John - Chapter 9
This is part 11 in a 23-part study on the book of John. Below is a modified transcript.
Let us begin, as we always do, in a prayer. Lord, we thank You for our time together and we ask that You would guide our thoughts as we reflect upon Your word and we pray that we would be people who would not only hear Your word but also apply it in our lives. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
We are up to John 9, which is one of my favorite chapters in the Gospel for various reasons, and one of the reasons is because it is dramatic dialogue at its best. It is a great overview of terrific dialogue and understanding about the way the presentation of Jesus becomes more and more evident as we see it. Through His titles we see progressive revelation about the person of Jesus. In a very real way, through the eyes of this blind man, we are also forced to see Jesus and decide how we will respond to Him.
There is a progressive development in the revelation of this one. Now keep in mind that this is continuing the narrative that was previously found in John chapters seven and eight, namely, the feast of tabernacles. We are still at the end of the feast of tabernacles. It is a seven-day feast that is going on and on the last day they would light up these huge lanterns.
In fact, they had these four gigantic stands and each of these stands had four golden bowls and these bowls were filled with oil. This sounds bizarre, but the wicks that they would use came from the undergarments of the priests. These 16 lights were in the courtyard of the women so they all had access to that. It was said that when they lit them up at night, all of Jerusalem would be ablaze. You have to keep in mind that there were no streetlights. All they had were candles, so this would be a brilliant thing for them to see.
The festival of tabernacles related to two themes; one was to water and the other was to light. As we have said before, in John chapter eight, John uses the imagery of Jesus being the light of the world and so we see this theme being picked up also in chapter nine. Look at chapter 8, verse 12 and, “Jesus, again spoke to them saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life’.” So, if you contexturalize that, it is very, very clear that Jesus is in fact using what is physical around Him at this period in time, on the last day of the feast, to show that He Himself is a greater light than Israel has yet known. He is the light that shines out in the darkness.
It is an image from John chapter one as well. Remember the light would shine in the darkness and the darkness could not comprehend it? Themes of light and darkness run all through John’s Gospel, as indeed it does throughout the entire Scriptures. You can do a wonderful study, going from Genesis through Revelation, focusing on the motif of light and darkness and how it all ties together. But this claim that we have here is that He is the light of the world. Now what we are going to see are four revelations of Jesus.
In verses one through 12 we are going to see Jesus as a man who is called Jesus, and that is all that the blind man knows about Him. Then we are going to him learning more about Him. He is going to realize that He is a prophet, beginning in verse 13 and going to verse 23. Then he is going to acknowledge that He is a man of God in verses 24 through 34 and finally he comes to regard Him as the Son of Man and worships Him at the end of the chapter.
There is a progressive development in the theme of the titles of Jesus. Listen to these titles that spill over each other, creating a message for the study of this Gospel. He is called a rabbi in verse two. He is called Jesus in verse three and is called the ‘Light of the world’ in verse five. He is called the ‘One who is sent from God’ in verse seven and He is ‘from God’ in verse 16.
Then He is ‘prophet’ in 17 and then He is called ‘Christ’ in verse 22 and the ‘Son of Man’ in 35 and then ‘Lord’ in verse 38. So there is a developing theme, a motif, of whom this Jesus is. This is extremely important because John, in doing so, was really forcing us as readers to discern where we stand with regard with this Jesus because if you go ahead to chapter 20 you will see John’s purpose statement, where he says that, “These signs I have selected are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ.”
Now remember the word ‘christos’ really referred to ‘the anointed one’. It would be ‘mashiyach’ in the Hebrew and it meant the one who was anointed. That is a title and term laden with implications because of the fact that the Jews understanding, in the Hebrew Bible, was a progressive revelation of the power and authority of Christ, the Son of God, who was also the Son of Man and by believing you may also have life in His name.
These double meanings become particularly evident in this dramatic story because the double meaning will be the theme of light and darkness. Those who claim to have light are actually in darkness. The one who is born blind is believed to have been born blind because of something his parents had done or he was just born in sin.
In that way the spiritual leaders are saying that this man has no spiritual discernment or any visual acuity. The two go together. The irony, of course, will be at the end when Jesus is telling them they are the ones who are blind. They claim to see but actually do not; they are still in their sins. There is an ironic turn to this, just as there was, as Jesus faced His accusers and turned it around and actually began to accuse them of their hardness of heart.
