Being Blind Before, Now I See
In this section of John's gospel, we have real conflict going on between the traditional religious element and the Lord Jesus Himself. At the beginning of chapter 8, it says, "early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him; and he sat down and taught them." Then the scribes and Pharisees come and begin disputing with Him, seeking really to catch the Lord Jesus in His teaching. And as matters develop in these two chapters, we see how the Lord's teaching brings out the enmity of the religious element. It brings out what's religious, which makes all these claims: "We are Abraham's seed", "Abraham is our father", "We have one father, God." And in chapter 9, we have their claims as well. They say finally, "Thou hast been wholly born in sins, and thou teachest us?" You see, the religious Pharisees and the scribes put themselves on a pretty high pedestal, from whence they looked down at other men. They said to this man, "Thou hast been wholly born in sins, and thou teachest us?", as if they hadn't been wholly born in sins, as well! But Scripture tells us that we've all been born in sin.
Now, interestingly enough, when the Lord Jesus is asked, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?", He answered, "Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be manifest in him." That's what the Lord says as to this man. This man was of the same stock as other men, in that he had been born in sin also, but the Lord Jesus is going to do something very special with this man, in opening his eyes. The great truth that comes out in this section is that of being set free. First, in John 8, it's a question of the truth setting us free. In verse 32, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." Then in verse 36, "If therefore the Son shall set you free, ye shall be really free." Now these Pharisees and these religious persons thought they were already free. They said they had never been under bondage to anyone, and they said, "We see", but the Lord said, "Your sin remains." And he speaks of them as blind, as well: "That they which see not may see, and that they which see may become blind."
The conditions that the Lord Jesus found when he came to His own, to Israel, were that there were two traditional religious bodies of men that we read of in the gospels: the Pharisees and the Saducees. There were two sects, who had bodies of teaching that were based on the scriptures, but to which many traditional teachings of men had been added. Paul writes of that - "teachings of men" — in Colossians 2:22. The Pharisees and the Saducees mixed the teachings of men and scripture, and they had each built up a whole system of teaching. One said that there was a resurrection, the other said there was no resurrection, and no doubt they each had their historic teaching, each to build up their own line of things, and yet, with all this knowledge, with all this pretension, there was a lack of reality. There was outside pretension. The outside of the cup looked clean and fine, but inside there was corruption and unreality. The Lord Jesus in the gospels exposes this whole line of things, and the Pharisees don't like it. They don't like what the Lord does to expose them, because He brings in the light, and it shines on their dark hearts, and it exposes all the sin and unreality and corruption that is there, and the pretension that is there.
So the Lord Jesus says, "the truth shall set you free." And He was the personification of the truth. He was here as the Word, the perfect expression of God's truth. I think the man in John 9 is brought before us as an example of how the Lord Jesus works in a person, in contrast to the Pharisees who thought they knew it all, but as to this Man, "We know not whence he is." They spoke that way of the Lord Jesus. To them, the Lord Jesus was some insignificant man from Galilee. "No prophet arises out of Galilee", they said. How the religious system of the day disregarded the Lord Jesus! He came from Galilee, not Jerusalem. It was outside the established religious center of the day, and they really looked down on Jesus. They said, "as to this man, we know not whence he is."
Then, as the Lord's work in this man in John 9 comes to light, it is most interesting how different persons speak. The man himself is straight arrow, right through the whole thing.
First of all, in verse 9, different persons wonder, Who is this person? Is he the same person who was sitting by the wayside begging? They ask him, and he said, "It is I." OK, that's the first thing he says.
Then they wonder, What happened to you? How were your eyes opened? He answers in simplicity, "A man called Jesus made mud and anointed mine eyes, and said to me, Go to Siloam and wash: and having gone and washed, I saw." They said therefore to him, Where is he? He says, "I do not know." He is totally honest in what he says here. The works of God are beginning to be manifest in him.
But then these other persons wonder all about this, and say, "How can a sinful man perform such signs?" and, "This man is not of God, for he does not keep the sabbath", and there was a division. And they ask him then, what do you say about this man? And he says, "He is a prophet." Again, he just answers simply and straightforwardly, with no pretension or evasion.
Then they ask his parents. They figure that maybe they can get something out of his parents, because they don't believe the straight truth, you see. The Pharisees don't believe the honest, simple truth as it's presented to them. But his parents beat around the bush as well, don't they? His parents say, We know this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we don't know how he sees, or who has opened his eyes. "Ask him", they say. His parents no doubt knew how it had happened, but they feared the Jews, and wouldn't give a straight answer to the Pharisees, because they feared excommunication. See, it says, "the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed him to be the Christ, he should be excommunicated from the synagogue. On this account, his parents said, He is of age: ask him."
So then the Pharisees think, Well, we are not getting a good answer here, so we'll ask him again, and try to discredit Jesus. They tell him that the man who healed him, who made him see, is sinful. "Give glory to God:" (that sounded good) "we know that this man is sinful", and he again answers simply, "If he is sinful, I know not. One thing I know, that being blind before, now I see."
