Read John 9 online at esv.org.
It is an honor to preach God’s Word this morning. Chapter nine in John’s gospel has long been one of my favorite passages in the Bible and I hope it is an encouragement to you, and a timely message for any in our midst that have not already acknowledged the Lordship of Jesus Christ and believed on His name.
The main thing I believe our text teaches is that all men are born in unbelief, spiritually blind, and apart from the healing, restorative work of Jesus, we would remain blind. Apart from the work of God, none could see Jesus, and therefore none could turn to him in belief and find reconciliation with God. It is this fact that should lead to worship the triune God of heaven. For God, in his mercy, sent Jesus to offer his life as a ransom for sinners, and it is the Holy Spirit that today, opens our eyes and gives faith and a new heart.
Our passage this morning is almost halfway through the Gospel of John. The book begins, much like Genesis, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
The themes of light and dark, day and night, flesh and spirit feature prominently throughout the book. In the first chapter, we’re told that Jesus is “the true light, which enlightens everyone… He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:9-13)
In chapter 3, Jesus taught, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:4) He went on to say, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Here we see the true nature of the kingdom of God—that it is a spiritual kingdom, of people reborn of “water and the Spirit.” It is the work of the Spirit, for rebirth is the work of the Spirit, not ourselves. (John 3:8)
In chapter 7, Jesus proclaims, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Those that are in the light, born of the Spirit, are to bear witness that Jesus is the Christ. We see John the Baptist presented as “bearing witness” that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah. The apostle John, the writer of the Gospel, acknowledges this as his purpose in writing the book. (John 21:24). These themes are worked out in chapter nine, in opening the eyes of the blind and the testimony of the man born blind.
This brings us to chapter nine, where we will focus this morning. Jesus is in Jerusalem where he encountered “a man blind from birth.” We’re familiar with several characters in the Bible that were blind. Isaac “was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see.” Isaac’s physical blindness is also a spiritual blindness, for he has chosen the wrong son, preferring Esau’s game over God’s declaration that he had chosen Jacob as the covenant heir. In 1 Samuel, we read of Eli the priest, whose “eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see.” This description of Eli is closely connected with the fact that “the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” So again, Eli’s physical blindness is connected with his spiritual blindness. For Eli also had a problem with his sons. His son’s were treating “the offering of the LORD with contempt” and laying with the women serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. But Eli did not “see” and only gave his sons a mild rebuke without exercising judgment, which is always connected with “seeing” in the Bible.
From the very beginning, we see God exercising judgment after seeing. “God saw that the light was good.” At the end of each day of creation God concluded his work by his seeing his work and declaring his judgment that it “was good.” Even in the fall of man, we see the connection between vision and judgment—in this case, judgment apart from the law of God. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” (Genesis 3:6-7) Vision is a necessary precondition to exercise judgment. The Bible stresses this by requiring two or three witnesses in all criminal matters or in bringing a charge against an elder.
The Old Testament law protected the blind. In Deuteronomy 27:18, we read, “Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind man on the road.” In Leviticus 19:14 we’re told, “You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.”
But the law also threatens blindness as a form of judgment. Deuteronomy 28:28 reads, “The LORD will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of mind, and you shall grope at noonday, as the blind gropes in darkness, and you shall not prosper in your ways.” God commanded Isaiah to tell the people of Judah, “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9b-10)
With this theology of blindness in the Old Testament, perhaps we can understand why the disciples asked their question in the way they did. They understood the connection between blindness and sin, at least they thought they did. They must not have considered some other texts concerning blindness, however. For God promises many times to open the eyes of the blind in the prophets:
“In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.” (Isaiah 29:18)
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” (Isaiah 35:5)
“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:6-7)
“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.” (Isaiah 42:16)
There are more such verses, but I think you see the point. God is in the business of opening the eyes of the blind—physical and spiritual.
One final thought on blindness in the Bible. Isaac, Jacob, and Eli all lost their sight as they aged. None of them were born blind. So what is significant about the man “born blind?” This difference is highlighted in the text itself. The two words “born blind” appear four times in this chapter, along with the phrase “blind from birth.” John emphasizes this fact for us, and we ought not to dismiss its significance. We’ll return to this question as we work through the text.