In fact, we have a lot of parallels between these chapters. In chapter five there is a man who is healed on the Sabbath. The temple leadership raised questions about this. Similarly, here in chapter nine, a man is healed of his blindness and it again occurs on the Sabbath. They are more concerned about that than they are about the fact that the man was healed from his blindness.
So, we see a theme of questions and then in both cases Jesus finds the man and encourages that man and then He enters into an extended debate with Jerusalem’s theologians about the meaning of His authority. Both chapters have this kind of structure. One of the Synoptic structures that we find is that you have a healing account followed by a narrative of discourse and other confrontations that take place with it. Of course we know that this theme of Jesus healing blind people is quite common in the Gospels and it seems to actually be disproportionate, doesn’t it? There are reasons for that.
It is a kind of hallmark to His ministry and you will see Him healing the blind man in Jericho and then two blind men in Galilee and then a blind man without speech, possibly in Capernaum, then a blind man in Bethsaida and one more in Jerusalem following the cleansing in the temple. So, it is quite intriguing that we have all of these. What we see, as well, as we see in other chapters too, is that our Lord performs miracles to meet human needs and as a proof of His Messianic claims, but also as a means of conveying spiritual truth.
None of His signs were de-contexturalized from His claims or from His life. All His signs had a purpose. They just weren’t thrown in for fun. The greatest miracle in this chapter is not the opening of the blind man’s eyes but the opening of his heart. In understanding this thematic development, let’s take a look at the first seven verses, which is the actual account of the man who has been blind from birth and now becomes healed.
And so, after verse 59, when they picked up stones to throw at him and Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, you recall that He made the claim that before Abraham was, ‘He is’. Before that He said, “Unless you believe that ‘I-am’ you will die in your sins,” so we have very, very strong claims along these lines. The claim of ‘ego-ami’, and the Jewish leaders understood that because if in fact He was not who He claimed to be, then it would have blasphemous and they would have been warranted to actually stone Him.
By the way, the Gospels are masters of understatement, it just says, “He hid Himself and went out of the temple.” That is no easy task when you are surrounded by hundreds of people. In any case, He did this and, in chapter nine, verse one, “As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind’?”
This is a very important question and Jesus’ response to this will have a great bearing on the issue of the problem of evil and suffering. “Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him’.”
There is a bit of a struggle here. Many of our translations don’t get this right. There is a purpose clause that begins with the Greek word ‘hina’, which would mean ‘so that’. That purpose clause can actually be related to what follows or it can be related to what was previous. My view of this is that it relates to what follows. If that is correct, here is how you translate it. It would be something like this, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but so that the work of God might be displayed in his life, we must do the work of Him who sent Me while it is still day.” You see the difference? It is big. It is not saying that God made this man blind and therefore I am now going to use it.
He is saying that in order for the work of God to be displayed in his life, we must do the work of God while it is day, because I am not going to be here on this planet doing these things for a long time. I argue this: evil and suffering are clearly the consequence of a fallen world.
That consequence relates to a number of things and one of them is the spiritual warfare that is all about us. In that spiritual warfare we discover, then, that there are forces of evil at work. There are also forces of evil within our very lives because we are born in the context of sin.
Psalm 51 makes it very clear, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity.” So, from the very beginning David acknowledges that. In other words, we are born into this world and the solidarity with our progenitor, Adam, means that we are now people who carry on that fatal disease from generation to generation.
The problem that we have is that while we have biological life we do not have spiritual life. And so, the need for the good news of the second birth, the spiritual birth that gives us spiritual life, is really underscored by the evil that we see in this world. In a disease and death environment, because things are not as they were created, we are not as we were created.
We have changed ourselves. That Genesis 3 account is exceedingly central. To understand what human nature is about, in relationship to God’s intention, you have to understand how Genesis 1 and 2 precede Genesis 3. We are not now as we were originally. We have changed ourselves and as a consequence, then, we are no longer what God would have called “Very good.”
So, there is a distortion and from that point, then, it was needful for God to launch a program and a process in which the Messiah Himself would be the One who would come. The mystery of all mysteries was that God Himself would underwrite the cost of human sin in this world. It is a deep and profound mystery; that God would actually take it upon Himself is very unique.
