One of the most interesting aspects regarding Jesus’ encounter with the blind man is that Jesus proves the man before he confirms him. Jesus offers the man no prayer for salvation, no date and signature on a document to mark his first spiritual birthday, and no assurance that regardless of what happens in the future all he has to do is remember this decision day and he can know that he is saved.
Instead, he sends the man into battle, and the battle is brutal. His acquaintances objectify him, his family abandons him, and his religious leaders cancel him from synagogue life.
The whole series of events began with a kind word by Jesus and a command for the man to go to the pool to wash mud from his eyes. The man had no way of knowing what would happen. He just obeyed Jesus’ word, and then learned how to fight for the reality he experienced.
Only a man who believes already would do such a thing.
Knowing the Truth and the Person
It is at this point that Jesus establishes contact with the man. Here is the Bible’s word on what happened.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”
He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
Why does Jesus ask this strange question? After all, knows the man believes. Further, we as readers know the man believes. What more proof do we need?
I believe the purpose for the question is to allow the man to confess his belief out loud to the one who has earned his trust. Jesus goes through the back door to introduce himself, but his backdoor approach accomplishes two tasks.
First, it allows the man to complete his quest for Jesus on his own. Then, when he realizes who Jesus is, his worship blossoms out of a grateful heart. The man’s declaration, “Lord, I believe,” is one of the most affirmative statements in Scripture.
Notice that the word believe occurs three times in these four verses. Obviously, they are significant to John as a writer.
Ultimately, the word points to the Gospel’s summary passage in John 20:30-31. “Many other works [miracles] did Jesus do among his disciples. But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you might have life through his name.”
When the man declares, “Lord, I believe,” he declares more than just intellectual assent. His declaration involves a commitment to a whole new way of thinking and perceiving the world. Those who believe see the truth and benefit from it. Like the blind man, they are granted a form of sight that comes from the heart.
Second, the man’s freely given statement stands as the permanent and final testimony to his salvation. Everything the man has said to defend Jesus prior to this point contains a small kernel of ignorance. Earlier, for example, the man told the Jewish leaders, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).
Jesus’ question, “Do you believe in the Son of Man,” completes the loop to salvation. The last we see of the man involves his declaration and worship. From this point on, John concentrates on Jesus’s discussion about the man’s belief.
Unknowing the Truth
In contrast to the man, those who refuse to believe reject the truth and become blind. John writes,
Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
Disbelief is never neutral. It involves rejection of Jesus and everything he stands for. It involves deliberate blindness toward whatever truth we have been granted. One evangelist coined the phenomenon, “unknowing the truth.”
Unknowing the truth means that a person will not see. The religious leaders who denied the testimony that they had witnessed proved the fact.
When Jesus says, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt,” he means that a person who fails to act on what he knows is actually lost. He has made himself blind to the truth.
The man born blind demonstrates what true discipleship means. He has received both physical and spiritual sight from Jesus, and he shows the truth irrefutably.
The marks of a True Relationship with Jesus
John continues to cover Jesus’ teaching through chapter 10, where Jesus pronounces himself to be the Good Shepherd. Here are some of the identifying marks of a genuine relationship between Jesus and his disciples.
- The shepherd enters by the door, and the sheep know him. He calls his sheep by name and leads them out (John 10:2-3).
- The sheep follow the shepherd because they know his voice (John 10:4).
- Whoever enters the sheepfold by Jesus will be saved. He will go out and find pasture (John 10:9).
- The good shepherd comes to give his sheep abundant life (John 10:10).
- The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, because they belong to him and he cares for them (John 10:11-12).
- The good shepherd knows his sheep and they in turn know him, just as he and the Father know each other (John 10:14-15).
- The good Shepherd voluntarily gives up his life for the sheep (John 10:17-18).
Did you notice how few requirements appear in points above? They say nothing about, “If you do this, then I will do that.” Instead, they bear witness to what Jesus does for us. Discipleship is about being rather than doing.
Discipleship is far more than signing a card or reciting a prayer of belief. It is not even about our relationship with Jesus, because that emphasis places the burden on us. True discipleship grows out of Jesus’ intimate relationship with us.