Insights into the Gospel of John: Chapter 9

By Lloyd Ellefson

"As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, `Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?' Jesus answered, `It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.'" (vv.1-3)

A number of things seem strange to us in these verses. Since "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," it seems rather strange that the focus should be on who sinned. It is also strange to think that an unborn child had sinned, unless they believed in reincarnation. Saying that the parents had not sinned also seems to violate the statement that all have sinned. However Jesus was not referring to the state of humanity, but to the cause of this man's blindness, and it was not caused by any specific sin. Rather, in the dispensation of God, this man was blind in order that the glory of God could be revealed and manifested in him.

Obviously this man's blindness was not bringing glory to humanity. Jesus assured His disciples that neither the parents nor the blind man were to blame for his blindness. I believe that he (like so many others) was a type of humanity whose physical blindness typified the blindness in natural man.

So Jesus said, "`We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.' When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, `Go, wash in the pool of Siloam' (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, `Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?' Others were saying, `This is he,' still others were saying, `No, but he is like him.' He kept saying, `I am the one.' So they were saying to him, `How then were your eyes opened?' He answered, `The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, "Go to Siloam, and wash"; so I went away and washed, and I received sight.' They said to him, `Where is He?' He said, `I do not know.' They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind." (vv.4-13)

The Pharisees were the watchdogs in Israel. The priesthood, which should have provided Israel with counsel, healing, protection, etc., had become very degenerate. So a group of people called the Pharisees, took it upon themselves to pounce on sinners. They were zealous for religion and acted under the guidance of the scribes. They were very fanatical for the law and almost deified it. They wanted to make sure that the law of Moses was being kept, even though they were not really commissioned to do this work. Their attitude was merely external, formal and mechanical. Their stress was not upon the righteousness of people's actions, but upon formal correctness. They were very pious, praying long prayers publicly and dropping a bit of money in the beggar's purse while someone blew a horn to publicize their good works. Jesus said the leaven of the Pharisees was hypocrisy.

We see a parallel today. The real priesthood of God is not publicly accepted, but the so-called watchdogs of Christianity who tell Christians what they should be like, are accepted. These take the place of the Pharisees of olden times. They group people into denominations according to their doctrines and behavior patterns, and then set pharisaical leaders over them to keep them on track. In this way, people are kept in the leaders' ideas and doctrines, and in their conception of who God is and who Christ is. Whenever our emphasis is on the external and the keeping of the law, we become pharisaical in our attitudes. Our emphasis has to be on hearing the Spirit and following the leading of the Spirit.

Those who have come to see the light, begin to recognize the leaders who are operating under the cloak of the Pharisees. They see that the spirit which is working in those leaders is antiChrist, antiGod and antiChristian, because it opposes the work of the Holy Spirit. This is inward and unobservable, and requires the teaching of the Holy Spirit to give revelation. The unlearned often seem to have a greater dimension of realization in this area than the learned. Even as in the time of Christ, many leaders can't receive this, for relying on the work of the Holy Spirit would take away all their reliance upon self and their desire for self-glory!

The Pharisees were very strongly opposed to Christ, and the modern Pharisees aren't any different! The spirits which worked in the religious systems through men to exercise control at that time, are the same spirits which are at work today with their same opposition to Jesus Christ - only they are more sophisticated in their approach and use of words. Just as the Pharisees used the words of Moses wrongly, so the modern Pharisees use the words of Christ wrongly. Jesus told the Pharisees that they did not have the word of God abiding in them and that in reality they did not believe Moses. Christ's greatest contention was with these people.

"They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind. Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes." (vv.13-14) Jesus did these things in obedience to the purpose of God. When He performed miracles on the Sabbath, He knew full well that there was going to be opposition from the Pharisees, for according to the law, no work was to be done on the Sabbath. However Jesus did not do these works in order to stir up trouble but to glorify the Father by His obedience! The Father's love and concern were made evident through this miracle. The various miracles Christ performed on the Sabbath day of God depicted the fact that entering God's rest brings humanity into a continual rest from its problems. This particular miracle depicted that God in His Christ would give man light and the ability to see. Seeing spiritually brings us into a rest - a rest from the inability to see!

