“For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
(John 9:39 ESV)
On the surface, this statement of Jesus may cause us to struggle. It may do so because, in John 3:17, Jesus said that he did not come to condemn the world. In John 12:47 Jesus says that he did not come to judge the world, but to save it. So this statement sounds quite contradictory. It doesn’t seem to reflect the nature of Christ.
As we read Scripture, we clearly see the desire of God. He desires that all might be saved. He does not want anyone to perish, but all to reach repentance. And, in Jesus, he has provided salvation for all. He’s the atoning sacrifice for our sin and for that of the entire world. So the primary purpose of Jesus’ coming was not to judge, but to provide salvation.
However, because so many refuse Christ, because so many will not receive his salvation, it also leads to judgment. It causes those who refuse him to receive the eternal wrath of God. So, although judgment is not the purpose of his coming, it does result from it. It leads to a division of those who are saved and those who are not.
Jesus explains how this plays out in the above passage. He came so that those who do not see may see. In other words, he came so that those who were without spiritual insight, who were without the knowledge of God, and who didn’t even seek for him, might receive these blessings. He came that they might receive salvation.
However, he also came that those who see may become blind. Now, Jesus isn’t saying here that he has determined some for damnation and that he’s the cause of this. He also isn’t saying that these people possess true insight or a true knowledge of God. He’s saying that those who believe themselves to see, those who believe themselves to possess such knowledge, are blinded. Because of their prideful assertion, they fail to recognize their need for him and they reject the gift of salvation that Jesus brings to them. And, as a consequence, they receive judgment.
We see this attitude expressed by the Jews in John 8. As Jesus preached to them, they claimed to be children of Abraham. They claimed that God was their Father. However, Jesus told them, in no uncertain terms, that their true father was the devil. Because they rejected him, because they were seeking to kill him, they were not what they believed themselves to be.
The same reality is found in our society today. Almost everyone believes themselves to be a child of God. They are confident in their goodness and salvation. And, for this reason, they are closed off to the gospel. They will not admit to their sin, nor do they understand their need for salvation. And, for this reason, they will not trust in Jesus nor his sacrifice. For this reason, they remain in the wrath of God.
May we, then, humbly receive the message of the gospel. May we understand our sin and the punishment we deserve. And may we, for this reason, be open to the good news of Jesus. May we look to him in faith, may we trust in his sacrifice, that we might receive the great blessings he’s provided us.