John 9:8-34 – The Who, Not the How

Last week we explored reasons for why Jesus put on such a “spectacle” to heal the blind man.
• We came up with about 7 possibilities.
• None of them, I thought, were arbitrary and most seemed quite reasonable.
• Especially in light of the fact that Jesus had healed in much simpler ways on other occasions and that John went out of his way to give us his commentary about the pool of Siloam.

In our text today, I want to focus on a question that shows up four times in the remainder of chapter 9.
• The question, of course, is how the blind man was healed.
• I think John wants us to notice it and this is demonstrated by the fact that he shows us that even the blind man became annoyed with the Pharisees’ repetition – “He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? (vs. 27)”
• Hopefully we can find out why John wants us to notice.


John 9:8–12 (ESV) — 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

I suspect the blind man, having just been given new eyes from Jesus, looked quite a bit different than he used to.
• So much so, it appears, that some of the crowd thought that he was not the blind man but someone who was “like him”.
• But he insisted he was the blind man, and no doubt could authenticate his identity with a little bit of historical info.
• So the crowd was satisfied and asked him, “Then how were your eyes opened?

The man’s answer was the longest he would give over the next 30 or so verses.
• He identified the person responsible and described exactly what Jesus did, and how he was told to wash in the pool of Siloam.
• The end result being, of course, that he “received my sight”.
• It is remarkable to me that John didn’t record a more curious crowd.
• In other words, based on what John has given us, they didn’t appear to ask the man about what it was like to see, or are colors like what he would have expected, etc.
• They cut to the chase and asked, “Where is he?

Now we move on from the crowd to the Pharisees.


The 2nd Time:
John 9:13–17 (ESV) — 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

We see at least three things going on here:
1) This is still the same day and certainly one would expect that a man blind from birth who just received his sight would be tireless and full of joy in retelling his story.
• However, the healed man seems to sense the motives of the Pharisees as indicated by the shorter description of his healing.
• The Pharisees were up to something and they weren’t fooling anybody.
• John’s commentary in verse 14 really helps us understand this - “Now it was a Sabbath day…”.

2) We have a disagreement amongst the Pharisees about Jesus.
• Scholars agree that the root of the disagreement was more than likely the differences that existed between two schools of teaching – Shammai and Hillel.
• Kostenberger describes the difference this way, “The former based its argument on foundational theological principles (“Anyone who breaks the law is a sinner”), while the latter argued from the established facts of the case (“Jesus has performed a good work”)”.
• It is interesting that Nicodemus, in John 3, fell in line with the latter which might indicate his philosophical leanings.
    o John 3:2 (ESV) — 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

3) We get a glimpse of the boldness of the healed man.
• When asked what he thought of Jesus, He replied that Jesus was a prophet.
• This is the same conclusion of the Samaritan woman in John 4:19.
• Kostenberger suggests that, “‘Prophet’ may well have been the highest position that the man knew to ascribe to Jesus”.
• What is striking about the blind man’s answer is that:
    o The Pharisees did not hide their disdain for Jesus and His followers
    o And he said this even after hearing some of the Pharisees say, “this man is not from God”.
• The blind man’s example here reminds us that our proclamation of Jesus is to be done boldly.

The 3rd Time:
John 9:18–23 (ESV) — 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

The Pharisees were really thrown by this healing.
• We just saw where they had a disagreement between themselves about the status of the healer.
• Now we see that they didn’t even believe that this man had been healed.
• Perhaps denial of Jesus’ identity and power is the only way an unbeliever can rationally respond to Jesus.

However, they did investigate further by questioning the parents of the healed blind man.
• The parents of the healed man, John tells us, feigned ignorance to protect themselves from being “put out of the synagogue”.
• Kostenberger elaborates on John’s commentary this way, “Since the synagogue was the center not only of Jewish religious life but also communal life, expulsion from it represented a severe form of social ostracism”.
• The presence of this threat of expulsion from the center of Jewish life demonstrates, once again, that the response of the blind man to the Pharisees really was bold.

The 4th Time:
John 9:24–34 (ESV) — 24 So for the 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 answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

Awkwardly, the Pharisees called in the healed man again.
• This time, trying to corner him, they suggested that the only way to “give glory to God” was to agree with them that Jesus was a sinner.
• The healed man doesn’t take the bait and when asked again about his healing, he finally expresses his frustration and mocks them by asking them, “Do you also want to become his disciples?

For the 3rd time we see the boldness of the blind man.
• He challenged the Pharisees conclusions about Jesus.
• He admitted that he had become a disciple of Jesus.

