Spiritual Blindness

“Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind’ ” (v. 39).

- John 9:34–41

There are none so blind as those who refuse to see. Few biblical stories illustrate this fact better than the story of the man born blind in John 9. Because the Pharisees were set against receiving Jesus as the revelation of God, they repeatedly resisted the plain truth that the man had in fact been born blind and had been healed by Jesus. To accept this truth would force them to change their theology and their man-centered traditions in which they gloried, so they continually pressed the man’s parents and the man himself to deny that he had been born blind and that he had been healed by Jesus. But in the midst of all this, the man stood firm, insisting that a true change had happened to him from the hand of Jesus (vv. 1–33). The man, then, is a model for us. When people press us to deny the claims of Jesus, we are to insist that He is the truth and that He is the Savior.

In verse 34, we learn that the Pharisees have been uttering only a superficial denial of the man’s blindness and His healing. Out of sheer frustration, after the man repeatedly refuses to name Jesus as a charlatan, they declare that he was born in utter sin. The reference here is to his blindness, for like many other Jews of the time, they believe that sin caused his birth defect. Clearly, they know that he was born blind and have been trying to get him to insist otherwise so as not to have their own authority imperiled by Jesus’ ministry. They cast the man out of the synagogue, but that is no true loss for him. For the man comes to see Jesus for who He truly is and is thereby saved (vv. 35–38).

We see, then, an ironic contrast between two groups of people. Some people are born blind and know they are blind. Jesus is quite willing to open the eyes of these individuals, not merely physically, but spiritually, so that they may see and believe. The man born blind represents these individuals. Others, however, think that they can see, not only physically but spiritually. The Pharisees, who are actually blind to the things of God, represent this second group. Jesus came into the world for judgment, to give sight to the blind and to show how blind are those who trust in themselves spiritually. This is not at odds with His purpose to bring salvation (3:17) but is its secondary and necessary result. Condemnation attends salvation—those who reject the dazzling light of Jesus as He is offered in the gospel are blinded to the things of God by His glory. John Calvin comments, “Since Christ is, by his own nature, the light of the world (John 8:12), it is an accidental result, that some are made blind by his coming.”

Coram Deo

God is under no obligation to save anyone, and those who harden themselves against Him have no claim on His grace. All of us must take care not to reject the light of Christ, lest we be blinded to His glory and cut off from His salvation. Of course, none whom He has saved will finally blind themselves to Him, but we prove that He has opened our eyes by continually turning to His light and seeking to be guided by it.

Passages for Further Study

Proverbs 3:7–8; 12:15; 26:12
Isaiah 6
Matthew 13:10–17

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.