Third Avenue Baptist Church
Sunday School — The Gospel of John Series
June 30, 2019
Father, we thank you that you give us this unspeakable privilege, opening your book, reading it aloud, and then going back to understand it. Father, we pray that you will give us that understanding even as you gave us your Word. We pray this in the name of the incarnate Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
When we arrive at John chapter nine, we arrive at one of the pivotal chapters, I think in all of Scripture. I will say that this is one of those chapters that reveals whether or not we are prepared to read the Bible as Christians. You say, isn't that true of every text? Yes, it's true of every chapter and every verse, but there are some particular chapters that present particular issues. The issue of belief and unbelief are just thrown into dramatic contrast and in ways that will often shock many believers. There are some explosive moments in this passage. John nine is a big chapter. I'm gonna do what might appear to be a little unpredictable here in the beginning. I have a particular purpose in reading the entire chapter aloud together before making a single comment about the text.
One of my purposes in doing this is to reveal one of the attributes of scripture as God's Word, which is the fact that it is self explaining. If you read the text carefully, reading the text as the text is written, there is an absolutely astounding self-explanatory character to the text. But I'm talking about the text rather than reading the text, so let's turn to the Word of God, John chapter nine and read the text together.
“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 was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘It is he.’ Others said, ‘No, but he is like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ So they said to him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’  He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.’ They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, ‘He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.’ Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?’ And there was a division among them. So they said again to the blind man, ‘What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’
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 and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.’ (His parents said these things because 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.) Therefore his parents said, He is of age; ask him.’
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, ‘Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.’ He answered, ‘Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘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?’ And they reviled him, saying, ‘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.’ The man answered, ‘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.’ They answered him, ‘You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?’ And they cast him out.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him. Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’ 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.’”
Boom. Wow. Here's this passage in which all of John's characteristic irony, in contrast to the other gospels, comes through in one grand narrative. Irony is powerfully disclosive. John is the master of irony in all of the New Testament. He demonstrates, as the Holy Spirit inspired him to write this Gospel, that Jesus used irony in teaching. You think the story's supposed to go this way, but it swerves this way.
Irony is sometimes described as two things put together in unresolvable tension. You see that here. Irony will make you smile. That's the reason why irony is the most sophisticated form of humor. This is the distinction between slapstick humor and the master of irony in contemporary American culture, who would be Seinfeld. It's a humor that you get, rarely by laughing out loud with a soundtrack. It's more the wry smile. Irony means there's an inside and an outside. If you get it, you're on the inside. If you don't get it, you're on the outside, which is exactly the point of the passage.
The stunning irony in the passage is that the people who think they're on the inside are actually on the outside. The people who think they're seeing are the people who don't see and the people who don't see actually do see. And then it's in the play of the word, ‘know’ in John chapter nine, the word ‘know’ plays this hugely ironic thing. They go to the man who was born blind and they said, ‘What do you know?’ He says, ‘I don't know what I know.’ ‘Well, who healed you?’ ‘I actually don't know.’ ‘Well then what do you know?’ ‘Oh, I know I was blind. And now I see.’ ‘Well, how do you know that?’ Then they begin to suspect that he wasn't even actually blind. He'd been playing blind for his entire life, just to show up the Pharisees at this moment. It's an astounding passage. But even as it's an astounding passage in its irony, it's astounding in its testimony to the sovereignty of God and the purpose of life.
Look at the beginning verses, “As he passed by,” and this is Jesus passing by, presumably on the way to the temple, “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.” It's just a fact here. This is not someone who became blind by accident or illness. This is a man who was born blind and in the first century to be born blind was a horrifying reality because being blind, one could not care for oneself. The assumption in the twisted theology of the time was that this was the curse of God. Being blind meant you could not work. You were reduced to begging. Blind beggars lined the way to the temple, hoping for alms, so that the Jews going to give alms as a part or their religious duty would see the blind and give to them.
