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Gems in the Gospel of John



Part 40 – John 9:39

Who can see?



This verse is one of the most remarkable things Jesus ever said. Here it is, ““For judgement I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

It is very reminiscent of the episode in the book of Numbers (Ch. 23) where Balaam and his donkey encounter the angel of God with a drawn sword in his hand barring the way. The joke in that story is that the famous Seer could not see what his donkey could see. We may well ask of this comment of Jesus – who could not see, and who could see? Who, in John’s mind and therefore in his selection of stories about things Jesus said, is it that cannot see?

The answer, I think, is not that obvious. There are two basic reasons why people start to follow Jesus. One, the one preachers like the most, is that someone comes under conviction of sin, deep moral sin, and turns with a leap of faith to the Savior on the cross who died for our sins. What the preachers often forget is that a jump of faith from next to no knowledge of things spiritual is rare; more commonly the people who react to that sort of call to repentance and thus to conversion have a background in Sunday School or regular church attendance that has brought them to that point.

The second reason folk come to faith is from a general feeling that there must be a better way to live than the one they have been living and that following Jesus promises to be that better way. That is why this previously blind guy came to faith. There is no hint of him being conscious of sin, or being in any way sinful beyond the usual average sort of sinfulness we are all guilty of. He comes into contact with Jesus and clearly is not only healed of his blindness but deeply attracted to this guy who has healed him, even before he knows who he is.

And this is the common position of most of the people John tells us stories about. Nicodemus was exploring what this new teacher was saying, presumably from a feeling of inadequacy he had about the standard teaching of the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem; the woman by the well seems to have been happily living with her rather unethical lifestyle until she met the man who seemed to be pointing her to something better; only in the story of the cripple by the pool of Siloam is there any hint of sin – when Jesus tells him to go and sin no more.

The Pharisees that Jesus was implicitly condemning thought that all that mattered was being morally good. Tales were told by some Rabbis that there were different types of Pharisees: some walked with exaggerated humility, some were so anxious not to look at a woman they kept their heads bowed and ended up walking into walls, some were only seeking material rewards, some were frightened of punishment and so on.

Jesus said, “For judgement I came into this world,” implying that it was, and is, his very presence in the world that led to an automatic judgement through people’s reaction to him.

Of course, not everyone in the world has met Jesus or heard about him. How those people will be treated in the final judgement is not all that clear in the Bible, partly at least because we cannot tell to what extent all the frequent talk about hell fire and other undesirable ends is metaphor and which is to be taken as real actual fact. But it is no concern of ours how, and who, will be judged in that sort of way. Our job is to be concerned about ourselves. What really matters is that we should follow Jesus, ourselves, now. We have been blind, now we see.


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