not believe the man’s story. So they called in the man’s parents. This may have been the beginning of an official enquiry, or just a preliminary vetting.

It was quite an awe inspiring thing for these people to be brought before a gathering of the leading religious authorities. They knew that such men could have them excluded from the privileges of the synagogue.

9.19-23 ‘And they asked them saying, “Is this your son who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now see we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. Ask him. He is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said these things because they were afraid of the Judaisers, for the Judaisers had already agreed that if anyone should confess him to be the Christ he should be put out of the synagogue.’

His parents were afraid of the Judaisers, and evaded the question. For the Judaisers had already agreed that if any man should confess Jesus to be the Christ he would be put out of the synagogue. That is why his parents said, “He is of age. Ask him”.’

Two questions were put to them. Firstly, is this your son whom you say was born blind? They wanted confirmation that the man really was who people thought he was, and that he really had been born in that condition.

The parents felt that they had to answer that question honestly. It was a matter of fact, and they were two witnesses. Once the Judaisers received that confirmation they then expressed their doubt by asking the second question, ‘if that really was the case, how does he now see?’ They were testing out the witnesses. It would seem from what was said later that they finally did accept their testimony, even though they rejected its significance.

The poor parents meanwhile were fearful that they might be excluded from worship We know that a century later this would have involved being excluded from the privileges of the synagogue for up to thirty days, even though attendance was still required, but that may not have applied at this time. Thus while confirming that he had been born blind, they otherwise prevaricated.

‘For the Judaisers had already agreed that if anyone should confess him to be the Messiah he was to be excluded from the synagogue’. This threat was now clearly well known, at least among the inhabitants of Jerusalem who attended their synagogues. John makes it quite clear that it was this fear that prompted them to evade a reply and pass the buck to their son himself.

Exclusion from the synagogue would later become an established penalty. Possibly at this stage it was only a temporary expedient.

9.24 ‘So they called the man who was blind a second time and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.”

They clearly felt that it was their duty to set the man right. So they called the blind man who now saw and said to him, ‘Give glory to God, we know that this man is a sinner’, that is to say, not in a state, through obedience to the rules and regulations of the Rabbis, of acceptability to God. They were basically saying, ‘recognise that all the credit should go to God and none to the so-called miracle worker in view of his evident unworthiness in God’s eyes’. They could no longer deny the miracle. Thus instead they sought to cover up the obvious conclusion.

Now in the right circumstances ‘give the glory to God’ is a good and right statement. But we cannot avoid the fact that to ignore the One through whom the miracle was performed was a sign of dogmatic unwillingness to face facts. Such a healing was not just an act that anyone could perform. It required someone who was God approved. Thus the statement that his Benefactor was a sinner provoked the man to reply. This statement was so evidently self-contradictory that even the poor beggar could not believe what he had heard, even though understandably he did not want to antagonise them.

Alternately ‘give glory to God ’ can rather mean ‘consider things in the eyes of God’ (compare Joshua 7.19), i.e. give glory to God by recognising and admitting the truth. And that is probably what the Judaisers meant here.

‘So they called the man.’ This suggests an official examination. Thus this may well have been a committee appointed by the Sanhedrin who were on the whole antagonistic to Jesus. At what stage this whole case ceased to be just a matter of interest and became an official enquiry we cannot be certain, but it was almost certainly that by this time.

On this view he was now undergoing official examination with a view to breaking his testimony. With this in mind they pointed out the impossibility of ‘a sinner’ doing such a thing and asked him to be open and honest about what had happened in the sight of God.

9.25 ‘He therefore answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that whereas I was blind, now I see”.’

Without actually criticising them he brought home the important point that they must recognise that what he had said happened, did actually happen. He insisted that he was in no position to judge religious conformity, but that he did know that what had happened had happened, and that it was extraordinary. However, they could not accept that any credit should go to Jesus, and so they tried again.

9.26 ‘They said therefore to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” ’

They decided to hear the story again so that they could pick holes in it, and even find cause against Jesus. They were getting exasperated. Surely the once blind man must see that Jesus was a Sabbath-breaker. But the man had been healed and to him that only meant one thing, and that was that God had been at work. So he had had enough and was disgusted at their hypocrisy.

9.27 ‘He answered them, “I told you even now and you did not accept it. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” ’

He could see quite clearly that they were not trying to find out the truth but were seeking to minimise Jesus. So his question was sarcastic, for he knew very well that the last thing that they wanted to do was to become disciples of Jesus. But his ‘also’ suggests that he now saw himself as one of those disciples. It may even be that it was their questioning that had brought this fact home to him. In his excitement at being healed he may have thought of little else. But now their questioning was making him take his own stance about Jesus.