He was a beggar. It's a very low state. The assumption in a bad theology, we have to watch this, a conventionally minded theology in contrast to a Christian theology says, “If someone is in this state, then they deserve it. If someone is born with this deformity, God must not like them as much as God likes me.” It is such a thing that in much of the world today, and in particular in Asia, there is a theological avoidance of people who have deformities. It is bad karma even to be in their presence. Throughout much of the middle east, as in the time of Jesus, babies who were marked by these afflictions might just be set out. Of course, the ancient Greeks and Romans did the same thing, just as infanticide. Babies just abandoned and allowed to die. But this man's parents did not do that. Thus, he survived. But notice what happens. His disciples ask him, “Rabbi who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” There's that conventional theology. It's a bad theology. It's a very bad theology. Sometimes, here's what we have to watch, inside God's people who operate out of what they think is a basic Biblical theism, bad theology can infect invisibly until it comes out just as it comes out here. So the disciples ask the question. They're not embarrassed to ask the question. They assume it's kind of an obvious question. Who sinned that this man was born blind. Was it he? Or was it his parents?
Their assumption is that where there is a man born blind, there was a sin, someone's sin who is behind this. That's insidious. Notice how deadly that is. That means that in this case, if someone is blind, then you can blame him for the blindness. This must be God's judgment upon his sin. Well, especially if someone's born blind, then that's really tough. This must be some kind of family heritage sin, or even some kind of prenatal sin. Who sinned, this man or his parents? Maybe his parents sinned and God's judgment upon their sin was to strike their son blind. It's an insidious, corrupted theology, but it’s easy to see how this sneaks in. It's easy to see how we would ask such questions. Cause and effect in the universe, how are we to understand this?
By the way, who sinned that this man was born blind? There is a right answer to that question, that is Adam. To be even more correct, we sinned in Adam. The Fall brings blindness, deformity, deafness, everything bad into the world with the effects of sin. There is no rhyme or rhythm. There is no theological guide to why there is this kind of birth defect of blindness.
Sometimes there is a cause and effect in sin. Someone gets drunk, causes an accident, and there's an injury; you can draw that. Someone climbs a tree and falls out of it; you can draw that. But someone born blind? You can't.
The text not only raises this, it puts it very clearly that the disciples are holding to this theology. It's the conventional theology of the time. It's rancid but it's conventional. So, they ask who sinned, this man or his parents? Jesus's answer is astounding. He says, “It was not that this man sinned or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” I said, this is one of those passages that reveals whether you read the Bible as a Christian or not. If you read and understand what Jesus just said, it throws the entire world upside down. Jesus says straightforwardly that this man was born blind for this moment. It either is or isn't true. If it isn't true then we're stuck with that conventional theology. If it is true then God's sovereignty extended in this case to understanding that before the creation of the cosmos, before the incarnation of the Son, the Father arranged that this man who was born blind would be in this place, at this time, therefore Jesus to heal him, that the works of God might be revealed in him.
That's exactly what Jesus says. Jesus says, “It was neither this man nor his parents who sinned but that the works of God might be revealed in him.” It is an astounding statement of divine purposeness. This tells us bluntly that there are no accidents in the universe. There are no accidents. There's no, “Oh, that just happened in the universe.” Everything is tied to the sovereignty of God, the meticulous Providence of God and there is purpose that we don't get to see into everything. Jesus says, “I'm gonna tell you the purpose in this case. This man exists and he was born blind because I am about to do something in him to reveal the glory of God.” That's why. We're either gonna read that as Christians or not, because that is a real demand on the reader. You either believe this or not, because Jesus says it straightforwardly. You can try to come up with all kinds of theological ways to define away the Providence of God, or to try to throw in contingency or chance or to say, “There is no ultimate meaning to these things,” but Jesus says, “Oh yeah, there's an ultimate meaning to everything. There's an ultimate meaning to every atom and molecule. You may not know it. You may not see it. In this case, I’m going to tell you what it is, because I'm about to do something.”
It's an astounding statement of the sovereignty of God. Jesus said, “It was not that this man sinned or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Now, hold on a minute. In verse four, he speaks of the works of God. He says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” John 9:4 is one of the theme verses of my life. I think of it every single day. It is a statement of our purpose and the stewardship of our time in this life. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. In this life, we are given day to work, but night is coming when no one can work.
The Quaker theologian, Elton Trueblood, on whom I wrote my honors thesis at Sanford many years ago, a man who I got to meet, one of the American figures of the 20th century, he wrote his memoir and entitled it, “While it is Day”. I thought, “If the Lord gives me the opportunity to write a memoir, I’ll be very tempted from this very same verse to use that title ‘While it is Day’.” That is our purpose. That is our assignment. We work while it is day. Night is coming when no man can work, but it is not here yet. Until it is night, we've got work to do.
