The Blind Man Gets a Hearing (John 9:13-41)
This past week my daughter Beth sent me an e-mail, which is alleged to be a letter from the chief curator of the Smithsonian Institute to a frequent “contributor” of artifacts. (I will not make any claims as to its authenticity, but it is good for a laugh. I will call this fellow “John Smith,” although in the actual letter I received he is identified by a different name.) “John” is a unique individual who is constantly digging up “relics” from his back yard, giving these interesting names and descriptions, and then sending them to the Smithsonian Institute for analysis and/or display. This is by no means the first communication between the Smithsonian and “John Smith,” which becomes apparent as you read this most gracious response to John’s last “find”:134
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078
Dear “John Smith”:
Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, Labeled “93211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post … Homonid skull.” We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it represents conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Charleston County two million years ago. Rather, it appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety that one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be “Malibu Barbie.” It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of us who are familiar with your prior work were loathe to come to contradiction with your findings.
However, we do feel that there are a number of physical attributes of the specimen which might have tipped you off to its modern origin:
1. The material is molded plastic. Ancient Hominid remains are typically fossilized bone.
2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified proto-hominids.
3. The dentition pattern evident on the skull is more consistent with the common domesticated dog than it is with the ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time.
This latter finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses you have submitted in your history with this institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather heavily against it. Without going into too much detail, let us say that:
A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has chewed on.
B. Clams don’t have teeth.
It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your request to have the specimen carbon-dated.
This is partially due to the heavy load our lab must bear in its normal operation, and partly due to carbon-dating’s notorious inaccuracy in items of recent geologic record. To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced prior to 1956 AD, and carbon-dating is likely to produce wildly inaccurate results.
Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the national Science Foundation Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning your specimen the scientific name Australopithecus spiff-arino.
Speaking personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance of your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately voted down because the species name you selected was hyphenated, and didn’t really sound like it might be Latin.
However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating specimen to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a Hominid fossil, it is, nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body of work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly. You should know that our Director has reserved a special shelf in his own office for the display of the specimens you have previously submitted to the Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily on what you will happen upon next in your digs at the site you have discovered in your Newport back yard.
We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation’s capital that you proposed in your last letter, and several of us are pressing the Director to pay for it. We are particularly interested in hearing you expand on your theories surrounding the trans-positating fillifitation of ferrous metal in a structural matrix that makes the excellent juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex femur you recently discovered take on the deceptive appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive wrench.
Yours in Science,
“Fred Jones”(another alias)
Believe it or not, the above letter reminds me of our text in chapter 9 of John’s Gospel. In both cases, diligent efforts are being made that are really quite laughable. “John Smith” is desperately trying to prove that something is a genuine artifact, millions of years old, when it is really junk he has dug up from his back yard (e. g., a “Malibu Barbie” doll which he believes to be a two million year old fossil of a pre-human creature). The Pharisees in our text are desperately trying to prove that something which is genuine (i. e., Jesus is the true Son of God, Israel’s Messiah) is not really authentic at all (i.e., they believe that He is a deceiver). Both are fighting a losing battle. The Chief Curator of Antiquities has written a letter which dignifies the efforts of “John Smith” and seeks to let him down easy. John does not make such efforts. John tells this story in a way that causes us to shake our heads in wonder at the “blindness” and the blunders of the Jewish religious leaders.
I believe John chapter 9 is one of those places where we are expected to laugh at the blindness of the Pharisees, and at the “spunk” and wittiness of the man once blind. Here is a man for whom the Pharisees have no compassion and no regard; yet he shows them how they are inconsistent with their own theology. He amuses us as he pokes fun at the folly of the Pharisees. He alone (so far as the account informs us) comes to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. I believe we are intended to laugh at the Pharisees, because their folly should not be dignified by taking them too seriously.135 I believe as well that the most terrible experience for a prideful Pharisee would be to become the laughingstock of Jerusalem.
The Pharisees in the Book of John
Some would inform us that the Pharisees are not as bad as we may suppose, even pointing out some of their positive qualities.136 Be this as it may, the Pharisees do not come out looking very good in the Gospel of John, or in any other of the Gospels. A brief review of their appearances in John may help us understand the pressure which they apply to the man to whom our Lord gives sight, and to his parents.
The Pharisees first appear in chapter 1, where John the Baptist is questioned about his identity:
19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed—he did not deny but confessed—“I am not the Christ.” 21 So they asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Tell us so that we can give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 John said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” 24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) (John 1:19-24)
I wish you to take note that in verse 19 we are told that the “Jewish leaders”137 sent “priests and Levites from Jerusalem” to question John the Baptist. In verse 24, however, we are given more specific information about those who send this delegation—these “Jewish leaders” are the Pharisees. We can see that the Pharisees are functioning in a fairly strong leadership role at this time. They take it upon themselves to “check out John the Baptist” to determine what he is all about. They see themselves as having the authority to officially approve or reject John and his ministry.
The next Pharisee to appear is Nicodemus. We know Nicodemus is one of the high level leaders of the Jews in Jerusalem. He is a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin (the ruling body of the Jews), and one of the most prominent teachers of his day. In spite of his great standing in Judaism, Nicodemus found it advisable to speak with Jesus by night. From this and later appearances of Nicodemus, it is evident that this great man fears the Pharisees, even though he is one of them. Nicodemus seems willing to grant that Jesus has come from God, unlike a number of his fellow-Pharisees.
In chapter 4, we find the Pharisees again: “Now when Jesus knew that the Pharisees had heard that he was winning and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples were), he left Judea and set out once more for Galilee” (John 4:1-3).
