William Kelly Major Works Commentary
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.JOHN - THE NINTH CHAPTER
The light of God had shone in Jesus (light, not of Jews only, but of the world); yet was He rejected, increasingly and utterly, and with deadly hatred. There was no miracle wrought; it was emphatically His words that we hear, but asserting at length the Divine glory of His Person. This roused, as it always does, the rancour of unbelief. They believe not on Him, because they bow neither to their own ruin nor to the grace of God, which thus comes down to meet man, revealing the God Who is unknown. But Jesus pursues His way of love, and unfolds it in a new and suited form, only to meet with similar rejection afresh, as our chapter and the next will show.
John 9:1-12"And passing along, He saw a man blind from birth.174 And His disciples asked Him, saying, Rabbi, which sinned, this (man) or his parents, that he should be born blind? Jesus* answered, Neither this (man) sinned nor his parents, but that the works of God might be manifested in him. It must work the works of Him that sent Me† while it is day: night cometh, when no one can work. When I am in the world, I am the world's light" (verses 1-5).
* Some authorities insert ὁ, "the," contrary to the great mass.
† Tischendorf, in his eighth edition, reads ἡυᾶς, " us," in both occurrences, following pmBDL, several ancient versions, etc.; but Alford, Green, Griesbach, Scholz, Lachmann, etc., adhere to ἐμὲ and με, with AC and the great majority of uncials, cursives, and many ancient versions. BD give με in the second place, followed by Tregelles, as by Westcott and Hort also [and Weiss], with the Sahidic and the Syriac of Jerusalem, etc. This goes far to explode the "we" [Syrsin] must work; still more is the internal evidence against it.
It was an act of pure grace which the Lord was about to do. Nobody had appealed to Him, not even the blind man or his parents. The disciples only raised a question, one of those curious speculations in which the later Jews delighted:175 was it the man's sin, or his parents', which had involved him in congenital blindness? Certainly no such Pythagorean fancy prevailed then in Judea as that a man might have sinned in a previous existence on earth, and be punished for it in an after-state also on earth. Nor is there any sufficient reason to endorse a pious and learned author's view, that the disciples might have entertained-what rabbis afterwards drew from Genesis 25:22-the notion of sin before birth.
It seems easy to understand that they conceived, however strangely, of punishment inflicted anticipatively on one whose eventual sin was foreseen by God. Doubtless it was unsound; but this need be no difficulty in the way; for what question or assertion of the disciples did not betray error enough to draw out the unerring correction, so precious to them and us, of our Lord? He now puts the case on its real purpose in the Divine mind-that the works of God might be manifested in him. It is the day of grace now: therefore was Jesus come; and this was just an opportunity for the display of His gracious power. Yet man understands not grace but by faith, and even believers only so far as faith is in exercise. Government is the natural thought when one sees God's cognisance of every thing and every one here below. But it was not then, nor is it now, the time for His government of the world. Here lay the mistake of the disciples, then, as of Job's friends of old: a mistake which leads souls, not only to censoriousness and misjudgment, but to forget their own sins and need of repentance in occupying themselves with what they count God's vengeance on others.
Here, however, it is not the side of uncharitable self-righteousness which the Lord exposes. He speaks of the activity and purpose of grace as the key. It was no question of sin, either in the blind man or in his parents, but of God's manifesting His works in man's grievous need and sorrow. In the world He was the world's light. He was the sent One and Servant in doing His work, as in speaking His word. Perfect God, He was perfect man, never swerving from the place He had taken here below.
Further, the pressure of His rejection was felt by our Lord, whatever the holy calm which could so quickly turn from man's murderous hatred to a work of Divine love. "I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day: night cometh, when no one can work." He was the "light" of the "day" which was then shining for Him to do the will and manifest the love of the One Who sent Him-yea, to declare God (see John 1:18), Whom man otherwise was incapable of seeing. Truly the need was great; for man like the one in question, was utterly blind. But Jesus was the Creator, though man amongst men. Let Him be in the world, He is its light. It attaches alike to His mission, and to His Person, in virtue of His Divine nature.