Now that we understand the context of this passage, let’s return to John 9 and look at the healing itself. We find the disciples observed the “man blind from birth” and questioned Jesus about “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” This is what is called a “false dilemma.” This means that the very question itself excludes any other options. In the minds of the disciples there could only be two explanations for why a man might be born blind.
The disciples hadn’t considered other causes, but not only that, they hadn’t considered that the Light of the World walked with them, who had promised “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Jesus answers their question by offering a third explanation. “It was not this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” He even reminded them, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:5)
We don’t know how old this man born blind was at the time, but he was old enough to be “of age” as his parents said in verse 21. This meant he was old enough to testify on his own behalf. In other words, he is not a child. He is a grown man. He had been blind the entirety of his life that, as Jesus had said, “that the works of God might be displayed in him.” We should pause here and consider this. Have you considered your affliction, your suffering, your condition are for such a purpose? Not just any purpose, but one of the noblest there is—“that the works of God be displayed.” I suggest we all consider such a thought. Were you to know this of your own situation, would it change the way you bear your burden? Would it change your perspective? Would it help you persevere in faith, knowing that you were displaying the works of God to the world when enduring suffering?
We’re accustomed to people coming to Jesus for healing, calling out to him, touching him, appealing to him, clamoring for him. This happens throughout all the gospels. But that is not what happens here. The text does nothing to indicate the blind man even knew Jesus was nearby. The urgency in the healing belongs entirely to Jesus. It is Jesus that says, “we must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” Jesus did the work of the Father who had sent him, and Christ followers do the work of Jesus today. We ought to be doing works of mercy as well.
As we have said many times, the Bible is God’s Word. It is “verbally inspired”, “without error”, and “the complete revelation of [God’s] will for salvation. God doesn’t waste words, and the specific steps and the order in which Jesus performed them are important, and we ought to attend to them.
- Jesus brought something forth from his mouth, in this case, spit, into “the ground”
- The moisture from his spit produced “mud” which Jesus anointed on the man’s eyes.
- Jesus then commanded the man to go wash in a specific pool, “Siloam”, which John is careful to translate for us as “Sent”, S-E-N-T. Jesus sent the man to wash in the Pool of Sent.
Perhaps you’re reminded of Genesis 2:7, “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Here, in John 9, Jesus offers saliva, rather than breath, putting that moisture into mud, and putting it on the eyes of the man born blind. In both instances, it is that which comes out of the mouth of God that is offered. In the first instance, it is life-giving. In the second, the saliva is restorative. This is a second creative act, offered by the Word of God, by whom “all things were made.” For “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Jesus came to usher in a new creation, for the first had fallen into darkness.
To complete the healing, Jesus sends the man to the “Pool of Siloam.” Siloam means “sent”, as John tells us. Commentators on the passage note it was likely given the name because the pool was not made by a natural spring, but by water that was ‘sent’ there, likely via an aqueduct or some other means. Regardless, Jesus sends him there, the name reinforcing his command to obey, for he has been sent by Jesus. The man born blind shows no reluctance and goes, and is healed, and returns “seeing.”
The Response and Trial
Now that the man is healed, we find the community in an uproar and an ecclesiastical trial about to ensue. One group was in utter disbelief saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Another group agreed saying, “It is he. Others said, “No, but he is like him.”
The man, whose name we never learn, “kept saying, “I am the man.” But the neighbors are very slow to understand. They inquire, “Then how were your eyes opened?” The man then bears witness, testifying about what Jesus had done for him. He recounts exactly what happened. He repeats the three things Jesus did, making mud, anointing his eyes with the mud, and commanding him to “Go to Siloam and wash.”
The crowd asks the man, “Where is he?” The Pharisees are going to ask a similar question themselves, in verse 29. The crowd is not content with the man’s testimony, and they bring him before the Pharisees. As we’ll see by the end of the chapter, this is in fact an ad hoc, or informal court. The Pharisees are going to call witnesses, listen to testimony, and execute judgment. Just as we might be considering why the healing of a blind man would require a court of law, John adds an important detail. He writes, “Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.”