Jesus and John had overlapping ministries in Judea for a short period of time. We can safely infer from the verses above that the Pharisees are keeping a close watch on both John the Baptist and Jesus. Both are viewed as “competition” by the Pharisees. Jesus knows that word has reached the Pharisees that His disciples are now baptizing more disciples than John the Baptist and his disciples. Because of this, Jesus immediately departs from Judea and goes to Galilee. Our Lord’s success would be alarming to the Pharisees, and staying on in Judea would prematurely prompt the Pharisees to take precautionary measures. Rather than precipitate a confrontation at this point in time, Jesus leaves Judea and returns to Galilee. Since the Jerusalem Pharisees have little regard for Galilee (or Galileans!), they probably conclude that Jesus can do them little harm there. Once again, it is the Pharisees who seem to be “in charge” here, or at least they are the ones who would initiate any action taken against Jesus.
In chapter 5, opposition to our Lord intensifies when Jesus heals the paralytic on the Sabbath, instructing him to “take up his mattress and walk.” We are not told that those who oppose Jesus are Pharisees—only that they are “the Jewish authorities.” Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the Pharisees are absent when this confrontation occurs:138
14 After this Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “Look, you have become well. Don’t sin any more, lest anything worse happen to you.” 15 The man went away and informed the Jewish authorities that Jesus was the one who had made him well. 16 Now because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish authorities began persecuting him. 17 So Jesus told them, “My Father is working until now, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason the Jewish authorities were trying even harder to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was also calling God his own Father, thus making himself equal with God (John 5:14-18).
In chapter 7, John speaks of “the Jews” (or “the Jewish authorities”) again and does not specify that they are the Pharisees. I am strongly inclined to think that many of these “Jews” are Pharisees. John’s account in chapter 7 gives us an idea of just how powerful the “Jewish authorities” are and just how much pressure they can bring to bear on others:
11 So the Jewish authorities were looking for him at the feast, asking, “Where is he?” 12 There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some were saying, “He is a good man,” but others, “He deceives the common people.” 13 However, no one spoke openly about him for fear of the Jewish authorities (John 7:11-13).
The Pharisees are so powerful that even members of their own ranks are reluctant to take on the more vocal and aggressive faction. It appears that even Nicodemus is silenced by their scorn:
32 The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things about Jesus, so the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to arrest him … 45 Then the officers returned to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why didn’t you bring him back with you?” 46 The officers replied, “No one ever spoke like this man!” 47 Then the Pharisees answered, “You haven’t been deceived too, have you? 48 None of the rulers or the Pharisees have believed in him, have they? 49 But this rabble who do not know the law are accursed!” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before and who was one of the rulers, said, 51 “Our law doesn’t condemn a man unless it first hears from him and learns what he is doing, does it?” 52 They replied, “You aren’t from Galilee too, are you? Investigate carefully and you will see that no prophet comes from Galilee!” (John 7:32, 45-52)
We are hardly surprised when we are told that it is the Pharisees, along with the “scribes,” who confront Jesus with the “woman caught in adultery” (John 8:3). It is also the Pharisees who object to our Lord’s claim to be the “Light of the world”:
12 Then Jesus spoke out again, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees objected, “You testify about yourself; your testimony is not true!” (John 8:12-13)
In chapter 11, the Pharisees and the chief priests jointly summon the Sanhedrin to a meeting. I take it that this is an indication of the power the Pharisees possess and employ:
47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called the council together and said, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many miraculous signs. 48 If we allow him to go on in this way, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away our sanctuary and our nation” (John 11:47-48).
We also see from these verses that much of the motivation of the Pharisees to be rid of Jesus is due to their fear of losing some of the power and control they exercise over others.
It is in chapter 12 that we see just how much power and influence the Pharisees wield at this moment in Israel’s history: “Nevertheless, even among the rulers many believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they would not confess Jesus to be the Christ, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue. For they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:42-43).
Think of it. By His signs and teaching, Jesus has convinced a number of the “rulers” of Israel to believe in Him (verse 42). These “rulers” are men of authority, men of position and standing. And yet even these “rulers” are reluctant to speak of their faith in Jesus publicly, fearing the Pharisees. How great their power and influence must be to intimidate even the rulers of Israel!
There is yet one more element to consider in relation to the power of the Pharisees. The Pharisees have the power to excommunicate a person, to expel them from the synagogue. The Pharisees threaten to use this power in verse 22, and they exercise it in verse 34. This power to excommunicate is, in the minds of the Pharisees, the power to grant or to withdraw the blessings of the Messianic kingdom. Put more bluntly, the Pharisees believe they have the power to grant salvation or to impose eternal condemnation on others. There is no “power” greater than this kind of power, although the Pharisees are wrong in assuming that they actually possess it.
Is it any wonder then that when we read of the parents of the man who was once blind being brought before the Pharisees, we see these two parents greatly intimidated by them? The wonder is found in the response of the man who was healed. Try as the Pharisees will, they cannot intimidate, silence, or put words in this fellow’s mouth. We will see more of this in our study. But for now, let us take note of the power which these Pharisees possess and the way they dominate others by using it. Now, on to the masterfully written story of the blind man’s “hearing” before the Sanhedrin.
The Healing of the Man Born Blind
This was the subject of our last lesson, but please allow me to briefly review the events surrounding this miracle and add one area of application. On His way, Jesus passes by a man who was born blind, and He takes notice of him. When the disciples see that Jesus has turned His attention to this man, they deal with his suffering the only way they know how—theoretically. They seek to engage Jesus in a conversation about the cause of this man’s malady. They have no doubt that “sin” is the explanation for his suffering; they only wonder whose sin it was—this man’s, or his parents’. Jesus rejects their assumption (that the man’s suffering is the result of sin in the family) and refocuses their attention on the purpose for his suffering.
There is surely a lesson for us here. When suffering comes our way, we want to dwell on the “Why?” Much (I am tempted to say “most”) of the time in a counselor’s office today seems to be spent on the past, particularly on the question, “Why?” There are times when we need to deal with the past,139 but too much of the time this is as far as we get. Jesus’ words challenge the disciples and us to focus on the “So what?” of our suffering. The Christian should know (Romans 8:28) that, for the believer, all things are sovereignly purposed to work out for our good and for God’s glory. Much of our attention and effort should therefore be focused on knowing and doing that which will result in our good and God’s glory. Let us beware of wasting too much time with the “whys” of the past, and let us get on with the “so whats” of the present, knowing that the suffering of the saint is for a divinely ordained purpose, resulting in our good and His glory.
