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John 9:13-41 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 5 mins 18 secs

Light and Darkness-Positive and Negative Volition; John 9:13-41


We move on to the impact of this whole episode. Jesus prepares to heal this man in order to make sure we get the point that He is illustrating what He has said earlier, that he is the Light of the world, He repeats that in verse 5: "While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world." In order to understand this we need to compare some Scripture and see how it looks at the role of light, and we need to look at the context. John is doing something remarkable here. He is trying to impact us with the reality of what light does in darkness. You and I are light and we go out in the midst of darkness, and whenever light hits darkness it is going to have a reaction.


John 9:39 NASB "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'." Jesus makes this statement when all this is over with and the blind man has trusted in Him. It is for judgment that He came into the world. So we have seen two main ideas in this whole chapter: light and judgment.


John 3:17 NASB "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." There we have the verb krino [krinw], a noun krisis [krisij], and another noun krisma [krisma]. It is important to distinguish these. krino is the act of a judge making a final judgment; krisis is the process of that judgment; krisma is the result of that judgment. krisis is where we get out English word "crisis." So there is a crisis when Jesus comes. krisis is what we find in John chapter nine. There is a crisis when the eternal second person of the Trinity penetrates human history incarnate as true humanity. He presents a crisis to every single human being: that they have a decision to make, they can't hide anymore. It will not be until the end of time that he exercises krino, judgment. So when John is writing in 3:17 he says, "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world (krino), it was not His first advent purpose. That will be at the conclusion of human history at the great white throne judgment; then the second person of the Trinity will judge the world. In the first advent He exercised krisis. Everywhere He went people had to make a decision. John 3:18 "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [19] This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil." When Jesus hits town the unbelievers in negative volition scurry for cover. They have to come up with something for cover to protect themselves against the penetrating power of the Light. [20] "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." What we see here is the antagonism that exists between darkness and light. Darkness hates the light, is antagonistic to light. Unbelievers are antagonistic to Jesus Christ and to believers, they are hostile to God and cannot tolerate the presence of light in their vicinity, so they do everything they can to exclude it. This is what John is illustrating for us in chapters eight and nine. Jesus is the Light and we see the Pharisees who love the darkness constructing their bulwark to protect themselves from the penetration of the Light.


John 1:4 NASB "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men." So the Light of God, Jesus Christ, is the source of life. There is a relationship between light and life, and we see that in Genesis chapter one.


Gen 1:1 NASB "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." There is a very specific viewpoint of creation here that is in contrast to all pagan literature. This verse describes the initial creation of the space-time universe and planet earth. There is a disjunctive waw in the Hebrew that begins verse 2. We know it is disjunctive because the waw is attached to a verb it is continuation, like the word "and." But when we start a Hebrew construction with a noun at the beginning, waw plus the noun, it is disjunctive and is translated "but." There is a contrast. "[But] the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters." In the Hebrew we have tohu waw bohu, and this is used in several passages in the Scriptures, including Isaiah and Jeremiah where it is used for judgment. The terminology that is used in verse 2 is used everywhere else in Scripture as an image, with a double level of meaning, physical and literal plus a secondary image impact to indicate judgment. It is formless and void, there is a chaos on the earth. God is a perfect God, He doesn't create chaos. And darkness is over the surface of the deep. Everywhere else in Scripture speaks of evil and sin. Also, the term "deep" in the Hebrew is a churning salt water and it always carries the heavy image of chaos and sin and judgment. So the picture her is that at some point there was the creation of the space-time continuum and a planet. The angelic creation was there and what that universe looked like we don't know. Then there is something that happened and we have planet earth here in total darkness with everything frozen and packed in ice, there is no life, complete darkness, and that means there is judgment. What has happened? What has happened was the angelic revolt of Satan. Planet earth was apparently the headquarters of this higher rational order that God had created, and where Lucifer operated.

Gen 1:3 NASB "Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light. [4] God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness." This is the picture of light penetrating the judgment. Remember 1 John 1:5 NASB "…God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." So something has to have happened to create this darkness. This is a foreshadowing of God's grace, He always penetrates the darkness with light. So we see a very specific cosmogony here that there is a conflict between divine thought as expressed in Genesis 1:1 and human viewpoint thought. Human viewpoint thought always has everything starting with chaos and with everything happening by chance.

At the beginning of human history, because of angelic sin, there is darkness. Then we come to Revelation 22, the eternal state: the new heavens and the new earth. We are told that it is going to be in the new Jerusalem that God is going to establish His throne. Notice: Before Genesis 1:2 in the original creation Lucifer had his headquarters on planet earth. Earth apparently is the theological centre of the universe. God is going to make planet earth the location of His throne in Revelation 22:1 NASB "Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb." Then verse 5: "And there will no longer be {any} night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever." The Shekinah glory of God will illuminate the entire universe. So all darkness, all sin, is dispelled. 