We work while it is day. Jesus says something else here. We must work the works of God. Now you may remember that in John chapter six, Jesus warned people about using this language. This very same language is what the people who went across the sea to find Jesus the next day, after the feeding of the 5,000, and they said, “What must we do to work the works of God?”Jesus makes very clear, you can't, but here he's talking to his disciples. They can. Okay, so that's fantastic. It turns out that now there's an outside. Outside Christ, you can't work the works of God, but inside Christ, you can. These are Christ’s disciples. He says, “We must,” not I, it's we, “must work the works of him who sent me well to this day.”
Then he says, “As long as I'm in the world, I am the light of the world.” Now he's already said that he's the light of the world and he says that again. In the gospel of John, Jesus often does not repeat these ‘I am’ statements, but he does so here. Why? Because he's about to shine light. As long as he's in the world, he's the light of the world. Notice what he does. There's no break in the text. He doesn't say, “I'm going to explain this by showing you something, boys.” Instead the text tells us, that “having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s…”, hold on the man’s?
Now he's not the blind man. He says “the man”. “He anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘Go wash in the pool of Siloam’, which means ‘sent’.” He's a blind man. All the disciples see is the blind man. Jesus sees a man. He doesn't see a blind man, but he sees an opportunity for the light of the world to bring light into this man's eyes as a sign. That is John's word for the miracles, a sign. It is always a sign of something more than just healing. That is exactly what happens here. Jesus spits into the ground and makes mud. This is gross. It is disgusting, which is the point, it turns out. Jesus takes mud and spittle and he makes a paste and he puts it on the man's eyes. Now what was the man made of? Dust. Jesus made him. The one who made him out of dust now takes dust and spits on it and puts dust on the dust he made, called a man, and tells him to go wash. John helps us to see that Jesus' miracles or signs of healing are reversals of the curse.
We have Genesis one, Genesis two, we have the Edenic garden. We have humanity in the garden before the Fall. After the Fall, things go badly. Before the Fall, there would have been no blindness. Before the Fall, there would have been no lameness. There would have been no deafness. There would have been no death, no injury. But on the other side of the Fall, horror. But Jesus is the Lord of all, the Lord of creation, the Word through whom the worlds were made, John has already told us. He takes the very stuff he made, dust, and spits on it and puts it on the one he made, the man. Then he tells him to go do something, to go and wash. Washing is a very important metaphor. There's a before and after washing. That is what he does.
Notice the structure of the text. The structure of the text here in John chapter nine is so sophisticated. John writes with such elegance under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There is a triple form that turns into poetry in this text. You are going to hear it again and again and again, and you are going to start to recognize it. You'll notice that we are told what the man did. What did he do?
Notice in verse seven, “So he went and washed and came back seeing.” He went and he washed and he came back seeing. He went in obedience and he washed in obedience and he came back seeing. Now, if someone was given sight having been born blind, how would you describe that he has been given the gift of sight? John says he came back, seeing. He left blind, but he came back, seeing. It's a present participle. It doesn't say, “He started to see”, or “He had been given the gift of sight”. It just says he came back seeing. So, present participle, he's now a ‘See-er’.The man who was blind from birth is now seeing, he came back seeing.
If the text ended there, how magnificent would that be? But it doesn't end there. Instead it turns to the context. Jesus is now gone. Jesus was evidently gone when he came back seeing. Jesus having seen the man and having anointed his eyes and telling him to go and wash, the man went and he washed and he came back seeing, Jesus isn't there, but the neighbors are. Now remember, he's seeing everything for the first time. They've seen him his entire life, but he's never seen them before. He came back seeing and it turns out that's going to be a powerful metaphor because he's seeing not only with his eyes, he is seeing theologically what he never saw before and what the people who have perfectly good eyes obviously cannot see. It starts with his neighbors.
“The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’” Okay, so here's John's irony which is not hilarious, but it is intentionally humorous. One of the classic structures of humor is to reveal human foolishness, human foibles, and that is what is going on here. Remember that this man was born blind but everyone else could see. They had seen this man their entire lives. They have seen him enough to think, “This looks like the guy who was blind”, but they didn't pay enough attention to him, those who had eyes, to actually be sure this is actually the guy. “‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘It is he.’ Others said, ‘No, but he is like him.’”
