John 9:35–41 (ESV) — 35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
1) A REMARKABLE CLAIM
John 9:39 (ESV) — 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
Verse 39 is ground zero for our text today.
• In it is found the meaning behind the conversation with the blind man that precedes it, and the condemnation of the Pharisees after it.
• It leads us to ask two questions.
• Who are those that “do not see” but see?
• Who are those “who see” but are blinded?
• The answers are important because Jesus says Himself that the reason He “came into this world” was to expose each through judgment.
Before we move on, however, let’s resolve some apparent contradictions about Jesus and judgment.
• In addition to our text today, John’s Gospel says the following about Jesus.
• John 5:27 (ESV) — 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
However, these seem to contradict John’s commentary on Jesus in John 3.
• John 3:17 (ESV) — 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
How is this resolved?
• The world into which Christ came was not a neutral one morally and in relation to the truth of God.
• Christ, the Light and the Truth, came into a wicked and fallen world.
o Remember, in John 2:25 we are told that Christ couldn’t believe in men because he knew what was in them.
• So when Christ shed His Light and Truth into this world, there were and are unavoidable consequences for unbelievers.
The Consequence – a Kind of Judgment:
• Though Jesus came to save, “saving some entails condemning others” – Carson.
• This is because those who reject Jesus are revealed as being spiritually blind to the presence their sin.
• In fact, Jesus’ mission was an act of grace for all unbelievers.
• And “in order to be grace [for all] it must uncover [everyone’s] sin” – Carson.
• Therefore, “he who resists this [uncovering] binds himself to his sin” in spiritual blindness – Carson.
• So, “The judgment referred to here is the division of humanity into believers [the blind who see their sin] and unbelievers [the seeing who are blind to their sin] brought about by Jesus’ coming into this world” – Kostenberger.
Now back to our two questions.
• Who are those that do not see but see?
• Who are those that see but do not see?
• The answer to the first is found in the blind man.
2) THE BLIND MAN – SIGHT BY JESUS
John 9:35–38 (ESV) — 35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
The Blind Man:
The blind man clearly represents those persons who humbly accept what the light of Christ shows them about their sin.
• This acceptance played out in 2 acts in John 9.
• In John 9:6-7 we see the blind man responding in faith to Jesus’ direction during the spittle spectacle.
• The result of this, of course, was the restoration of his sight – literally.
In our text today, we see that by his faith he also had his spiritual sight restored.
• The blind man was and represents “those who do not see may see” (vs. 39).
• This type of person has a “poverty of spirit (cf. Mt. 5:3)” and “an abasement of personal pride”.
• These attributes represent “a candid acknowledgement of spiritual blindness” which leads to “spiritual sight” and “true revelation, at the hands of Jesus” – D.A. Carson.
What He Sees – The Son of Man:
In John, those that see are those that recognize the authority of the Father’s Jesus.
• Jesus gets to the heart of this by asking the blind man, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
• Jesus is not asking the blind man if he thinks there is such a thing as the “Son of Man”, but “Do you place your trust in the Son of Man?” – D.A. Carson.
What is the Son of Man?
• Commonly, the phrase “Son of Man” can simply mean “someone” or “a certain person” – AYBD.
• However, in the NT the phrase is used 43 times “as a distinctive title of the Savior” – Eastons Bible Dictionary.
• And it is Jesus’ favorite title for Himself.
When Jesus uses the term to describe Himself, most believe He is alluding to Daniel 7:13-14.
• Daniel 7:13–14 (ESV) — 13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
• D.A. Carson tells us that this “son of man” was seen by the Jews as a specific “transcendent eschatological agent of divine judgment and deliverance”.
• This description, then, fits squarely with Jesus’ Father-given mission.
So, the blind man asks for insight into the identity of the this “Son of Man” that he might trust in Him.
• Jesus, continuing to give spiritual sight to the blind, tells the blind man, “it is he who is speaking to you”.
• What the blind man does next reveals both that he
o (1) has spiritual eyes to see
o (2) his view of the identity of Jesus.
The blind man worships Jesus as the Divine Son of Man!
• “The NT uses proskyneín (worship) only in relation to a divine object” – TDNT.
