Blind so that the Blind Might See (John 9:1–41)

John 9:35–39 (ESV)

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

—John 9:35–39

Jesus’ interactions with the blind man frame this narrative. In between those interactions Jesus is absent, and yet, central to all that unfolds. In the gospel of John, attention has been so intensely focused on Jesus, that this absence is dramatic. The camera has been locked onto one character for so long, and His person and work are so amazing, that the change of focus, once noticed, startles. 

This absence heightens those two interactions of the blind man with Jesus. In each instance, the blind man receives sight. How gloriously different are this man’s interactions with Jesus in contrast to those with the Pharisees. Two times Jesus gives this man sight. And the climactic work of Christ comes at the end. When the camera pans back around to Jesus, we are not disappointed.

This is the sixth sign we encounter in the gospel of John. John falls neatly into two halves. In the first half, chapters 1–12, there are seven signs, thus it is known as the “book of signs.” This is the penultimate sign in the “book of signs.” John has selected his signs carefully. John ends this gospel telling us, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

Think of how the signs have grown in glory. First there was the quiet act of turning the water into wine. Second, Jesus healed the official’s son from a great distance. Third, there was the healing of the invalid man at the pool of Bethesda. Fourth, we have the feeding of the five thousand plus. Fifth, there is a cluster of wonders as Jesus walks on the water to His disciples and then upon getting into the boat the storm ceases and immediately they arrive at their destination. And now, with this healing of the blind man, do not think that we have something more commonplace and lesser than the feeding or the walking on the water. John has selected these signs carefully. They grow in glory. This one is exceeded only by the raising of Lazarus in the book of signs which then anticipates the sign of signs central to the second half of John—the death and resurrection of our Lord. “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind” (v. 32).

But this is not the greatest marvel. John has chosen these signs, he tells us, “so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you might have life in his name,” (John 20:21). Believing is spiritual sight. John has written these signs so that you might see. John has written of this sign in particular, so that you might see! This man was born blind not for sin, but for glory. This man was born blind so that blind men might see. Better to receive the second sight the blind man received than to see the wonder of the blind man receiving his first sight. It is the second sight that sees the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

This is also the last sign of what is often called “the festival cycle.” This cycle began with an unnamed feast in chapter 5 and the third sign of healing the invalid man. In chapters 5–10 we have four feasts and four signs wherein hostility towards Jesus grows. Since chapter 5, all of Jesus’ interactions with the Jews in Jerusalem have a particularly legal connotation about them. There is a lot of talk of witness and testimony and judgment. This courtroom setting is sustained throughout this chapter as well. But whereas all the legal proceedings have been directly with Jesus, now, an additional witness is called in. Nonetheless Jesus still who they believe they are trying. And it is nonetheless Jesus still who is the true judge. And what Jesus extends in judgment is sight and blindness.

The Bishop: The Substitute

“Christ, in one word, has lived for the true Christian. Christ has died for him. Christ has gone to the grave for him. Christ has risen again for him. Christ has ascended up on high for him, and gone into heaven to intercede for his soul. Christ has done all. paid all, suffered all that was needful for his redemption. Hence arises the true Christian’s justification,—hence his peace. In himself there is nothing, but in Christ he has all things that his soul can require (Col. 2:3; 3:11).” —J.C. Ryle, Old Paths

A Wicked Switcheroo and Gracious Substitution (John 8:48–59)

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

—John 8:48

Since the serpent hissed his lie in the Garden, man has vainly tried to pull the ultimate switcheroo.

“…the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,’” (Genesis 3:15).

“You will be like God.” This was the promise of sin. The serpent was seeking to reverse creation order in speaking this promise to the woman, placing her over her husband. And under them all—God. And over them all—the serpent.

John 8:12–59 is all about the question “Who?” It looks at the question of who in a judicial sense. Supremely it is about who Jesus is. This is the paramount question in vv. 12–30. Jesus declares, “I am the Light of the world.” The leaders object that He is bearing witness about Himself, therefore His testimony is not valid. Jesus masterfully steers the conversation so that they unwittingly ask Jesus to do just that—bear witness to Himself. In v. 25 they ask, “Who are you?”

