John (Part 33): Messiah Illustration – the Blind Man Healed - Final (ch 9)
The Pharisees were willing to accept that the miracle was from God, but they didn’t want credit going to Jesus. So they urge the man to give glory to God, telling him by that to either renounce his previous error in saying Jesus was a prophet or simply to praise God and not Jesus for this miracle. But the healed man’s reply seems to puzzle the Pharisees.
First, the man says that he doesn’t know whether his healer is a sinner. This isn’t a statement of confusion for him. I don’t think he is trying to throw up his hands and say, “Look, I don’t know about charging him with sin. You can decide that. I’m just happy that although I had been blind, now I can see. Just let me go celebrate.” Actually, that may be what the Pharisees were wanting him to say—wanting him to mean.
But that doesn’t fit the man’s attitude considering the entire passage. He had heard them arguing earlier (9:16). When these doctors of law suddenly turned to him to ask what he thought, he had answered with simple surety: “He is a prophet,” meaning he is from God. This healed man was certain. Later in 9:30, the man again seems dumbfounded that this act of curing his blindness is not seen as decisively pointing out that Jesus must be from God. This healed man is thoroughly convinced that Jesus is from God, and he is convinced by this one miraculous deed—he was blind and now he can see. So, his reply to the Pharisees in verse 25 should not be thought as a sudden backtrack from what he believes in certainty just a little before and a little after. More probably his words in 9:25 mean this: “I heard you arguing before, and I’m not really qualified to judge things based on the law. But, look, I do know one thing—one main, important, obvious point that, to me, settles the whole matter: I was blind, but now I see! Shouldn’t that tell you something?”
But even as we had to figure out what the healed man was really saying, so too did the Pharisees. The Pharisees may have paused for a second, staring at him and trying to process what he said. They had wanted him to deny Jesus’ involvement in the miracle, and the man had just recounted the miracle without mention of Jesus. Maybe he was agreeing with them, they could have thought. Was he going to leave Jesus out of the account? They couldn’t tell for sure, and so they ask him again: “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” (9:26). In other words, they wanted to hear him say for sure, “Yes, this Jesus was there, but all he did was but mud on my eyes. It was God, not Jesus, healing me in the miraculous water of the Pool of Siloam.”
The answer now from the healed man sounds like he is intentionally being ironic. He says he already answered them. Then he wonders aloud why they want to hear the answer again. He suggests that it could be because they are interested in becoming Jesus’ disciples too. While this answer seems tongue-in-cheek by the man, it is possible that it may not be. After all, while it is true that the Pharisees now appear united in claiming that Jesus is a sinner, just a few verses back they were arguing that question among themselves. Maybe the leaders of the group, by sheer force of their authority, overcame the objections by some others in the group who were considering that Jesus may actually have been from God. The healed man had been there listening to their whole debate. By calling him back and then asking him to recount the incident again (which is what led to the Pharisees’ internal argument the first time), perhaps the man is legitimately thinking they are still considering Jesus as possibly a man from God. Perhaps in all sincerity he is wondering whether that one faction of the Pharisees in seeming sympathy with Jesus is now swaying the group. After all, he was thoroughly persuaded by the miracle. Perhaps now the Pharisees saw it too! They could be considering following this man as truly from God. The whole landscape of religious culture in Jerusalem could be changing! Could this man even maybe be the Messiah?!
But whether his question is ironic or sincere, the Pharisees burst out in denial. In verse 28, the HCSB says they ridicule him. That is probably not a good translation. The Greek loidoreo (loidore,w) is closer to the KJV, ESV, and NASB’s revile. They react in a decidedly grade school fashion, saying, “We’re not; you are!” But their accusation is more serious than simple tit for tat. They claim to be Moses’ disciples. In other words, they follow the covenant as traditionally taught by the Pharisees all the way from Moses, and especially, in this instance, Moses’ law of the Sabbath. God indeed spoke to Moses. They have Scripture to prove it. But this Jesus, they don’t know where he’s from.
That statement relates directly to the outline heading for this section. This illustration in chapter 9 is about the Revelation of Messiah. Earlier (chapter 7:1-52) showed that the Messiah Jesus came from his Father God. Now this illustration reveals that. In other words, Jesus both said he was from the Father, and by what he did he showed he was from the Father. Yet the Pharisees can’t see it. They claim to know that Moses is from God but then wonder where Jesus is from. Yet Moses spoke of God sending his Messiah. The Pharisees said they believed in Moses as a man of God, but they weren’t even listening to what Moses had said.