Again, I have stressed this before but I will do it again; only in the Biblical vision do we see a God who suffers for His people, who sacrifices for His people and who so wants us that He Himself will suffer and take upon Himself our own sin. This is utterly unique, and the world, not being the friend of grace, will always try and turn that thing around and it is the one thing that is going to be utterly set apart from human endeavors to arrive at religious systems.
All human endeavors always work out to be a system by which we somehow achieve, or hope we can achieve, being pleasing to God through our own efforts. It is what I call ‘bootstrap theology’; you are trying to lift yourself up to heaven by reaching down and pulling on your bootstraps.
So, the Scriptures emphasize a very different orientation. But Jesus, I want you to notice, doesn’t answer the question head-on does He? He says, “It was neither that this man sinned nor his parents.” That is an interesting thought. How could he have sinned if he was born blind? Is it a pre-incarnation kind of thing? Is it his parent’s evil? No, the answer is always this; we are never right to blame a specific disability on a specific sin. We have to very careful here about that sort of notion.
We are often tempted to say, ‘this is because of that’. We do not know. In the economy of God it is not so simple. That is a simplistic understanding. We must understand that all physical problems in this fleeting world are consequences of the fall and of spiritual warfare and rebellion, but ultimately we look ahead and realize that He will take away every tear from your eyes, that death will no longer be, that pain and suffering will be removed and He will make all things new. The older I get, the more I treasure that hope.
I will be honest with you; I am getting to the point now where I have to finally admit I am more than halfway. I should have admitted that a long time ago. The fact is that if my hope were not in that, and I am wired in such a way that I can’t help but think about these questions, I would really be in a despairing situation.
What Pascal described as distraction and indifference are the two strategies of the human race. He predicted this in the 17th century and it is truer now than ever before. The basic strategies that I see people following, especially in our culture, are these two things. Distraction, and boy are we good at that or what? It is called entertainment. It is called mindless entertainment and deception and indifference, a posture of indifference. It is almost kind of an assumed skepticism. And so, we are forced in this Gospel, then, to really be confronted with the fundamental issues of life.
Jesus does not answer this question and the material on evil and suffering that can be derived from the Biblical materials help us understand some things about this. I will say simply that God Himself, though, is never accountable for the idea of committing an evil. He does create the conditions under which there are free agents that do choose evil. While God is the ultimate cause, He is not the secondary cause.
That is to say, He is never accountable for evil, though He allows it to happen in this world. He underwrites the cost and ultimately He will overcome it.
(Q): Is blindness evil?
(A): Blindness would be evil, in a sense, if you described it as a lack of a good thing. For example, it is not an evil thing for a creature that is sightless, or a stone or a vegetable but if we are dealing with a human being who has eyes for a purpose, then for them to have that deficiency would be a sign of evil in the sense that there is a lack of a good thing. It would be a deficiency of a good thing. So, the idea here is who sinned? They are immediately connecting it with sin. We must understand that in the new creation, there will be no blindness. No one will be lame; no one will be in a position to have physical deficiencies.
(A): What we are saying here is that a blessing will be shown. He is blind, but Jesus is about to do the works of His Father and that will manifest a blessing. But, it depends upon how you translate that text. As I say, if we said, “So that the work of God might be displayed in his life, we must do the work of Him who sent Me,” then there is not that immediate connect.
As I go on here, Jesus says in verse four, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” What He is alluding to is that we have a short window of time. We must recognize the very short window of opportunity that we have on this planet. I am fond of saying to people that there are many things we will do in heaven but two of the things we will never ever be able to do again is share the Gospel with people who do not know Christ and secondly to help people in desperate need. We will never have that opportunity again.
So, it is important to realize that you have an arena of influence and an opportunity now to become a manifestation, an agent, an ambassador, of the King and to be one who is a “harbinger of reconciliation,” as it says in 2nd Corinthians five. Jesus goes on to say, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Again, it is that same theme we saw in chapter eight, verse 12, “I am the light of the world.”
We can imagine at this point, then, the whole festival, focusing on light, is something He is really leveraging and using. Continuing, “When He had said this, He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to His eyes.”
I have a couple of thoughts on this. One thing is that blindness was a good deal more prevalent than you might suppose. They didn’t cures and they didn’t have treatments that we have today and also it would be easy to contract a disease through dirty water and pollutants. Blindness, then, was much more prevalent than it is now, but secondly, it was also much more debilitating.