How many ‘like him’ are there? How plausible is ‘like him’? This an evasive answer, kind of like you get from a defendant under cross-examination in court. “Is this the man you saw coming out of the bank with a bag of cash?” “Oh, it looks like him.” “Can you state as a matter of fact, that you're certain it is that man?” “Well, he is my brother-in-law. It looks like him.” I mean, it is just evasion. “What do you mean, looks like him?” But it gets even worse.
“He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’” So it's like, “I did it. It's me. Hello there. I never saw you before, but I'm the guy you saw or I think you saw because I thought you were seeing.” It goes on and on like this. “So they said to him,” this is verse 10, “‘Then how were your eyes opened?’” “We demand an answer. You can't just show up here seeing”. Remember it was a present participle. “I came back seeing.” You can't do that. You can't do that. That breaks all the rules. Blind people are supposed to stay blind. “How are you gonna explain the fact that you came back seeing? We demand an answer!”
They, by the way, had ignored him. Given that theology of avoiding people with infirmities, this is the first conversation the man probably ever had with these folks. And so how then were your eyes open? “He said, ‘The man called Jesus made mud,’” he's so specific. Notice under cross examination here, he's so specific. “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” There's that triple poetic form again. He went and he washed and came back seeing. “I went and washed and received my sight.”
Here he makes himself, very clearly, the passive. He is the one who was given sight. This was something that was done to him. “I went and I washed and received my sight.” “Then they said to him, ‘Where is he?’” meaning Jesus. “He said, ‘I do not know.’” Watch carefully how with his eye to irony, John picks up on the, ‘who knows and who doesn't know’. Who knows that he doesn't know and who doesn't know that he doesn't know and who should know, but doesn't know. And who, maybe should not know, but actually does know. ‘Know’ turns out to be a key, and this is where it shows up. He says, “I don't know.” Now, is it right or wrong of him to not know? He is not responsible to know. “Where is Jesus? I don't know.”
“They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.” Now here, just a couple of powerful things in those verses. The neighbors tried their own kind of theological interrogation, but they don't know enough to get anywhere. So now they call in the big guns, they call in the Pharisees. “We got to call in some experts to come help us figure this thing out. Blind men don't come back seeing we don't like this. We don't have an explanation for it.” You call the Pharisees and the next thing is, it says, “the man who had formerly been blind”. It is like a business card. “Hi, my name's Ralph, formerly blind, born that way.” That is all they can say about this guy, but he will pick up on this many verses later. Don't forget, this is the man who had formerly been blind. Hold that thought.
“Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.” Oh boy. The Pharisees, the scrupulous guardians of the Sabbath. Remember, Jesus had already made clear in Capernaum when he healed a man's hand, when the Pharisees tried to set him up saying, “Is it right to do good on the Lord's day?” And Jesus said, “You know if a man has an animal fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, who would not lift out his animal? If you would do that then of how much more value is a man than an animal? So it's right to do good on the Sabbath.” And they had a man with a withered hand, Jesus said, “Stretch out your hand,” and so Jesus healed the hand. Then the Pharisees, Matthew tells us, “Went out, seeking how they might destroy him.”
It is the Sabbath Day, so that just raises the anxiety for the Pharisees. “So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight.” Here's the blind man, the man who was formerly blind, “How did this happen?” “And he said to them, ‘He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Notice in triple, triple, triple. This is poetry. John is sticking this so that we see it and we can't miss it. It comes up again, “He went and he washed and he came back seeing”, “I went and I washed and I received my sight.”, and now he says, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see. Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man,’ now speaking of Jesus, ‘this man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’” In other words, Jesus cannot be divinely sent because he doesn't keep the Sabbath.
Their whole theology was so corrupted, they saw everything backwards. “But others said,” this is obvious, “How can a man who is a sinner,” that means facing God's displeasure, do such things, in this case, “do such signs?” Even the word sign there is in the words of one of the Pharisees. “And there was a division among them.” Look at verse 17. This is like the Keystone Kops. “So they said again to the blind man.” What is wrong with that? He is not blind now! He was the man who was formerly born blind earlier. “So they said again to the blind man,” but he's not blind, “‘What do you say about him since he has opened your eyes?’”