Now, back to our story. Using His own spit and dust, Jesus makes a small quantity of mud or paste with which he anoints the man’s eyes. He then instructs the man to go and wash in the pool named “sent.” Jesus then goes his way, as does the man, and by the time the man reaches the pool and washes, gaining his sight, Jesus is nowhere to be seen. Now seeing, the blind man eventually makes his way home. His appearance and his testimony create quite a stir.
The people who know this man (or at least know of him) are troubled by his healing. The miracle is perceived more like a crime than a wonderful cure. People seem skeptical, perhaps even troubled, almost like the response of Herod and the people of Jerusalem to the news of a “king” born in Israel, brought by the magi (Matthew 2:1-8, esp. v. 3). Their response lacks the belief, joy, and anticipation we have a right to expect (compare Matthew 15:29-31). They want to know “if” this is the same man they once knew to be blind, and “how” he was healed. Curiously, they don’t ask the man “who” healed him. I am convinced they know, or are quite certain who it is. Even if they do not conclude that it is Jesus, the former beggar tells them that “The man called Jesus” healed him. They want to know where “he” is (verse 12). I don’t think it is so they can bring other blind people to Him or so they can hear Him teach. I think they want to know where He can be found so they can report this to the Pharisees (compare 5:15) and have Him arrested. I think the man is relieved that he is able to tell them he does not know where Jesus can be found.
Called on the Carpet
13 They brought the man who used to be blind to the Pharisees. 14 (Now the day on which Jesus made the mud and caused him to see was a Sabbath.) 15 So the Pharisees asked140 him again how he had gained his sight. He replied, “He put mud on my eyes and I washed, and now I am able to see.” 16 Then some of the Pharisees began to say, “This man is not from God, because he does not observe the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” Thus there was a division among them. 17 So again they asked the man who used to be blind, “What do you say about him, since he caused you to see?” “He is a prophet,” the man replied.
The former beggar is brought before what seems to be an official gathering of the Pharisees. I believe it is a meeting of the Sanhedrin, or at least a portion of it.141 The tone of this whole incident makes it look as though this man has been summoned to testify before a grand jury. It is interesting that the word rendered “brought” in verse 13 can often be used with a stronger sense. “Bringing” is not always voluntary. One can see this in the Synoptic Gospels (e.g. Matthew 10:18; Mark 13:11; Luke 4:29; 19:27), as well as in John (7:45; 8:3; 9:13; 18:13, 28; 19:4, 13). In my opinion, “bringing” here in our text comes close to taking one into custody. The acquaintances of the man once blind do not merely “send” the former beggar to the Pharisees; they “brought” him to them. Whether these people who “brought” the man once blind do so out of a personal concern and unbelief, or whether it is simply out of fear of the Pharisees, we are not told.
It must seem providential to the Pharisees that Jesus heals this blind man on the Sabbath. This appears to be the key to how they plan to handle the situation. Consequently, they question the once-blind man in great detail about “how” he was healed. The man responds with caution and reserve. So far as the text informs us, he does not tell them all that he could have disclosed. I conclude this on the basis of a comparison of his words to the Pharisees in verse 15 with his previous testimony to family and friends in verse 11:
He replied, “The man called Jesus made mud, smeared it on my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and was able to see” (verse 11).
He replied, “He put mud on my eyes and I washed, and now I am able to see” (verse 15).
Here in verse 15 he does not name Jesus, nor does he indicate that Jesus instructs him to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. He probably knows that they are trying to accuse Jesus of “working” on the Sabbath, and so he avoids any mention of that which might be called “work.” I get the impression that the once-blind man is giving the Pharisees his “name, rank, and serial number,” and no more. From years of experience, I fear, he knows these folks are not his friends, and he may also know that they are not the friends of Jesus, either.
For some of the Pharisees, who have already passed judgment on Jesus, this is all they need to hear. “This man is not from God,” they conclude. He cannot be “from God” and break the Sabbath. Let me point out a very important omission that becomes more and more glaring as one reads and rereads this chapter. After the healed man names Jesus in verse 11, and John names Him parenthetically in verse 14, Jesus is never again mentioned by name in this chapter until verse 35.142 Throughout the entire interrogation process (as recorded by John, at least), the Pharisees never refer to Jesus by name, even though they know to whom they are referring.
Why is this? Why do they avoid the name Jesus? This morning, Ann Blevins played, “There’s Something About That Name” for the offertory. That’s why! There is something about “that name”:
20 When he had contemplated about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).
At this verse (Matthew 1:21), the study notes in the NET Bible read, “The Greek form of the name Iesous (which was translated into Latin as Jesus) is the same as the Hebrew Yeshua (Joshua), which means “Yahweh saves.” It was a fairly common name among Jews in first century Palestine, as references to a number of people by this name in the LXX and Josephus indicate.”
They just can’t bring themselves to say it. Can you imagine how they would choke if they had said, “‘Yahweh saves’ is not from God …”? And so throughout this entire interrogation process, we see Jesus always referred to indirectly, rather than by name.
Why are these Pharisees so intense in their claim that Jesus (“this man”) cannot be from God? They protest too loudly. In stressing their verdict that Jesus is not from God, these Pharisees are tipping their hand to the fact that they are painfully aware of what Jesus does claim about Himself. Up to this point in the Gospel of John, we find a repeated emphasis on the fact that Jesus has come from God (John 1:6; 3:2, 13; 6:32-33, 38, 41-42, 46, 50-51, 58; 7:17; 8:14, 23, 40, 42; see also 1:32; 3:31; 7:27-29, 40-42; 8:26). By stressing that Jesus is not “from God,” the Pharisees reveal the damage that would be done to their system of belief if this claim were true, as in fact it is.
