13 ¶ They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. 14 And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15 Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. 16 Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. 17 They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet. 18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. 19 And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? 20 His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: 21 But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. 22 These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him. 24 Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. 25 He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. 26 Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? 27 He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? 28 Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. 30 The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. 31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. 32 Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33 If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. 34 They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
The man who was healed of his blindness was brought to the Pharisees to be examined. He explained again what happened. The Pharisees condemned Jesus for, once again, healing someone on the Sabbath although some took a less hostile tone. The man himself confessed that Jesus was a prophet. The Jews did not believe that the man was born blind until they brought in his parents and questioned them. However, they would not risk being thrown out of the synagogue by affirming how the miracle happened or by whom so they put it back on their son.
The Pharisees interrogated the man again, this time telling him to give God credit for the miracle because they viewed Jesus as they would a publican or a prostitute. He was just a sinner in their eyes performing tricks of healing on the Sabbath. The man replied that he didn’t know whether or not Jesus was a sinner but he did know that he could see for the first time.
They pushed him again to tell them what exactly had happened but he refused to give in and reminded them that he had already told them that. There is a sharp exchange where the man insists that Jesus must be of God. At the end he is cast out of the synagogue.
Why did Jesus insist on performing miracles on the Sabbath that offended the Jews? Matthew Henry wrote that Jesus was deliberately attacking the authority of the religious elite as, “Their government was illegal, their impositions were arbitrary, and their zeal for the rituals consumed the substantials of religion; and therefore Christ would not give place to them, by subjection, no not for an hour. Christ was made under the law of God, but not under their law.” (12)
(12) Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, originally written in 1706, Bible Study Tools, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/john/9.html
35 ¶ Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? 36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? 37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. 38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
Jesus, hearing that the man had been cast out of the presence of the Jewish rulers, searched him out and asked a question that is fundamental to salvation.
When Philip was talking to the Ethiopian eunuch, this exchange took place;
Acts 8:36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
The belief that Jesus was God in the flesh walking on earth is a primary belief of Christianity. A Roman Centurion, at the crucifixion, believed.
Mark 15:39 And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.
The Common English Bible (CEB) changes, “the Son of God,” to, “the Human One,” so we can get an idea of what doctrinal stance those translators were trying to push. It appears to be something akin to the ancient Arian and the modern Jehovah’s Witness but I could be mischaracterizing their intentions as I have not studied that Bible. Most of the modern versions change, “the Son of God,” to, “the Son of Man,” which was one of the titles of Jesus linking Him to a Prophet (it was applied to Ezekiel on many occasions) and still considering Him as God in human flesh, but is incorrect in this verse.
The man believed when Jesus declared that He was indeed the very Son of God and, “worshipped him.” The old American Standard Version (ASV) published within a decade and a half of the English Revised Version (RV) had a curious footnote to 38. It said, “The Greek word denotes an act of reverence, whether paid to a creature (as here) or to the Creator.” (Thanks to Dr. Ken Matto for his research.) Again, perhaps this was an indication of the doctrinal stance of the translators. Strange things happen in modern Bible translation, made possible by the Enlightenment and German theology and rationalism.
39 ¶ And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. 40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? 41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
Now notice the definition of judgment here. This is judgment as in distinction of one thing from another thing. One reason Jesus came into the world was to reveal the truth to those which might receive it but hadn’t and to shut off the truth from those who which should have seen it but didn’t. He distinguishes between those who claim to be God’s people but work against God’s will and those who would do God’s will if they understood it. He opens their eyes.
This revealing of intentions is a primary work of the Bible.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Here is a prophecy of Christ from the Old Testament with a similar focus;
Isaiah 42:1 ¶ Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. 2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. 4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.
5 ¶ Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: 6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
In Paul’s recounting of his encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus he reported this;
Acts 26:15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. 16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
For the religious elite and those who are self-righteous and full of their own spiritual greatness God cuts off their access to light and understanding. For those who hunger and thirst after His righteousness God opens their eyes to receive the truth. This brings to mind a very important point about the Christian’s relationship to God’s written word, which is a type of Jesus Christ in print, and a contrast with today where few read their Bible diligently expecting God to speak to them through it and the early church as well as England around the time of the Authorized Version’s publication.
The Cambridge History of the Bible quotes Harnack’s Bible-reading in the Early Church compiled and written in the early 20th century to reveal that Clement of Rome writes to the church or Corinth around 95AD to say to everyone, not just to the pastors, “Ye know the Scriptures.” Polycarp, a few years later, writes to the Christians at Philippi, “I trust you are well exercised in the Scriptures.” A few decades later Irenaeus wants every Christian to eat of every Scripture of the Lord. Clement of Alexandria talked about Scripture reading at home before the main meal of the day and he wanted married people to study the Bible together. A later document describes people visiting each other’s homes to read the Scriptures. Another document ordered Christians to meditate on the word of the Lord continually and not to read non-Christian literature. Chrysostom wanted Christians to call their neighbors together to read the Scriptures.(13)
This was also prevalent a thousand years later in England. As early as 1536 it was reported by Bishop Foxe, “The lay people do know the Holy Scriptures.” In 1538 Archbishop Cranmer insisted to the clergy that, “none of you shall discourage any laymen from the reading of the Bible…, but encourage them to it, admonishing them that they so read it for reformation of their own life and knowledge of their duty; and that they be not bold or presumptuous in judging matters afore they have perfect [as in complete] knowledge.” See judging as in discerning and understanding, as in seeing the truth, as Jesus spoke of in the verses mentioned. Bishop Hopper said of every one, “of what degree so ever he be, should cause his family and children to read some part of the Bible for their erudition, to know God.” An author, Godfrey Davis, said of the early seventeenth century, “At that time Englishmen studied the Bible with an intensity probably never equaled, and it is hardly possible to read a speech or writing of any length without perceiving its indebtedness to the Authorized Version.”(14)
The Bible, God’s principle way of speaking to His people, cannot be substituted for by conscience or conviction. We cannot judge nor discern any matter correctly without its words in our heart. I would go further to say that if our heart is not rightly submitted to Christ when we come to it we will be blocked out of what it has for us but even if we stumble at reading and have trouble with understanding, if our hearts are right God will open our eyes to it. Jesus came to open the eyes of them that were blind and to shut off sight to those who thought they could see but disobeyed God’s will and replaced their own. Remember that the next time a celebrity preacher or politician tells you that God has laid something on his or her heart. Did God open his eyes or did God blind him? We know only from God’s word as written, in context, with trust.
Jesus condemns the Pharisees because while they claimed to be the enlightened ones, they were defying God’s will. Their religion was the product of their own will no less than the apostate Jews of the former kingdoms of Israel and Judah and they merited God’s punitive judgment because they would not believe Jesus Christ.
(13) S.L. Greenslade, ed. The Cambridge History of the Bible, Volume 3: The West from the Reformation to the Present Day (London: Cambridge University Press, 1963), 489.
(14) Ibid., 492.