This is like being under cross examination. First of all, you say you were blind. Then you say this guy put spit on your eyes and told you to go wash, and so up you went and you washed and came back seeing? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yada yada. Okay. How do you explain this? Give an account for this. And he says of Jesus, “He is a prophet.” Again, a bomb goes off, less so in our ears than in theirs, but that is our problem. In this context in first century Judaism, to say that man is a prophet means God sent him and speaks and works through him. Remember there had not been a prophet in Israel for centuries. That looks like a little statement, but in this context, it's messianic. There is a prophet who is expected and he said, “He is a prophet.” He is truly sent by God. God, after centuries of sending no prophets, has sent us a prophet. How do I know this? Because I was blind. Now I see.
The Jews understand this. They understand the audacity of what he said. In verse 18, “The Jews did not believe that he had been born blind and received a sight.” In other words, how do you deal with a miracle if you don't want it to have happened? You tried to deny that it actually happened, so how do you do it in this case? You deny that the man had really been born blind. Now the credulity in that is so lacking, it is ludicrous. Yes, this guy has been playing blind for his entire life into adulthood. He has been living this life of being despised and unrecognized. He has lived this life of horror and deprivation and it was just an act to frustrate you Pharisees on this Sabbath day. That's what it was. That t doesn't even hold water.
“They didn't believe he had been born blind and received sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them.” His parents turn out to be the two most spineless human beings imaginable. His parents throw their own son under the bus. “Is this your son who you say was born blind?” Remember what the disciples ask when they saw the man, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” The assumption was it had to have been the parents. How could he have sinned prenatally? This must be something the parents did. They had borne the theological burden for this man's entire life until now of being the parents whom God has punished by giving them a blind son. No one would claim that their son is blind if their son had sight. It is ludicrous. It just shows you the powerful nature of unbelief in this case. It is so self deceptive. And he said, “They called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, ‘Is this your son who you say was born blind?’” Verse 19, “How then does he now see?” Explain this. We demand an answer!
“His parents answered,” Now, remember I told you, watch out for ‘know’. Watch out for the word ‘know’. It shows up in this passage. Here is what his parents say. “We know that this is our son,” Check. “And that he was born blind,” check. “But how he now sees we do not know.” They knew. “Nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” Well, God save us from parents like this. His parents said, “He is on his own now. We will testify to the fact that he is our son. He was born blind, we know that. But how he sees? No, we don't know. Who did it? No, we don't know. Ask him; he is of age.”
His parents said these things, we’re told, because the Jews had threatened to cast them out of the synagogue. That's not just being cast out of the synagogue, that is being basically cast out of the society. “They had already agreed that if anyone should confess that Jesus is the Christ,” The Messiah, that prophet, “he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age, ask him. So for the second time, they called the man who had been blind and said to him, ‘Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.’” By this man, again, they meant Jesus. This is a second interrogation. They did not get anything and it is really the second Pharisee interrogation. It is his third interrogation. The neighbors interrogated them then the Pharisees had round one. This is actually Pharisees round two. When they say, ‘Give glory to God,’ that is pompous. They are trying to amplify their own importance. “‘Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.’ He answered, ‘Whether he is a sinner I do not know.’” Remember, know, know, know. You know, I know, I don't know, we don't know. Here he says, “whether he is a sinner,” which means under God's curse, “I don't know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now. I see.”
That is the hinge of the entire passage. “Whether he is a sinner, I don't know, but this thing I do know, I was blind and now I see.” What is going to happen from here on out is that the man who was born blind who now sees, from this point on in the passage knows, and no one else knows. The people who thought they knew are revealed to know nothing. And this man who says, “I don't know,” here for the last time, won't say, “I don't know,” again. Why? Because in the context of the verses that follow, he begins to know. The dots are connected. He begins to see, not only physically, but more importantly, he sees spiritually.
They said to him, “‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He answered them. ‘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?” This guy not only now knows, he is mad. He is being interrogated rather than the community celebrating the fact that God has worked this work in him as a testimony to God's grace and glory and sovereignty. Rather than the entire people of God rejoicing, as you would think they would do in the reversal of the curse and the gift of sight, instead they see it as a theological problem. He is now refusing to be seen as a theological problem. Basically he responds to them by saying, “I have figured you idiots out.”
He taunts them. “Do you also want to become his disciples?” “And they reviled him saying, ‘You are his disciple.” Well, is he or isn't he? He wasn't, now he is. He actually is. A disciple is one who follows Jesus. He's doing it now. He wasn't doing it just a few verses ago, but he's figured it out. “We are the disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man,” notice the ‘know’ and the ‘don't know’. Notice the contrast. You have the Pharisees, they're supposed to know it all. “We do not know where he comes from.” By the way, that's where the entire gospel begins, “In the beginning,” but they don't know. “The man answered, ‘Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.” Why should I care about you idiots at all? “We know,” notice the ‘know’, now he's preaching! A few minutes ago he was a blind guy who didn't know Jesus. Now he knows Jesus and is actually called by the Pharisees, ‘one of his disciples.’ Now he is a preacher!