When Jesus walked upon this earth He restored many things such as a withered arm and blind eyes. He also raised people from the dead. Everything was simply restored to its original and natural well-being. These were all signs.

"Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, `He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.' Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, `This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.' But others were saying, `How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?' And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, `What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?' And he said, `He is a prophet.' The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, and questioned them, saying, `Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?' His parents answered them and said, `We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 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 will speak for himself.' His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue." (vv.15-22)

It is just as hard to take the abuse of the religious system today as it was then! It seems as though there are not too many people who are willing to stand up for Christ and take that abuse, and neither did this man's parents! "For this reason his parents said, `He is of age; ask him.'" (v.23)

"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.' He then answered, `Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.' So they said to him, `What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?' He answered them, `I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?'" They did not like this. "They reviled him and said, `You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.'" (vv.24-29) Jesus had already told them that they did not know where He was from. However Jesus knew that the Father had sent Him and that He was the man from heaven.

"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. We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.' They answered him, `You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?' So they put him out." (vv.30-34)

"Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, `Do you believe in the Son of Man?' He answered, `Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?' Jesus said to him, `You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.' And he said, `Lord, I believe.' And he worshiped Him." (vv.35-38)

I believe this event is a picture of humanity in its state of blindness and inability to see God; it does not even believe the law of Moses and the prophets. This incident was an indictment of Israel - of those who were in Jewry at that time, because they did not receive Jesus. By the miracles Jesus did, He proved that He was able to do things they were unable to do. They couldn't even understand the meaning of the miracles. Instead of being simple-hearted and accepting, they became envious and jealous. They did not want anyone doing things they couldn't do and thereby usurping or challenging their authority. So they began to oppose Jesus in everything He did.

But what about the man who was blind and whose eyes had been opened? He began to see this world, the Pharisees, the people and Jesus in a completely new light. He did not have the spiritual understanding which comes through the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet been given. Yet he is a type of you and me who have had our eyes opened and have been awakened from our sleep - from the sleep of darkness which can only see the things of this world and the things of the flesh. The sleep of darkness portrays a lack of understanding. When spiritual things begin to open up to us, we're like this man who had his eyes opened.

After our eyes have been opened we begin to feel the impact of those who are Pharisees, because they are constantly reminding us of how customs are to be adhered to, and how it has been done in the past. Then they begin their verbal attack. They ask us who we think we are that we assume to have more insight than the seminary graduates! How can we know more than the great Rev. Dr. So and So? We see that the contest between the natural and the spiritual is not abating.

Paul tells us in Gal. 4 that many more are the children of the bondwoman than the children of the free. This means that there are many, many more people who are born according to the typology of Abraham and his Egyptian slave wife, Hagar (a type of the world or of the flesh), than of Sarah, his true wife. Hagar could only bring forth a servant son, Ishmael, and he opposed the true son, Isaac, who was born supernaturally. Sarah was a type of the woman who had not yet received seed (sperm) which would result in conception, at the time when Abraham had intercourse with the Egyptian maid.

This created a problem between the bondwoman's son and the son of promise. God's answer to this problem was to "cast out the bondwoman and her son." In other words, we are to get rid of the whole world system of bondage in which the law operates. The fruit (children) of this system will always be against that which is born of the Spirit. So we are not to produce the fruit which this system produces, but to produce the fruit of the Spirit.

When Christ first joined Himself to humanity through Mary, He came in the form of a birth; and that birth was instituted by God's word and God's Spirit. Mary first got the promise, then the oath of the promise which said that the Holy Spirit would come on her and cause this to happen. She received the promise, the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, and Jesus Christ came forth. When Christ comes to us, He always comes in the form of a birth.

Christ is born in us when God's promise (seed) is united with faith. The seed is the Word of God and it is received by faith. Faith in the promise has never given birth to natural, carnal things; it only produces spiritual things. It is like Sarah, who was kept from Pharaoh and from Abimelech by God; we too have been kept from receiving carnal things! We have a promise that does not receive seed (sperm) from any natural source. It only receives ONE seed, and that is the seed of the Word of God, the seed of Christ!

