Jesus Opens Our Eyes

Biblical Truth: When Jesus transforms a person’s life, no arguments can convince that person his or her experience is not valid.

I’m the One!: John 9:8-10.

[8]  The neighbors therefore, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, “Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?” [9]  Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the one.” [10]  Therefore they were saying to him, “How then were your eyes opened?”   [NASU]

Thematically, this chapter is tied to the Feast of Tabernacles through the explicit reference to Jesus as the light of the world. This chapter portrays what happens when the light shines: some are made to see, like this man born blind, while others, who think they see, turn away, blinded, as it were, by the light. The first result John records is the effect of the miracle on the neighbors of the formerly blind man. They were so astonished at such a cure that some of them refused to believe that this was the man who had been blind. The mention of the neighbors probably indicates that the man went home. There are two groups here, the man’s neighbors and those who knew him as a beggar. This is the first mention of his being a beggar, but it is almost implied in the earlier statement that he was blind. There was little that a blind man could do in the ancient world apart from beg, so that the one presupposes the other. The people who had lived near him and those familiar with him from his begging are probably singled out as those who knew him best. Their amazement at his cure is expressed in a question which expects an affirmative answer. But the putting of the question shows the great difficulty they had in accepting the evidence of their senses. Others, who perhaps knew him but not quite so well, kept talking. Some said that it was the man, others that it was not, though those of the latter opinion admitted a resemblance. The man himself put an end to this form of speculation by saying emphatically I am the one. This excites the eager question, How then were your eyes opened? The man responds with a succinct account of the miracle. He apparently knows little about Jesus and expects that his hearers will likewise know little, for he speaks of Him as The man who is called Jesus. That he speaks of Him as no more than a man shows that he has, as yet, little understanding of His Person. It is interesting to observe as the chapter progresses how his awareness of the significance of Jesus grows.

Ask Him; He’s of Age: John 9:20-22.

[20]  His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; [21]  but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he shall speak for himself.” [22]  His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed, that if anyone should confess Him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.   [NASU]

[18-19]  The first tack attempted by Jesus’ enemies is that of discrediting the miracle. They held that Jesus did not come from God. For them it followed that He could not have done a miracle. Therefore this miracle did not happen. They do not examine the evidence with open minds, but in the light of their firmly held prejudices seek to discover the flaw which they feel must surely be present. They begin by trying to establish that the man who now saw had not been born blind. The Jews did not believe that the man really had been cured. So they called the man’s parents. They put two questions to the parents. The first is natural enough. They want to know whether this man is really their son. But when they ask their second question, they give their case away. They concede that the man was blind and now sees.

[20-21]  The parents were evidently of a very different temper from that of their son. Their reply is characterized by timidity and a complete readiness to submit to the authority of their questioners. They testify out of their own knowledge to the identity of the man as their son, and to the fact that he was born blind. But they say they know nothing of how or by whom he received his sight. In avowing their ignorance of the identity of the Healer they use the emphatic pronoun. Evidently this was the tricky question. In saying ask him, he is of age, they put emphasis on both him and he. All this emphasis shows their determination not to get mixed up in the affair any more than they can help. There is no reason to think that they had been present when the cure was performed, so it was inevitable that they should give negative answers here. What was not inevitable was that they should manifest such an indecent concern for thrusting the matter back on their son, with their ask him, and their he is of age, and their he will speak for himself. It is plain that they discerned danger, and had no intention of being caught up in it with their son.

[22]  John explains the predicament in which the parents found themselves. It is interesting that the authorities had agreed as early as this to take action against the followers of Jesus. There is difficulty in seeing exactly what meaning is to be attached to confessed Him to be Christ, for there seems no possibility of these people being accused of that. Confess seems rather to be interpreted in a broad sense, as of giving support to Jesus. Put out of the synagogue will refer to something like excommunication. It is not clear exactly what is covered by this term, but any deprivation of synagogue privileges was something to be feared since it would cut off a person from all normal dealings with the Jewish community.

One Thing I Do Know: John 9:24-25,30-33.

[24]  So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” [25]  He therefore answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” [30]  The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. [31]  We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing, and does His will, He hears him. [32]  Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. [33]  If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”   [NASU]

[24-25]  This is the most spirited part of the chapter. The Jews press the healed man, and he withstands them with some vigor. They take their stand on their preconceived ideas, he on the simple facts that he knows. It is not possible to argue a man out of his position when he can say, one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see. Indeed, far from shaking him, their arguments caused him to clarify his position, and he finished the interrogation with a deeper appreciation of Jesus than he had had at the beginning. We should not miss this further example of John’s irony. He depicts those who thought of themselves as enlightened trying to badger the once blind man into denying his certainty that he now had light. So is significant here. They perceive that further interrogation of the parents will be fruitless. So they switch their attack back to the son. They begin with the pious exhortation to give glory to God. This may be understood in more ways than one. It may be taken, in the spirit of Joshua 7:19, as an exhortation to tell the truth and confess one’s misdeeds. “Remember that God sees you” is the thought, “and give Him due honor by speaking the truth.” If this is the way of it the man is being told that he has not been completely frank up till now. He has held back something which would show Jesus to be a sinner. Alternatively the saying may imply that all Jesus did was put clay on the man’s eyes and tell him to wash. No glory is due for that. Glory is due rather to God who wrought the miracle. Jesus had nothing to do with it, and the man should ascribe the glory where it is due. They, the religious experts, can indeed assure him that this is the case. Their we is emphatic, placing emphasis on themselves as the experts. Significantly they leave their accusation that Jesus is a sinner in general terms and do not attempt to demonstrate their point with an example. The man, in his reply, does not go into the theoretical question of whether Jesus was a sinner or not. He sticks to the facts of which he has certain knowledge, and thus produces an answer which is a classic. The man had sight. No mere words could alter that.