"Having said these things, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and spread the clay over His eyes,176 and said to him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, which is interpreted Sent. He went away therefore, and washed, and came seeing" (verses 6, 7). This was no unmeaning act on Christ's part, no mere test of obedience on the man's. It was a sign of the truth which the chapter reveals, or, at least, in harmony with it. For He Who was there manifesting the works of God was Himself a man, and had deigned to take the body prepared for Him; most holy, beyond all doubt, as became the Son of God Who knew no sin, about to be made sin for us on the cross, but none the less really of the woman, of blood and flesh, as the children partake. But Incarnation, precious as is the grace of the Lord in it, of itself is quite insufficient for man's need; yea, it seems rather to add at first to the difficulty, as did the clay on the man's eyes. The Spirit must work by the word, as well as the Son sent into the world, Jesus Christ come in flesh. Without the effectual work of the Holy Spirit in man he cannot see. Compare John 3. So it is here: the man must go to the pool of Siloam, and wash there. Attention is the more fixed on this by the appended interpretation or meaning of the word.177 It signifies the soul's recognition that Jesus was the sent One of God, sent to do His will and finish His work, the Son yet servant withal, to accomplish the great salvation of God. The heart is thus purified by faith. Now the man has eyes and can see, not when the clay was laid on, but when he washed in the pool of Siloam. Christ must be here, and a man too, in contact with men in all their darkness; but only when the Holy Ghost applies the word to the conscience do they, owning Him to be the Sent of God, receive sight. Not Incarnation only, but the efficacious work of the Spirit, is needed that man may see according to God. "According to His own mercy He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that, being justified by His grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-7.)
"The neighbours therefore, and those who used to see him before that he was a beggar,† said, Is not this he that sitteth and beggeth? Some said, It is he; others‡ said, No, but he is like him; butt he said, It is I. They said therefore to him, How then§ were thine eyes opened? He answered, The man"" that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said to me, Go unto¶ Siloam, and wash. Having gone away then** and washed, I received sight. And†† they said to him, Where is He? He saith,‡‡ I do not know" (verses 8-12).
† The common and largely supported reading is τυφλὸς "blind," but the more ancient is προσαίτης, "a beggar." [So Syrsin, Weiss, Blass.]
‡ So read BCLX with many old versions; Text. Rec. ἄλλοι δὲ ὅτι, with more than a dozen uncials, etc., as δὲ, also.
§ οὖν CDLX, etc.
"" ὁ . . . ὁ B, etc., but omitting the first καὶ εἶπεν, as the mass [so Blass, etc.] omit the articles.
¶ BDLX, etc., omit τὴν κολυμβήθραν τοῦ, and read τοῦ, Σ [W. and H., Weiss, Blass].
** οὖν BDLX, etc. [Weiss, Blass], δέ the mass.
†† καὶ BLX, etc., οὖν majority, but A and some old versions omit both [as Blass].
‡‡ D, etc., with ancient versions, add αὐτοῖς, "to them."
Those accustomed to the blind beggar could not conceal their surprise and perplexity; for as the sightless eyes are a prime disfigurement of the human face, so their presence thus unexpectedly changed the man's entire expression. No wonder that they wondered; yet was the fact certain, and the evidence incontestable. God took care that there should be many witnesses, and would make the testimony felt the more it was discussed and weighed. Had they known Who Jesus was, and for what He was sent, they would have understood the fitness of the work done that day. But he on whom the work was wrought gave out no uncertain sound. He was the man whom they were used to see sitting and begging. His witness to Jesus is most explicit. He does not know much yet, but what he knows he declares with plain decision. How could he doubt whose eyes were opened? Did they ask how it was? His answer was ready and unreserved: "The (or, A) man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said to me, Go to Siloam and wash." The mighty effect followed at once: "And having gone away and washed, I received sight." They are curious to know where Jesus is; but the man is as frank in acknowledging his ignorance of this as before in confessing the reality of what He had done. It might not be to his own praise that he did not return to Jesus in thanksgiving for God's grace; but God would use it to show how wholly the worker and the object of the work were above collusion. How few have the honesty to say "I do not know" when they know as little as he who here owns it! Yet is it no light condition of learning more.
