The Gospel of John – Spiritual Blindness

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Jesus meets with the man He has healed again, who was blind since birth. His healing and conversation with the Pharisees, has resulted in the man being excommunicated from his synagogue. Jesus finally reveals His identity to the man, and explains how this miracle story summarised His earthly ministry. The Pharisees, once again, prove their spiritual stubbornness, their spiritual blindness, giving Jesus an opportunity to connect greater knowledge with greater responsibility.

Spiritual, Spiritual Blindness, Blindness

Spiritual Blindness – John 9:35–41

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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Sent by God

The man Jesus healed of lifelong blindness has been excommunicated by the Pharisees (John 9:22, 34). Beyond his support for Jesus (John 9:25), this man also embarrassed local religious leaders by exposing their hypocrisy. He knew very little about Jesus, the man who healed him but as a beggar, he knew more than enough to recognise a messenger of God (John 9:30–31). His challenge to the religious leaders earned him their insults, and their hatred (John 9:28).

Before this, the 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 his eyesight. Now, Jesus finds the man after his run-in with the Pharisees.

Jesus, as He commonly does, 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).

More than enough belief

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 desires

The formerly-blind man does not know who the Messiah actually is, so, 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, the man immediately confesses his faith in the Promised One.

An important moment

This moment is important when discussing Jesus’ claims to be God. In other portions of Scripture, worship of any being other than God is forbidden. When someone mistakenly worships other beings, such as angels, those beings respond by refusing that worship.. 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.

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Jesus’ Judgement

In this passage, Jesus states that He came for judgment. The reason for Jesus’ earthly ministry was to secure our salvation; this required judgment on and against sin. The result of this 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.

Conclusion

Too often, the Pharisees started from the assumption that they knew best, and Jesus could not be true, simply because He didn’t agree with them. As Jesus pointed out, that wasn’t because God had failed to provide evidence. It was because these men refused to accept the truth (John 5:39–40).

As part of their debate against Jesus, the Pharisees 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, in the last verse of this passage, 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).

John 9:41: “Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

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. Those who think they are wise, who claim to have spiritual sight, will be judged accordingly. This is especially true of those who, like the Pharisees, have knowledge and deliberately choose to ignore it.

Only Jesus can heal Spiritual Blindness

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath

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