Notice that no actual charge of Sabbath-breaking has been proven, as yet, and none will be proven. At the end of this legal process (and the end of this chapter), no formal charges are made against Jesus. The man once-blind is excommunicated, but there are no charges against Jesus. It is my personal opinion that Jesus healed this man in such a way (spit, dust, anointing eyes, instructing him to wash) that even a technical Pharisaical interpretation of the law did not offer sufficient basis for charging Jesus with law-breaking.143 (How frustrating this must be for the Pharisees, who consider technicalities their specialty!)
The reasoning of these Pharisees is far from compelling. It is too much, even for some of their fellow-Pharisees. These other Pharisees counter, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such miraculous signs144?” The Pharisees cannot even agree among themselves. Until this deadlock is resolved, they cannot take decisive action against Jesus. And so, perhaps out of frustration and even desperation, they turn to the man who has been healed: “What do you say about him, since he caused you to see?” (verse 17). I believe the former beggar does not hesitate for a moment. His answer is confident and without reservation, “He is a prophet.” This is not what they want to hear. They will have to take a different tack.
Putting Pharisaical Pressure on the Parents
18 Now the Jewish authorities refused to believe that he had really been blind and had gained his sight until at last they summoned the parents of the man who had become able to see. 19 They asked the parents, “Is this your son, whom you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?” 20 So his parents replied, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But we do not know how he is now able to see, nor do we know who caused him to see. Ask him, he is a mature adult. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. For the Jewish authorities had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. 23 For this reason his parents said, “He is a mature adult, ask him.”)
In the Pharisee’s first examination of the blind man, it does not appear they are convinced that there actually is a miracle (verse 18). In their first interrogation of the healed man, they concentrate on “how” this man was “healed,” even though they are not convinced that he is healed. Why is this? In my opinion, they don’t care about the “truth”; they are only looking for evidence to enable them to formally accuse Jesus of law-breaking. Had they obtained the testimony for which they hoped, the Pharisees may have actually charged Jesus with the “crime” of healing on the Sabbath, even if there was no healing at all. Making false accusations is not new to them, and it will be good practice for the way they conduct the trial of our Lord before His crucifixion.
Frustrated by their first interrogation of the healed blind man, the Pharisees call in his parents and put on the pressure, hoping they will deny that any miracle took place. The man’s parents are certainly aware of the Pharisees’ authority and seem to be very intimidated. John makes a point of telling us that prior to this the Pharisees made it known that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be “put out of the synagogue” (verse 22). This, as we shall soon see, gives the Pharisees incredible power in the eyes of those who believe they are the gatekeepers of the kingdom of God. Frightened as they are, the parents cannot deny that this man who now sees is their son, and that he had been born blind. What they will not do is provoke the Pharisees by giving Jesus credit for having healed him. They are not about to say who healed their son, or how it was done, even though I am convinced they know. In what they tell the Pharisees, they appear to tell all they know, but one can hardly escape the feeling that they lie. Why would they not have heard the report of their son recorded in verse 11? This tells both who performed the miracle and how it was done.
The testimony of the man once blind is spirited and amusing, which is not so with the testimony of his parents. It is tragic. Not only do they refuse to give glory to God and to bear witness to the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ, they lie about how much they know. If that isn’t bad enough, these parents virtually abandon their son. Let me first illustrate the kind of parental response I had hoped for by reminding you of the response of Joash to the angry charges and demands of the men of the city against his son Gideon:
28 And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, there was the altar of Baal, torn down; and the wooden image that was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was being offered on the altar which had been built. 29 So they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And when they had inquired and asked, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30 Then the men of the city said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, because he has torn down the altar of Baal, and because he has cut down the wooden image that was beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Would you plead for Baal? Would you save him? Let the one who would plead for him be put to death by morning! If he is a god, let him plead for himself, because his altar has been torn down!” 32 Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, “Let Baal plead against him, because he has torn down his altar” (Judges 6:28-32, NKJV).
How would you feel if you were Gideon, and you heard your father respond as he did to the demands of the men of his city? I would feel proud. I would feel that my dad stood up for me and stood by me. How would you feel if you were this once-blind man, and heard your parents speak as his parents do? I would be greatly disappointed by their lack of courage and by their dishonesty. But most of all, I would feel abandoned by them. They say, in effect, “This is our son, and he was born blind, but he is on his own. We don’t want anything to do with him in this matter of his receiving his sight.” I would feel abandoned, without a doubt. It is a sad moment, and one that must add to this man’s suffering. But it, like his blindness, is for a purpose, as we shall soon see.
The Witness Is Recalled, Rebuked, and Removed
24 Then they summoned the man who used to be blind a second time and said to him, “Promise before God to tell the truth.145 We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He replied, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. I do know one thing—that although I was blind, now I can see.” 26 Then they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he cause you to see?” 27 He answered, “I told you already and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? You people don’t want to become his disciples too, do you?”146 28 They heaped insults on him, saying, “You are his disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses! We do not know where this man comes from!” 30 The man replied, “This is a remarkable thing, that you don’t know where he comes from, and yet he caused me to see! 31 We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but if anyone is devout and does his will God listens to him. 32 Never before has anyone heard of someone causing a man born blind to see. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They replied, “You were born completely in sinfulness, and yet you presume to teach us?” So they threw him out.
Having grilled this man’s parents and come away without any hard evidence against Jesus, the Pharisees recall the former blind man to the witness stand, seeking to wear him down and break his story. I have no doubt that the man knows what these Pharisees want to hear. I could say that they “all but told him what to say,” but that would not put the matter strongly enough. They do tell him what to say! First, they put him under oath. It seems to be the equivalent of the way we put people under oath in our courtrooms today (or at least used to): “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
Immediately after this, the Pharisees tell the man the “truth” they wish him to give as his testimony: “We know that this man is a sinner” (verse 24). This is not the point of view of some of the Pharisees (see 9:16). I wonder if these dissenting folks of verse 16 have decided not to be a part of this proceeding any longer. The conclusion the other Pharisees communicate to the healed man does not include a minority report. In their minds, the verdict is already apparent: Jesus is a sinner! For this man to offer contradictory testimony will only result in trouble for him, and this they are sure to let him know.