Today, if a person is blind there are resources. You have Braille, for example, and other things to be used that can help them, seeing-eye dogs for example. In that culture, however, you did not have work, you did not have a position and it was almost like an assignment of death. You were worse off than if you were a paralytic. It was an awful condition in that culture. You had to be completely dependent and, in this case, with his parents. So, Jesus takes this spittle and applies it to His eyes.
I find that to be interesting because this spittle was actually associated, by the way, with renowned people. There was enormous superstition surrounding the spittle of a renowned person. It was regarded as having magical properties at that time. There was a lot of superstition. Think about this. Without any medical aid, it would be easy to form superstitions about which a person could be healed, especially if you could find something that was an authenticated healing like this can be authenticated.
He spits down on the ground, made clay from that spittle and applied it to His eyes and then, in verse seven, “Said to him, ‘Go wash in the pool of Siloam’, (which is translated, Sent).” This is significant here because Jesus, by the way, is described as the One who is sent by God. Chapters four, five, seven and eight all say, “Here is a man sent by God.” So the One who was sent sends him to the Sent.
You see the idea? He sends him to the place called Sent. There is a play on words going on here. A blind man is told to wash in a place called Sent by the One who was sent by God. The point is that Jesus is the source of his healing, not the pool. This pool of Siloam, by the way, was the only internal spring of water that they had in the city of Jerusalem and it was made possible after Hezekiah redirected the Gichon spring, which was outside the city wall at that time.
They dug this tunnel, Hezekiah’s water tunnel, through into the city. It was almost a mile long, which was an amazing feat. Has anyone ever gone through that tunnel? It is a very strange experience. I have been there myself. I didn’t like it. One time was enough. The tunnel is not big and sometimes you have to crouch as it really narrows. In any case, this was a brilliant undertaking because it made it possible for the people of Jerusalem to withstand a long siege. A water supply was absolutely critical in that kind of culture.
So, we have this portrait, then, of a man who goes and it says, “He went away and washed, and came back seeing.” Now remember that he hasn’t even seen Jesus yet. “He went away, washed and came back seeing.” It reminds me of the story of Naiman and Elijah. Remember that Naiman comes down and Elijah didn’t even bother to come out and meet him. Instead, he sends his servant out there and tells him to dip in the Jordan River seven times. The guy was outraged. He was a powerful captain of the Assyrians. Naiman at least thought Elijah would come out and wave his arms around and heal him as if by magic.
Here is the point. The servant merely told him to try it out. Can you imagine the first time he dips himself? He probably felt like a fool. Even the fourth, fifth or sixth times, too. Nothing happens, but the seventh time he comes out and his skin is like a baby’s. He then goes back and tries to pay Elijah for healing him. Elijah refused, of course, and told him, “Grace can not be purchased.”
And so, there is an analogy here. Here is a man who at least went away and did as He said. That is the first part of the narrative, then, the healing of the blind man. Then the second part of the narrative is found in verses 8 through 34. This is the interrogation and here we see four basic moves. In verses 8 through 12 their neighbors are involved. Then in 13 through 17 it is the Pharisees and then the parents are called in, in verses 18 through 23. Then, after his parents, we go to the man himself and he is interrogated before the Pharisees. Again, each of these things makes the case stronger and stronger.
The natural question would be, is this the same guy that was born blind? Secondly, was he really blind to begin with? His parents authenticate this. Who is this Jesus? After all, He healed on what day? The Sabbath, that’s right. If He were of God, why would He heal on the Sabbath? Actually, as we have seen, that was not a violation of Torah. It was a violation of human tradition. But they were so wrapped up in their human traditions that they virtually elevated that above grace and were more concerned that He violated their particular tradition than the fact that a man was healed. We have seen this before in the Gospels, where He is challenged again and again.
Chapter five is reminiscent of that discourse. Let’s take a look at the neighbors, by going back to verses 8 through 12. “Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, ‘Is not this the one who used to sit and beg’?” It is a question of identity. Is this the right guy? We have seen him all his life. “Others were saying, ‘This is he’, still others were saying, ‘No, but he is like him’. He kept saying, ‘I am the one’.” You can just see the doubt; is this a setup here? The poor guy kept saying, “I am the one,” but they are completely ignoring him. “So they were saying to him, ‘How then were your eyes opened’? If you are the one, how could your eyes have been opened? You were born blind, how could it be that your eyes were opened? “He answered, ‘The man who is called Jesus made clay’.” At this point that is all he knows about him. Remember that he has not seen Jesus yet. All he knows is the name. “He made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed and I received sight.”
