Jesus’ statement to the Pharisees in John 10:26 has garnered a lot of attention and debate concerning an individual’s ability to believe in Jesus. Some have argued that this statement is an obvious reference in support of unconditional election and effectual calling and even limited atonement because it is clear that, in Jesus’ own words an individual is not a Christian (one of Jesus’ sheep) because he does not believe; for Jesus clearly says one does not believe because he is not one of Jesus’ sheep. Since Jesus gave His life for His sheep, there is this idea that Jesus died exclusively for the elect (His sheep) and the elect are those who will believe and the non-elect do not or will not believe because they are not Jesus’ sheep and they never will be.
The following is a look at the text and the context of this very important statement that Jesus made.
John Chapter 9.1-7
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. 7 And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing John 9.1-7 (NKJV).
Notice what Jesus did: He placed clay over this man’s eyes and told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. Jesus could have simply said, “Open your eyes to see” and immediately his eyes would have been healed. Just like Abram, this man had to go where Jesus told him to go and do what Jesus told him to do BEFORE he received his sight.
Faith is not something that man just possesses. Faith is something that possesses man. Faith is both active and passive. This man received his sight because of his personal encounter with the Savior and his willingness to do what Jesus told him to do. His faith, demonstrated in his obedience, is what gave him his sight.
Listen to the religious leaders of this man’s day:
24 So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.”25 He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see” John 9:24-25 (NKJV).
Notice the response of the Pharisees,
“26 Then they said to him again, “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? Do you also want to become His disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from” John 9:26-29 (NKJV).
This man gave testimony to the healing power of God in his life. He told them what happened but they refused to listen. They refused to accept the truth as it was presented to them. The man who was once blind countered their argument that they had no idea where this man was from. Notice the healed man’s response:
“Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! 31 Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. 33 If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing” John 9:30-33 (NKJV).
Basically this is the same argument that Jesus used when John the Baptist sent his disciples to Him and asked if he were “the Coming One or should we look for another?”
22 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 23 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” Luke 7:21-23 (NKJV), cf. Mt. 11:5.
The religious leaders dismissed this man’s testimony with the following statement, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out” John 9:34 (NKJV).
Jesus once again seeks out this man whose life has been literally transformed in less than 24 hours. He has to be overjoyed by what has happened to him but sorely confused at the same time. Jesus asks the man, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” John 9:35 (NKJV). We have no idea what this man knew about the Old Testament law. However, we do know that his parents feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that Jesus was the Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue, John 9:22-23 (NKJV). This man knew the Messiah was coming, and as Jesus asked him this question, he understood its significance. He answers Jesus with the following question:
“Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” He no doubt already knew the answer to that question! Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” 38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him John 9:37-38 (NKJV).
Jesus then makes a very interesting statement: “And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind’” John 9:39 (NKJV).
What does Jesus mean in this statement? A couple of things are obvious. He says, “For judgment I have come into this world.” This is an interesting statement, and the idea of judgment here is one of a matter to be judicially decided, a lawsuit or a case in court (cf. Strong’s Lexicon G2917). The idea here is that judgment will be based on those who do not see, may see, and those who do see will be made blind. Here, seeing is no doubt associated with believing. This man born blind received his sight and he believed. The religious leaders had their sight and they had all the knowledge they needed to believe but they were blinded by their unbelief. Jesus’ judgment was based on what men did with the knowledge they were given. This judgment would be based on what men did with the Light that He brought into the world. One other note is the setting of Jesus’ statement as well. He is not speaking to the world in a universal sense; He is speaking specifically to the Jewish religious leaders (and their religious traditions), who were proud, self-confident despisers of the truth. This is obvious in the response from the Pharisees.
Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains” John 9:40-41 (NKJV)
The religious leaders were challenging Jesus’ authority to speak over and against their authority where matters of the law were concerned. They were the experts in the law. Jesus’ response to them is telling. Had they been blind, He said they would have no sin; but because they see, their sin remains. This is indeed very interesting. What does Jesus mean when he says they would have no sin?
The Pharisees are responding to Jesus’ statement that was aimed specifically at them in verse 39. They knew Jesus was speaking of them, and so they responded accordingly. Keep in mind, to them Jesus is some obscure individual with no training and no official ordination or Jewish scholarly recognition. To them, He is nothing more than an expert in his own mind. So, derisively, they asked Jesus whether they also are blind.
Now, consider Jesus’ response to them. If you were blind, you would have no sin. There are several interpretations of this statement. Perhaps the best is, “If you were blind, which is in reference to the context of what has taken place and what He has said, you would have no sin.” Well, the obvious reference here is that this is not the case. It is a conditional statement that everyone knew did not apply. They were sinful and they all knew it; and so the inference that they were blind did not apply to them. Essentially, Jesus said that they were without excuse and ought to hear what He was saying to them, and they should believe as the formerly blind man did.
Jesus points out their own arrogance by saying to them, “But now, you are saying, ‘we see’ so your sin remains.” So what is the point of Jesus’ condemnation to them? Perhaps this is the answer in other words: “You have all the information you need to believe that I am who I claim to be.” That is exactly what Jesus is saying. They are without excuse, and this is the reason Jesus said he had come — for judgment. Basically though, He is saying you are judging yourselves. They had the Law. They knew the Law. Their pride and their arrogance and their self-righteous attitudes were blinding them from hearing and heeding the Truth which He had come to provide.
There is one final contrast that needs to be noted before going to chapter 10. These Pharisees had no excuse. They had the benefit of knowing and understanding the Law. This stands in stark contrast to the man who was born blind. He had no hope. He had no excuse. His condition was not self-inflicted. He was not responsible for his condition. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were responsible for their blindness. One final thought: Jesus cured the one who was not responsible for his condition. He heard Jesus’ voice and he did what Jesus told him to do, and his blinded eyes were opened. The Pharisees had no excuse for their blindness except for their own pride and obstinance. It seems that this blindness was one that Jesus would not heal nor correct.