The “witness” is not intimidated. I love his response. It seems as though he counters, based upon what they have just said. Note how often the expressions “know” and “don’t know” occur in our text. I have summarized these as follows:
We Don’t Know
This is our son
Who healed him or how
This man is a sinner
Who this man is
I was blind, now I see
Of this happening before
This man is a sinner
You don’t know where He is from
The Pharisees dogmatically state, “We know that this man is a sinner.” The healed man responds, “If he is a sinner, I don’t know it.”147 The man who was born blind does not know that Jesus is a sinner, and in this he disagrees with the judgment of the Pharisees. But he does know one thing, and he will not be talked (or bullied) out of it: “I was once blind, and now I see.” He will not distort or deny these basic facts.
The Pharisees are not doing well. They are losing ground, and to a mere beggar, a man (in their minds) “born completely in sinfulness” (verse 34). And so they change their tactics, returning to their old, proven accusation of Sabbath-breaking. They insist that he go over the healing in minute detail, once again: “What did he do to you? How did he cause you to see?” (verse 26). The healed man is getting very weary of this questioning. He is simply going over the same facts time after time. His response does not resemble that of his parents in any way. He is not intimidated by these Pharisees; he is irritated by them. He accuses them of not listening to what he is saying. And then he sets out to make them sweat. He asks them—almost certainly in a sarcastic tone—why they wish to hear his testimony again. It isn’t because they wish to become His disciples too, is it?
There is a barb in these words. These Pharisees just keep asking him the same questions about Jesus. How can one explain such persistence? And so the man counters with, “Surely you don’t wish to become His disciples, too, do you?” This “disciple” matter is a very sensitive issue for the Pharisees. They are big on discipleship—when it comes to making their own disciples: “Woe to you experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You cross land and sea to make one convert, and when you get one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves!” (Matthew 23:15).
This is why the Pharisees are so interested in learning how many disciples Jesus is making (see John 4:1-3). The blind man backhandedly reminds the Pharisees that Jesus is making many disciples, many more than they are. Do these Pharisees wish to give up making their own disciples and become disciples of Jesus themselves? Such a question or suggestion cuts the Pharisees to the quick! It is like asking a political candidate if he is going to vote for his opponent, too.
The healed man strikes a nerve, and he gets a quick and heated response. They accuse this man of being “his” disciple. Given their view of Jesus, you can imagine how they view the status of one who is His disciple. They intend their words as an insult. The Pharisees, on the other hand, claim they are the disciples of Moses. They know for certain that God has spoken through Moses. But they don’t know where “this man” comes from (verse 29). Once again, the Pharisees unwittingly tip their hand. Their declaration that they know God has spoken through Moses also disputes our Lord’s claim to speak for God. Remarkably, the basis for their rejection of Jesus as a spokesman for God is that they “don’t know where this man comes from” (verse 29). This is not because Jesus has not made this clear, but rather because they refuse to accept His claim to have “come down” from the Father in heaven (see above). How interesting it is to see that at times the Pharisees reject Jesus because they claim to know where He has come from (7:27)—and at other times because they don’t know where He is from (9:30). The proof of His identity is found in signs such as the healing of the man born blind:
16 Now Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as he customarily did. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him, 21 and he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:16-21, citing Isaiah 61:1-2).
The miracle man is now nearly up to full speed. Are these Pharisees saying they don’t know where Jesus has come from? That is about like the CIA saying they don’t know who the President of Russia is or that they can’t find Cuba on a map. It is like the IRS saying they can’t find the President’s income tax return. The Pharisees are the folks who claim to “know everything,” and now they are saying they don’t know where Jesus has come from. How can those whose job it is to know, who boast of knowing everything, not know this? It isn’t as though Jesus is some unknown stranger to them. This One, whose origins they don’t know, is the very One who gave the blind man his sight, something no Pharisee has ever done, and no Israelite has ever witnessed. How incredible that these Pharisees don’t know about our Lord’s origins!
The former beggar is just getting warmed up. He stays with this “knowing” theme, a theme the Pharisees themselves introduced. The healed man now calls attention to the very things which all Jews “know,” thanks to the teaching of the Pharisees: “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but if anyone is devout and does his will God listens to him. Never before has anyone heard of someone causing a man born blind to see. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
What I would like you to note is that this newly unemployed beggar is simply repeating the teaching of the Pharisees. Here is something that every Jew should know. It is a truth to which some Pharisees have already pointed in verse 16. It is a truth often taught in the Bible:
If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear (Psalm 66:18, NKJV).
When he is judged, let him be found guilty, And let his prayer become sin (Psalm 109:7, NKJV).
The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29, NKJV).
When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood (Isaiah 1:15, NKJV).
The Pharisees have taught the people well, too well for their own good. They teach that God blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked.148 They teach that God will hear the prayers of the righteous, but not those of the wicked. If Jesus is a sinner as the Pharisees insist, then how do they explain the miracles Jesus has performed? How do they explain the way God has heard and answered His prayers? There is only one conclusion that the healed man can think of, and that is that Jesus has come from God (verse 33). If He were not from God, “He could do nothing” (verse 34). The first time he is asked, this man testifies that he believes Jesus is a prophet. Now, even after being bullied by these Pharisees, he reiterates virtually the same conviction, a conviction also held by some of the Pharisees (verse 16).