Some of you may already remember the controversy that ensued whenever Jesus healed on the Sabbath. He does this several times in the gospels. In John 5, Jesus healed a lame man at the pool called Bethesda on the Sabbath. John comments on this healing, saying, “And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.” (John 5:16) Jesus himself stated, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” He’s clearly stating that he is doing the work of his Father, who is still working. Jesus was not dissuaded from healing on the Sabbath again, and he did so without reservation here, in John 9.
There is an important lesson for us all here, that what is right is always right, and the concerns of the unrighteous cannot dictate to us what and when we are to faithfully follow the works of our Heavenly Father. The Pharisees had elevated the law above the love of neighbor. But, as Jesus teaches us, “You cannot serve two masters.” What is ultimate? What is of utmost importance? Is it the law as understood by men, or is it the will of the Almighty? Jesus knew that to love his neighbor would be to obey God, while obeying the man-made rules established by the Pharisees would be to hate his neighbor. May we have the courage to obey ourselves.
The Pharisees, in chapter 9, take up the investigation concerning “how he had received his sight.” Their first witness is the man born blind who testifies simply about the mud on his eyes, and his washing. The Pharisees are quick in judgment, declaring, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” Notice the same false dilemma the disciples were guilty of offering when questioning why the man was blind. The Pharisees consider no other facts, beyond their personal interpretation of the Sabbath law.
But some were not so quickly satisfied, for the healing itself was a sign of some significance, for they asked, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” As John observes, “there was a division among them.” Without Jesus there, the man becomes a kind of scapegoat, receiving the wrath of the Pharisees and the accusatory questions, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” They seem to want to entrap him, since they’re not able to put Jesus on the witness stand. The man answers, “He is a prophet.” This was a relatively safe answer, dodging the messianic controversy. They turned their wrath from him for the moment, preferring to disbelieve the entire account.
John recounts that “The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight…” Notice how the man is now “the man who had received his sight”, no longer the man who had been born blind. We’re never told the man’s name, and I believe this is an intentional device that John uses to typify the man’s healing. What is important about him was the condition of his eyes—were they blind or were they healed?
The man’s parents do affirm that this man is their son who was born blind, but as John notes, “they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.” (John 9:22) So the man’s parents respond in fear, lest they say anything that might result in their being “put out of the synagogue.”
It is difficult for us to truly understand what it meant to be “put out of the synagogue” as they had feared. America is a diverse nation with the freedom of religion and true diversity of belief. The synagogue was the center of community life around which everyone in the community was an integral part. To be apart from the synagogue was to be an outcast from the community—distrusted, despised, rejected, and without hope of salvation. For being a part of the covenant people was everything, being cut off from it was complete loss. There is little in our own culture to which we may compare. So this threat from the Pharisees was no small thing.
Yet, consider the alternative. Jesus had said much that they had to consider while facing interrogation by the Pharisees. Consider a few:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” (John 5:25-27)
“For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.” (John 5:36)
“Truly, truly, I say to you whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.” (John 6:47)
“For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of his holy angels.” (Luke 9:26)
I could go on and on, of course, for Jesus said much. But this much is clear—he claimed Messianic authority for himself, claimed to be the Son of God. So the man’s parents had to choose whom they would fear. Would they fear the earthly authority of the Pharisees who could overthrow their way of life, or would they fear Jesus, who could give or take eternal life? Put in their shoes we might think we would choose rightly. But are we truly willing to cast aside earthly comfort for eternal life? One of our greatest temptations is to live by sight, and not by faith. In a moment like this it is all too easy to not consider the spiritual realities and the eternal reward of faithfulness. May we be a people that live by faith, and not sight, choosing Jesus over temporary comforts and the applause of men.
So the parents of the man “feared the Jews” and answered poorly. Rather than affirming the faithful witness of their son, they testify “how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes.” They direct their questioners back to their son, saying, “Ask him; he is of age.” So instead of acting faithfully, showing their son how to be faithful to their covenant Lord, they show him they ought to “fear the Jews” rather than “confess Jesus to be the Christ.” Parents, who do you teach your children to fear?