What we have between these two events is human history, and the issue in human history is that creatures are being tested in relationship to their volition, whether they are positive or negative. They are tested in four areas.

1)  First, are they creator or creature oriented. This has to do with God-consciousness. And some point in life we become God-conscious, aware of the existence of God or at least that there is something greater than us. Romans chapter one says that there is enough evidence for everyone to know that God exists.

2)  Will they submit to the authority of God or not?

3)  Gospel orientation: Will they accept Jesus Christ or reject Him? Positive volition or negative volition at gospel hearing.

4)  Will they be grace-oriented and advance in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, or, even though they accept the gospel and become believers will they reject grace and go into either reversionsim or moral reversionism, which is legalism?

The issue is volition and volition excludes all manipulation and all coercion. Sadly this is something very few believers understand. God gives us freedom because God wants the believer to advance on the basis of his own decisions, not because he has been manipulated or coerced. It is the modus operandi of all legalism to manipulate and coerce people to live up to some sort of legal code or agenda as the means of advancing spiritually. Grace always has a head-to-head confrontation with legalism. Legalism is the modus operandi of the sin nature, the flesh, and this is, in effect, walking in darkness. Whenever the light of grace appears there is always the conflict with the darkness.

Jesus demonstrates this in His healing of the blind man in John chapter nine. Everything here speaks about grace. This man is not a believer, he has not approached Jesus to be healed, he is just sitting there by the side of the steps, yet Jesus singles him out and restores his sight. In the process Jesus is doing much more than simply alleviating this poor man's suffering, that is almost secondary. Jesus is also thumbing His nose, as it were, at the Pharisees. He is deliberately engineering this event to irritate and challenge the legalistic thinking of the Pharisees. First of all He pics up the dirt and spits: violation of Sabbatical law # 1. Now He has this mixture of dirt and spittle in His hands and He begins to mix it up and kneed it: violation of Sabbatical law # 2. Then He puts it on the man's eyes. The man recognises what Jesus did, v. 15: "He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see." According to the Mishnah it was forbidden to anoint anyone of the Sabbath. So Jesus is specifically doing certain things in order to rile the Pharisees. But He is also demonstrating certain things about volition. He is doing the Godward side in preparing the person. Comparable to gospel-hearing this is analogous to the Holy Spirit making the gospel understandable to the individual. But it is still up to the individual's volition to go down the street to the pool of Siloam and to wash off the clay that Jesus has put on his eyes, which is comparable to exercising volition in response to the gospel and trusting in Christ. He believed what Jesus said, that if he went to the pool and washed it off he would see. Then the most phenomenal thing takes place in this miracle. The man opens his eyes and he can see.

We don't know the cause of the man's blindness. We know that he was congenitally blind but whatever it was he never saw. That means that during those formative periods after birth when the brain is establishing its pathways there is no pathway established for identification and recognition of colour at all. So there are no neuron pathways established so that he can identify and interpret what he sees, if he could see. Notice what happens in this miracle. His sight is restored, the optic nerve works, and at the same time, instantly along with this, Jesus restores and creates in the man's brain the neuron pathways so that when he washes that clay off his eyes he not only can see colours and realise that there is a difference between these colours but he can identify what they are. He can see them now and properly interpret them for what they are.

What this means for you and me as believers is that before salvation we were spiritually blind. We could not see things and could not properly interpret the data. This is, for example, the unbelieving evolutionist who is out there interacting with the fossil records. He sees the right facts but he can't interpret them because he has excluded the Bible completely from the realm of information. Because he is spiritually dead, according to 1 Corinthians 2:14, the natural man cannot understand the things of God because they are spiritually discerned. But once a person is regenerated and had a human spirit and the Holy Spirit he has the ability to accurately understand and interpret spiritual data. That comes further by the teaching ministry of God the Holy Spirit and learning Bible doctrine. So we see this phenomenal ministry take place here and it is all related to the infusion of light.

John 8:12 NASB "Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, 'I am the Light of the world'." We have seen before that this is not necessarily a salvation verse because in the next statement He says: 'he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life'." Once again we are talking about walking. Walking is the spiritual progression from salvation on in the spiritual life, it is not talking about salvation. This is a sort of sub-text that John wants us to notice here and is further illustrated by Jesus' next explanation to the believers in the crowd in v. 31: "If you continue in My word, {then} you are truly disciples of Mine. [32] and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." The truth is that which illuminates the darkness with light; the truth is that which illuminates the darkness of ignorance of spiritual things. So the function of light is to illuminate the mind to truth. Truth is that which God defines as truth and has revealed in His Word. Then in chapter nine Jesus shows the dynamics of this in the process of healing. It is not just the process of restoring sight but it is providing the entire mechanism for identifying and interpreting that which is seen.