• Matthew 2:11 (ESV) — 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
• Matthew 14:33 (ESV) — 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
• Matthew 28:9 (ESV) — 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.
Worship and Judaism:
• In Judaism, “God must be worshipped; no other being may be worshipped” – Bauckham.
• “Jews were sharply distinguished by their monolatrous practice”, unlike non-Jews “who believed in or worshipped a high god but never supposed this to be incompatible with the worship also of lesser divinities”.
• So, for the blind man to worship Jesus was to see Him as God.
• In other words, for the blind man “Jesus is such that he can be worshipped; God is such that Jesus can be worshipped” without maligning his Jewish monolatry. – Bauckham.
So the blind man’s heart enabled him to see both himself and Jesus as God intends.
• He is one who did not see but now sees.
• One who lays down their pride and responds positively to the uncovering and illumination of Jesus Christ.
• One who acknowledges Christ as Lord and Saviour.
• But what of those who see but do not see?
• They are found in the Pharisees.
3) THE PHARISEES – BLINDED BY JESUS
John 9:40–41 (ESV) — 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
Overhearing the words of Jesus to the blind man, they want to know where they fit in – “Are we also blind?”
• And when Jesus replies with “If you were blind” He is again speaking in spiritual terms.
• The blindness He speaks of is “a lost condition that cries out for illumination” – D.A. Carson.
o A humble acknowledgement of spiritual blindness
• So when the Pharisees imply that they see, they are aligning themselves with “those who see may become blind” (vs. 39).
• They are rebelling against God’s grace, their need for it, and the identity of Jesus.
• They are saying, “We aren’t in a lost condition and have no need for illumination by the Son of Man”.
The Pharisees demonstrate perfectly what we already discussed concerning a kind of judgment in John 9:39.
• They resist Jesus and by so doing demonstrate their pride and spiritual blindness.
• The complete opposite of the blind man’s “poverty of spirit” and “abasement of personal pride”.
• “So certain are they that they can see, they utterly reject any suggestion to the contrary, and thereby confirm their own darkness” – D.A. Carson.
What they see – Self-Righteousness:
The blind man saw Jesus as the Son of Man and worthy of worship.
• The Pharisees saw only their self-righteousness as Saviour, and Jesus as blasphemer.
• This condition, a fulfillment of prophecy, is highlighted over and over in the OT and NT.
• Isaiah 6:10 (ESV) — 10 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.”
• Jeremiah 5:21 (ESV) — 21 “Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not.
• Mark 4:12 (ESV) — 12 so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
• 2 Corinthians 4:3–4 (ESV) — 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Grace and Sin:
Our text today teaches a remarkable lesson on the relationship between our sin and God’s grace.
• “Jesus makes clear, it is not the Pharisees’ sin, but their repudiation of grace, that renders them lost (Ridderbos 1997: 351)” – Kostenberger.
• Why is this so?
• Jesus light illuminates everyone’s sin.
• Remember, we all “are without excuse” and have a God-given moral knowledge.
• The question is what one does with Jesus’ illumination, with His light.
• One can acknowledge it and bow down to Jesus and accept His grace like the blind man?
• Or one can justify a self-righteous response, and in so doing reject the grace of Jesus Christ like the Pharisees?
• Both camps had their sin uncovered, but only the blind man accepted the grace that the uncovering of sin points us to.
Lesson for Us:
• So how is one made blind that they may see?
• This is a work of God we have spoken of so much since John 6 and will come to again in John 10.
• And a great example of this that contains all the elements of John 9 – blindness, Pharisees, salvation – is Paul.
• Paul, a self-righteous Pharisee, was blinded by Christ that he might see the truth about himself and the identity of Jesus.
And with regard to Paul’s encounter with his sin and response to grace:
• Was Paul’s illumination by Christ better than ours and so therefore accounts for his awesome and bold Christian walk?
• We have already seen the Pharisee’s problem was not illumination of sin but response to grace.
• Therefore, the difference between Paul’s boldness and our timidity is not the amount of illumination by Christ, but the nature of our response to Jesus’ grace.
• If we have been given eyes to see, why do we wear blinders?
• The Christian life is to be lived in boldness and full of drama, with eyes wide open, not with a ho-hum mediocrity.