Now the Pharisees call “the man who had been blind” to testify before them again. They command him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” At first we may be inclined to say, “Yes, give glory to God!” But their next sentence betrays their hearts. They do not want to give glory to God, not Yahweh, the God of the covenant, at least. By rejecting Jesus, calling him a “sinner” they have shown they will not have Yahweh—for by rejecting Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, they have rejected the Father. They have rejected the God of the covenant they claim to worship! To give glory to God as they charge the man to do, would be idolatry—it would be worshipping the god of the Pharisees’ imaginings! It is not the triune God of heaven, Father, Son, and Spirit, but a unitarian god.
But “the man who had received his sight” has been forever changed by Jesus, his eyes have been opened and he can do nothing else but testify on his behalf. It is clear at this point that he doesn’t truly know his healer to be the Son of God, but he is not satisfied with what the Pharisees say of him. He responds to the Pharisees, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
The Pharisees are now exasperated because he is not blindly following them, but stubbornly persisting in acknowledging the unique power of his healer. They press him, now even more antagonistically, that is to say questioning him as an enemy, rather than impartially as they ought in court. They ask, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” It shouldn’t surprise us that the man responds in like manner, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”
The Pharisees are not accustomed to being treated this way, and “they reviled him.” To revile is to verbally abuse someone. You can hear that in their words. You can almost hear the spit and venom coming out of their mouths, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” Their appeal to the authority of Moses is a hollow one, for the previous eight chapters testify to the continuity between Moses and Jesus.
John 1:17 reads, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
In John 5:45-47 Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed in Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
In John 7 he accuses the Pharisees of not keeping the law that Moses gave them. Yet the Pharisees continue to hold on to the law of Moses, rather than receiving the “grace and truth” offered to them through Jesus Christ. We might reasonably wonder why they hold firm to the law of Moses and reject Jesus. This is a fair question, and one we will return to. For now, we should simply observe that they say they do not know where Jesus comes from. The neighbors raised a similar question in verse 12. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus is physically absent for most of this chapter? Where he is and where he came from are central questions in this trial. Of course these answers have all been given throughout the book, and I just read that Jesus is spoken of in the law of Moses. But the Pharisees are not interested in what has been spoken of Jesus both in the Old Testament and in his own words during his ministry. The Pharisees seem blinded to the truth, unable to properly judge the evidence offered by three witnesses.
As we’ve read, the Pharisees are not able to speak peacefully and respectfully to the man, instead they revile him. The man too, is emboldened in his testimony. His words drip with sarcasm and derision, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
We sometimes joke about a “mic-drop” moment. I suppose this would qualify as that kind of rebuke. What could the Pharisees say in response? The facts are laid bare and it is plain that Jesus, at the very least is a prophet from God, and not a sinner as the Pharisees contend. As the martyr, Stephen, will later testify to the Pharisees in the book of Acts, “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?” (Acts 7:52)
This is a David and Goliath type moment, isn’t it? A man born blind is healed miraculously by the very Son of God, and is afforded the opportunity to testify concerning his healing before the religious leaders of his day. But rather than finding genuine interest in the messianic healing—remember the promises of healing the blind in the prophets I read earlier, the man finds the Pharisees have abandoned the God of the covenant, and hate those that would testify to the messiahship of Christ! And not only that, but he has made plain their hypocrisy in the sight of all.
The Pharisees, who are clearly hardened in their sin, and unwilling to submit themselves to the work of God, again revile the man. They answer him, “’You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?’ And they cast him out.” Cast him out of what? Remember verse 23—he was cast out of the synagogue. The man has been cast out of the religious and communal center of his culture. He has lost everything he had, which, at the time was relatively little. He was a blind beggar, but at least the law of his people would make provision for him. But now? What did he have left? But the story is not yet over, is it?
God never leaves his children lost and abandoned. God offers us his Son in the gospel and our passage offers a glimpse of the good news that Jesus offers freely to all.
