Jesus finds the one who has been thrown out, acting like the Good Shepherd he will soon claim to be. Here is the tenderness and mercy of God in action, but such love is never sentimental in this Gospel. When Jesus finds the man he confronts him with another of his testing questions, Do you believe in the Son of Man? (v. 35). Some Jews at this time associated the Son of Man of Daniel 7 with the Davidic Messiah (J. Collins 1995:189), so the man could think Jesus was asking whether he believed in the Messiah. He obviously would not understand the more specific meaning of the Son of Man in John, namely, the Messiah from heaven who brings God's life and judgment, especially through the cross (see comments on 3:13-14 and 5:27).
The man responds in a way that reveals his desire to believe (v. 36). He does not ask what the Son of Man is, he asks who he is. Belief is not merely an intellectual assent to a proposition, but an attachment of trust to an individual as the one who comes from God. Such an expression of a "longing and inquiring soul" (Chrysostom In John 59.1) does not go unanswered any more than the openness and desire of the Samaritan woman did (4:25-26). Jesus responds, You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you (v. 37), a particularly poignant way of speaking to one who has only been able to see anything at all for a very short time. Here is a crucial step in the development of this relationship: Jesus has cured him and found him, but he now reveals something of his identity to the man. The man has spoken of Jesus as a prophet (v. 17), but will the man accept Jesus on Jesus' own terms? True faith requires such a humble acceptance, as John emphasizes throughout this Gospel.
The man responds with faith: Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him (v. 38). The word for Lord (kyrios) could simply mean "sir," (cf. 4:11; 12:21). Likewise, the word for worshiped (proskyneo) means to fall down and do homage to either God or a human being (Greeven 1968:758-63), and thus could refer to homage due to a man of God rather than God himself. But H. Greeven has argued that the word is always used in the New Testament for adoration of "something—truly or supposedly—divine" (Greeven 1968:763). Certainly the other uses in John signify worship of God (4:20-24; 12:20). Jesus has been presented in divine categories with increased emphasis at the end of chapter 8. But the title "Son of Man" would not convey such a notion in Jewish ears. So while the language used in the man's response to Jesus continues the presentation of the man as a model disciple, it is unclear how much of all this he grasped at the time. He has been progressing as a true disciple, moving from knowledge of Jesus' name (v. 11), to confession of him as a prophet (v. 17), to bearing witness that Jesus is one come from God (v. 33) and finally to accepting his claim to be the Son of Man (vv. 35-38; cf. Brown 1966:377; Westcott 1908:2:37). So even if he does not understand the full significance of his confession and homage to Jesus, he is accepting Jesus on Jesus' own terms and thus placing himself in the position to receive further revelation and grow in his understanding of Jesus and his relationship with him. None of the disciples have understood with any real depth the identity of Jesus or the nature of the salvation he brings. But here in this former blind man we have the anticipation of Thomas' dramatic confession of Jesus as Lord and God (20:28).
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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