Doubting Jesus’ Power?

Blind Unbelief

John 9

The Situation – A  Man Born Blind;–this is the sixth sign of John’s Gospel.  Jesus healed many blind people. There are several specific events along with some general narratives in which Jesus healed the lame, the mute and the blind and all manner of diseases. (Matthew 9:27-31; 12:22; 15:30, 31; 21:14; Mark 8:22-26; 10: 46-52; Luke 7:21, 22) In Luke 7 Jesus pints to this fact as an indication that he was Messiah when John the Baptist sends men to question Jesus. According to Exodus 4:11 God makes man either seeing or blind. Restoring of sight to the blind is a messianic activity—Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:70

There is no statement of time or place, but only the recording of the incident. It probably is sometime after the attempt to stone Jesus, and we detect the growing hostility toward him in the way this man is treated. Jesus took notice of him, and perhaps made a statement that he had been blind from birth; alternatively, the man perhaps was known to many because of the unusual circumstance of his having been blind from birth.

Question of Cause (verse 2) – They shared the assumption of the religious teachers that physical imperfection meant that God was judging some specific personal sin. No suffering without iniquity was the accepted viewpoint. This is not entirely unwarranted, for Jesus Himself indicated this as operative in the lame man in John 5. But Job clearly teaches us that, though we all deserve chastening at any time of life, suffering does not mean that the sufferer has done something that distinguishes his sin far beyond that of others. Having been born blind, however, does pose a dilemma for the common aphorism. How could he have sinned before birth?

Answer of Purpose (verses 3, 4)

Jesus points not to a prior cause in the person of the man or his family but a particular purpose of God. God had designated the affliction so that Jesus might give another strong evidence of who he was and further demonstrate the sinful and adamantine resistance of the religious elite of Israel.

He aligns himself with this divine purpose immediately to “work the works of Him that sent me.” Jesus identified his work with the work and purpose of the Father. As we view natural cause and effect relationships in the world, this healing qualifies as a miracle. For Jesus, however, he sees it as a mere continuation of the work that the Father does. He upholds all things from moment to moment and can give sight in an instant without any alteration in or special exertion of  power that he is not already manifesting in the world.

Action of the Creator 5-7 –

1.  This miracle give concrete illustration of the spiritual claim made by Jesus that he is the light of the world (8:12). He repeats that claim in verse 5 as a prelude to the healing.

2. Jesus employs the symbol of creation by performing this miracle through the use of dirt.

3. He required an action of the man that would imply a trusting attitude on his part. Perhaps we do not recognize it as clearly, but the entire deportment of this man throughout the situation is a part of the miracle. He is drawn to a final posture of faith and worship.

Sensation among neighbors and acquaintances 8-12

1. A man that had never seen anything now sees. The change seemed so incredible that some of his acquaintances did not believe it was he.

2. He stated clearly, however, that he was indeed the man that they had seen begging because he was blind. He recounts the event with a simple statement of the facts. There is no need to embellish an event like this. Nothing of mere imagination or attempt at sensationalism could expand the startling

Blind Authoritarianism vs. the Evidence

The Dominant Authoritarian

Absolutize personal theory or opinion  13-16; Though he has done a divine and Messianic work, they will not accept the evidence because of a mis-shapen tradition about the Sabbath.

Avoid or minimize Evidence  17-19 – Perhaps it was not so great a miracle after all,. Perhaps the man was not born blind. Check the parents and find out.

Tactic of intimidation  20-23 – The parents tell the Pharisees that this is their son and that he was indeed born blind. But their known threats concerning Jesus made them go no further, but place the burden of inference from the fact back on the shoulders of their son.

Assumption of piety but falsely grounded 24. Their blindness is such that they feel they can honor God and not honor the Son.

Spiritual superiority 28, 29, 34 – His insistent recitation of the facts and his challenge to their failure to see Jesus as a servant of God is amazing to him. They can only bluster their way above his forceful logic by an oppressive dismissal of his testimony and his self-evident logic. They move back to the idea that began the entire event in the first place by saying that his blindness was an evidence of unvarnished sin. How could he dare instruct them when he had been born blind. My, what compassion these religious pundits had and how sincerely they shared the joy of this life-changing restoration of sight! Here they demonstrate that not only do they not love God, but they also despise their neighbor.

Their might becomes the truth  34b.  How many times has this fallen world demonstrated that one need not be right, if he only has might?

Evidence and Truth

Existence of a fact abundantly verifiable, of a supernatural character [What are the various aspects of evidence for this event?]  Does its apparent uniqueness mean that the evidence is less compelling?

Specifically designed for the support of a claim – “I am the Light of the World” [cf. miracle of Mark 2:1-12]

Simple unbiased testimony from several sources

Compelling conclusion 30-33 – The argument of the blind man, certainly unschooled in these matters, but following those intuitions of cause and effect and the relative connections of goodness and holiness with a compassionate display of power were far too much for the Pharisees to bear.

Division between Belief and Unbelief 35-41

The blind will see

Ready to Believe

Content was direct and Messianic in nature [“Son of Man” is the best supported reading, not “Son of God.”  The theological implications are quite important, for the Son of Man, a messianic title, has done that which only God can do.]

Response was direct, immediate, and consistent with the content

Revelation to the soul – Jesus words had to do with more  than physical healing

Worship – “I believe, Lord; and he worshipped him’`   

He had no vested interest in religious power or channels of money – His actions reveal a transparency of reasoning that sought truth even at the cost of being cast out [34]

Those that see will become blind

Unaware of need “We are not blind also, are we?’

They are self-righteous and thus they will appear before God in such righteousness, which is guilt itself 41  “We are Moses’ disciples”


Christologically – Although many of his signs have implied that Jesus is divine, the symbolism of his action in healing through use of dirt show his assumption of the position of Creator. It is from dust he has made us, and Jesus shows that his use of dust to bring about light and life to dark and dead eyes is a plain manifestation John’s early observation, “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that has been made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” [1:3, 4]; He provokes and accepts worship; He identifies himself as Son of Man as a direct claim to Messiahship [Dan.7:13-4]

Nature of Faith – Faith always is an appropriate response to the compelling nature of truth, but only comes about when we are stripped of antithetical predispositions, sinful biases, self righteousness and see ourselves as the beneficiaries of sovereign goodness.

Unbelief always involves some element of self-righteousness

Fearful authoritarianism and cowardly compliance – Sometimes discoveries of truth put one outside the belief box of those in power;  They will use their position to silence you without a fair hearing; sometimes those who could help and already share your understanding will love the power and influence of your antagonist more than the truth you have embraced

Discipleship means following the truth in spite of the immediate consequences  with the confidence of eternal glory

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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