In vv. 31–47 Jesus exposes who they are. While He is the Son of the Father, they are children of the devil. Now, in this third section of chapter 8, they try to switch places. They have claimed God as their Father, (v. 41). Now they say that Jesus has a demon. 

In the wake of the first switcheroo, the promise of salvation was given as God cursed the serpent saying, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). As man tried to switch places with God; so he tries to switch seeds.

The seed of the serpent tries to trade places with the seed of the woman, and he does so, as do these Jews, in the name of religion and truth. Sometimes the spawn of Satan call the darkness light and the light darkness, not in the name of knowing evil, but in the name of knowing good. Such is the nature of this switcheroo, that evil is cloaked as good.

Evil man tries to put Himself in the place of the good God. In mercy, the good God puts Himself in the place of sinful man. God the Son answers man’s wicked switcheroo with gracious substitution.

Who Are You? (John 8:31–47)

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

—John 8:31–32

Who are you? 

Who is Jesus?

The opening arguments of John 8 concerned the latter question. At verse 31 there is a turn to the former. John Calvin opened his Institutes with a chicken or the egg conundrum, pondering which of these came first: knowledge of self or knowledge of God. He begins by saying, “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But, while joined by many bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern.” First he answers, 

“Each of us must, then, be so stung by the consciousness of his own unhappiness as to attain at least some knowledge of God. Thus, from the feeling of our own ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity, and—what is more—depravity and corruption, we recognize that the true light of wisdom, sound virtue, full abundance of every good, and purity of righteousness rest in the Lord alone. To this extent we are prompted by our own ills to contemplate the good things of God; and we cannot seriously aspire to him before we begin to become displeased with ourselves. For what man in all the world would not gladly remain as he is—what man does not remain as he is—so long as he does not know himself, that is, while content with his own gifts, and either ignorant or unmindful of his own misery? Accordingly, the knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find him.”

So first there is this knowledge of our own depravity then that makes way for a true knowledge of God. But Calvin goes on to say,

“Again it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself. For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy—this pride is innate in all of us—unless by clear proofs we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity. Moreover, we are not thus convinced if we look merely to ourselves and not also to the Lord, who is the sole standard by which this judgment must be measured.”

Calvin then leaves the question hanging without resolution except to say, for the matter of teaching, we must begin with the knowledge of God. But in doing so I do believe he has answered the question. There is a sense in which these are simultaneous, and yet, there is a priority given to the knowledge of God. It is by His light that we see the answer to both of these questions.

We know the darkness within by means of the Light without. But then, once illuminated, we must admit the darkness that is exposed in order to proceed in any knowledge of the Light. Jesus unfolds something of who He is in 8:12–31. He is the Light of the world. Many seem to receive this truth and believe in Him, but once the Light begins to expose their own darkness, they refuse the Light for refusing to own the darkness of their own hearts and parentage.

Who are you?  Who is Jesus? Jesus is the light of the world (v. 12). You are full of darkness. You love the darkness. You are under the dominion of darkness (v. 44). You belong to the kingdom of darkness. Own this. Come humbly to Christ confessing this and pleading His mercy, and light will not only expose, it will transform. Believe that you are a sinner and come to Christ as the Light and you will know the truth of Colossians 1:13, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”

Who are you? Who is Jesus? Jesus is the eternally begotten son of the Father. You are a rebellious creature of God most high, subjected to sin through Adam. Jesus is the Son; you are a slave (vv. 34–35). You are in bondage both to the practice sin and to its condemnation. You cannot not sin. Jesus cannot be convicted of sin (v. 46). Look to Jesus and you will see your sin. You will see all your righteousness to be as filthy and full of hypocrisy as the sham righteousness of the Jews and religious leaders who wanted to kill Jesus. But as you look, know that He took on flesh to live as a sinless man that you might be clothed in His righteousness. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Son will set you free and you will be free indeed.

Who are you? Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Son doing what He has seen with His Father—God (vv. 28–29, 38). You do what you have heard from your father—the devil (v. 38. 41, 44). Murder and lies brood within your heart. Anger and deception abound. Hatred and willful ignorance proliferate. You lie and murder. Jesus not only speaks the truth, He came to lay His life down, pleading even as He was dying, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” You need not fear the deep darkness, the unspeakable that lies within your own chest, for Christ not only made atonement that you might be forgiven, but so that you might be cleansed. In Him there is not only justification but sanctification. There is not only propitiation, but purification. You can own who you are in repentance when you own who Jesus is in faith. The darkness within isn’t greater than the Light without. No matter how much evil you’ve done, no matter how much darkness lies within, no matter how many murderous and hateful thoughts you entertain, it is as nothing compared to the righteousness that Christ accomplished and the righteousness that abounds in Him.