I would have loved to have been there. Wouldn’t it be great to see a man who was born blind and suddenly could see? We have heard about people who have lost their sight and regained it, but here is a man who has never seen at all. It reminds me of the Mark chapter eight healing. Turn back to that for a moment and we see a two-stage process that took place.
Really, in a way, it would require two miracles. “When they came to Bethsaida,” in Mark 8:22, “they brought a blind man to Jesus and implored Him to touch him. Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes,” and here we have that spittle imagery again, “He asked him, ‘Do you see anything’? And he looked up and said, ‘I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around’.”
That is the first stage. Actually, it is quite possible because if a man were truly blind, he would be able now to see, but his problem would be his cognitive perception. The brain has not been attuned to see and shape those forms. It would be simply chaotic. So, there is a second stage in this miracle. “Then again He laid His hands on his eyes and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. And He sent him to his home, saying, ‘Do not even enter the village’.”
I know of one ophthalmologist who came to faith by reading that text because there is no way the ancient world would understand that two-stage procedure. What are your thoughts about that? Do you find it to be intriguing? I just find it to be astounding. In any event, this is a marvelous image that we have, the miracle is not only of the ability to see, but then there is the cerebral functioning that is required to make sense out of what you are seeing. That is exactly what happens.
So, going back to our text, “They said to him, ‘Where is He’? He said, ‘I don’t know’.” He has no clue as to where Jesus is. The first thing that we see here is that they are asking the wrong question. Instead of ‘how’, it should have been ‘who’. Who is this One? They were focusing more on the manner of the healing and missing the message of the healing. You know, Jesus did it in different ways. He healed two blind men by touching their eyes and on by putting spittle on his eyes. Though the healing power is the same, He can vary His message and methods. God has a way of doing things in unique ways.
Let’s continue on to the next part and look at what the Pharisees say. “They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind.” Now John raises this point, “Now it was a Sabbath on the day Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.” That is their focal concern, the violation of their particular law. “Then the Pharisees were also asking him again how he received his sight.
And he said to them, ‘He applied clay to my eyes, I washed, and I see’.” He is giving the same answer over and over again. “Therefore, some of the Pharisees were saying, ‘This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath’.” So, we see that there is going to be a division here. “But others were saying, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs’? And there was a division among them?”
In other words, if this man were a sinner, God could not do such an amazing thing. The question now becomes, is this the right guy? Was he certifiably blind and if so, how can we authenticate that? Now, “They said to the blind man again, ‘What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes’? That is an interesting thought isn’t it? People were divided among themselves so they asked him what do you conclude? So, “He said, ‘He is a prophet’.” First He was a man called Jesus.
Now he concludes he is a prophet. In other words, there is no way that a man who is a sinner could have done what He did. Now, they didn’t go for that either, but the point is that it was an upsetting and challenging concept to the religious leaders but they were blinded by their bias and they sought to discredit the miracle, assuming that somehow Jesus had switched beggars.
And so, it goes on to say, “The Jews did not believe it of him that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who received his sight.” Now they want to prove that this is not the real ‘McCoy’ and “They questioned them saying, ‘Is this your son who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?” His parents were smart enough to know that they were being put into a box because they are afraid of being thrown out of the synagogue if they say something that is displeasing to the leaders. “His parents answered them and said, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind.” You notice how cautious they are? These are irrefutable statements. “But how he now sees, we do not know. Ask him, he is of age, he will speak for himself.” So, they put it right back on their son, because “His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be the Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.”
You see the problem we have in the Scriptures again and again is the problem of fearing other people. Isn’t that true? Go back with me to chapter seven, verse 13. Look at that verse, it says, Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews.” Then jump ahead to chapter 12 and verse 42 and you will see this same motif: “Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue.” So, there was a tremendous power that they wielded over people, the power or the authority to more or less ex-communicate them and bar them from fellowship in the religious community.