The healed man responds in verses 30 through 33. Again, it appears as if he begins with sarcasm. He says that it is an “amazing thing” that the Pharisees do not know where Jesus is from since he healed his blindness. But, also again, it may be that he says this in all sincerity. Remember, this is not some disgruntled debater that has been called up to face the council. This is a man that has spent his life blind, sitting in public places just begging for anything so he can live. Suddenly this man is healed. Would that not fill his mind and imagination with wonder for days and weeks to come? And here it is almost immediately after regaining his sight. Would he be intent on sarcasm and argumentation or is he sincerely incredulous that these Pharisees can’t see this as a direct act of God! It’s incredible, incomprehensible, amazing that the Pharisees do not recognize this! How can they not?! It’s never happened before, the man says. He’s got to be from God!
At this, the Pharisees recoil as snakes in anger, hissing. “You are trying to teach us?!!!” they cry out with offended arrogance dripping. And then they hurl as harsh an insult and condemnation as they can muster. First, they give the insult: “You were born entirely in sin!” This goes back to the disciples’ initial question at the beginning of the chapter: “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” In other words, the Pharisees agree that some specific sin caused this man to be born blind. Thus, he was born with God’s punishment resting on him. He was born entirely in sin.
And, implying that after being born in sin with God’s judgment on him, he should have learned to do right (i.e., accept the teaching of the Pharisees), but he hasn’t learned this and therefore the Pharisees issue their condemnation: they cast him out of the synagogue, out of the religious and social (and therefore economic) safety of their Jewish society.
Jesus hears that this man he healed has been cast out of the synagogue. So Jesus finds him and asks him whether he believed in the Son of Man. The man asks who is the Son of Man. Jesus replies that he, Jesus, is. And the man believes and worships. Jesus concludes in verse 39 saying that this spiritual change in the man is what he came into the world to effect.
If this were not the Bible, we may balk at this. We might wonder what this man really believed. All the text says is that he believed in was the Son of Man. What does that mean anyway? Doesn’t someone have to believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sin and rose the third day? Isn’t that the gospel that we must believe to be saved?
The gospel—the good news—is and always has been that God would rescue us from our lost condition—that he would make a way for us who are dead (separated from him) to be with him again in life (covenant relationship). The OT teaches that the way God would do this would be by sending an anointed one—the Messiah. That anointed one would save his people. That’s the good news. When Jesus came, he identified himself as the Messiah. That meant that God’s plan for rescue—the good news—was taking place. Jesus asked the man whether he believed in the Son of Man. This was not an unfamiliar term. Daniel 7:13-14 speaks of Daniel’s vision of God’s rescue. In it he “saw One like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven.” The Jews recognized that the son of man mentioned in Daniel was the promised Messiah to reign as king over all the earth. If we look ahead to John 12, we read first in verse 23 that Jesus tells those around him that “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Then Jesus says in verse 32 that he will be “lifted up from the earth” and by doing so he would “draw all people to” himself. Then in verse 34 the crowd responds, “We have heard from the scripture that the Messiah will remain forever. So how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up.’” By their statement we learn that the crowd understood two things. One was that they knew that being lifted up meant being killed. The second is that they knew the Son of Man referred to the Messiah.
Therefore, when Jesus mentions the Son of Man to the healed man, we may presume that the healed man understood Jesus to be speaking of the rescuing Messiah. So when the man asked Jesus who the Son of Man was, he was not asking for a definition of the term. He was asking, “Who is the Messiah?”
And the man is ready to believe what Jesus tells him. He has already testified that he believed Jesus was a prophet—a man with a definite message from God himself. He has, through the events of chapter 9, demonstrated the continuing faith spoken of by Jesus in 8:31. Therefore, when Jesus tells him that he, Jesus, is the Messiah, the man responds in faith to the revelation.
But notice that Jesus answers the man’s question in a somewhat odd way. When asked who the Son of Man is, Jesus does not simply reply, “I am.” He says, “You have seen Him; in fact, He is the One speaking with you.” This answer should remind us of the answer Jesus gave to the Samaritan woman when she also mentioned the Messiah. Jesus replied to her in 4:26, “I am He … the One speaking to you.” At that time, we theorized that his answer was meant as much for her as it was for the disciples who were just showing up on the scene puzzled as to why Jesus would be talking with (1) a Samaritan and (2) a woman. It was part of his messianic activity. In this instance with the healed man, there are disciples, others, and Pharisees around. His answer to the man is meant for them as well. This man has been healed spiritually; he can now see not only physically but spiritually that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is talking with him, bringing the message of God to his faith-responding heart. The Pharisees had seen and heard as well. But they had rejected the revelation—the light. And thus, the statement in 9:39 summarizes this whole illustration—Jesus has come to give light to the blind and darkness to those who reject his light.