On the other hand, we see that the Lord not only would draw attention by men's debate, and by the man's distinct testimony, but leaves the man for the present, that, by his own reflection on what was done and answering their questions, he might be prepared both for trial that was coming, and for still better blessing from and in Himself. The agitation among the neighbours was to be followed quickly by the more serious inquisition of the religious chiefs. These, as we shall see, readily find matter in the good deed for their usual malevolence toward that which brought honour to God independently of them. Worldly religion, whatever its profession, is really and always a systematic effort to make God the servant of man's pride and selfishness. It knows not love, and values not holiness; it is offended by the faith that, feeding on the word, serves by the Spirit of God, glories in Christ Jesus, and has no confidence in the flesh. It hates walking in the light as a constant thing, for it only wants religion at its fit times and seasons as a shield against the day of death and the hour of judgment. Hence, for the Son of God to be here on earth, a man presented to men's eyes, blind as they are, and sending them where they can wash and see, outside the regular established religion of the land and without the medium of the accredited guides, is intolerable. It comes out plainly in what follows, a most weighty, and, I doubt not, intended lesson in this instructive narrative: God's witness in work, as before (John 8) in word.
Whenever God acts, the men of religion set up to judge, and the neighbours fear their displeasure more than they pitied the blind man or rejoiced in his healing. Such men are accredited of the world, and count it their province to decide such questions, while others love to have it so. What, then, will the Pharisees say? They had cavilled before.
"They bring unto the Pharisees him that was once blind." Nor are the Pharisees slow to detect a flaw, as they supposed. Not that the man had not been blind, nor that Jesus had failed to give him sight; but had they not both, Jesus especially, broken the law? "Now it was sabbath (on the day)* when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes." How little men, particularly those whom public opinion regards as pillars, are apt to suspect that their will exposes them to Satan! But so it is, and, above all, where the Son of God is concerned, Who was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil, and give us an understanding that we should know Him that is true. Yet those who, confident in their traditions, dare to arraign the Saviour, commit themselves the more to the enemy, because they flatter themselves that they are upholding the cause of God. Thus are they ensnared to the destruction of themselves and of all who heed them. "He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father that sent Him" (John 5:23).
* ἐν ἧ ἡμέρᾳ BLX, etc, but the great mass give ὅτε, "when."
"Again therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he received sight. And he said to them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed and do see. Some of the Pharisees then said, This man is not of God, because He keepeth not the sabbath. *Others said, How can a sinful man do such signs? And there was a division among them" (verses 15, 16). They are uneasy, whatever may be their affectation of superior sanctity and zeal for God's honour. The power which gave sight, where blindness had hitherto ever rested, startled them, and excited their curiosity, with the desire of discovering an evil source, if not of alarming the man. But grace wrought in him, and gave him quiet courage to confess the good deed wrought, albeit on a sabbath and without a word about it. "He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed and do see." God calls us, when blessed through Christ, all to be confessors, though not all martyrs; and surely it is the least we owe Him in praise and our fellowmen in love.
* BD and some cursives and versions [Syrsin] add δὲ, "but."
But all true confession is odious to the religious world and its leaders. "Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because He keepeth not the sabbath." This malicious plea had been already refuted; but Pharisaism has no heart for, no subjection to, the truth. It had never entered their consciences, or they had forgotten it in their zeal for forms and traditions. But how sad the self-deceit of men destitute of true holiness, or of real obedience, daring to arraign the Holy One of God!
