“For no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” – John 3:2b (LSB)
Recently, as I was in my home office studying John 9:13-16, I was taken aback at the blindness of the Pharisees who, upon hearing that Jesus had healed a blind man (John 9:13) — from the formerly blind man himself (John 9:15) — complained only that Jesus has dared to perform such a fete on the Sabbath (John 9:16).
What hardened hearts the Pharisees had (John 9:41)! If you’re suddenly able to see, after being blind literally all your life, what should anyone care what day of the week it was that such an unexpected and miraculous gift was bestowed?
To be so obdurately tethered to the Law as to ignore the literal eye-witness testimony of something that was humanly impossible is, frankly, astounding! It is no wonder, then, that Jesus would so severely admonish the Pharisees, saying, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind” (John 9:39).
Nevertheless, despite their self-righteous incredulity, the one thing for which I do give the Pharisees credit is that they at least appeared to have understood that no sinful person could ever have done what Jesus did by restoring sight to a man who was congenitally blind. That the Pharisees knew this is affirmed by their having posited the following rhetorical question in John 9:16, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” [emphasis added]
Indeed, how can a sinful man do such signs? The answer, of course, is that no sinful man could do such signs.
Even the recalcitrant Pharisees knew that.
Our whole business, brethren, in this life is to heal this eye of the heart whereby God may be seen. To this end are celebrated the Holy Mysteries; to this end is preached the Word of God; to this end are the moral exhortations of the Church, those, that is, that relate to the corrections of manners, to the amendment of carnal lusts, to the renouncing the world, not in word only, but in a change of life: to this end is directed the whole aim of the Divine and Holy Scriptures, that that inner man may be purged of that which hinders us from the sight of God.St. Augustine
Notwithstanding their indignant refusal to acknowledge that Jesus was in fact the promised Messiah (Luke 24:27), the Pharisees were acutely aware of at least the following two realities: 1) blindness was humanly incurable, and 2) no sinner could ever be imbued by a holy God with the power to restore the sight of a blind person.
Despite their rigid, inflexible, and unyielding allegiance to the Law, if the Pharisees knew nothing else they at least knew those two things.
The Pharisees knew, ironically, as a result of their own zealous study of the Law, that no mere mortal — and every mortal is a sinner (Gen. 6:5; Eccl. 7:20; Lam. 3:39; Rom. 3:23) — could ever make a blind man see. They knew that whoever could perform such a miraculous and merciful act would have had to be as holy, pure, righteous — and sinless — as God Himself. Which is to say, he would have to be God incarnate.
And that is precisely who Jesus was—God in human flesh (Col. 2:9).