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will no longer be who you are. You will be a new creation in Him. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be justified, you will begin being sanctified, and you will one day be glorified. You will not longer be a child of darkness, but a child of light. You will not longer be a slave, but a son. You will no longer be a child of the devil but a child of God. All because who you are will no longer be found in who you are but in who Christ is so that you may boast as Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” (Galatians 2:20). This will be true of you: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come,” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Dear soul, if you have believed, you are now in union with Christ and Romans 6 speaks of who you now are:

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 6:5–11).

And so I ask you once more, who are you?

The Bishop: ABC and SIN

“To know ‘our sins’ is the first letter in the alphabet of saving religion. To understand our position in the sight of God is one step towards heaven. The true secret of peace of conscience is to feel ‘our sins’ put away. If we love life we ought never to rest till we can give a satisfactory answer to the question,—WHERE ARE MY SINS?'” —J.C. Ryle, Old Paths

Grieving for the Loss of Hope

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13–14

I grieve that we (the saints) have forgotten how to grieve. Death is a loss. Yes, it is gain for the departed, but for we who remain, experientially, it is loss (Philippians 1:21). We have tried to transform funerals into festivals. There is a time to mourn. We are not the healthier for ignoring that time.

I grieve that we have forgotten to grieve, but I grieve all the more that this often means we have forgotten how to hope. We rejoice in the life lived (on earth) instead of the life being lived and the life to be lived (in heaven). We look back when we should look forward. We exercise our memory of the past more than we do our longing for the future. We look to past photos more than future promises. We watch a video instead of reading the Bible. We listen to a favorite song of the departed instead of lifting up a song to the eternal Son who rose from the grave.

The remembrances are not for rejoicing. They are for grieving the loss and expressing gratitude for gifts enjoyed. Remember. Laugh. Smile. Give thanks. Yes! But do not anchor your joy or comfort there. The memories are for mourning. The promises are for praise. It is not as we look back that we find solace for our sorrow. It is as we look forward that we find hope to illumine our grief. Death is an enemy. He has dealt his blow. But there is victory in Christ. It is because we don’t grieve that we fail to lament “Come Lord Jesus!” Paradoxically, is because we are short on grief and lament that we are short on hope and joy.

I do grieve for the loss of hope, but more so, I have hope for the loss of all grief. Every tear will be wiped away. One reason I shed tears now is because I want others to know such hope in the midst of the grief they try to ignore. The storm is real. The rock is just as real. Don’t ignore the storm. Cherish the rock.

I love you, O LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, 
     my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, 
     my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, 
     and I am saved from my enemies. 

The cords of death encompassed me; 
     the torrents of destruction assailed me; 
the cords of Sheol entangled me; 
     the snares of death confronted me. 

In my distress I called upon the LORD; 
     to my God I cried for help. 
From his temple he heard my voice, 
     and my cry to him reached his ears.

—Psalm 18:1–6 (ESV)

“Your Witness Is Invalid… Who Are You?” (John 8:12–31)

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.”

25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.

John 8:12–13, 25

The judgment-witnesss-testimony themes first introduced in chapter 5 and dominating chapter 7 are sustained throughout chapter 8 as well. The first portion of which, divides into two scenes. In the first there is a movement from who to where (8:12–20). In the second there is a movement from where back to who (8:21–30). In each section they ask a question by which they seek to invalidate Jesus but which really masterfully serves to invalidate themselves.

In the first instance, they ask “Where is your father?” Indicating that they don’t know who has sent Jesus (7:28–29), they don’t know from whence He has come (8:14), they have judged before learning anything about Jesus (7:51). They have judged according to appearances (7:24). They have judged according to the flesh (8:15).