Yet others there were among them not so blinded by party passion or personal envy who ventured to say a word, if they took no further step. "Others said, How can a sinful man do such signs?" All they meant was that He Who wrought thus could be no such deceiver or impostor as the rest conceived. They had no right view of Himself, of His Person, or His relation to God. They had not the faintest idea that He was God manifest in flesh; but they questioned whether He must not be "of God," since He did such signs.178 "And there was a division among them." Thus, as they were not yet of one mind, there was a delay for Satan's design.
But in their restlessness they examine once more the man, and are used unwittingly by the God of grace to help him on in the apprehension and acknowledgment of the truth which is according to piety. "They say therefore* to the blind (man) again, Thou,† what sayest thou of Him, because He opened thine eyes? And he said, He is a prophet" (verse 17). The first examination was as to the fact and the manner. Now they want to force out of the man his thoughts of his Benefactor, in their malice wishing to find a plea for condemning both. On the other hand, the grace of God is as manifest as it is sweet in using the painful trial and exercise of soul to His own glory, through the man led on and blessed only the more. He knew their hatred of Jesus, yet he answers their challenge boldly, "He is a Prophet": a decided advance on his previous confession, though far from the truth he is soon to learn. He owns that Jesus has the mind of God as well as His power.
* οὖν ABDLX, many cursives and versions [W. and H., Weiss, Blass], but most, followed by Text. Rec., omit.
† σὺ τί Text. Rec. with most; τί συ BLX, etc.
Baffled by his quiet firmness, the religious inquisitors turned to another and accustomed means of assault. As the neighbours in their perplexity appeal to the Pharisees, so these work on, and by natural relationships too. They would try whether some disproof could not be made out of the parents. Clearly unbelief lies at the bottom of all. Man, being fallen and evil, is unwilling to believe in the goodness of God-above all, in His grace to himself. Had the neighbours bowed to the clear evidence of God's intervention, they would not have brought the man to the Pharisees; had the Pharisees, they would not have persisted in sifting again and again beyond the ascertainment of the fact; still less would they have awakened the fears of the family. "The Jews therefore did not believe concerning him that he was blind, and received sight, until they called the parents of him that received sight, and asked them, saying, Is this your son who, ye say, was born blind? how then doth he now see? His parents therefore* answered and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now seeth we know not, or who opened his eyes we know not; ask himself; he is of age, he will speak for himself. These things said his parents because they feared the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that, if any one should confess Him (to be) Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. On this account his parents said, He is of age: ask him" (verses 18-23).
* οὖν B, etc.; most δὲ ; many [as Blass] omit, and so Text. Rec., which adds αὐτοῖς with most, contrary to BLX, etc.
The matter of fact is thus again the cardinal question, as it really was; and as to this the parents answered conclusively. That the man now saw was undeniable, and this through Jesus, as he declared; that he was their son and born blind, the parents maintained unhesitatingly. The conclusion was irresistible, if unbelief did not resist everything where God is concerned. The parents answer only where they are concerned. It was not that they, or any reasonable person, doubted that Jesus had wrought the miracle; but they dreaded the consequence, from Pharisaic enmity, of going beyond their own circle of natural knowledge, and pleaded ignorance of how it was done, or of Whom it was that did it. Overborne by fear of the Pharisees, they forget even the affection that would otherwise have sheltered their offspring from the impending blow; and they throw all the burden on their own son. "Ask him: he is of age, he will speak concerning himself." Thus their very fears, on which the Pharisees reckoned for a denial of the facts, God used to make it solely a controversy between the Pharisees and the man himself, when they were compelled by the evidence of the parents to accept as a certain fact that he who now saw had been ever blind, and blind till just now.
Another thing also comes out very plainly, that the enmity of the Jews to the Lord Jesus was known ere this to have gone so far as to threaten with excommunication every one that confessed Him to be the Christ.179 The will of man is blind to proofs; and as this flows from corruption, it issues in destruction.