9.28-29 ‘And they reviled him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he has come from”.’

His reply angered the Judaisers. They had totally lost their patience and reviled him. ‘You are his disciple,’ they added, ‘but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he is from’. To the Jews Moses was a supreme figure. Thus they appealed to his authority against the obvious truth.

They now wanted to bring out their own superiority, and so they compared Jesus with Moses, to His detriment. But how did they know God had spoken to Moses? The answer is because of the wonderful things that he did. Why then could they not see that this was also true of Jesus? The answer is, because they were blind. They had failed to recognise that a greater than Moses was here.

‘We do not know where he is from.’ In their eyes He was an obscure Galilean with no background and, as far as they knew, He had not learned the Law from any recognised Teacher. He was a total unknown. Thus His word was unacceptable. He had no credentials. They totally ignored His miracles and His outstanding teaching. Interestingly the people had rejected Jesus for the very opposite reason, because they did know where He was from (7.27). The Judaisers wanted conformity to their requirements. The crowds wanted mystery, and spectacle. Jesus fitted in with neither.

This prevarication infuriated the man. Here he was, having been cured of permanent, lifelong blindness, and they did not know where His benefactor had come from? Surely anyone could see that He must be from God. He could no longer stay silent whatever the consequences. He had reached the end of his patience.

9.30-33 ‘The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvel. You do not know where he comes from, and yet he has opened my eyes? We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshipper of God and does his will, he listens to him. Not since the world began has it been heard that anyone has opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God he could do nothing”.’

The man now drew out the logic of the situation. Jesus had performed a remarkable miracle. Surely this demonstrated the He was not ‘a sinner’, but that He was pleasing to God? , His reply caught them out and put them on the spot. It was they who had taught the man these sentiments, and now he was using them against them. They claimed that they did not know where Jesus had come from? Surely what had happened must demonstrate conclusively that He was a man sent from God and was pleasing to God. Indeed that He was like none other. Even Moses had not opened the eyes of the blind.

Their argument had been, ‘This man is a sinner.’ The blind man’s reply was simple. ‘We know that God does not listen to sinners.’ The irony of the situation was that the Pharisees themselves emphasised that. In their view no sinner could expect God’s approval and God would not work through such men. Thus on the basis of their own teaching they should have accepted Jesus. But they were prepared to do anything rather than that.

‘But if any man is a worshipper of God and does His will He listens to him.’ This was the converse of the other. Those who were true worshippers of God and were obedient to Him could know that God would listen to them.

Thus on these premises the One Who had done a greater miracle than any ever known before had surely to be from God. Not even Moses had opened the eyes of the blind. Indeed it was to be the prerogative and sign of the Messiah and the anointed prophet yet to come in the new age (Isaiah 29.18; 35.5; 42.7; 61.1 as quoted by Jesus in Luke 4.18). So how then could they fail to recognise in Jesus a man sent from God?

Had they been willing to consider his words calmly they must have recognised their error, for his logic was inescapable. But they so hated Jesus that they deliberately closed their eyes. Their reply and reaction was typical of bigots who had no argument and therefore resorted to bluster.

9.34 ‘They answered and said to him, “You were totally born in sins, and will you try to teach us?” And they threw him out.’

They had no answer to his logic, and so, as such men will when they will not admit that they are wrong, they attacked the man and took action against him. They threw him out. This may simply mean that they forcibly ejected him, or, more likely, that they officially excluded him from synagogue worship.

‘Born in sins’. This reflects their general view, a view which Jesus had combated earlier, that his blindness was due to someone’s sin, probably his own. An interesting example of later Rabbinic thinking on this is found in Midrash Rabbah on Song of Songs 1.41 which states that when a pregnant woman worships in a heathen temple the seed within her also commits idolatry. Their prejudice convinced them that this man too was unworthy for some similar reason. He has borne the mark of sinfulness upon him, how dare he criticise them?

9.35 ‘Jesus heard that they had excluded him, and finding him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

Jesus, having heard that the man had been excluded from the synagogue, now sought him out. They had thought that they were excluding him from the worship of God, not realising that they were rather throwing Him into the hands of God. Jesus then asked him if he ‘believed in the Son of Man’. Ideas about the heavenly Son of Man were current at the time (see John 3.13; 5.27; 6.62 which mirror popular belief), a figure who came from God and would one day receive from God glory, dominion and power and participate in the judgment. So Jesus expected him to understand.