Enough is enough! The Pharisees have taken all the abuse they are going to from this fellow. Like Stephen, whose forceful rebuke the Jews are unable to withstand (see Acts 6:8-10), these Pharisees cannot refute the former blind man’s testimony. They do the only thing they have the power to do at the moment—cast him out of the synagogue. And this they do, with a few choice words to underscore their action. Paraphrased, they say, “Just who do you think you are? You were born in sin, as your blindness proves. You, like Jesus, have nothing to say to us. We are the ones in charge. We speak for God. How dare you presume to teach us, the teachers of Israel?” And so they throw the man out of the synagogue. There is some discussion as to just what this entails. I think I can sum up what the Pharisees do to this man in one word: they “Gentilize” him. As I read these verses, I understand that the once-blind beggar is excommunicated. I would think this not only means he cannot participate in synagogue activities, but practically this means he is no longer considered a Jew. If he were a businessman, “good Jews” would no doubt censure and avoid him. He would have no reason to assume that he had any part in the kingdom of God. The ultimate authority is the authority to destroy the soul (see Matthew 10:28), and these Pharisees (wrongly) believe they have it. I believe that here, at this moment, they think they have condemned this man to eternal judgment.
Sought Out by the Savior
35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, so he found the man and said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 The man replied, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus told him, “You have seen him; he is the one speaking with you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
One would think that there is nothing more that can possibly go wrong. Here is a man born blind. This forces him to live as a beggar most of his life. He is looked down upon as a sinner. And now, to top it all off, he has been excommunicated from the synagogue. He has been doomed. Things have gone from bad to worse. Things cannot get any worse.
Jesus has been out of sight, out of the reach of the Pharisees who have been grilling the healed man and his parents. They are now more determined than ever to arrest and execute Jesus. But if Jesus has been out of sight, the blind man has never been out of the Savior’s mind. He is just ripe for the plucking, so to speak. He is not far from the kingdom of God. When Jesus hears that this man has been put out of the synagogue, He seeks this fellow out, and says to him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”149 Jesus is simply asking the man if he believes in the Messiah. The man already believes that Jesus is a prophet (verse 17). Further, he believes that Jesus cannot be a sinner, but must be a good man, a man who has come from God, who speaks authoritatively for God (verses 31-33). However, he does not yet know that Jesus Himself is the Messiah. When he asks, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” (verse 36), I believe he is indicating that he is both ready and willing to believe in whoever Jesus identifies as the Messiah (much as John the Baptist did). And so Jesus tells the man, “You have seen him; he is the one speaking with you” (verse 37). That is all it takes. The man professes his faith in Jesus and prostrates himself on the ground, worshipping Him (verse 38).
It is only at this low point in the once-blind man’s life that Jesus seeks to bring him to salvation. Our Lord does not give this man the gospel (telling him that He is the Messiah) immediately, because he is not yet ready for it. This man’s years of blindness and begging have given him much time to reflect on the relationship between sin and his physical infirmities. Jesus heals the man just after He claims to be the “Light of the world” (9:5-6). This man’s interrogation by stiff-necked Pharisees, his abandonment by his parents, and finally his expulsion from the synagogue are all instrumental in preparing this man for salvation. God knocks all the props out from under this man, so that he has to trust in Jesus as his Messiah. Lest this man cling to Pharisaism for salvation, like many are doing, Jesus orchestrates his excommunication from the tabernacle. Now he has nothing to cling to but Jesus, and Jesus is more than enough.
Jesus, on Judgment (9:39-41)
39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that those who do not see may gain their sight, and the ones who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and asked him, “We are not blind too, are we?” 41 Jesus replied, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin, but now because you claim that you can see, your guilt remains.”
I would expect chapter 9 to end at verse 38. Isn’t this what we’ve been waiting for—for the blind man to finally come to faith in Jesus, for the blind man to be saved? Why does John go on, taking up what appears to be a very negative theme—judgment. Jesus gives us His own commentary on this whole chapter, and it is one we dare not ignore: “For judgment I have come into this world, so that those who do not see may gain their sight, and the ones who see may become blind” (verse 39).
I can understand how Jesus speaks of the hardening or blinding of the Pharisees as “judgment,” but our Lord makes this only half of the equation. Under the category of “judgment,” Jesus includes: (a) the giving of sight to those who are blind; and (b) the blinding of those who see. There is a physical dimension to this in that the man born blind is given his physical sight. But the primary meaning seems to be spiritual. Those who are spiritually blind are given sight; those who are (or claim to be) seeing are blinded. How can Jesus speak of the giving of sight to this blind man as “judgment,” just as He speaks of the blinding of the Pharisees as “judgment”?
What I am about to say has taken a long time for me to grasp. The time to preach this message was almost upon me when it came to me: this whole chapter is about judgment. That’s the way the chapter begins. The Pharisees (verse 34) and our Lord’s disciples (verse 2) conclude that this man’s blindness is divine judgment. Jesus wants us to understand that while this man’s blindness is not divine judgment, the gift of sight is judgment—judgment upon the very ones who judge (condemn) him. The Pharisees assume that blindness is God’s judgment upon sin, and the disciples believe virtually the same thing. Then, after this blind man begins to see too clearly, rebuking the Pharisees, these religious leaders excommunicate him—they condemn him. The one whom they condemn and put out, Jesus seeks out and saves.
As I think through some of the prophecies concerning the coming of Messiah, this whole matter of judgment is a central theme. Look, for example, at Mary’s magnificat:
46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit has begun to rejoice in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked upon the humble state of his slave. For take note, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name; 50 his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has exercised power with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in the vain arrogance of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, 55 as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:46-55, emphasis mine).
Israel eagerly awaited the coming of Messiah, who would bring justice to the earth.150 The Messiah would make things right; He would bring equity. The haughty and the proud would be humbled; the lowly would be lifted up. Both the elevation of the lowly and the humiliation of the proud were a part of God’s judgment. If a proud and powerful man were to be removed from his position of power, and a poor man put in his place, this would be a judgment on the proud man. Justice is served, and judgment is meted out when a proud man is put down and one who is viewed as rejected (by the proud man) is put in the proud man’s place.
So here is what I believe John wants us to understand as we come to the end of chapter 9: the healing of the man born blind is his salvation, but it is also divine judgment upon the proud Pharisees, who consider him a guilty sinner, deserving of his blindness. The one they reject, the one they condemn, Jesus seeks out and saves. In doing this, our Lord executes judgment, the kind of judgment Israel was told to expect from Messiah. Once again, Jesus fulfills prophecy concerning His identity and activity as Messiah.