But it is the second question in the second portion that is really the most glorious. The first builds toward the second. Look back. Jesus has opened the “trial” with this opening statement as to who He is: “I am the light of the World.” They say this testimony is invalid. He is bearing witness to himself. But now, in this second round of arguments, here they are asking Jesus to do just that. “Who are you?” Just as He has been telling them from the beginning. He is the I Am.

I am the Light of the World” (8:12; cf. Psalm 27:1).

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (8:24; emphasis mine; the “he” is supplied by the translators).

“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me” (8:24; emphasis mine; the “he” is supplied by the translators).

The Bishop: People Generally Die Just as They Have Lived

“I know well that many do not believe what I am saying, because they think there is an immense quantity of deathbed repentance. They flatter themselves that multitudes who do not live religious lives will yet die religious deaths. They take comfort in the thought that vast numbers of persons turn to God in their last illness and are saved at the eleventh hour. I will only remind such persons that all the experience of ministers is utterly against the theory. People generally die just as they have lived. True repentance is never too late:-but repentance deferred to the last hours of life is seldom true.” —J.C. Ryle, Old Path

Judge Rightly that You Be Not Judged (John 7:1–24)

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

—John 7:24

Many have submitted that Matthew 7:1 has usurped John 3:16 as the most known and quoted verse of the Bible. “Judge not that you be not judged.” The irony is, the verse is quoted in bad judgment. Jesus there was a warning against hypocritical judgment. Any other use of the text is a misjudgment.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye,” (Mathew 7:1–5).

Jesus doesn’t recommend altogether ignoring the speck in your brother’s eye, but a hypocritical judgment thereof. Further, Jesus follows that admonition with a judgment-necessitating command: “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you,” (Matthew 7:6). Jesus is not anti-judgment. Judgment is inevitable.

While we shouldn’t presume to act as a god, standing in judgment, dealing out condemnation where we are given no authority, we must recognize that a creaturely discernment kind of judgment is necessary on a variety of levels every day. Try drinking milk from this point forward without ever making judgment beforehand. If you don’t judge it before you drink, I’m certain you will once it is in your mouth. Judgment is inevitable. Sour milk is bad.

In this text, Jesus calls for the crowds, and us along with them, to make right judgment. Astonishingly, He calls for us to make a right judgment about Him. This is not to say that we are the judge of Jesus. It is to say that in the courtroom of our soul we do make a judgment, a determination. You discern and decide. Discern rightly. Judge rightly.

If you judge rightly you will realize this: you don’t stand over Jesus to condemn Him; you stand under Jesus as one condemned. Right judgment about Jesus comes to this conclusion: He is the eternally begotten Son of God, the Christ who took on flesh, who was crucified for sinners, who rose conquering death, who is seated in the heavens at the right hand of the Father, and who will come again to judge the living and the dead.

How do we make right judgment? We must not judge according to appearances (7:24). We are short-sighted. We cannot trust our perception. We need the testimony of another. We need the testimony of an authority. The greatest judgment we will every make must be determined by the greatest authority. Because we are making judgment about the ultimate authority, we need the testimony of none other than that ultimate authority. Our triune God has born witness to Himself. Do not trust your perception. Receive His revelation.

Judge wrongly who Christ is, and you will be truly judged. Judge rightly who Christ is and you will never face judgment, for Christ has born it in your stead.

The Bishop: The Bible Is The Word of God

“From all these views I totally and entirely dissent. They all appear to me more or less defective, below the truth, dangerous in their tendency, and open to grave and insuperable objections. The view which I maintain is that every book, and chapter, and verse, and syllable of the Bible was originally given by inspiration of God. I hold that not only the substance of the Bible, but its language,—not only the ideas of the Bible, but its words,—not only certain parts of the Bible, but every chapter of the book,—that all and each are of divine authority. I hold that the Scripture not only contains the Word of God, but is the Word of God. I believe the narratives and statements of Genesis, and the catalogues in Chronicles, were just as truly written by inspiration as the Acts of the Apostles. I believe Ezra’s account of the nine-and-twenty knives, and St Paul’s message about the cloak and parchments, were as much written under divine direction as the 20th of Exodus, the 17th of John, or the 8th of Romans. I do not say, be it remembered, that all these parts of the Bible are of equal importance to our souls. Nothing of the kind! But I do say they were all equally given by inspiration.” —J.C. Ryle, Old Paths