[30-33]  The man continues his independent line. So far from being impressed with their argument he launches out on one of his own designed to lead to the opposite conclusion. He finds it astonishing that they do not know where Jesus is from. You is emphatic and probably carries some sly irony: “You, the religious experts, cannot work out a simple thing like this?” The man lays down his basic proposition negatively and positively. He matches their we know with one of his own, and thus claims to share with his questioners, and perhaps with the community at large, the knowledge that God does not hear sinners. Then comes the positive. If a man is a worshipper, and if he does the will of God, then he will be heard. He goes on to point out that restoration of sight to the blind is most uncommon. His chain of reasoning is complete. Jesus could not possibly have done such a thing, a thing unparalleled in all history, unless He were from God.

I Believe, Lord!: John 9:35-39.

[35]  Jesus heard that they had put him out; and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” [36]  He answered and said, “And who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” [37]  Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” [38]  And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him. [39]  And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind.”   [NASU]

[35]  So convinced are they that Jesus is at best a charlatan, at worst a dangerous sinner, that they do not remember the ancient promises that one of the signs of the dawning of the messianic age is the restoration of sight to the blind [Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:7]. The healed man had never seen Jesus, and had not met Him since he had departed to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. In asking the man to believe in the Son of Man, Jesus is inviting him to put his trust in the One who is the revelation of God to man [1:51; 3:13-14; 5:27; 6:27,53,62; 8:28]. Jesus Himself is the Word incarnate, the One who uniquely reveals God. Indeed, in the context of chapter 9, the fundamental conflict is between the view that Jesus must be interpreted in terms of the law (as understood by the Pharisees), and the view that Jesus is the ultimate divine self-disclosure by whom and through whom the deepest significance of the law can be discerned. At the same time, the term, Son of Man, in John is connected with a judging role: Jesus is assigned final responsibility at the great judgment because He is the Son of Man [5:27].

[37-38]  In words reminiscent of His self-disclosure to the Samaritan woman [4:26], Jesus identifies Himself as the Son of Man whom the formerly blind man has now seen. The man’s response is instantaneous. He believes and worships. This is the climax for the man of a process that has been going on throughout the chapter. His insight into the Person of Jesus has been growing, and now this final revelation puts the coping stone on what has gone before. The man sees that Jesus is the one object of a right faith and accordingly puts his trust in Him. This is the only place in this Gospel where anyone is said to worship Jesus. The verb occurs several times in chapter 4 of worshipping God, and it is found in the same sense in 12:20. The man has already recognized that Jesus came from God [verse 33]. Now he goes a step further. He gives to Jesus that reverence that is appropriate to God.

[39] Jesus’ remarks are cast as a summarizing statement to the healed man of what has taken place, enabling him to grasp that the miracle that opened his eyes, and the ensuing debate with the religious authorities, constituted an acted parable about sight and blindness in the spiritual realm. Formally, the entire clause For judgment I came into this world stands in contradiction with 3:17. Jesus’ point in 9:39 is not that the very purpose of His coming was to condemn, nor even simply to divide the human race. He came to save, not condemn. But saving some entails condemning others. In that derivative sense, Jesus has indeed come for judgment. This is the paradox of the revelation, that in order to bring grace it must also give offence, and so can turn to judgment. In order to be grace it must uncover sin. In this sense, the second half of the verse must be understood as a purpose clause, not merely ‘so that’ but ‘in order that the blind will see and those who see will become blind’. The language is borrowed from two texts in Isaiah [6:10; 42:19], the first of which is quoted by John in 12:40. But the immediate reference is to the healing of the blind man that has just taken place, and to the symbolic significance of that healing that has already been introduced. At the spiritual level, the blind refers to those who are in spiritual darkness, and are therefore lost, and know it. Jesus came to open their eyes, to give them the light of revelation that will enable them to see. But those who see, like the Pharisees in this chapter who make so many confident pronouncements but who are profoundly wrong, inevitably reject the true light when it comes. So certain are they that they can see, they utterly reject any suggestion to the contrary, and thereby confirm their own darkness. That tragic conclusion is the foreseen result of Jesus’ coming, and in that sense part of its purpose. Pastorally speaking, John is again stressing the point that a certain poverty of spirit, an abasement of personal pride (especially over one’s religious opinions), and a candid acknowledgment of spiritual blindness are indispensable characteristics of the person who receives spiritual sight, true revelation, at the hands of Jesus.

Questions for Discussion:

1.      What evidence is there that the Pharisees doubted the worth of healing the blind man? What concerned them more than the healing of this blind man? What does this tell us about their spiritual condition?

2.      Trace the progression of this man’s understanding of who Jesus is: 11,15,17,25,27,30-33,36,38. What has happened to the man in the process of events?

3.      What is the significance of the title “Son of Man”? How does Jesus coming into the world require that judgment take place even though that was not His main reason for coming [see John 3:17]?


The Gospel According to John, D. A. Carson, Eerdmans.

The Gospel According to John, Leon Morris, Eerdmans.

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