You know though, as Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare.” I love Jeremiah chapter 17 because there it tells us that, “Blessed are those who fear the Lord, but cursed are those who fear men.” Those who fear men will stumble. It is a good thing to fear God, and that is why I tell people that you can not seek to be pleasing to God and impressive to people at the same time. You see what I am saying? You will either play to an audience of one, or you will play to an audience of many that are invisible. So, we are called to decide the audience to whom we play.
It makes all the difference in the world. If you are doing it to be pleasing to God, and that is your fear and that is your hope, that will be a far, far more powerful thing because the focus of your heart is on the spiritual need and the eternal. But, if you are doing it to impress people, the fear of man will snare you and you will live just for the present moment and you not have the fear of God.
The problem we have, and let’s be very frank about this, don’t we in practice often have a greater concern about what people will think if they caught us doing something than in what God would think? Think about it. We look around before we do something stupid. The fact is that at least we gave intellectual lip service to the idea that God is omniscient in the present and knows our thoughts through and through.
But, we don’t act upon that. That is why there is a power, by the way, in the idea of confessing your sins to one another, or having accountability. There is something powerful about that because if a person invites another to hold him or her accountable and they have given that person freedom to do that, there can be a greater concern about that because at least that is visible and palpable.
That is why accountability can be an effective thing.
(Q) A): Yes, it keeps coming back to the man’s testimony at the end of the day. But, here is the important point. The Pharisees are now at the point where the parents have demonstrated the truth and they can no longer say he is a look-alike. They can not also now say that this guy was not always blind. Now it is certifiable and now they have the problem of putting it back on him and he will give testimony and he will not deny what he knows. In spite of the fact that there is a great fear, the man will stand firm on what he knows to be true and not waver.
But, that was a test for him. Here is the thing; when you commit yourself to Christ there will be potential consequences of persecution and so forth. Jesus makes this clear in John 15. So, there is always going to be, in your life and in mine, a period of testing to see if we will confess Him before other people. That is part of the idea. He stands firm and will not deny what he knows to be true.
The point is that the Pharisees can no longer write this off; now they can’t just say the guy was a sinner and couldn’t have been a prophet. Let’s continue in our story. In verse 24, “A second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him,” and this establishes the fact that they have the right guy and that he was blind, but here is what they do. They put words in his mouth: “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” In other words, agree with us. This is what you must confess. In other words, if you don’t say this, you are out of here. You see the point? They were effectively asking him to deny this man.
I love his response. “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” That’s great because what can they say? He knows this for sure. They can’t write it off because he is standing there telling them. But, they were not satisfied with that answer. “So they said to him, ‘What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes’?”
Hadn’t they already asked him this before? Now he says, “I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again?” He doesn’t exactly endear himself to them with that. But, he goes on, “You don’t want to become His disciples too, do you?” That is a great line. How come you keep asking me this question? “They reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple but we are disciples of Moses’.”
As if that would mean, therefore, that if you were a disciple of Jesus, you couldn’t be a disciple of Moses. That is a big mistake. The reality is that Jesus came to fulfill the Law of Moses. And so He did. I promise you that Moses, as Abraham did, saw that day and Moses would have responded to Jesus. You see the idea?
Frankly, it is not an either-or. That is why it is rather sad, in Israel for example, that you will be denied citizenship or not be allowed to be regarded as Jewish if you confess Jesus. If you claim to be a Messianic Jew, they will not allow you to be considered Jewish. You can be an atheist. I find that strange. A person can be an atheist and still considered to be a Jew. But, if you confess Jesus, you are no longer a Jew. That ought to tell us something, shouldn’t it? That is always the cutting edge, what we do with Jesus.
At the point in which we say He is just a good man, a prophet, that sort of thing, that is one thing. But, as soon as we acknowledge something more about Him, that He is the Messiah and the Son of the Living God, we have another story entirely and that will be something that will divide people. He knew that He would come and that people would be divided over Him.
So, we go on in the story. “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.” Now, I truly like his response. He is getting the upper hand on them. “The man answered and said to them, ‘Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes.
We know that God does not hear sinners, but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing’.”
Now he is teaching them. Now, he was a man called Jesus, then He was a prophet, and now what is He? He has come from God. You see the development in his illumination and his own reflection and insight. Now he knows He has come from God. If He did not come from God He could do nothing. What was their response? “’You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us’? So they put him out.” Now we don’t know how permanent that ‘putting out’ was, it may have been for a short period or it may have actually been permanent.
