These words were spoken by our Lord to the blind man (John 9). Just how relevant they are and how broad their application only becomes apparent upon reflection. The Jews attempted to convince the blind man that Jesus was a sinner, but he was adamant; an unprecedented miracle had taken place putting beyond doubt that Jesus was “of God”: “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worship­per of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God he could do nothing” (John 9:31-33). Rejecting this testimony “they cast him out” (mg excommunicated him). But the good shepherd was at hand to complete the healing, “and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” Jesus responded, “thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee”. This elicited from him, “Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him” (v35-38).

This drew from Jesus the telling observation, “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not [like the blind man] might see [both physically and spiritually]; and that they which see might be made blind” (v39).

But what does the above statement mean in its context? We know that Jesus Christ has been appointed by God to judge and that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor 5:10); and also that he will judge all nations (Acts 17:31; Rev 2:26-27). But in his words here Jesus is speaking about his impact on “this world”, his generation.

Jesus Christ, responsibility and judgment

Following the advent of Jesus Christ the relation­ship of the world to God could never be the same. John testifies that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (1:14). In the gracious words spoken

and mighty works which followed his words the character and power of the Father was displayed before men as never before. The evidence was over­whelming. The logical result was that men could no longer claim ignorance as a cloak for not believing that he was who he claimed to be, the Son of God.

Speaking to Nicodemus Jesus said, “He that believeth on him [the Son] is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only be­gotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:18-19). Nicodemus had made a true judgment when he said to Jesus, “no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (v2). But he had come to Jesus by night to avoid being recognised and his conviction was lacking.

Jesus made it clear that condemnation, judgment on a new scale, had come into the world with his advent: “light is come into the world”(John3:19); he was the “true Light”(John1:9) for God’s glory radiated from him as it never had before and there was no way for men to cover their sin if they failed to accept his claims.

Similarly in John 5 Jesus declares that “the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me” (v36). The same witness was to be found in the words he spake (v37-38).

The strongest statement made by the Lord about increased responsibility and judgment is found in John 15: “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke [mg excuse] for their sin,” and “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father” (v22,24).

At Pentecost Peter waxed bold, declaring Jesus of Nazareth to be “a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22).

The Apostle Paul when speaking on Mars’ Hill amidst temples and idols declared, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now com­mandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he has given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). Besides being “a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Luke 24:19) the resurrection of Jesus Christ put the absolute seal upon his claims to be the Messiah, the Son of God; he was not a liar, deceiver or charlatan.

So we can see that so far as Jesus’ contemporaries and the world since his resurrection are concerned, the level of responsibility has increased greatly.

Judgment: the mission of Yahweh’s Servant

In Isaiah’s First Servant Song we find words that seem to be the basis of Jesus’ words to the blind man, “For judgment I am come into this world”. Notice that the word judgment occurs three times in this opening statement of his mission: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles … A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smok­ing flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be dis­couraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law” (Isa 42:1-4).

The word for “judgment” in each case is trans­lated from the Hebrew mishpat which means ‘to decide, make a decision or verdict’. The millennial reign of Christ will see all nations governed by the law of Yahweh: his judgment will be just for “he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears” (Isa 11:3-4). The inhabitants of the kingdom age will actually desire to learn and keep the Law of Yahweh, for they will say, “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD … and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths” (Isa 2:3). Christ will not be discouraged until this mission is accomplished, “till he have set judgment in the earth”(Isa 42:4) and then“the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa 11:9).

Another connection between Isaiah 42 and John 9

When Jesus said to the blind man, “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and they which see might be made blind”, certain Pharisees heard him and ques­tioned him, “Are we blind also?” Jesus answered in an affirmative if enigmatical way, “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see, therefore your sin remaineth” (John 9:39-41). Their failure to identify him as the Son of God, following his unique miracle of opening the eyes of one who was born blind, meant that though they could physically see, spiritually they were blind. It is interesting to note that part of the Servant’s mis­sion in Isaiah 42 was “to open the blind eyes”(v7), which is what Jesus did for the blind man; but later in the chapter the national servant, Israel, is addressed and there is despair because of spiritual blindness. “Hear ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? Who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD’s servant? Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not” (v18-20). Those Pharisees, though part of God’s chosen nation, answered this tragic description.

Relevance to you and me today

“Judgment to come” is not something that people like to hear about today. There has been so much emphasis upon the merciful aspects of God’s character that His love of justice and judgment has been obscured. As the psalmist put it: “The king’s [God’s] strength also loveth judgment; thou dost establish equity, thou executest judgment and righteousness in Jacob.”(Psa 99:4; 98:9; 89:14)

It is easy for us to point the finger at Israel because their shortcomings are made plain in Scripture. We must look inward and analyse our own thoughts and motives: “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor 11:31-32). There are certain qualities of character we should be consciously striving to develop. Micah tells us what the LORD requires of us, “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (6:8). We must always do what is just and fair, we must love mercy by being ready to show it in our words and actions, and we must humbly submit to the Word of God, for as the Lord said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words” (John 14:23; 15:10). He also distilled the weightier matters of the Law to be “judgment [justice], mercy, and faith” (Matt 23:23), very much like Micah’s words.

As kings and priests in the Age to Come we will be entrusted with authority and the need to discern and judge, and now is our time of prepara­tion and probation. The Word of God must dwell in us richly; we must meditate upon it day and night so we reflect it in our words and deeds. In a busy and frantic world we need quiet time to think about our values, the course of our lives. We must strive to emulate the ways of our Lord. The institution of the daily readings in our community since the days of Brother Robert Roberts was one of the greatest blessings and we do well to abide by it.

In conclusion

So while the coming of the Son of God into the world brought a heightened responsibility to men, as he put it “for judgment I am come into this world”; “the Father … hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22,27). To us Paul’s words apply, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10). Now is the time to prepare, to make our calling and election sure, for the signs of the Lord’s coming abound in a world filled with violence and corruption. He will be here soon.