Claiming to see, but won’t see Jesus.

by K.W. Leslie, 29 July

John 9.35-41.

Picking up right after Pharisees ejected a formerly-blind man from their synagogue for believing in Jesus, our Lord re-enters the story and delivers the punchline, so to speak.

John 9.34-41 KWL
35 Jesus, hearing the Pharisees threw the formerly-blind man out,
upon finding him, said, “You believe in the Son of Man?”
36 In reply, that man said, “Who is he, sir?—so I can put my trust in him.”
37 Jesus told him, “You’ve seen him: This man is talking with you.”
38 The formerly-blind man said, “I trust you, sir,” and fell down before Jesus.
39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for people’s judgment:
Those who don’t see, can see; and those who see can become blind.”
40 Some of the Pharisees were listening to these things, and told Jesus, “We aren’t blind too.”
41 Jesus told them, “If you were blind, you wouldn’t have any sin.
You now say ‘We do so see’—and your sin remains.”

For some reason, a lot of preachers assume this guy shouldn’t have recognized Jesus when he encountered him: He was blind at the time y’know. But I’m pretty sure he’d have easily recognized Jesus’s voice. And after his trial, he knew plenty about Jesus… or at least what certain Pharisees claimed about him, though he himself was pretty sure Jesus is a prophet. Jn 9.17

Though it appears here, he didn’t know of Jesus’s common practice of calling himself “the Son of Man.” That was the prophet Daniel’s title for an End Times figure who’d conquer and rule the world—you know, like Jesus is gonna do someday. Pharisees expected the Son of Man to emerge directly from heaven, not get born like an ordinary human (well, more or less) and live among us for a few decades. If you didn’t connect Jesus with that Son of Man, you’d presume calling himself τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου/ton yión tu anthrópu all the time was just another way to say “human”—like the LORD meant whenever he called Ezekiel בֶּן־אָדָם/ben-Adám, “son of Adam” (KJV “son of man”) Ek 2.1 You’d be… well, blind.

So do you believe in the Son of Man?

As a blind man, this guy was previously considered ritually unclean, and therefore wasn’t allowed in synagogue. Which sucks… but it didn’t leave him completely ignorant. Pharisees talked about God everywhere, whether in synagogue or not, so you could still pick up loads of information. Heck, if I listened in whenever Christians started talking about Jesus in Starbucks, I’d know quite a lot about the basics.

So when Jesus asked him, “You believe in the Son of Man?” the man recognized Jesus meant the End Times figure. And since he already trusted Jesus—he’d said as much to the folks in synagogue, and was willing to get kicked out for him—he was willing to accept whatever Jesus had to teach about the Son of Man. Just point him to the guy!

So on hearing Jesus is the guy, the man προσεκύνησεν αὐτῷ/prosekýnisen aftó, “fell [on his face] before him.” It’s like the ancients and medievals would do to a king; it’s how American Christians, who recognize no king but God, do for God. The KJV puts it “worshipped him,” which it was. If Jesus is the Son of Man, he’s the king of the world, the king of God’s kingdom; he’s the one you pledge allegiance to, above anyone or anything else.

The KJV bungles this story, ’cause it’s translated from the Textus Receptus, which has τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ/ton yión tu Theú, “the Son of God” instead of “the Son of Man.” I know; you’d think “You believe in the Son of God?” is a bigger deal than “You believe in the Son of Man?”—but only because of what our culture means by these terms. To ancient Israel, “son of God” is one of the titles of their king, ’cause he was anointed and adopted by God. Ps 2.7 So it’d mean Jesus is king of Israel, Jn 1.49 and the man, if he believed this, would bow to Jesus as his king. But “Son of Man” means king of the world, and king of Israel doesn’t quite describe Jesus enough.

Most bibles translate Jesus’s next statement much like the King James does:

John 9.39 KJV
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.

Which isn’t a bad translation. But people’s interpretation of what Jesus says, is along the lines of the NLT

John 9.39 NLT
Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”

Which isn’t what the original text says. It’s Εἰς κρίμα ἐγὼ εἰς τὸν κόσμον τοῦτον ἦλθον/Eis kríma eghó eis ton kósmon túton ílthon, “I come into this world, into judgment.” Jesus came into two things: This world, and judgment. He didn’t come to judge; Jn 3.17, 12.47 he judges no one; Jn 8.15 that’s at the End. Jn 5.22, 27 He came to be judged. He came for people to expose who we really are, by how we respond to him.

We’re the ones deciding whether or not Jesus is Messiah and Son of Man. We’re the ones choosing whether to follow him; actually follow him, instead of paying him lip service. There are plenty who declare him as Lord and King, but don’t do as he says. Lk 6.46 And plenty who kinda like him, and think he’s a prophet of some sort, but just won’t personally follow him.

Kinda like those Pharisees standing there, listening. Jesus called ’em blind. No, that wasn’t judgment or condemnation; it was the fact they didn’t follow him. Yet they knew he cured the blind man, knew God had to have empowered him, knew he was somebody worth paying attention to… and wouldn’t, ’cause of their hangups about Sabbath.

The side we choose, indicates whether we’ve blinded ourselves to truth. Even people who can’t physically see, can still recognize Jesus for who he is. Even people who can physically see can ignore all the bright flashing signs pointing to truth, and deny him. Hence Jesus’s illogical-sounding, “You now say ‘We do so see’—and your sin remains.” Jn 9.41 Claiming we know better, that we’re righteous despite all evidence to the contrary, Jr 2.35 puts us in a scary place.

Christ Almighty!