“They said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.” They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about Him, since He has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”” (John 9:12–17, ESV)
The man’s neighbors could not figure out how he had regained his sight. The man told them a man named “Jesus” had given him his sight. He didn’t know how He did it, and as we read in today’s passage he didn’t even know where this Jesus was. So baffled and torn in a disagreement concerning the man, they brought him to the religious leaders—the Pharisees. The added piece of information we read is that Jesus had done this on the Sabbath—the day the Jews were given not to do any arduous labor and which had been expended to include numerous other things as well.
Jesus had healed the man on the Sabbath, and this was not the first time. Back in chapter 5 of John we read that he healed the man who had been lame for thirty-eight years on the Sabbath, and this did not sit well with the Jews who accused Him of breaking the Sabbath. This accusation followed Him even to His return to Jerusalem in chapter 7 where they sought again to have Him arrested. Now southeast of Jerusalem Jesus had again healed a man on the Sabbath.
The Pharisees hearing of this work being done debated themselves as to who this Jesus must be. Some held that because He violated their Sabbath rules that He could not be from God. Others looked to the great work He had done and asked how anyone could do these things if he were a sinner implying that Jesus had to be someone more. They were at a point of real confusion. They held certain activities as paramount to be observed, and Jesus seemed to violate them at will. At the same time, some recognized that no mere man could do such things. Bringing the two things together did not make any sense to them. If Jesus were from God then He would do things as they expected. If He were not form God then He would not be able to do those things. So, who was He? Where did He come from? From where did He get His power?
The people of the man’s community had no answer, and as we can see here the Pharisees did not have an answer either. The more they talked about it the more it seems that that they could not agree. Not having an answer, they turned to the man and asked him since he was the one healed who he thought Jesus to be. His response was, “He is a prophet.” While the man may not have known much about Jesus, He thought Him at least to be from God. Though the man did not have the answers to their questions, he was convinced enough by Jesus’ works to know that He was more than a mere man. Of course, the Pharisees were not going to accept this and they would continue to come up with another excuse as we will see in the continuing verses.
It is an amazing thing how man makes his box to contain God and then rejects any image of God that does not fit in their box. Man has long tried to put God in his box and even go so far as to explain Him into irrelevance and even deny His existence at all. For these there seems to be no acceptable proof that God is real and that He is who He reveals Himself to be in Scripture or even nature. The most amazing things are explained away as some form of cosmic accident as if order were to spontaneously and repeatedly come from disorder. It is as if the man in John 9 went to every mud pot in the world and rubbed his eyes, one of those mud pots would contain the right combination of minerals to give him sight. For them there is no room for the miraculous, because if they allowed for the miraculous they would have to allow for the miracle worker.
Jesus said that the reason the man was healed (John 9:3) was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. In chapter 10 we read Jesus saying, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,” (John 10:25, ESV) In order to deny Christ they had to deny His works. To do anything else would force them to acknowledge that He indeed was who He claimed Himself to be. There really can be no middle ground. The people knew it, the Pharisees knew it, and their disagreements were evident of just how critical one is in relation to the other.