Jesus finally reappears on the scene in the last few verses of the chapter. He had “heard that they had cast [the man] out” and found the man again. The healer that had disappeared and over whom so many words had been spoken, and much wondering about where he was and where he had come from is back. Let it never be said that God abandons his own. Jesus seeks and finds his own. Jesus protects his sheep. So naturally he returns to the man. His question may seem an odd one from our perspective. Jesus asks the man, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
We don’t have time to say much concerning “the Son of Man”, for much could be said. But it is a messianic title, that emphasizes Jesus’s heavenly origin, though born of a woman. In John 1:51, Jesus speaks of “angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Jesus is the connection between heaven and earth. In John 3:13, Jesus says, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” In the next verse Jesus says “the Son of Man” must be “lifted up”—that is, onto the cross. In John 5:27, God gave Jesus “authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” In John 6:27 Jesus is the one with the power to give eternal life. Again, more could be said, but these are some of the key passages in the gospel of John that define “Son of Man.”
Back to Jesus’s question, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man, still doesn’t quite know who he is talking to, but his response shows genuine curiosity, not Pharisaical rejection. The man responds with a question of his own, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Notice the respect he offers to Jesus. He calls him “sir.” After mocking the unbelieving Pharisees, he treats his healer with respect and authority.
Jesus now, speaks more clearly, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” Notice Jesus says he has “seen” him. The man now “sees” Jesus because Jesus opened the man’s eyes! Do you remember earlier, that judgment is connected with sight? “God saw that the light was good.” (Genesis 1:4) The man only sees because his eyes have been opened. Having his eyes opened, he is free to exercise “right judgment.” No one else in this chapter has had their eyes opened, and consequently, no one else is able to “see” Jesus. Jesus adds the clause about “who is speaking to you” to confirm that it is not just someone the man has seen, but the very one he is seeing and speaking with now.
The man, whose eyes have been open, whose eyes now see Jesus testifies, “’Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.” All the questions concerning who Jesus is, and where he came from are now resolved. Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Son of Man. He is Yahweh in the flesh. He is the opener of eyes and the judge of all men. What else could the man do but profess his belief and worship? But again, notice he is the only one in this chapter offering worship.
This fact is confirmed in the last few sentences of the chapter. Not only that, but Jesus explains the matter of the healing in highly symbolic terms. He says, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Wow! Let me say that again, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
One commentator on this passage observes, “this incident has been recorded primarily because it is an acted parable of faith and unbelief, and therefore of judgment…” (Tasker, R.V.G., p. 126, John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Intervarsity Press, 2000) So what are we to understand of this “acted parable of faith and unbelief?”
Jesus came to heal those that are spiritually blind and to blind, in unbelief, those that can see. This is a precise summary of this entire chapter. The man born blind is healed by Jesus so that he may see Jesus. He is no longer “the man born blind” but “the man who had received his sight.” The community and the Pharisees, of course, could see, but Jesus had come to blind them!
“Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.’”
I said earlier that we would return to a couple of questions. The first was, why the emphasis on the man having been born blind? The second, why did the Pharisees hold so firmly to the law of Moses, yet reject Jesus?
One of the first things we must understand is that all are blind. The man born blind suffered from real, physical blindness. But this same man, the community and the Pharisees all suffered from spiritual blindness. None could truly see Jesus, and only the sight of the one man was restored, and it resulted in faith and salvation. The man born blind became a new man through the re-creative act of Jesus spitting in dirt, anointing the man’s eyes with this “mud”, and the washing of water.
This one man’s experience is the universal experience of all those that are saved. Jesus offers his body—not only the breath of his mouth, not only the saliva from his mouth, but his Word (gesture) made flesh. He opens the eyes of the spiritually blind, and washes us clean with the waters of baptism.
Those that thought they could see, stand condemned by their own words, for having said “We see,” they still rejected Jesus. Therefore, having professed to see, they are condemned by their own testimony, for they ought to receive the Jesus they see. The Pharisees held to the law of Moses and rejected Jesus because they could not see, despite their belief to the contrary. Therefore Jesus condemned them.
John quotes Isaiah in chapter 12:37-40: “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.’”
This comment by John, in chapter 12 helps explain the hardness of heart of the Pharisees. This is the principle of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 13:12. He said, “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
The very people that had been entrusted with the Law of Moses, the prophets, the covenant promises of God, rejected Jesus, the Son of God. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13)
While setting the context of this passage, we took a brief look at the theology of blindness in the Old Testament. The rest of the New Testament also has much to say about sight and blindness, and in the same vein as what is taught in John 9. You may recall that Paul, was blinded on the Damascus Road, and his sight was miraculously restored and he was then baptized. While preaching to Agrippa in Acts 26, Paul says that Jesus appeared to him saying that he had been appointed, “as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” (Acts 26:16-18) And in Ephesians 1, Paul prays that “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…” (Ephesians 1:17–18)
Those of us that have had the eyes of our hearts enlightened know the hope to which we are called. If you have not had the eyes of your heart opened, call upon the name of the LORD and ask that he call you out of darkness and into the light of Christ. May today be the day of your salvation!
