And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
Verses 1-7. -
(8) The Lord confirms by a sign the declaration that he is the Light of the world, by giving eyesight as well as light. That which had been proclaimed as a great truth of his Being and mission, viz. that he was the Light of the world, was now to be established and confirmed to the disciples by a signal miracle. The "higher criticism" finds explanation of this and other similar miracles at Bethsaida and Jericho, in the prophecy of Isaiah 42:19; Isaiah 43:8; Isaiah 35:5; Isaiah 29:18. Volkmar holds that the story of Zacchaeus is thus rewritten! Thoma thinks that we have a spiritualization of the "miracle" on Saul of Tarsus. It would be waste time to point out the differences which are patent to the simplest criticism. Verse 1. - And - the καί suggests relation both in subject-matter, in time, place, occasion, and theme, with that which had preceded - as Jesus was passing by, going along his way, he saw a man blind from birth (cf. ἐκ κοιλίας μητρὸς αὐτοῦ, Acts 3:2; Acts 14:8). He was obviously a well-known beggar, who had often proclaimed the fact that he was blind from birth (see ver. 8). Such a condition and history rendered the cure more difficult and hopeless in the view of ordinary professors of the healing art, and the juxtaposition of such a symbolic fact with the near activity of those who were boasting of their Abrahamic privilege and their national and mere hereditary advantages, is one of the instances of the unconscious poesy of the gospel history. There he sits, the very type of the race which says, "We see," but which to Christ's eye was proclaiming its utter helplessness and blindness, not asking even to be illumined, and revealing the fundamental injury done to the very race and nature of man, and calling for all the healing power that he had been sent into the world to dispense. The man who had been struck blind, or whose eyesight had been slowly dosed by disease, became the type of the effect of special sins upon the character and life; thus e.g., vanity conceals radical defects and weaknesses; pride hides from the sinner's own view his own transgressions; temporary blindness to great faults is one of the symptoms of gross sin like David's, and prejudice is proverbially blind and deaf; but here is a man who is nothing less than the type of a congenital bias to evil, of hereditary damage done to human nature. Unless Christ can pour light upon those who are born blind, he is not the Savior the world needs.
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Verse 2. - And his disciples asked him, saying, Rabbi. This honorific appellation is found in John 1:38, 49; John 3:2; John 4:31; John 6:25; John 11:8; but very rarely in the other Gospels. It is applied to John the Baptist (John 3:26). The question seems to denote a very different frame of mind from that with which the previous chapter terminated. Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind? It was the current idea and popular doctrine, not only that all suffering in this life had its origin in sin, and was a witness to the damage done to our nature by sin, by the disruption of our normal relations with the living God, but furthermore that every peculiar disaster pointed to some special or particular sin. Doubtless the Book of Job was a formal discussion of the question. The writer of that work repudiates the right of any onlooker to infer special sins from peculiar punishments. Jesus, moreover (Luke 13:1-3); had repeatedly discouraged the tendency to judge, but he did this by the still more solemn assurance that all men deserved the special fate of some. Still, the calamity of congenital blindness, with all its hopelessness, provided a very apt occasion for raising the question, "Who did sin, this man, or his parents?" It is and always will be difficult to say whether the disciples thought that they had exhausted the alternatives, or believed that they had plausible reasons for thinking either alternative possible. Some have argued that they had Scripture ground for the second of the suppositions, that the sin of the parents of the blind man was the real cause of the blindness of their son. Thus (Exodus 20:5) the idea is embedded in the Decalogue, and it is repeated in Exodus 34:7 and Numbers 14:18, that the iniquities of fathers are visited upon their children. The forty years in the wilderness was a case in point (Numbers 14:33, 34; Jeremiah 32:18), and numerous examples may be given of the punishment descending from parent to child; e.g., upon the house of Ahab, and on the sufferers from exile in Babylon. Compare the continuous threatening of vengeance for unfaithfulness upon the generation to come. The argument may have been strengthened by observation of the lot of men who have brought poverty, disease, and disgrace upon their unborn children. Ezekiel had deliberately repudiated the inference that Israel had drawn from their Scriptures, in the dictum or proverb (Ezekiel 18:2) that "the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge," and maintained with great and passionate earnestness, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." This may have led the disciples to put the conjectural solution. Did this man sin? Is there any way or sense in which the man's own sin could be the cause of so great a calamity? It seems entirely gratuitous to derive from this passage any final conclusion as to the method in which they supposed it possible that the man's personality preceded his birth, or any certain conviction that they meant more by their question than this - if sin is the cause of such fearful privation, it must either be the man's parents' or his own. It could not have been his own; was it then his parents'? There was sufficient discussion of the problem among the Jews for one or more vague and unsettled opinions to be floating in their minds.