As we have birthed the earthy image (the conception of natural things), so the heavenly image must be birthed in us. The earthy image was first birthed in Adam and Eve. Their estrangement from God was birthed through a word - through the seed of Satan! This produced a change in them. They dismissed the word of God which told them they would die if they were disobedient, and they received the word of of Satan, the promise that they would become like God. This wrong conception was then birthed in them. That's why Jesus could say to those who opposed Him, "You are of your father the devil."

In Revelation 21:9-10 we see that the New Jerusalem is the bride of Christ and comes down out of heaven from God. In Galatians 4 Paul explains that this Jerusalem is from above; she is our mother and a covenant. A covenant is a binding agreement made by two or more individuals, parties, etc., to do or keep from doing a specified thing. In this new covenant God gave us a promise, and He swore with an oath that He Himself would perform it! God takes care of both sides - He provides both the seed and its birth. He brings forth the Christ in us without any work on our part. All He requires of us is that we rest from our own labors and enter His rest.

In the old covenant all the promises were dependent upon the people's ability to keep the law. The law did not provide any help or assistance to keep its commandments; people had to depend entirely on their own efforts. This covenant did not work out due to the weakness of the flesh.

Christ brought a new revelation of God to Israel! God was not only the El Shaddai, and the other names by which He had revealed Himself in the Old Testament, but He was a God who wanted relationship - even a Father-son relationship! This was new to Israel. Jesus disclosed a hope which is not anchored in this world system. He spoke of a life which is completely unknown to us! We always want to think of His kingdom as being established as earthly kingdoms are established, but God's kingdom is not of this world - it is different and functions differently. He was not sent to change this world, but to call people out of this world and into the kingdom of God. He wants us to come into the understanding of what it means to be a new creation, to live in a new world, and to have a new covenant and a new Lord!

In 2 Cor. 3:17 Paul said, "Now the Lord is the Spirit." That means that Christ Jesus is the Spirit and He is our Lord. Our obedience is to the Spirit, our Lord. Since we are not to have any other lords, we cannot allow doctrines, our own ideas or the ideas of others to lord it over us!

"And Jesus said, `For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind'. Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, `We are not blind too, are we?' Jesus said to them, `If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, "We see," your sin remains.'" (vv.39-41)

As leaders in Israel, the Pharisees were challenging Jesus. They thought they had an understanding of God and of His purpose. However, Christ's vast, intimate and true knowledge of God differed from their false ideas of God. Since His ideas were contrary to theirs, the Pharisees opposed Him. When the Pharisees came to Him and stated that they knew all about God and His dealings with man, Jesus told them that they were blind. They retained their sins because they said they knew and they could see. Jesus came for those who realized that they could not see, in order that He might give them true sight!

We need to recognize our blindness, our lack of understanding and our need of Christ! This realization may come in various ways. It may happen through someone who comes to us in the Spirit of Christ. When this occurs, we need to allow the words of Christ and all that He is, to take root in us. As we subject ourselves to the Spirit of God, even as Christ did, we will grow and mature. So we see the importance of having a heart which is willing to do the will of God, and a mind set on learning from Jesus! When this attitude is present, the law has done its work in us!

The Pharisees assumed that truth belonged to them. In the religious system of today, many also assume this. They know Greek, and think they know everything about God and the Bible; they know the behavior patterns which will please God, etc. Yet these ideas have come out of their own conceptions and out of the law. To these people Christ said, "You are blind and your sin remains." We must ever be desirous of learning more of Jesus!

In Matt. 18:3 Jesus said, "...unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." Jesus was emphasizing this childlike attitude which always looks to the Father for its care, knowledge, provision, and the strength which humanity does not have. As a child does not have to fight for its provision from its parents, so we do not have to fight for our provision from our heavenly Father. God wants us to subject ourselves to Him in childlike faith! "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (v.4)

The Pharisees came in their proud demeanor and criticized Jesus because He healed people on the Sabbath and called God His Father. It was because they insisted they had the truth when in fact they were blind, that Jesus said they remained in their sins. The only way we can come to Jesus is in humility. The law teaches us our need; it gives us the knowledge of sin. Those who are still in the law, need to receive the teaching of the law, otherwise they will remain in their sins. They are blind, even though they think they see!

Truth has to be revealed to us! The Father opens our eyes to see Jesus Christ! He is the truth, and the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth! May the Spirit of truth lead each one of us into the glories of His truth!

God bless you. Amen.

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