“So a second time they summoned the man who had been blind and told him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner!”” (John 9:24 HCSB)
The Pharisees weigh in here and say, “we know that this man is a sinner!” [By the way, giving glory to God was simply a cultural statement encouraging the one being questioned to tell the truth]. “We know” is in the perfect tense which implies that they made a decision in the past about Jesus’ identity and it was still true now and it would be true into the indefinite future. In other words: “We are certain that this man is a sinner!”
Which raises the question, “who did the Pharisees think were sinners?”
- “When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”” (Matthew 9:11 HCSB)—Sinners were often combined with tax collectors who were considered rapacious, thieving, money-sucking, Jewish pigs, if that gives you any idea.
- “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Luke 7:34 HCSB)—Sinners were associated with drunkards and gluttons.
- “When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching Him—she’s a sinner!”” (Luke 7:39 HCSB)—Women of dubious reputation were considered sinners.
- “We who are Jews by birth and not “Gentile sinners”” (Galatians 2:15 HCSB)—Paul makes an interesting comment here. If you were a good Jew, then all Gentiles were “Gentile sinners” in your estimation.
So “sinners” were grouped with tax-collectors, drunkards, gluttons, women of ill-repute, and Gentiles. The Pharisees were not being complementary of Jesus here!
Notice what is missing in their definition of what a sinner was: themselves! Sinners were everyone who was not like them. They were certainly not sinners. Jesus was a sinner. This ex-blind, ex-beggar? He was a sinner. Themselves? No. They were not sinners.
This goes a long way in helping us understand Jesus’ words:
“When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”” (Mark 2:17 HCSB)
The Pharisees didn’t need and weren’t seeking a doctor to help them because they were “righteous.” Many “sinners” believed in Jesus, because they knew they needed a doctor.