And in the spirit of 1 Peter 3:15, he gives a reason for the hope that is within him in verses 30-33.
• The reason he gives is that he recognized that, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing”.
• In other words, he understood that Jesus was acting under the authority and direction of God the Father.
• He schooled them in a way reminiscent of the way Jesus did in John 5:46 (Jesus’ Apologetic – Part III).
    o John 5:45–47 (ESV) — 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
• And as a result of his boldness, “they cast him out”.
• The very thing his parents were trying to avoid.

There are two things deeply ironic about this last exchange:
1) The healed man, by affirming that Jesus was doing the will of God, was giving glory to God.
• The Pharisees, on the other hand, were simply pretending to “give glory to God” by accusing Jesus of being a sinner.
• In fact, it was they, and not Jesus healing on the Sabbath, who were blaspheming God.

2) The Pharisees, in all their self-righteous theological knowledge, were making the same mistake as the disciples of Jesus by suggesting that the man’s blindness was a result of sin (vs. 34).
• But, unlike the disciples or the healed man, they were wrong about Jesus as well as the reason for the man’s blindness.
• And in their arrogance, they showed contempt for the healed man by suggesting he was in no way qualified to teach them otherwise.
• But it was he, more than any other in this story, that could testify to the “explanation in purpose” of his healing.
• Their actions demonstrate that the self-righteous are so hard-hearted that, as John’s Gospel demonstrates, not a healed blind man or even Jesus Himself can teach them.

Lesson for Us:
We have just seen that 4 times the question was asked how the blind man was healed.
• And yet Jesus taught us in verses 1-3 that we need to find explanation in purpose.
• And yet 4 times we have the question of how.
• This serves as a sad illustration of the state of the hearts of so many of the Jews.
• They were looking for an explanation of the healing in its cause, in the HOW.
• They missed the very lesson Jesus taught the disciples and is teaching us.
• The question that should be asked about the man’s healing is WHO.

There are at least 3 things in our text that illustrate this – (1) in the negative and (2) in the affirmative:
1) The world is not interested in who Jesus IS but what He can do for them or how he offends them (in the case of the Pharisees).

The crowd, for example, asked the blind man, “Where is he?”
• This is certainly a good question to ask about Jesus.
• But, if we can assume anything about the crowd based on their interactions with Jesus in the past, then we can reasonably say that they wanted Jesus because he could either free them from political oppression and/or free them from whatever ailed them (John 6:15 & 26).
• If the purpose of the healing was to glorify God, then a proper response to the blind man’s healing would have been to recognize the purpose Jesus spoke of in verse 1-3 and John 5.
• And this purpose, Jesus as Messiah sent and operating under the authority of the Father, was something the crowds rarely recognized.
• In fact we see a rather odd response in verse 13; they brought the healed man to the Pharisees for questioning.

And the Pharisees’ only thought was to marginalize Jesus because he offended all that they stood for as we have just seen.
• “We know that this man is a sinner”.
• The word sinner here means more than just one who broke God’s law.
• It also carried with it a sense of “nonconformity” with what was culturally acceptable – BDAG.
• In other words, Jesus was not just immoral but He was a social pariah.
• Luke 15:2 (ESV) — 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
• Mark 2:16 (ESV) — 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

2) Our lives should point people to Christ.
• Our spiritual healing, as Christians, is no less magnificent and profound than the blind man’s physical healing.
• We should be willing at every opportunity to say; “The man called Jesus” gave me eyes to see, a heart to believe, the will to confess and repent, and His righteousness that I might be justified.
• And our prayer (not our measure of success) should be that the one we speak the Gospel to might say to us, “Where is he?”

3) Jesus uses signs and wonders to bring glory and attention to Himself and edify His church.
• John 3:2 (ESV) — 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
o Signs and Wonders validated Jesus’ ministry
• John 14:12 (ESV) — 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
o Signs and Wonders would be part of the body of believers’, the church’s, ministry.
• Acts 4:29–31 (ESV) — 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
o Signs and Wonders were given to the church through the Holy Spirit

Jesus’ followers are gifted and energized by the Spirit to heal and perform miracles in Jesus name!
• Paul teaches in his letters to the Corinthians that these edify the church.
• Jesus teaches us in John that they point to and glorify the Father.
• If “a passion for miraculous gifts is prompted not by a selfish hankering for the sensational, but by compassion for the diseased and despairing souls, God cannot but be pleased” – Sam Storm.

So, in John 9 we see a great lesson on Sovereign purpose and Savior.
• These should be our primary focus as believers and not the why and the how.
• A preoccupation with the why and the how is a worldly distraction that reveals hard heartedness.
• And it undermines the Sovereignty of God.