Hence the man is once more appealed to, and all question of the miracle is dropped. "Therefore they called a second time the man who was blind, and said to him, Give glory to God: we know that this man is a sinner. He therefore answered,* If He is a sinner I know not. One thing I know, that, blind as I was, now I see" (verses 24, 25). They now assume the highest ground; they at least hold to the Divine side, if others are carried away by the apparent good done to man. Accordingly they call on him to give glory to God,180 whilst they assert their unqualified assurance that Jesus was a sinner. Nor has it been an uncommon thing from that day to this, for men to profess to honour God at the expense of His Son; as the Lord warned His disciples to expect to the uttermost, where the Father and the Son are unknown. But the man in his simplicity puts forward the fact which he deeply felt and they would fain hide. "If He is a sinner I know not. One thing I know, that, blind as I was, now I see." No argument can stand against the logic of reality-above all, of such a reality as this. He certainly did not know what they pretended to know; but that Jesus was a sinner could not be: he alleges the most distinct and irrefragable proof; and this on their own ground of what was before all. If reasoning be unseasonable and powerless, what is religious antipathy in presence of an undeniable fact which proves the mighty power and goodness of God? Their efforts proved their ill-will to Him Who had thus wrought: the blessed reality remained, whatever the insinuations or the assaults of unbelief.
* καὶ εἶπεν is the addition of Text. Rec., following most uncials and cursives, but not of ABDL, some good cursives, and the best ancient versions.
It is well also to remark that with faith goes a mighty operation of God, with its own characteristic effects, and more important in every soul that believes the Gospel than even that of which the man, once blind but now seeing, was so sensible. Those who believe are quickened from death in trespasses and sins, and they henceforth live to God. Crucified with Christ, they nevertheless live, yet not they themselves properly, but Christ lives in them. They are thereby partakers of a Divine nature, being born of God. It is no improvement of their old nature as men. They are born of water and Spirit; they are begotten by the word of truth. With faith goes this new life, which shows itself in wholly different thoughts and affections, as well as ways or walk. Of its gradual progress in the midst of opposition and persecution, the story of this blind man, who now saw, is no inapt illustration.
The pertinacity of the Pharisees finds in the man a quiet courage, which stands out in contrast with the fears of his parents, and even urges the claims of Him Who had wrought so good and great a deed on His adversaries in a way they could not resist. If they ply the man with the question, How? he answers with the question, Why?
"They said therefore* to him (again),† What did He to thee? how opened He thine eyes? He answered them, I told you already, and ye did not hear: why do ye wish to hear again? Do ye also wish to become His disciples? They railed‡ at him, and said, Thou art His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God hath spoken to Moses, but this man we know not whence He is" (verses 26-29). It was unbelieving scorn, not real ignorance.181
* Text. Rec. has δὲ, "and," with many good authorities, but not corr ( pm omitting) BDKLX, many cursives and versions.
† πάλιν, Text. Rec., with most uncials, cursives, etc., but not BD, etc., and many ancient versions.
‡ οὖν is added in Text. Rec., with little support; καὶ B, etc., but the most read neither.
He who was once blind, but now saw, discerned the true state of the case, as those did not who had never experienced His gracious power. He felt satisfied that their opposition was invincible. The apostle of grace none the less, but the more, warns the despisers of their self-willed unbelief and danger of perishing. The same spirit of faith expresses itself in him who just now was but a blind beggar, even as from those that had not should be taken away what they seemed to have. Christ is a rock of strength to the one, and of offence to the other. They thus expose themselves to the sharp rebuke of their folly by the man they affected to despise. Zealous for the servant whom they set up as master, they confessed their ignorance of Him Who is Lord of all.
"The man answered and said to them, Why in this is the* wonderful thing, that ye know not whence He is, and He opened mine eyes! †We know that God heareth not sinners, but if anyone be God-fearing, and do His will, him He heareth. Since time (began) it was not heard that anyone opened a born blind man's eyes. If this man were not of God, He could do nothing. They answered and said to Him, In sins thou west born wholly, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out" (verses 30-34).