Now that term, ‘putting him out’, by the way, in verse 35 is the same term put forth in chapter ten, verse four, where he puts forth his sheep. He had to pay a price but he made the right choice. Now, here is what happens. He learns something more about Jesus after they put him out of the synagogue. “Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man’?”
Now we are at the next level, aren’t we? He was a man called Jesus, He was a prophet, He has come forth from God, and now He is the Son of Man. At this moment, the man has never seen Jesus. He hears that voice, though. The voice sounds familiar, but he has never seen the face of Jesus until now. Notice that Jesus sought him out, just as in chapter five He sought out the paralytic. He sought him out and wanted to bring closure because the physical healing is not the point. That is trivial compared to the spiritual healing and that is John’s theme.
It is one thing to heal a man physically, it is another matter entirely for there to be a healing of the heart. That is the much higher miracle. Continuing, then, “He answered, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him’? Jesus said to him, ‘You have both seen Him and He is the One talking with you’.” Using that phrase, ‘seen Him’, to a man who was born blind is very meaningful. He has both seen Him and now He is the one who talking with him. In other words, you have already seen Him in a spiritual sense, but now you are looking at Him. His response, and He doesn’t waste a second, was, “’Lord, I believe’, and he worshiped Him.”
Just a few thoughts about this. The Good Shepherd cares for His sheep and Jesus sought him out after they put him out of the synagogue. He knew His voice but had not seen His face. Now he can see Him. But it is not enough that he believe He is a man called Jesus, or a prophet, or even that He is a man of God, he professes the truth that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God. For it is this purpose, as it says in John 20, that this Gospel was written.
Do you know, in a very real sense, you and I are in that very same place. We have not yet seen Him, but we will. “Though you do not see Him, you believe in Him and greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible in ‘glory’, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your soul. You will see Him face to face.” And so, I think about that image in 1st Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly,” and what does he say? “Face to face.” In 1st Peter chapter one, verses 8 and 9, “We don’t see Him now, but we still rejoice and will see Him.” Revelation 20:2-4, “They will see His face.” So, we will see Him and that is a glorious hope and a very comforting thought. By the way, I will add this: when you see that face, you will realize that is the wellspring of pleasure you were looking for all your life. You will realize it is that face you were looking for all your life. You didn’t fully know it, but when you see Him, He will be the summation of all pleasures and all beauty and all truth and all goodness all wrapped up into one because He is the author of the true, the beautiful, and the good. Somehow we will see Him in His resurrected body and see that fullness. It is a great and glorious thought and we might want to reflect upon that.
So, the beggar admitted his need, and his eyes and heart were both opened. In another point, “he worshiped Him,” which, of course, is evidence of His Deity. Turn with me to Acts 10:25-26. This is very, very evident here. “When Peter entered, Cornelius met him,” who, by the way, was the Roman Centurion, and “fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter raised him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I too am just a man’.” In other words, don’t worship me, I am just a man.
And look also with me to Acts chapter 14 and in verses 11 through 15, Paul is in a situation where he has been demonstrating the authority of God, and, “When the crowds saw what Paul had done,” after he has raises up this man who had never walked before, and he stood and walked, “they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian Language, ‘The gods have become like men and have come down to us’. They began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.
The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.” They thought these were two of the great gods come down in human form. “But when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the Gospel to you, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them’.” And so, again they can not accept worship.
Then we turn to Revelation 19 and see a similar picture, this time with an angel. In verse nine, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he said, ‘These are the true words of God’. Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’.” Worship only God; no angel will accept worship, unless it is the angel of the Living God. I am reminded, of course, when Thomas said the same thing. Who did he say to worship? He said to worship “My Lord and my God.” Jesus didn’t say don’t do that. In fact, He said, “The Son of Man has come.”
Go back to chapter five for a moment and look at verse 23. Jesus says, “So that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the father who sent Him.” That word, ‘honor’, speaks, really, of the kind of honor that one would give to the Living God, and He is saying the same honor is to be given to Me as well. These are powerful claims, and so Jesus did receive that worship. He said, in these words, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, those who see may become blind.” There is a remarkable irony there.