He is preaching now. In verse 31, “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.” This is a man who was not even allowed in the temple because of his deformity and now he is preaching. “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.” It is an amazing sermon coming from this man, and you'll notice how he throws it back to them. You don’t know? You see the anger of their response in verse 34. “They answered him, ‘You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?’ And they cast him out.” They just won’t have it. They won't have the gospel. They won't have Jesus. They won't have the miracle. They won't have bind men seeing. They just won't have it. But the text isn’t over.
“Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him,” remember this man has never seen Jesus. He heard Jesus and Jesus gave him a sight, but he left to go obey Jesus by washing in the pool of Siloam and he came back seeing. He went, and he washed, and he came back seeing. When he came back, Jesus wasn't there. The first thing they asked him was, “where is he?” And he says, “I don't know.” But hearing what had happened, Jesus finds him. He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” ‘Son of man’ is the main title in the gospel of John. You'll see in the other gospels as well that Jesus uses this self-designation. This is why we sing in ‘Fairest Lord Jesus’, “Lord Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man.” This title, Son of Man, means “that appointed one whom God has sent.”
“Do you believe in the Son of Man,” in verse 36, “He answered, ‘and who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’” What is happening? At this point, the man who is blind and now sees, believes that Jesus is a prophet. He might suspect that Jesus is more because he goes on to say, “Never in the history of the world has it been heard that a man who was born blind was given his sight.” Now Jesus stands before him and says, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” His answer is, “‘Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?,” Jesus said to him,” notice his words, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He hadn't seen him, but he did see him.
Jesus here reveals that there are two kinds of blindness. There is a physical blindness and there is a spiritual blindness. Even though this man was physically blind, when Jesus put the spittle on his eyes, somewhere between when he was anointed with that mud, he saw. It becomes a metaphor for our salvation, our regeneration. We see. We didn't see before, but now we see. Now we can't not see. And Jesus said, you have seen him and the one who is speaking is he. “He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’” That is just a short statement of faith, “Lord, I believe.” It is a complete honest, unevasive, straightforward statement of belief. “‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.” That is bowing down to him. He recognized him. He is the very son of God. Remember the irony in which John has written this passage. Now Jesus speaks in these horrible, ironic words of judgment. “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
When I began, I said this is going to test whether you are willing to read the Scripture as a Christian or not. It is because Jesus says that he came in the world, not only so that the blind might see, but so that those who think they see are blinded. It is another statement of the judgment and the sovereignty of God. It is tough. No one is going to put this into a trite, little worship expression. No one is going to tell the congregation before he preaches, “Look, brothers and sisters, I am preaching so that those who do not see may see, and that those who won’t see but think they see, will be struck blind. That is what I'm doing this morning.” That is what Jesus said. It shows you that the great division in humanity is between those who see and those who will not see.
It is not over. “Some of the Pharisees,” verse 40, “near him heard these things, and said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’” It is a pathetic moment. This passage ends with a fizzle. It ends with this Pharisee stupidity. It is a strong judgment from God. “‘Are we also blind?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind,’” meaning physically blind, “‘you'd have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.’”
“I see right through you,” Jesus said. “I have come into the world so that those who are blind may see, and that those who think they see may be blinded.” The average Christian does not have a clue that is in the Bible. The average church is never going to preach this text like it demands to be preached. This is not happy-clappy Christianity. It begins with the sovereignty of God and a man born blind in order that the works of God might be performed in him. And it ends with Jesus saying, “By the way, that's why I came. So those who are blind may see. Oh, and so those who think they see may become blind.”
Let's pray. Father, we pray with all our hearts for the gratitude of the fact that you have allowed us to see. Otherwise, we would not see. And you have given us the gift of sight and the gift of salvation, no less than if you had put spittle on our eyes and sent us to the pool of Siloam and said, “Go wash,” and we went, and we washed, and we came back seeing. Father, we hear the judgment in this text. We pray that you will use this in our hearts, to call us to Christ and keep us to Christ. Father, may we see and through us, may there be others who also though blind, will see. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.