* τὸ θ. "the," in BL, a few cursives, etc., omitted in the great majority.
† Text. Rec. adds δὲ, "now," with most [as Syrsin], against BDGL
The man's answer was as solid as to the point. He discards the attack on himself personally, and treats it as a question between the religious leaders, who avowedly could not tell whence He was Who had wrought a work wholly unexampled as a display of God's power. It was hard, if not impossible, to believe that such a one could be evil, as they had imputed. "We know that God heareth not sinners; but if anyone be God-fearing and do His will, him He heareth." For what can be surer, as a general principle, than that "them that honour Me I will honour, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed"? (1 Sam. 2: 30.182) Indeed, this was plain as between Jesus (to take the lowest ground) and the Pharisees, whose moral incapacity astonishes the man. What then remained for his adversaries? Nothing but contemptuous rage, and the extreme blow of the ecclesiastical arm. "They cast him out," but not before they unwittingly testified to the force of his words. "In sins thou wast born wholly,182a and dost thou teach us?" They were too proud to learn.
But they cast him out into the arms and bosom of the Lord. For, as we are next told, "Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and, having found him, He said, Believest thou on the Son of God (or, man)? He answered,* and said, And† who is He, Sir [Lord], that I may believe on Him? ‡Jesus said to him, Thou hast both seen Him, and He that speaketh with thee is He. And he said, I believe, Lord; and he did Him homage" (verses 35-38). Such is the final step of God's grace in working with the blind man. He is thrust outside Judaism for the truth's sake, consequent on the work wrought on his person; he there is found by Christ, and led to know and believe on Him, far beyond any thought, however true, he had previously conceived. It was faith in His own testimony and Person.
* B and Theb. omit ἀπεκρίθη ἐκεῖνος, "he answered." Memph. omits "said."
† Text. Rec. omits καὶ, "and," with AL and a few others, but good versions.
‡ Text. Rec. adds δὲ with many good authorities, but BDX, etc., omit.
It is really the history of a soul that goes onward under the guidance of God, Who makes the grace of the Lord and His glory shine the more fully after one is outside the world's religion, whether cast or going out. And such is the character of Christianity, as the believers had at length to learn from the Epistle to the Hebrews, especially from its final chapter. So patient was the Spirit of grace with those of the ancient people of God, dull to learn the new thing which God has introduced through and in our Lord Jesus. But, late as it may be, the breach with earthly religion must come. Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach; and this so much the more, because we have boldness to enter into the holies by the blood of Jesus, the new and living way which He has dedicated for us through the veil-that is, His flesh. But the work was not yet done which opened this way, nor the Spirit shed to give souls the consciousness of righteous title. We have one, therefore, not yet going forth thus, but cast out by hatred far more against the name of Jesus than against the man-yea, we may say against the man solely for Jesus' sake, Who had heard of, and felt for, and found the sheep thus worried of men.
But a perplexing difference of reading follows, which claims more than a bare critical notice. "Dost thou believe on the Son of man?" say the Sinaitic, the Vatican, and the Cambridge [of Beza] manuscripts, supported by the [Syrsin], Sahidic, Roman edition of the Aethiopic, etc., though more than a dozen uncials [A, L, etc.], all the cursives, and the rest of the ancient versions, etc., give us τοῦ Θεοῦ, "of God" [Lachm. and Treg.]. But Tischendorf, in his eighth edition, and W. and H. [Weiss and Blass] adopt τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. Nor can it be denied that, as the rule, the Lord habitually and graciously loved to present Himself in relation to man; as, again, it is plain that this chapter in particular sets Him forth, not only as the Light, Word, and God, like the preceding one, but as the Incarnate One Who was sent to manifest the works of God, the rejected Messiah about to suffer, but to be exalted over all. On the other hand, that the Son of God is the great distinctive testimony of our Gospel none can overlook; and we can well understand how the light of this glorious truth (bursting on the soul gradually led on, spite of, and in a certain sense through, the blind hostility of the Pharisees) draws him out in homage to the Lord. It was, at any rate, the Son of God in grace, a man on earth, Who had been seen by, and was talking with, one who had experienced His light-giving power.183
"And Jesus said, For judgment I came into this world, that they that see not may see, and they that see may become blind. *And some of the Pharisees that were with Him heard these things,* and said to Him, Are we blind also? Jesus said to them, If ye were blind, ye would not have sin; but now ye say, We see,† your sin remaineth" (verses 39-41).