That is to say, those that admit their need are those who will see, those who refuse to see will then remain blind. It is this idea, then, of seeing, and a person can see and still not ‘see’, and fail recognize their need. The Passion of the Christ will debut on the 25th of this month, on Ash Wednesday and the speculation is going around that it will be the Jews who will made responsible and that will be the theme of the film.
But, my belief is that you will leave the film realizing that all of us did it. In fact, the point is that unless you admit you are the one who did it, you will never be in the position to receive Him. The whole point of the narratives is to represent that it was the Jews, and the Romans, and Herod, and Pontius Pilate; all of them were implicated, because all of us were there. That is why in Rembrandt’s wonderful painting of Christ on the Cross-, what do you see Rembrandt doing? He is up there and he is one of those who is crucifying Jesus. He sees himself as one of the guilty. It is a self-portrait of himself as one who would have done the same thing. It is this idea that ‘we’ were there.
And so, understanding that, then, there are two options you have; one is that you do not ‘see’, of course, because you are simply blind, but there is another form of blindness and it is those who refuse to look. That is where we go into people where there would be a kind of true apostasy. A true apostasy is where a person has heard the Gospel and finally says ‘no’, and says ‘no’ too many times. There are examples of those in our own time. That is why I like C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, because, as you know, he describes a busload of people who come up from hell to Heaven to check it out and see if they want in.
They all opt to go back except for one. But the point is that the roster of tourists has as many intellectuals as it does debased heathens. The fact is, hell will have more than its share of thoughtful theologians. And so, the idea is that a lot of people reflected hard but rejected Jesus. It is one thing to reject Him outright, but it is another thing to just refuse to acknowledge Him and bow the knee before Him.
So, the man was put out of the synagogue and then Jesus has his discourse with him. He found him and he worships Him, “And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind’. Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, ‘We are not blind too, are we’?” Then follows one of Jesus’ great statements. “If you were blind you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see’, your sin remains.” That is a pretty strong and powerful refutation. I don’t know how they responded to that, but I am sure they were not happy. The fact is that if you acknowledge your spiritual blindness, then your sin problem will be done away with. But, because the said, ‘we see’, and refused to see the light they had been given, their sin now remains.
There is a price to be paid. So, this is written by a disciple of Jesus, who now comes to a full understanding of Him and now he responds as he should in the illustration of a man whose physical blindness is now overcome and now he is also capable of seeing in his heart. Those who should have seen the truth blinded themselves to it. All this occurred on the last day of tabernacles, the festival of light.
So, there is a double meaning in that. But you, the reader, are forced to now react, ‘what do I do with this Jesus’? Do I align myself with Him? Am I willing, for example, to confess Him before people who are skeptics and who would deny Him? That is the issue we have to raise. Any closing questions? I just love this chapter because of the wonderful narrative drama.
(Q) (A): Here is what we have on that. If we go back to chapter three for a moment, in verse 19, “this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world and men loved the darkness rather that the Light, for their deeds were evil.” In fact you can regard our chapter tonight as a commentary on that verse.
Earlier He said that, “He who believes in Him is not judged and he who does not believe has been judged already.” In other words, they are putting themselves in position of judgment because He goes on to say, in verse 20, “Everyone who does evil hated the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” The point is this: He has come to provide an option. He did not come to condemn the world, but to give them an opportunity for life. But if they reject that option, they have judged themselves. Then they will have One who will judge them. Again, in Revelation, we now see Jesus as coming in authority, majesty and judgment. He comes now as the Judge of the earth.
(Q) (A): Yes, if you connect these verses in chapter nine with the verses in chapter three, you see that John chapter nine is a commentary on John chapter three, verses 17 through 21. That in turn follows, if you go back to John chapter one, verse eight, speaking of John, “He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.” And in verse nine, “There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.”
Of course, in verses four and five we see, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” The idea here is that you have a darkness that can not understand the things of God and rejects those things because the deeds are evil. Those who, by the grace of God, respond to His offer, then acknowledge, and here is the point, acknowledge their darkness and blindness before they see the Light. If you say you ‘see’, your sin remains. So, the commentary on the Pharisees is a commentary as well on the reader. Next week we will do the great chapter about the ‘Great Shepherd’ and it has some very interesting implications. I am sorry to say that one of the passages is used all the time by the ‘new-agers’, and it is the one about the idea of being ‘all gods’. We will see why that is a misuse of that text. At the end of the day, it always comes down to the person of Jesus.