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  • Writer's picturePastor Brett

Born to Pronounce Judgment


“Everybody knows the iconic Simon & Garfunkel song, but do you know the amazing story behind the first line of The Sounds of Silence?

“It began 62 years ago, when Arthur ‘Art’ Garfunkel, a Jewish kid from Queens, enrolled in Columbia University. During freshman orientation, Art met a student from Buffalo named Sandy Greenberg, and they immediately bonded, becoming roommates and best friends.

“Soon after starting college, Sandy was struck by tragedy. His vision became blurry and he received the devastating news that severe glaucoma was destroying his optic nerves. He would soon be completely blind.

“Sandy fell into a deep depression. He gave up his dream of becoming a lawyer and moved back to Buffalo. He cut off contact with his old friends, refusing to answer letters or return phone calls.

“Then, to Sandy’s shock, his buddy Art showed up at the front door. Art convinced Sandy to give college another go and promised that he would be right by his side to make sure he didn’t fall - literally or figuratively.

“Art started calling himself “Darkness” to demonstrate his empathy with his friend. He’d say things like, ‘Darkness is going to

read to you now.’

“One day, as Art was guiding Sandy through crowded Grand Central Station he said he had to go and left his friend alone and petrified. Sandy stumbled, bumped into people, and fell, cutting a gash in his shin. After a couple of hellish hours, Sandy finally got on the right subway train. After exiting the station, Sandy bumped into someone who apologized and Sandy immediately recognized Art’s voice! His trusty friend had followed him the whole way home, making sure he was safe and giving him the priceless gift of independence. Sandy later said, ‘That moment was the spark that caused me to live a completely different life, without fear, without doubt. For that I am tremendously grateful to my friend.’

“Sandy graduated from Columbia and then earned graduate degrees at Harvard and Oxford. He married his high school sweetheart and became an extremely successful entrepreneur and philanthropist.

“Years later, it was Art who needed help. He’d formed a folk rock duo with his high school pal Paul Simon, and they needed $400 to record their first album. Sandy and his wife Sue had $404 in their bank account, but without hesitation, gave the money to his old friend.

“Art and Paul's first album was not a success, but one of the songs, the “Sounds of Silence,” became a #1 hit a year later. The opening line echoed the way Sandy always greeted Art.

“Art Garfunkel said that when he became friends with Sandy, ‘my real life emerged. I became a better guy in my own eyes, and began to see who I was - somebody who gives to a friend.’

There is no blindness more difficult to cure than that of willful blindness, when people deliberately ignore the truth. One reason we celebrate Jesus is the fact that He came to open our eyes to the truth and to warn us that intentional blindness will bring us to grief on Judgment Day.

Jesus was born into the human race to render judgment and enable us to see His decisions.

CONTEXT = In 8:59, people in the temple were picking up stones to throw at Jesus because they thought He’d spoken blasphemy. We see opposition to Jesus growing among the Jewish leaders and the residents of the city who followed their orders. In 9:6-7, Jesus gave sight to a man who had been born blind. The remainder of the chapter deals with the hard time the Jewish authorities gave the formerly blind man and his parents. They were so intent on finding fault with Jesus that they furiously cross-examined this man and his parents and were on hand when Jesus caught up with the formerly blind man. A symbolic aspect of this section is that the formerly blind man was moving to a place where he saw more of the truth and the Pharisees grew more near-sighted as they rejected the truth of Jesus Christ.

1. Jesus followed up on the formerly blind man. (35-37)

This is the only instance I can remember of Jesus circling back to someone He’d healed. (35) I believe He did this because He’d heard about the way the synagogue leaders had treated the man.

Jesus asked the formerly blind man, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Why did Jesus choose to use that title? After all, the title “Son of God” is more commonly used in John’s gospel and might make more sense in light of the miracle of healing. However, John tends to use “Son of Man” with the subjects of judgment and life. This is appropriate to verse 39.

The formerly blind man believed in the coming of the Son of Man but was unaware he’d already met him. (36) We need to remember that Jesus made mud to cover this man’s eyes and then required him to wash the mud off in the pool of Siloam. When his eyes were healed, Jesus was not there. The man never saw his face or heard his name.