* BLK, three cursives, Theb. or Sah. Memph. Arm., etc., do not read καὶ, as in Text. Rec. with most uncials, cursives, and versions, which also add Taura, "these things," save pmD, etc., with several versions [as Syrsin].
† Text. Rec., adds οὖν with ten uncials and most cursives [with Syrsin], contrary to BDKLX, etc., and the bulk of the ancient versions.
The Lord thereon shows how His coming acted, and was meant to act, on souls. It had a higher purpose and more permanent result than any energy, however mighty and benign, that dealt with the body. He was the life to those, however dark, who received Him: those who rejected Him sealed their own ruin everlastingly, whatever their estimate of themselves or in the mind of others.184 The Jew, especially the Pharisee, might be ever so confident that he himself was a guide of the blind, a light of those in darkness; but the coming of the only True Light brought to evident nothingness all such haughty pretensions as surely as it gave eyes to such as owned their blindness. No flesh therefore shall glory: he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord Who was come a man, but God on earth, for this reversal of fallen man's thoughts, and display of His own grace. Pharisaic pride refuses to bow to Jesus imputing blindness, as they thought; but if it speaks, it is obliged to hear its most withering sentence from the Judge of all mankind. For blindness there is all grace and power in Christ; but what can be the portion of those who, stone-blind, say they see? Their sin remains, as well as blindness, which of itself is not sin, though its consequence.185
NOTES ON THE NINTH CHAPTER
174John 9:1 - "Blind from birth." Symbolical of Israel as a people (Deuteronomy 29:4). D'Alma imagines that the Evangelist had Paul in his mind; but the Apostle of the Gentiles, instead of being "a proselyte of the gate," was "a Hebrew of the Hebrews."
175John 9:2. - The Pharisees supposed that the souls of good men passed from one body to another (Josephus, "Antiquities," xviii. 1, 3; "B.J.," ii. 8, 14). So Herod, of John the Baptist. By the "pious and learned author" referred to in the Exposition Tholuck would seem to be meant, for such is the view that he propounds.
176John 9:6. - As to this Jewish remedy for eye disease, see Edersheim ("Life," ii. 48). The next verse seems to show that it stands here for Jewish ordinances, which the people refused to give up for the word of Christ. Their "Sabbath" was their hindrance (cf. Isaiah 28:9-12).
177John 9:7. - "Siloam." The Shiloah of Isaiah 8:6 (cf. Psalm 46:4). That the name meant "sent" has been questioned in "Supernatural Religion," (p. 419), but not by Schmiedel, Mr. Cassels' German counterpart. Reference should here be made to John 8:16-18; Joh 8:26-29, besides verse 4 of this chapter. For the use of clay as eye salve, cf. that made of the brazen serpent, and for the water here, cf. Acts 2:33; Act 2:38 f., of the Holy Spirit sent down to dispel Jewish blindness.
178John 9:16. - "How can," etc. See John 3:2, the "we" of which finds further illustration here. There were some who agreed with Nicodemus. Cf. verse 33 of the present chapter.
179John 9:22. - The opposition to our Lord's Messianic claim had now become acute, at an advanced stage of His ministry. As to exclusion from the fellowship of the synagogue, see Edersheim, ii. 184.
