The Gospel of John – Believing is Seeing

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Spiritual Blindness

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.

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Jesus meets the healed man

This passage tells us and shows us Jesus meeting with the man He has healed, formerly blind since birth. His healing, and subsequent conversation with the Pharisees, has resulted in the man being excommunicated from his synagogue. Jesus reveals His identity to the man, and explains how this episode summarised His earthly ministry. The Pharisees, once again, prove their spiritual stubbornness, giving Jesus an opportunity to connect greater knowledge with greater responsibility.

Looking beyond this mans support for Jesus (John 9:25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” ), this man also embarrassed local religious leaders by exposing their hypocrisy. Though he knew little about the man who healed him, this formerly-blind beggar knew more than enough to recognise a messenger of God (John 9:30–31 – The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.). His challenge to the religious leaders earned him their insults, and their hatred (John 9:28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses!).

Prior to this moment, this man has not actually “seen” Jesus. His blindness was healed when he obeyed Jesus’ command to wash off his eyes (John 9:6–7), so Jesus was not there when the beggar gained eyesight. Now, Jesus finds the man after his run-in with the scribes and Pharisees.

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Challenging Beliefs

As He often does, Jesus challenges the man by asking him to explain his own beliefs. This question is important for several reasons. The term “Son of Man” is one that Jewish people associated closely with the Messiah. To this point, the once-blind man has not said he thinks Jesus is the Messiah—only that he believes Jesus has been sent by God (John 9:11).  This once-blind man is more than willing to follow what he has learned from his experiences; he only needs to be told how (Matthew 7:7).

Just ask Jesus

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Just Ask

 The man responds to Jesus’ question with an admission of his own ignorance. This statement is similar to the cry of the father of a demon-possessed boy in Mark 9:24: “I believe; help my unbelief!” Here, the healed man wants to follow the truth, but simply does not know how. This is a strong contrast to the hard-headed scribes and Pharisees (John 5:39–40), who know more than enough about the Scriptures, but “refuse” to follow them by accepting Christ.

As promised (Matthew 7:7), Jesus will respond to sincere seeking, and give this man the wisdom he needs.

The “Son of Man”—the Messiah—actually is, Jesus tells him. It’s Jesus Himself, the one standing right there speaking with the now-seeing man. Once again, the man’s response differs drastically from that of Jesus’ religious critics. Following his own advice (John 9:27), the man will immediately confess his faith in the Promised One.

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Lord, I believe

Hearing that this Messiah was Jesus, the man immediately responded with worship.

Believe- Hillsong Worship

This moment is also important when discussing Jesus’ claims to be God. In other portions of Scripture, worship of any being other than God is forbidden (Exodus 20:3–4). When someone mistakenly worships other beings, such as angels, those beings respond by refusing that worship (Revelation 19:9–10). As with Thomas, Jesus accepts the worship of this newly-seeing man. By implication, Jesus is agreeing that He can be worshipped, which from a Jewish perspective means He is claiming to be identical to God.

The result of Jesus ministry, however, is the—eventual—condemnation of those who reject Him.

The reference to those who see versus those who are blind is meant to explain this entire incident with the blind beggar and the religious critics. Those who admit their need, and trust in God, are those who will be granted sight—just as the blind man was given both sight and knowledge by Jesus in response to his sincere faith. Those who are arrogant and presume they already know, will be hardened by the presence of Jesus, instead. Despite their knowledge, they’ll allow their own prejudice to blind them, making them incapable of understanding what they don’t want to understand, anyway.

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More mocking

As part of their debate against Jesus, the Pharisees now ask a pointed question. This is meant to be rhetorical—they ask with the assumption that the answer is an obvious “no.” By their own standards, the Pharisees were the most moral, well-educated, and spiritually capable of men. One can imagine a modern Pharisee asking, sarcastically, “you’re not saying I don’t understand spirituality!” and laughing.

Jesus’ response, shows that this is exactly the case. Worse, for the Pharisees, is their arrogance and presumption. Those who recognize their weakness and need for truth find forgiveness and grace (John 9:35–38; Mark 9:24). Those who claim they have knowledge will be judged according to their own standards (John 9:41).

The world does not see

By worldly standards, these Pharisees had more spiritual “sight” than anyone else. So, when Jesus indicated that His ministry was meant to give spiritual sight to those who sought it, and reveal spiritual blindness to those who thought they were wise, the Pharisees responded with arrogance. Their response, in essence, was to say, “you obviously aren’t saying we’re spiritually blind.”

Here, Jesus clarifies: this is exactly what He’s saying.

Further, Jesus’ statement here underscores an important principle, which is that God holds people accountable only for what they know, but holds them absolutely accountable for it. Those who come to God in humility, admitting weakness and seeking truth, are met with grace and forgiveness (Mark 9:24; John 9:35–38; Matthew 7:7–8). Those who think they are wise, who claim to have spiritual sight, will be judged accordingly (James 3:1). This is especially true of those who, like the Pharisees, have knowledge and deliberately choose to ignore it.

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As a result, even when faced with a miracle, these men define right and wrong, and good and evil, according to whether or not the messenger agrees with their interpretations. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon problem even today. Many groups choose a particular “pet doctrine,” such as a particular day of worship, or a translation of the Bible, and use that as the first test of truth. Those who disagree with that stance are immediately dismissed as sinners, heretics, or false prophets. In effect, this makes that tradition, or doctrine, the real “god” of that sect, blinding them even to miraculous evidence of the truth.

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath

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