It’s interesting how that detail is essential to the way the story unfolds. When the man was interrogated by the Pharisees, he didn’t have to lie to protect Jesus’ identity, he had no idea who’d healed him! In this passage we’ve seen this man’s candor, and he expresses himself enthusiastically here.

Jesus introduced Himself to the formerly blind man, this time as the Son of Man. (37) Similar to his conversation with the Samaritan woman in 4:26, Jesus announced Himself as the very person the formerly blind man had been seeking. This man had the joyous experience of using his now-found vision to behold the face of the Son of Man, the very person who healed him!

The formerly blind man responded with belief and worship. (38)

In terms of belief, he believed Jesus was the Son of Man, the person Daniel had predicted in chapter seven of his prophecy.

In terms of worship, he didn’t understand all that Jesus being the Son of Man meant – none of us do – but he responded immediately and appropriately by offering Jesus his worship.

In contrast to the deliberate and joyless unbelief of the Pharisees, the man spontaneously and joyously believed and acted on that belief with worship of Jesus. Three times this humble man confessed his ignorance. (9:12, 25, 36). Not coincidentally, the proud Pharisees bragged three times about their knowledge. (9:16, 24, 29)

2. Jesus responded to the formerly blind man’s worship with an insight. (39)

Jesus’ stated purpose for entering the world was to RENDER JUDGMENT. What does that mean? Doing miracles of healing was not the entirety of His ministry. Jesus’ ultimate purpose was to reveal the truth and then judge people guilty or innocent based on whether they accepted the truth or rejected it.

It’s ironic. Jesus is, at the same time, the basis for judgment and the One who will judge all humanity. He is the line in the sand, the basis for judgment in the sense that it is what you do with Jesus that will decide your eternal outcome. Everyone who accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior will receive eternal life. Everyone who rejects Jesus will be self-condemned and suffer the Second Death. Jesus is also depicted as our Judge. On Judgment Day, He will be the one to announce the verdict and the sentence on every human being who has ever lived.

Jesus explained that His judgment involved two things: blindness and vision. (39) People who confess their spiritual blindness will receive sight to recognize the truth. If they receive the truth by faith, they will live eternally. People who cling to their spiritual blindness will not recognize the truth. That decision to disbelieve will result in their eternal damnation.

This figure of speech is not original with Jesus. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.” (6:10)

3. The Pharisees took it personally. (40-41)

Some Pharisees were standing nearby, which likely happened because they were following Jesus around, hoping to catch Jesus saying or doing something for which they could find fault with Him. (40) The fact that they applied Jesus’ words to themselves shows they weren’t totally clueless. It’s sad they didn’t pursue the truth enough to come to have faith in Jesus. It also shows that if you spend all your time looking for something to criticize you will find something every time.

Jesus stated they had correctly taken His meaning. (41) If they had been completely ignorant of the truth (“blind” to it), they would not have been guilty of sin because their ignorance excused their responsibility. However, they were not ignorant, as they had the Scriptures to study, and they had Jesus’ teaching and miracles as evidence of the truth. To purposely, stubbornly, and deliberately reject Jesus as they did was not an act of ignorance, it was a sin, and they were guilty.

Jesus was born into the human race to render judgment and enable us to see His decisions.

Grant R. Osborne summed up the passage in this way: “The message is quite clear: Those of us who acknowledge our blindness and turn to Christ in belief will receive sight, but those who go on pretending they know the truth will descend further and further into darkness and be rendered blind by God. We must choose between Jesus and self, between light and darkness, between life and death.” (p. 149) To try to be saved by our works or our wits is just as prone to failure as ignoring the problem entirely. In this passage Jesus warned that Judgment Day was coming and then we would be held accountable, first and foremost, for our acceptance or rejection of Him.

What are we to do? First, accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. That is the decision that makes all the difference.

Second, live in a way that shows you meant it. Give evidence to your faith; open your eyes to the entire truth of God’s word and let your daily life be guided by it.


The “Sounds of Silence” illustration was retrieved from on 22 November 2023.

Grant R. Osborne, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 13, The Gospel of John, 2007, pp. 140-150.

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