(1) It cannot be proved that the doctrine of metempsychosis was ever held by the Jews. The language in which Josephus refers to the views of the Pharisees is ambiguous (cf. 'Bell. Jud.,' 2:08. 14; 'Ant.,' 18:01. 3). The view held by them was simply that "the immortal souls of the good (only) pass into another body," are raised into a new life; "but that the souls of the sinful αἰδίῳ τιμωρίᾳ κολαζέσθαι, are afflicted with eternal punishment." This differs profoundly from the Oriental, or Pythagorean, or Platonic doctrine of transmigration.
(2) The Jewish speculation of the pre-existence of souls has some countenance from Wisd. 8:19, 20, where the pseudo-Solomon says, "I was a witty child, and... being good, I came into a body undefiled," modifying somewhat the Platonic idea of a harmony between the pre-existing soul and the body (see Grimm, 'Exeg. Handb.,' in loc.; Bruch, 'The Pre-existence of the Soul,' freely translated; American 'Bibliotheca Sacra:' 1863); but beyond this there is no sound indication that the Jewish mind had accepted the doctrine which played so great a part in the later discussions as to the views of Origen.
(3) Lightfoot ('Horae Hebraicae,' in, loc.) thinks "the dogma held by R. Akiba, commenting on Ecclesiastes 13:1, to the effect that "in the days of Messiah there will be neither merit nor demerit" - i.e. that neither merit nor demerit of parents will be imputed to posterity - may account for the query of the apostles.
(4) The idea of the possible sinfulness of the child while in the womb of its mother - a theory based upon the supposed moral activity of Jacob and Esau in the womb of Rebecca ('Bemidbar Rab.,' fol. 230. 2), and the statement that John the Baptist leaped in the womb of his mother Elisabeth (Luke 1:41) - may have co-operated with other vague views floating in their minds with sufficient intensity to explain the first part of their question.
(5) The supposition of some (Tholuck), that the disciples may have thought that the man's sins were foreknown, and that the blindness was punishment beforehand, is so abhorrent to any notion of the justice of God, that we cannot suppose that it ever entered into their inquiry. The fact that no fewer than five distinct hypotheses as to the possibility of culpability before birth having had some place in Hebrew and contemporary thought, is an adequate explanation of the fact that they should have put this ever-recurring problem of evil in the particular form in which we find it.
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
Verse 3. - Jesus answered, Neither did this man sin, nor his parents (that he should be born blind). There was no immediate connection between the special sin of the parents and this particular calamity. Our Lord does not assert in those words the sinlessness of those people, but severs the supposed link between their conduct and the specific affliction before them. But (he was born blind) that the works of God should be made manifest in him. The disciples will soon see in the history of this man the meaning of his lifelong blindness. In the man himself' the grace of God will work mightily, both a bodily and spiritual illumination. Evil in this case is to redound to greater good. This provides no opportunity for any to fasten on one or another some charge of special transgression, but, as all evil ought to do, it provides opportunity for the redeeming work which Christ came to accomplish, and which he permitted his disciples to share.
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Verse 4. - We must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day. The emendation of the text certainly throws much beauty into the statement. Christ identifies himself with his disciples. They are pledged by accepting his call, and he has been himself charged by his own sublime mission to work while it is called day. The sun was going down over the holy city on that sabbath day, and Jesus will not wait, nor lose the opportunity of doing the merciful will of the Father. He did not say, "Him that sent us" (as Tischendorf reads), for "As the Father had sent him, so he sent them." But he adds, The night cometh, when no man can work. The materialistic interpretation of Paulus, "Christ must have daylight for a delicate operation," is too puerile to deserve refutation. The suggestion of the Greek Fathers (Chrysostom, Theophylact, etc.), who here drew a distinction between the work of this world and the work of the future world, between work done before and after his Passion, representing the work of his earthly ministry as done in the day, and that of the Spirit as work done in the night, is singularly unfortunate. Our Lord is merely adopting the phrase as a customary image for life and death. Death puts an end to all human activity on earth, even to Christ's own, as a human Friend and Teacher. Numerous attempts have been made to suppose some emphatic contrast between the lifetime of Christ and the period that should follow his Passion. They all fail, because Christ's own activity resumes another form by his resurrection and the gift of his Spirit. The night of death, accompanied by the cessation of active labor, is the general idea. The day's work must be done in the day. The probation involved in the bare fact of its limitation, and in this case its rapidly approaching consummation, is the main thought, without pressing the imagery too far. By saying, "We must work," etc., he gave a lesson and an example for all time. The 'Pirke Aboth,' "The Sayings of the Fathers," record the words of R. Tryphon, "The day is short, and the task is great, and the workmen are sluggish, and the reward is much, and the Master of the house is urgent."