Then He tells the man to go and wash in the pool of Siloam and he does. Starting in v. 13 we see the reaction of legalism. We see the context in vv. 13, 14 NASB "They [the crowd] 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." Incidentally, the very act of Jesus leaning over and picking up the clay said something. God reached down and picked up the soil, the chemicals of the soil, and fashioned the body of Adam. So when Jesus uses clay here and uses that to create sight He is giving an object lesson which says: "I am the creator of the universe and I am the one who has the authority to teach the truth." This is in contrast to the Pharisees. What is fantastic about this is that in the next chapter which is the conclusion of this event, where we see its real theological import. Jesus brings this whole interchange, this whole courtroom conflict between Jesus as the prosecutor from God against the Pharisees, the representatives of rebellious man, to a conclusion, where He shows that He is the good shepherd, and by His words and works has demonstrated that He alone has the right to lead the nation, and that they are false shepherds who are hirelings.

The Pharisees react. The blind man is brought to them and so we see the first stage of the inquisition. John 9:15 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'." The reaction: John 9:16 NASB "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." Notice: The light divides; truth divides people; doctrine divides people. Doctrine is always going to divide people. The fact that people are divided over doctrine is not something bad; that only comes out of modern ecumenical thought. Jesus was continually saying He was the Light and that He was here to divide people. We have to understand that light is always going to have this kind of effect on people, and it did the Pharisees.

John 9:17 NASB "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'." This is phase one of the interrogation. [18] John gives us a hint as to what is going on behind the scenes. "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." The Jews are faced with this profound empirical data, it is right there in front of them. The negative volition from darkness says: "I can't accept the truth." Darkness is arrogantly set on its own presuppositions. The Jews presuppose the validity of their religious system: "Don't confuse me with facts, my mind is made up." The issue in gospel presentation is not that we are going to convince people with the facts. Once we get past that in evangelism then we can have tremendous confidence. Jesus healed the blind man and the Pharisees said He was demon possessed. They can't accept what it really means because they have a preset agenda of human autonomy and religion. They are going to get more data so they call the man's parents in.

The inquisition intensifies. It is an inquisition because the whole atmosphere here is one of fear. That is how legalism controls. John 9:19 NASB "and questioned them, saying, 'Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?' [20] His parents answered them and said, 'We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; [21] 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'." We don't want to get involved; we want to go home. [22] "His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue." Legalism always seeks to control.

John 9:24 NASB  "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 [Jesus] is a sinner'." Religious people love to use "God-talk." They pepper their conversation with it: Praise God! Praise Jesus! etc. It is just pure legalism when they think that somehow God is impressed by all that religious verbiage. [25] "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'." This answer is so profound and so sarcastic. He is an unbeliever, he doesn't have a clue what the truth is yet, he is just going to confound the Pharisees because even though he is an unbeliever he has a level of objectivity that the legalistic Pharisees don't have. How can they refute what he said? Everybody knows he was blind and now can see. The Pharisees are the only ones who don't believe it, they can't accept the implications.

John 9:26 NASB "So they said to him, 'What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?' [27] 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?'"

John 9:28 NASB "They reviled him and said, 'You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses'." They just react and fragment all over the place, get angry and hostile, and accuse the blind man of being Jesus' disciple and he is not even a believer. They drip with arrogance: "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 is from."

John 9:30 NASB "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'." They don't know where Jesus is from yet He has done something that was never done in all of human history. Moses didn't do it; Elijah didn't do it; Samuel didn't do it. [31] "We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him." Conclusion: If God will heal from this man and hear His prayer and heal He is obviously not a sinner. [32] "Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. [33] If this man were not from God, He could do nothing." Then the Pharisees react.

John 9:34 NASB "They answered him, 'You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?' So they put him out." This is the first person in history to be socially and religiously ostracised because of his testimony and he is not even a believer yet.

John 9:35 NASB "Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, 'Do you believe in the Son of Man?'" This is the invitation, the only issue for salvation. [36] The man wants a little clarification: "He answered, 'Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?' [37] Jesus said to him, 'You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you'." This one of the most plain statements that Jesus makes identifying Himself. [38] "And he said, 'Lord, I believe.' And he worshiped Him." That's it; he is saved. The issue is faith alone in Christ alone.

Then Jesus sums up what is happening here. John 9:39 NASB "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'."

John 9:40 NASB "Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, 'We are not blind too, are we?' [41] Jesus said to them, 'If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, "We see," your sin remains'." Since you claim to have truth, that condemns you. So this stands as a statement that when truth comes, it divides. The very fact of Jesus' presence was forcing judgment.