180John 9:24. - "Give glory to God." This formula takes us back to the time of Joshua (John 7:19).
181John 9:29. - "We know not whence He is." Schmiedel (following Holtzmann, etc.) says that the Evangelist "sometimes contradicts his own precise statements" (col. 2,537). The reference here is, of course, to John 7:27. Westcott explains that here it is a question of His prophetic function of the commission, the authority by which JESUS comes. So the healed man's "the wonderful thing." Is it not simply a question of "the Jews," learned and acute as the man knew them to be, stultifying themselves? Govett's comment is: "Unbelievers will at last be condemned out of their own mouths and by their own principles." The "common sense" which governs men in ordinary concerns has a way of forsaking them in religious matters; the soundness of the head is here regulated so much by the state of the heart. Weiss notes the emphatic ἡμεῖς, "we." Cf. the man's ὑμεῖς, "ye" - "they, the people's spiritual leaders, who alone have to judge in such matters"! Have we not their analogues in our own day?
182John 9:31 f. - The man's statement is supported by Psalm 66:18, Proverbs 15:29; Isaiah 1:15. Cf. the history of Elijah and Elisha. Observe that the knowledge of the constancy of Nature had already in the Apostolic Age filtered through to the people (Gerdtell, "Primitive Miracles," etc., p. 30).
182a John 9:34. - This was the sole attempt the Jews made to disprove any of the Lord's miracles. Cf. John 3:2, John 11:47.
183John 9:35. - "The Son of God." See John 3:18, John 5:25, John 10:36, John 11:4. For "Son of man," see John 3:15, John 6:27 (and Exposition), 34-36 (the same). It may be said, on the one hand, that any alteration would he more likely made from "man" to "God" than vice versa, because of the frequency of "Son of God" in this Gospel (so Zahn), but, on the other, that a copyist, from the fact that the "Son of man" was Christ's usual mode of designating Himself, would be very likely to alter "Son of God" into "Son of man." In support of "Son of God," see "Irrationalism of Infidelity," p. 293. Godet. too, adheres to this reading, because of the worship rendered by the man. Indeed, John 6:27; Joh 6:29 seems to the present writer to settle the whole point. The "Son of man" is there said to be sealed (attested) as "Son of God" (cf. note 122). Before He could be Son of man He must have been sent as Son of God. By acknowledgment of the truth of this, the object of the miracle became the first "martyr" confessor of the new community (Carr). See also note 238.
184John 9:39. - The Lord here fulfils Isaiah 28:9-13. The judgment is a sifting process. Cf. Luke 2:34: "for the falling and rising up of many in Israel," leaving men either better or worse, with "they that see not" also John 3:19, ff. Carr aptly compares the words of John 7:49. "They that see" of course calls up Isaiah 13:19. Only those who fail to see the different bearing of John 3:17 and the present passage "as to judgment" could, with H. Holtzmann, find a contradiction. Cf. McRory, ad loc.
185John 9:41. - Cf. John 15:22. "Remaineth," attacheth, is unforgiven. "Forgiveness" is not a term of this Gospel, which. however, expresses the idea in various ways, as in 8: 32, "the truth shall make you free." For the attitude of unbelief towards the Christian doctrine of forgiveness, see Greg, "Creed of Christendom," or "Essays" of Miss Edith Simcox in the same strain, and on the believing side Sir R. Anderson, "Christianized Rationalism," p. 193.
Heitmüller: "Sin reposes essentially on ignorance if a man have proper insight, he will act rightly" (p. 174). Such is Tolstoy's doctrine. See record of interview between him and the late Dr. F. W. Baedeker, in "Memoir" of the latter. The Russian Count had not reckoned with Luke 11:21 f. Cf. note 49 on Mark, as to Humanitarianism.
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.
Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.
Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.
They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.
And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.
Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.
Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.
But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.
And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?
His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind:
But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself.
These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.
Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.
He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?
He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?
Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples.
We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.
The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.
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.
They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out; 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?
And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.