35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
(John 9:35-41 NIV)
Jesus has healed a man who was blind since birth. News spread like wildfire – no one has ever experienced or heard of such a thing in their lifetime, or ever in the course of history, for that matter. The Jewish religious leaders hear about this miracle and immediately launch an investigation. The investigation, unfortunately, was not to verify the miracle and glorify God but to determine if someone had broken their oral tradition by “working” on the Sabbath.
The Pharisees question the man four times and also bring in his parents for questioning. In the Pharisees’ minds, this blind-to-seeing “miracle” was a hoax which Jesus perpetrated, a publicity stunt to win over the hearts and minds of the Jewish people from the current religious leadership. When the formerly blind man dared to question the religious leaders about Jesus, they excommunicated him from the synagogue and all of Jewish life.
While John does not tell us the implications of the Pharisees’ actions against this man, Jewish culture informs us of the devastation to this man’s life. Any Jewish friends this man may have had were no longer allowed to talk to him or even acknowledge that he was alive. We also know from verses 20-23 that the man’s parents sold him out to save themselves. They would treat their son as if he were dead and would have no further communication with him.
Putting ourselves in the formerly blind man’s position for just a moment, what would we be feeling? Would we still be wondering what just happened, or would we be rejoicing over having gained our eyesight but mourning the loss of friends, family, and access to Jewish life, the only community we had ever known? Would we question the choice of sight over access to our home and family? When we think about Jesus, what would come to mind? Had Jesus healed me or had He put some twisted curse on me?
As we pick up the story in today’s reading, word gets back to Jesus that the blind man has been excommunicated from the Temple. John tells us that Jesus then seeks out the man to talk to him.
Stopping here for just a moment, notice the Lord’s compassion for the man whom has never seen Jesus but has defended Him and given witness to His healing. Jesus sought out the man to order to offer encouragement and comfort for his testimony of Jesus.
Remember from verses 6 – 7 that Jesus healed the man in absentia. Jesus made some mud, put the mud on the blind man’s eyes, then told him to find the Pool of Siloam and wash the mud from his eyes there. The man had never seen Jesus.
When Jesus finds the man, what does He say to him? Jesus asks the man a question: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” In other words, “Do you believe in Messiah?” The man responds in pure faith: “Who is he, sir? Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
Jesus’ response is simple and straightforward: “You’re looking at Him. It’s me, the one talking to you.”
Jesus had healed the man’s physical sight; now He heals the man’s spiritual sight through the man’s restored physical sight.
Notice what John records regarding the man’s response. First, the man calls Jesus “Lord” (acknowledging Jesus as his master), then verbalizes his belief in Messiah, and finally worships Jesus.
Jesus then encourages the man by telling the man that He came into the world as judgment – not to judge, but to shed light upon the hearts of humanity. The very presence of the Light of the World (as Jesus called Himself in John 8:12) reveals what is in each person’s heart.
As usual, there are a group of Pharisees hanging around Jesus, watching Jesus’ every move, hoping to find some reason to condemn Him for either his words or His actions. The Pharisees, always concerned about themselves, ask Jesus point-blank if He was talking about them. Jesus’ response is classic: “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” In other words, Jesus was saying that if they recognized their blindness, they would be healed, just as this unnamed man had been healed. Since they claimed to see, Jesus stated that they were spiritually blind.
Michael Card sums it up well: “When a blind man insists he can see, he places himself outside the possibility of ever being healed.” (John: The Gospel of Wisdom, p. 122).
So what are the takeaways from today’s passage? Several things come to mind:
- Humility and confession lead to worship.
- When we testify regarding Jesus as Messiah and are ridiculed and rejected for our beliefs, Jesus feels our pain and comes beside us to encourage and comfort us.
- There are none so blind as those who will not see. Our role is not to heal them (only the Lord can do that), but to pray faithfully for them.