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
Verse 5. - While - or, whensoever - I am in the world, I am the Light of the world. He had said (John 8:12), "I am the Light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness." He was sublimely conscious of his power to do for the moral world what the sun was doing for the physical world. He was the Occasion of its life, the Condition of its activity, the means of its instruction, the Source of all its beauty, its joy, and its progress. The ὅταν, which is translated quamdiu in the Vulgate, and "so long as" in the Authorized Version, means strictly "whensoever," and refers to the entire period of his activity (see John 1:5). But while the sun of this world cannot open the eyes of the blind, and wastes his radiance on their sightless sockets, so, unless Christ were more than the sun, and could give the power as well as the opportunity of seeing, he would never have done the work of him that sent him. The fact that he is the Light leads him to remind the disciples that he is the true Source of eyesight as well as of the conditions of vision. Light enough for all the world shines into the darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not. This Jewish people are surrounded by floods of light. The spiritual world stands revealed fully to Christ's own gaze. But mankind hates the light, loves darkness on these matters rather than the light. There is a radical fundamental change that must come over men, or they will never see. This evil, this terrible calamity that has befallen man, will vitiate all the provision of mercy. There must be a new beginning, a new birth, a work of God wrought in men, as well as a sublime revelation made to men, or the whole mission of the Christ would be incomplete.
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,
Verse 6. - When he had said these things, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and with the clay thereof anointed his (the) eyes (of the blind man). The precise meaning and motive of the process here described has been a source of great perplexity to the commentators. We see that, on other occasions, our Lord used his own saliva as a means of cure (Mark 7:33; Mark 8:23). Theme finds in the spittle the symbol of the impurity of the man thus dealt with (Isaiah 1:5, 6), but somewhat inconsistently compares the "clay" with the "collyrium" of Revelation 3:17-19, and the "ausfiuss des Logos." On some occasions Jesus touched the diseased or deficient organ, put his hand on the leper, and his fingers in the ears of the deaf mute. On other occasions, again, he healed with his word only, and even from a distance, those who. in the freeness and royalty of his love, he elected to relieve from their sufferings. He was moved, doubtless, in every case by the 'special condition and temperament of the objects of his compassion. The use of these means was probably intended to evoke the nascent faith that predisposed him to receive healing, to stir the mind of the sufferer into some conscious relation will himself through those other powers of tactile sensitiveness which were in all similar cases singularly acute. Moreover, the virtue of saliva in cases of blindness was well understood. Lightfoot gives some curious proof of this, and Tacitus ('Hist.,' 4:81) and Suetonius ('Vesp.,' John 7.) both record the healing of a blind man by the Emperor Vespasian by the use of jejuna saliva. Pliny (' Hist. Nat.,' 28:7) speaks of the same remedy for the diseases of the eye. "Clay" also is spoken of as being sanative by a physician by name Serenus Samonicus]PGBR> (see Tholuck, Wetistein, Lange, in loc.). These ideas may have had some truth in them, and for the blind man to find the process described, applied to himself by One who spoke of the Divine operations being wrought in him, would work some powerful effect on his moral, physical, and spiritual nature. Such result our Lord intended to produce. But this was only part of the healing process.
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.