The lesson and its application goes far beyond this one blind beggar and these proud Pharisees. It is but one example of the way God has judged Israel by saving the Gentiles in this present age. Let’s go all the way back to Israel’s beginnings. God did not choose to save Israel because they were so large and powerful, or because they were so pious:
7 “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8, NKJV).
11 “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, 12 lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; 15 who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end—17 then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ 18 And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. 20 As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 8:11-20, NKJV).
God chose Israel and gave them the land because the Canaanites had become corrupt and utterly sinful. The blessing of the nation Israel was at the same time God’s judgment on the Canaanites (see Genesis 14:12-16; Leviticus 18:24-28).
In spite of all the blessings God had bestowed upon Israel, they were a sinful and obstinate people. When Jesus came to the earth as Israel’s Messiah, the nation rejected Him (John 1:11). In their self-righteous pride and arrogance, the Pharisees look down upon the man born blind, and when he points out the error of their ways, they put him out of the synagogue. They “Gentilize” him. But it is only then that Jesus once again enters the picture and leads him to saving faith in Himself as the Messiah. This “Gentile” whom the Pharisees despise and condemn, Jesus seeks and saves.
The nation Israel rejected Jesus as their promised Messiah. They not only crucified Him, they also persecuted those who became Christians. The Book of Acts is not only the story of how the gospel reached the Gentiles, it is the story of how the nation Israel rejected Jesus, and was eventually rejected by Him. The closing words of Acts are words of indictment against the nation Israel (see Acts 28:23-29). From this point on, the Jews are set aside to unbelief and blindness, until the “fulness of the Gentiles has come” (Romans 11:25). In Romans 9-11, Paul explains the shift from a time of salvation for the Jews to a time of salvation for the Gentiles. He makes it very clear that we Gentiles are hearing the gospel and being saved because of the judgment of God upon Israel for her unbelief:
11 I ask then, they did not stumble into an irrevocable fall, did they? Absolutely not! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their transgression means riches for the world and their defeat means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fullness bring? 13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Seeing that I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if somehow I could provoke my people to jealousy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the first portion of the dough offered is holy, then the whole batch is holy, and if the root is holy, so too are the branches. 17 Now if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among them and participated in the richness of the olive root, 18 do not boast over the branches. But if you boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 Then you will say, “The branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you. 22 Notice, therefore, the kindness and harshness of God: harshness toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And even they—if they do not continue in their unbelief—will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree? 25 For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion; he will remove ungodliness from Jacob. 27 And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”
28 In regard to the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but in regard to election they are dearly loved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. 30 Just as you formerly were disobedient to God, but have now received mercy due to their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience so that he may show mercy to all (Romans 11:11-32, emphasis mine).
And so it is that judgment and salvation are not two separate, unrelated matters; they are very much inter-related. The salvation of those who are unworthy, by the mercy and grace of God, is closely related to God’s judgment upon those who deem themselves worthy of God’s blessings and who look down upon the lowly. The giving of sight to the blind man is salvation for him and judgment for the Pharisees. The one who is considered cursed of God by the Pharisees is indeed blessed by God. Those who considered themselves blessed by God are the very ones who received His judgment.
There is yet one more thing in this text which it took me a long time to see, and it was there in front of me all the time! I incorrectly assumed that the Pharisees of verse 40 were the same Pharisees who just put the former blind man out of the synagogue. This can hardly be the case.151 First of all, Jesus is staying “underground” you might say, out of the reach of the Pharisees who want Him arrested and put to death. These “Pharisees” in verse 40 are identified as those “Pharisees who were with Him.” They are not the same Pharisees. Finally, the word “too” (“We are not blind too, are we?” emphasis mine) sets them apart from the others. Thus, they are asking Jesus something like this: “Wait a minute Jesus, when you speak of those other Pharisees being judged by being made blind, you are not talking about us, too, are you, just because we are also Pharisees?” These people are Pharisees, but they are quite obviously with Jesus. They are not trying to arrest Him or have Him put to death. They are not the same Pharisees who expelled the former blind man. They may have been some of those Pharisees who objected to the statement of the other Pharisees that Jesus could not have come from God in verse 16. I am even tempted to wonder if Nicodemus is among this group of Pharisees who are “with Jesus.”
Our Lord’s response is certainly no comfort to these Pharisees, even though they distance themselves from those radically opposed to Jesus. Jesus does not say to these men, “Oh, no, I’m not talking about you, only about them.” Instead, Jesus responds, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin, but now because you claim that you can see, your guilt remains” (verse 41). It is not enough for these folks to be around Jesus, and at the same time to somewhat distance themselves from a more radical element of Pharisaism. In order to be saved, for their sins to be forgiven, for them to receive their spiritual sight, they must acknowledge that they are blind. They must renounce Pharisaism as a false religious system of salvation by works. They must embrace Jesus and the Messiah, and they must place their faith in Him as guilty sinners, who have no claim upon His salvation by grace. They cannot remain in the Pharisee system and also be freed from the guilt of their sins. They must renounce their Pharisaism, just as Paul did (see Philippians 3:4ff.). To do any less is to remain in their sins.
This word of warning should be heard and heeded by anyone who is a part of a false religious system. By that I mean any religious system which claims to offer salvation by any other means than faith in Jesus Christ alone, apart from works. Many claim to have a personal faith in Jesus Christ, and yet still persist in remaining in a false religious system. I hope this text will make you as uncomfortable as our Lord’s words distressed the Pharisees who heard Him.
Allow me to conclude with one last observation. The Pharisees are wrong in that they place ecclesiastical (church) authority above the authority of Scripture. They believe that men should believe as the truth whatever they say is the truth, even if it contradicts Scripture. This is the stuff of which the Reformation was made. No wonder one of the watchwords of the Reformation is sola scriptura—the Scriptures alone. Ecclesiastical authority must always remain subordinate to the authority of God’s Word. If God’s Word says one thing and the church (or certain church authorities) say another, we must take the Word of Scripture above the word of man. These Pharisees lost their way because they believed the truth was whatever they thought (and said) the truth was.