This is remarkable evidence of the truth setting him free, and the Son setting him free. When you are set free by the Lord Jesus, you are not concerned about what men think of you. You are not concerned about what religious leaders or other persons think about you. The truth sets you free, so that you can simply state the truth. But these Pharisees and his parents were in bondage, as the Lord says in chapter 8: "Every one that practices sin is the bondman of sin."
Now they ask him again, "What did he do, and how did he open your eyes?" And he starts cutting to the core. He answered them, "I told you already and ye did not hear: why do ye desire to hear again? do ye also wish to become his disciples?" See, the Pharisees try to find some inconsistency in his testimony.
Then, as this develops, we see God's work in his soul starting to shine. "Now in this is a wonderful thing, that ye do not know whence he is, and he has opened mine eyes." As this man simply states the truth at each step along the way, the truth begins to unfold to him more fully, and he starts getting an impression of Christ. He didn't know fully yet who the Lord Jesus was, but he starts getting a greater impression of Him.
That is what simple obedience to the truth does, dear brethren. As we answer to the light and are honest in stating the truth, we'll find that the Lord gives us more light, and He gives us a greater and greater apprehension of Himself and His truth.
He goes on to say, "But we know that God does not hear sinners, but if any one be God-fearing and do his will, him he hears." Now you see, he's starting to show that he's morally superior to these Pharisees, and that he knows that the One that has healed him and made him to see, is superior. He says, "Since time was, it has not been heard that any one opened the eyes of one born blind." You see, the Pharisees were unable to open his eyes, but this man is coming to the truth that the One who has opened his eyes is wonderful! There is something wonderful about this Man! He recognises Him not only as a prophet, but as Someone special, that hasn't been seen since the beginning of time.
"Since time was", he says, "it has not been heard that any one opened the eyes of one born blind. If this man were not of God, he would be able to do nothing."
So as the truth is stated in in all its directness and power and moral authority, they can give no answer, and they cast him out. "Thou hast been wholly born in sins, and thou teachest us? And they cast him out." They couldn't endure the presentation of the truth. They couldn't endure the presentation of the glory of the Man who opened his eyes. So they just cast him out, and by doing that, they become blind themselves. "Now ye say, We see, your sin remains." The Lord says that to these Pharisees who rejected the truth that this man simply presents to them.
And when he had been cast out, the Jesus found him. Well, that's real special, dear brethren, and I think it's something that each of us has experienced. "Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him, he said to him, Thou, dost thou believe on the Son of God?" Again, he's direct and ready to hear: "Who is he, Lord, that I may believe on him?"
Jesus said to him, "Thou hast both seen him, and he that speaks with thee is he." Well, why were his eyes opened? In order that he might see Jesus! And he said, "I believe, Lord": and he did Him homage.
Well, I just thought these few verses show the development of the Phariseeical system that presumed so much, from the claim that "We see", to the state that they were blind, and that their sin remained. But on the other hand, it shows the remarkable work of God in this simple man of John 9, who starts out blind, but in response to God's work in him, sees and believes on Jesus as the Son of God.
Now the Pharisees are indicted. How solemn this is! Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard these things, and said to Him, "Are we blind also?" Jesus said to them, "If ye were blind, ye would not have sin, but now ye say, We see, your sin remains." That's a very solemn thing, and it's about to come in fully on Christendom in our own time: "Now ye say, We see, your sin remains." Apostacy is growing rapidly in Christendom, as an organized system, but in the midst of it all, the Lord is bringing out persons like the man in John 9, and saving them. He is saving individuals out of it, and that's the great object in the glad tidings: to save persons who start out as blind from birth. Really, that's the moral state of every one of us: we're blind from birth. But the Lord Jesus' work in suffering and dying for us on the cross, and being raised again for our justification has in view that persons like ourselves, having been blind from birth, should see.
This experience — putting spittle in the dust of the ground, making mud and anointing his eyes, would not be very pleasant for this man, but it's essential, because we need to come to it that we're born in sin and shaped in iniquity, and that our sins need to be washed away, that we might see. The cleansing power of the blood and water that flowed from the side of Christ! A soldier pierced His side, and forthwith came blood and water. How precious is His wonderful redemptive work! We spoke of the way that the Lord Jesus, in this gospel, having been raised from amongst the dead and ascended, comes in among his disciples and says, "Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted to them." You see, the Lord's work on the cross and His side being pierced, was in view of persons' sins being remitted.
So how solemn it is that these Pharisees say, "We see", and thus their sin remains. Their sins were retained, but the sins of this one man in John 9 were remitted! How precious that is! May it be the portion of each one of us, that our sins are remitted, and that we find our part with the Lord Jesus, as found by him. That is what happened to this man: the Lord Jesus found him, and he was made a worshipper! The Pharisees said, "Give glory to God: we know this man is sinful." But this man recognised God, in the person of Jesus. "He said, I believe, Lord: and he did him homage."
May these simple impressions of Jesus be the portion of each one of us, that having been blind before, we may see.
For His name's sake.
S. E. Hesterman
Being Blind Before, Now I See