Verse 7. - And, having done this, he said to him, Go - depart, haste, there is something for thee to do - wash into the pool of Siloam. Σιλωάμ: this is the Greek form of the Hebrew word שִׁילוחַ, (שִׁלֹחַ with the article הַשִּׁלהַ, the shortened Pihel form שָׁלַחֹ, to send forth, with the omission of the dagesh) adopted in Isaiah 8:6 by the LXX., and also by Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' 5:04.1). The only other place in the Old Testament where the pool of Siloam is referred to is Nehemiah 3:15. There the Hebrew word is הַשֶּׁלַת, and rendered by the LXX. τῶν κωδίων - i.e. of sheep-skins; that is, the pool that was used to wash sheep before shearing them, or even the tan-pit (so Schleusner and Hesych.) - but it is rendered by Siloe in the Vulgate. Isaiah is contrasting the waters of the Shiloah, which flow softly, with the turbulent streams of the Tigris, which represented the pomp and power of this world. The sweet waters from the pool of Siloam still flow from their apparent source through what once were the king's gardens, into the Kedron near the junction of the Valley of Jehoshaphat with that which used to be called the Valley of the Son of Hinnom. Silwan is the Arabic name of the fountain and pool of Siloam, and also of the village on the opposite side of the valley. Nehemiah is referring, in all probability, to the same pool, the walls of which were in part the walls of the city itself on the lower spur of Mount Ophel, which is now finally determined to be the Zion of Scripture and the city of David. A "tower of Siloam" is also spoken of (Luke 13:4). It is not necessary here to review the arguments in favor of this position, with its accompanying conclusion that the Tyropaeon, the valley of the cheesemongers, which separated Ophel and the temple-mount from the upper city, was the Valley of the Son of Hinnom (see 'Survey of Western Palestine,' pt. it. pp. 345-371; Professor Sayce on "Pre-Exilic Jerusalem" in Quarterly Statement of Palest. Explor. Fund' (1883), pp. 215; and 'Fresh Light from Ancient Monuments,' p. 98, etc.). The position of the fountain and pool of Siloam is one of the best-authenticated sites in Palestine (see Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' 1:493-507). Sayce gives strong reasons for believing that it was made in the days of Solomon, and that the proceeding of Hezekiah, referred to in 2 Chronicles 32:30, when he diverted the water from Gihon, and brought it to the west side of the city of David, was not on account (as Edersheim, Canon Birch, and others) of the formation of the zigzag tunnel from the Fountain of the Virgin, but referred to the formation of Colonel Warren's tunnel, by which the waters of the same fountain were made available within the city by drawing them further to the north-west, and reaching them by a flight of stairs that go down from the city of David (2 Kings 20:20). He thinks that 2 Chronicles 32:30 is interpreted of the lower pool of Siloam. The contemporary references of Isaiah (Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 8:6; Isaiah 22:9) apply only to the Siloam tunnel, the Siloam pool, and that lower pool, which was repaired by Hezekiah. The upper pool, and therefore the tunnel which supplied it, were known in the time of Ahaz. Josephus makes frequent reference to the fountain of Siloam, and expressly says that it was situated at the mouth of the Tyro-paeon. The 'Itin. Hier.' and Jerome both say that it was at the foot of Mount Zion (see especially Jerome's 'Comm. in Esa. 8:6'). Antoninus Martyr (in the seventh century), William of Tyre, Benjamin of Tudela (1165), and Phoeas (1185), all refer to it. This remarkable connection with the Fountain of Mary was known to Quaresmius in the seventeenth century, but not fairly discovered till Robinson entered it at both ends, and found that there was a direct subterranean communication between the so-called Fountain of the Virgin and the Fountain of Siloam. In 1881 the accidental discovery of an inscription in pure Hebrew, of uncertain date, describes the process of the excavation, and accounts for the false starts made by the two parties of excavators, who eventually met and discovered the different levels at which they had been working. Whenever made, whether by Solomon, Uzziah, Ahaz, or Hezekiah, it was obviously intended to bring fresh water within the walls of the city. The intermittent character of the flow of water in the Fountain of the Virgin, by which sometimes twice or thrice a day, and at other seasons twice or thrice a week, the water suddenly rises and disappears with gurgling sounds into the conduits made for its removal, was referred to by Jerome, as an eye and ear witness of the occurrence. We leave the question of the identification of the Fountain of the Virgin with any of the fountains mentioned in the Old Testament. The point of singular interest is that the waters of Siloam were in direct communication with the upper spring, which itself may be yet proved to be in relation to some more abundant supply of water in the temple-rock. Into the further intricacies of this problem it is unnecessary to enter. The pools of Siloam are still to be seen near the mouth of the Tyropaeon valley. The print of connection with the Fountain of the Virgin cannot be doubted, nor can the fact be disputed that from Siloam, during the Feast of Tabernacles, the sacred waters were brought in solemn procession and with sacred rite (see John 7.). Our Lord sent the blind man, thus