But know that rebirth is costly. Jesus does not promise an easy life, but eternal life. Jesus had to suffer, had to die, had to lie in the grave. Yes, of course he triumphed in his resurrection, but the suffering and death were very real.
The “man who had received his sight” too, had to suffer. Again. He suffered as a blind man, but he would suffer again. He was cast out of the synagogue and the only community he had known. The text doesn’t tell us this, but it seems likely that his parents, at least for a time would also disown him. This was an extraordinary cost for this man. Yet—the man would inherit eternal life! He had had an encounter with the Son of God, and was redeemed out of his sin. The many promises this man would inherit are throughout the gospel of John.
John 3:16, Jesus’s disciples “should not perish but have eternal life.”
John 4:14, Jesus’s disciples would receive “a spring of water welling up to eternal life”
John 5:29 Jesus’s disciples would receive the “resurrection of life” rather than the “resurrection of judgment”
John 6:44 Jesus’s disciples would be raised “up on the last day”
John 15:21 Jesus’s disciples would be loved by their heavenly Father
John 16:7 Jesus’s disciples would receive “the Helper,” that is, the Holy Spirit
There are other such promises in the book, but I thought it was interesting that most of the promises were for eternal life. In the other gospels, there seem to be some earthly promises made by Jesus. John seems to be emphasizing the promise for eternal life over the earthly blessings.
This is a good reminder for us. There are many earthly blessings we receive. But our hope is in the eternal God, who promises eternal life to his own—that is those who believe in his Son. Whatever earthly promises God offers to us are good and we ought to be thankful, but we are to look, in faith, to an everlasting hope, not an earthly one. Our hope is in the resurrection to eternal life with our Heavenly Father.
Like the man who had received his sight, we too must be ready to pay the cost of discipleship. He lost everything familiar to him, everything he had been holding onto—his community, his way of life, and perhaps even his family. But, as Paul writes in Philippians 3:7-8, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”
We must consider this ourselves. We live in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Jesus Christ. The world around us has been celebrating so-called “Pride” month. CNN explains Pride Month is when “the world’s LGBT communities come together and celebrate the freedom to be themselves.” God’s Word is very clear that left to be ourselves, we will pursue sin and death. The LGBT movement is just one manifestation of that sinful desire.
As Christians we find ourselves scorned by the world for standing against worldly philosophies that celebrate human autonomy, sexual deviancy, and racial animosity. The gospel has something very different to offer people than “the freedom to be themselves.” In fact, The Bible teaches something altogether different.
Freedom only comes in the gospel. In John 8, Jesus teaches, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” Jesus offers true freedom, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
Mankind has been born into slavery to sin ever since Adam and Eve chose “the freedom to be themselves” when Satan told them, “You will be like God.” (Genesis 3:5) Adam and Eve chose sin, rather than following God’s way. We have all been born spiritually blind. It is only the mercy of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to open our eyes to see our Savior, Jesus Christ, to profess, “I believe!” and to worship him.
The world hates this message as much now as it did when Jesus first spoke it. Christian, are you ready to stand for Christ? Are you ready to be cast out of society? To live on the margins? We don’t know what the future holds, but we know the world hates Jesus and his disciples.
All men are born in unbelief, spiritually blind, and apart from the healing, restorative work of Jesus, we would remain blind. Apart from the work of God, none could see Jesus, and therefore none could turn to him in belief and find reconciliation with God. It is this fact that should lead to worship the triune God of heaven. For God, in his mercy, sent Jesus to offer his life as a ransom for sinners, and it is the Holy Spirit that today, opens our eyes and gives faith and a new heart. May we live by faith, and not by sight. May we hold firm to the Son of Man who has opened our eyes and offered the promise of eternal life.