Though the identity of Christ is a theme throughout John's gospel, the eternal consequences of the opponents not knowing it came out very pointedly in the previous chapter (8:21,24).
John's gospel has a close-up look at many of the ideas of Christ's opponents. In John 9-10, Christ's identity is again the subject of those who revile Jesus, which they want to bring up (9:16,29).
There is a one-question verse, John 9:35, that is surprising in its brevity and succinctness. It is a non-confrontational conversation of Jesus, in the middle of chapters of confrontational conversations Jesus is having with representatives of the entrenched religion. In this one-question verse John documents what Jesus Himself may well be thought to put as the first question for all those He saves, perhaps even the premier question: "do you believe in the Son of Man?"
It is certainly true that John 10:42 uses this phrase without explanation. We readers have been accumulating knowledge about this idea since 1:12! The reader therefore, by the time of 10:42, has been given that content which informs the meaning of it. All John has to say in 10:42 is "many believed in Him there." And we readers know by then, what that means.
How? One of the best ways to see that is in fact 9:35-39. Look at the progression: Jesus heals the blind man (9:7). The formerly blind man identifies Jesus first as "the man who is called Jesus" (9:11). In 9:17, the man says "He is a prophet" -- to antagonistic listeners (9:18), as the man's parents well knew (9:22). Then, being summoned a second time for questioning, the man says "whether He is a sinner, I do not know" (9:25). But he turns the tables on the questioners, telling them they weren't listening to him (9:27). So he teaches the questioners what he believes about Jesus, that Jesus is from God (9:33). They recognize that they have just been taught (9:34).
And so the Lord Jesus, in 9:35, throws a theological question at the blind man, who definitely sees, but doesn't know he sees, theologically, and whom he sees. Jesus asks him, "do you believe in the Son of Man?"
The man obviously doesn't know the reference, "Son of Man," and very clearly wants to just get the reference, because he is definitely going to believe in the Son of Man when Jesus identifies who that is.
How Jesus does so (9:37) is very endearing. This circumlocution about Himself SHOUTS at us about how the Lord identifies Himself similarly in the Old Testament as well, to those He grants knowledge of Himself to. Remember Jacob (Gen 32:29)? Moses (Ex 3:4,13-15; Ex 33:21-23)? Gideon (Judges 6:17-21)? Isaiah (6:1-7)?
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