Many good authorities have here ‘the Son of God’. If so Jesus may have been probing to find out his views about heavenly figures in mind in Jewish tradition. But ‘Son of Man’ probably has the weight on its side.

Either way the terminology refers to One Who was to come from God and would be empowered to act on His behalf.

9.36 ‘He answered and said, ‘Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’

The man was willing to learn anything that Jesus wanted to teach him. He recognised that Jesus was a God sent teacher and was willing to accept whatever He told him. Who, then, he asked was this Son of Man? At Jesus’ recommendation he was willing to believe in anyone.

9.37 ‘Jesus said to him, “You have both seen him and He is the one who speaks with you”.’

Jesus wanted him to know that He was not talking of some far off figure in Heaven, but someone seeable. Indeed the man himself had seen him and talked with him, for it was He Himself.

9.38 ‘And he said, “Lord, I believe”’, and he worshipped him.’

The man’s eyes had now been opened again, this time spiritually, and he confessed Jesus as ‘Lord’. How far he yet saw the full truth we do not know, but we are undoubtedly to see this as the beginning of a genuine discipleship. (He previously called Jesus ‘sir’ using the same word ‘kurios’, but the change in his viewpoint demands the change in translation).

‘He worshipped him.’ We are probably to see here that he fell on his face before Him. He realised now that he was in contact with Someone far beyond what he had previously imagined. When men who are spiritually blind have their eyes opened they too will worship Jesus. We note here that while in Revelation the angel told John not to worship him (22.9), Jesus made no such restriction about homage to Himself. He accepted the worship as His right. The use elsewhere in John’s Gospel of the word used here is restricted to the worship of God (see especially 4.20-24).

9.39 ‘And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that they who see not may see, and that they who see might become blind”.’

The scene now changes. We now have a general statement made by Jesus in the presence of others, including some Pharisees who were standing by, which the author tacks on here as summing up the incident. ‘I came into this world for judgment, that those who do not see might see, and that those who see might become blind’.

Jesus now declared that His coming into the world could only result in judgment, discerning between the true and the false. As a result of it those who seemed to be blind would have their eyes opened and they would see the truth, whilst those who claimed to be able to see would be revealed to be blind. We can compare 3.19-21. ‘Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil’ When the light of Christ shines men are faced with a choice. Some, whose eyes are opened, will gladly respond to the light, but there are also some who will avoid the light and choose to remain in darkness, and so, although they physically have sight, they do not see spiritually or have their eyes opened. And that was why He had come. He had not come to judge, but His presence necessarily judged.

Alas, when that light shines there are many who would claim to have spiritual sight, who turn away, because they do not want the searchlight of God revealing the truth about them, ‘because their deeds are evil’ (evil if only in motive or self-satisfaction). So by His coming Jesus was causing judgment to be passed on men, and the result was to be seen in their response to His light.

9.40 ‘Those of the Pharisees who were with him heard these things and said to him, “Are we also blind?”.

Some Pharisees who were there with Him rather uneasily recognised some of the implications of His statement. So they said to Him, ‘Are we also blind?’ Of all men they thought that they could see. They were quite satisfied that they were different from ordinary men.

The words in the context suggests these were not disciples but rather listeners who were willing to give Him a fair chance, but no more. Thus they were probably other than the believing ex-Judaisers (8.31).

9.41 ‘Jesus said to them, “If you were blind you would have no sin, but now you say ‘We see’. So your sin remains”.’

Jesus’ reply was uncompromising. Those who have the most privilege are those who are most accountable. If they were physically blind they would bear no blame. It would not be their fault. They would not thereby be guilty (v.3), for they would not be able to do anything about it. But when men claimed to be able to ‘see’ spiritually they were the more to blame if they then failed to come to the light. Thus by their failure they remained in sin, and it was all the deeper because they claimed to be enlightened men. The sin that prevented them from coming was thus a deeper sin, and that therefore made them doubly guilty.

For a man who sees can have no excuse for avoiding the light. Thus sin weighs heavily upon him when he does. These Pharisees who were accompanying Jesus may be confident that they knew the Scriptures, but if that knowledge did not illuminate their hearts and make them respond to Christ it could only make them the more guilty. They must beware that they do not avoid the full light of Christ. For if they do not come to full faith in Him no efforts of theirs will rid them of sin. (Compare Isaiah 6.10; 42.18-19).

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