The problem we see historically, in terms of the abuse of power by the Roman Catholic Church in the days of Martin Luther, has become even more popular and pervasive today. There is, of course, the problem of false religious systems, which claim to have the authority to tell us what the truth is, even when it contradicts Scripture. But today, in the rugged individualism and relativism of our culture, the truth is whatever I as an individual want and define it to be. Truth is my truth, truth as I want it. The first thing we must do is to confess our blindness, our rejection of the truth, and submit ourselves to Him who alone is the truth, the way, and the life. When we accept God’s Word as the truth, and Jesus as the Word, then we will confess Him to be the Son of God, just as the once-blind man did. And when we trust in Him as the One who died for our sins on the cross of Calvary (and rose from the dead), then we become a child of God, whose sins are forgiven, and whose destiny is heaven. I pray that you have come to trust in Him, and that if you have not, God will grant you no rest nor peace till you come to “see” the truth in Him who is the truth.
136 Hovestol, for example, writes, “Interestingly, the Pharisees’ attitudes toward the Scripture match those of conservative Christians today. We, as they did, hold a high view of Scripture and pride ourselves on our fidelity to the Word. On all levels of the church, from the cradle role to the senior citizens, we encourage and honor Bible study. So did they. We favor the broad dissemination of the Scriptures so that the common person can understand them. So did they. We, like the Pharisees of old, believe and teach that the Bible is to be trusted and obeyed. And like the Pharisees, we Protestants pride ourselves on our ability to apply God’s truth to changing cultural settings. The Pharisees in the Bible resemble our biblical aspirations and actions!” Tom Hovestol, Extreme Righteousness: Seeing Ourselves in the Pharisees (Chicago: Moody Press, 1997), p. 29.
137 I should point out that the Greek text does not say “Jewish leaders” but simply “the Jews.” The NET Bible renders this in a way that indicates to us that it was undoubtedly the Jewish religious leaders who sent this delegation, and not “the Jews” generally.
138 In Luke 13:10-17 and John 5:1-17, the Sabbath controversies are between the Jews and Jesus, but the Pharisees are not specifically identified. It is likely that here too it is the Pharisees who “led the charge” against Jesus for “breaking the Sabbath.” In virtually every other Sabbath controversy, it is the Pharisees who protest our Lord’s “work” on the Sabbath.
139 Even in the case of the paralytic, whom Jesus healed and subsequently warned to give up his sin (John 5:1-15), not much time was devoted to the past. This man obviously knew what his sin was. Now it was time for him to give it up.
140 “The Pharisees question the man. The verb denotes a continuing process, and not simply an invitation to rehearse the matter. They were evidently persistent.” Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), p. 484.
141 “It is possible that the Pharisees were acting as official representatives of the Sanhedrin. Hendriksen argues cogently that they were an official body, possibly even ‘the minor Sanhedrin or synagogue-court, of which there are said to have been two in Jerusalem.’ If this is the case it will explain such things as the fear of the parents in the face of interrogation. But neither the proceedings nor the sentence read like the account of formal proceedings and it may be better to think of an influential but unofficial inquiry.” Leon Morris, p. 484.
142 The NET Bible does use the word “Jesus” in verse 23, footnoting the fact that the Greek text actually reads “him.” I think it would be better to render it “him,” because John seems to purposely avoid the name of Jesus because the Pharisees avoid it.
143 “And finally, there was a division of opinion amongst the authorities as to whether or not anointing the eyes was legal on a Sabbath (B. Abodah Zarah 28b).” D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), p. 367.
144 Note the plural “signs” here. They called attention to the fact that it was not just this miracle that they had to explain away, but a large number of miracles, all of which were “signs,” testifying to our Lord’s identity.
145 “Give glory to God does not mean something like ‘Praise God for what he has done in your life,’ still less ‘Praise God and not Jesus,’ but, as in Joshua 7:19, something like ‘Before God, own up and admit the truth.’ The ‘truth’ they want confessed, of course, is that Jesus is a sinner, a transgressor of the law (by which they mean the oral law, which many conservative Jews understood to have the same divine, binding force as the written code); therefore there must be some other fragment of information that the man is hiding from them, something that would enable them to be at ease with their ‘given,’ the sinfulness of Jesus.” D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), pp. 372-373.
147 A literal rendering of the text would read something like this: “If (perhaps “whether”) he is a sinner, I do not know.” I don’t think the man is saying (as many translations seem to imply), “I’m not really willing or qualified to pronounce whether or not he is a sinner.” I think his response is stronger. They say, “We know he is a sinner.” He responds (in effect), “I don’t know this.”
148 This, of course, is precisely where the Pharisees go wrong. They contrive a mechanical system where there is no place for “innocent suffering.” But at this point, the man born blind is arguing a general truth, and a principle which the Pharisees consider foundational. He is turning their own teaching against them.
150 Amos (5:18-20) had to warn God’s people that they should not eagerly await this “day of the Lord” as though it were only a time for God to judge the Gentiles. The “day of the Lord” was the time when God would judge all sinners, and Israel had many sins to judge. Thus, the “day of the Lord” was a day of judgment for Israel, as well as for the nations.
151 “They instantly perceived that they were smitten by this saying of Christ, and yet they appear not to have belonged to the worst class; for the open enemies had so strong an abhorrence of Christ that they did not at all associate with him. But those men submitted to listen to Christ, yet without any advantage, for no man is qualified to be a disciple of Christ, until he has been divested of self, and they were very far from being so … The word also is emphatic; for it means that, though all the rest be blind, still it is improper that they should be reckoned as belonging to the ordinary rank. It is too common a fault among those who are distinguished above others, that they are intoxicated with pride, and almost forget that they are men.” John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume 7: The Gospels (Grand Rapids: Associated Publishers and Authors Inc., n.d.), p. 768.