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Jesus was still in the vicinity of Jerusalem when the formerly blind man was being interrogated by the Pharisees. He heard about this and went out to find the man. John 9:35-38 says,
35 Jesus heard that they had put him out [excommunicated him from the synagogue], and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 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.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.
The usual order of events is this: first the blind are healed, and then they receive revelation that Jesus is the Son of Man. The term, “Son of Man” was considered to be the equivalent of “the Messiah,” because the term was taken from Dan. 7:13, which was believed to be a messianic passage. So Jesus was asking him if he believed that the Messiah was to come.
The man did have that hope, but he did not know who the Messiah might be. If he knew who the Messiah was, he would believe in Him. Jesus then identified Himself as that Messiah, and the man believed.
John 9:39 says,
39 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.”
This was Jesus’ explanation of the calling and authority of the Son of Man in Dan. 7:13, 14, which says,
13 I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. 14 And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.
The Son of Man was presented to the Ancient of Days (“the Father”), who subjected all things to the Son, as Paul affirms in 1 Cor. 15:27, 28. The Son then rules the Kingdom as the Agent of the Father. Paul says that the only One not subjected to the dominion of the Son is the Father Himself. The Father’s creation is subjected to the Son.
Creation itself is defined in Gen. 1:1 as “the heavens and the earth.” Christ’s dominion includes the material creation as well as the spiritual dimensions under the Father. This, of course, is very different from the religion of the Greeks, Persians, and others, who claimed that the material creation was evil and that the goal of humanity was to be separated from it.
Man had been given dominion over the whole earth in Gen. 1:26. But Adam’s sin had reversed this dominion and had enslaved him (and all mankind) to the earth (Rom. 8:20). Adam’s sin had also enslaved his soul (and ours) to the law of sin (Rom. 7:25). To remedy this situation required another Son of Man, “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45-47) to succeed where the first Adam had failed. Hence, the Son of Man, the Messiah, was given the authority over creation that Adam would have exercised, if he had not sinned.
Jesus’ authority as the Son of Man meant that He had the right to judge all things by the perfect standard of the nature of God Himself. Anything falling short of that standard would have to be judged and corrected in order to realign it with that which was perfect. God is not satisfied with leaving anything in an imperfect state. Hence, “for judgment I came into this world.”
At that present time in history, Jesus’ judgment was to heal the blind and blind those who claimed to see. Both are sovereign acts, and when Jesus healed the blind man, He was also blinding the Pharisees. One way to blind them was to heal on the Sabbath, for this was perhaps their greatest blind spot.
Healing on the Sabbath scandalized them, for it upset one of their most important traditions of men. Jesus did not violate the law of God, for it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath and to set men free. But the Pharisees, in their blindness, did not believe this, and this was clear evidence of their blindness. In other words, they lacked the revelation of the law, even though the rabbis had memorized it and thought they knew it well.
John 9:40, 41 says,
40 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.”
It is clear that Jesus talked to the blind man, not in secret but openly. There were some Pharisees present at this conversation. They objected to Jesus’ implication that they were blind. They did not realize that by claiming to see, they were making themselves responsible for their actions. Ignorance may not be a full excuse, but it is certainly a mitigating factor when a judge renders his decision in court.
Paul himself claimed blindness when looking back at his former life as the chief persecutor of the church. He writes in 1 Tim. 1:13,
13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief.
The law itself (Lev. 4:2, 13, 22, 27) deals with many sins done “unintentionally,” or in “ignorance” (KJV). The fact that they still had to offer a sacrifice for their sin shows that they had some level of liability. The principle of “ignorance is no excuse” is valid, as long as we understand that ignorance only reduces one’s liability.
When the Pharisees in their arrogance failed to claim ignorance, they took upon themselves the full liability for their unbelief, their pride, and their actions. It would have been much better if they had remained humble, not claiming to be right all of the time. To be so opinionated is to be fully liable for any wrong belief and any sinful action that stems from it.