startled into some receptivity of grace, to that which was the symbolic source of the water of life. He did this on the sabbath day, claiming cooperation with Jehovah in his truly sabbatic deed: "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." Siloam had been already the type of that which Jesus was in reality, when he had cried and said, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." Consequently, there is striking appositeness in the language of St. John here parenthetically introduced (which is, being interpreted, Sent); שִׁלוחַ equivalent to missio, from שָׁלַח, equivalent to mittit or missus, which may be synonymous with שָׁלוּחַ, viz. the strengthened participle Kal with passive signification. John is correct in his etymology. Siloam probably derived its name from the fact that its waters were sent from the higher sources, through known channels, with special significance as God's gift for the preservation of the life of the people, and the age-long memorial of his goodness. The old poet Nonnus, Euthymius, and Meyer see here a reference to the man who was "sent" thus to wash and be healed; but a host of commentators, from Theophylact, Calvin, Cornelius a Lapide, down to Luthardt, Godet, and Westcott, rightly urge that "Siloam," as meaning "Sent," was in John's thought emblematic of him who had so often spoken of himself as the Sent of God. The point of the parenthesis is that the very name of this healing and symbolic fountain is a type of Messiah, who thus identifies himself with the Heaven-sent gifts of the Divine hand. He then (therefore) departed, and washed. The blind man needed no guide to Siloam, and if he had clone so there would have been a score of helpers or curious on-lookers anxious to test the meaning of the Lord's command. And he came away from Siloam, seeing; in all the strange and wonderful excitement of a man who, with his first possession of this imperial sense, was moving indeed in a new world. The miracle, of course, provokes the critical school either into repudiating the supernatural element, or doubting the historical fact. Theme dreams through a world of parallels with the healing and apostleship of St. Paul.
The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
Verses 8-34. -
(9) The proof of the reality of the miracle, the antagonism of the Pharisees, and the persecution of the heated mad. Verse 8. - The neighbors therefore, and they who beheld him aforetime that (or, because) he was a beggar. This is the first time that his well-known position is mentioned, and (if we translate ὅτι "because") the very fact of his begging (probably with loud voice) had made him a well-known individual. 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.
Verse 9. - Some said, It is he: others, No but he is like him. So great a change might well have provoked inquiry as to his identity, and the two classes of speakers add amazing vivacity to the picture. He (ἐκείνος) - the man who now stood forth as the central object of the excited group (see Westcott for the use of ἐκεῖνος elsewhere in St. John: John 2:21; John 5:11; John 10:6; John 13:30; John 19:21) - rather than "he himself" - he said, I am (he) that sat and begged. The man settles the doubt offhand, I am he. The evidence of identity, if the question be raised, is at once settled. The vivacity and verisimilitude of the scene reduce the labored parallel with St. Paul to literary trifling.
Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
Verse 10. - They said therefore to him, How then were thine eyes opened? If you are the very man, how has this come about?
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.
Verse 11. - He - the man there singled out - answered (and said), The Man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, Go to the Siloam, and wash. So I went, and when I washed I received my sight. Nothing more as yet than the name of his Benefactor has broken upon him. The name is full of significance to him - the "Savior,': the "Healer;" but he knows nothing of his Messianic claims, nor of his Divine authority. He began, where all disciples must, with the Man. The manner of man soon wakes within him loftier questionings and a better explanation. At present the process seems magical, altogether inexplicable. Clay and Siloam water do not cure birth-blindness, he is in a maze, as well he might be. The ἀνέβλεψα should be rendered, according to Meyer, "I looked up" (see Mark 16:4). It cannot be so translated in vers. 15 and 18. Doubtless it strictly means, "I received sight again;" but there is something in Grotius's explanation, "No one is incorrectly said to receive that which, though he be deprived of it, belongs to human nature as a whole" (see Westcott). The eyes were there, but unused. Meyer quotes from Pausanias the similar use of ἀναβλέπειν, in reference to the recovery or obtaining of sight by a man born blind.
Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.
Verse 12. - They say unto him, Where is that Man (Jesus)? He saith, I know not.
They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.
Verse 13. - They bring to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. The "Pharisees" is not a conclusive definition of the Sanhedrin itself, which is generally denoted by the addition of the phrase, "the chief priests" (John 7:32 or 45). The Pharisees were a highly organized society, and some well-known gathering of them may have been easily accessible. They were the generally accredited religious guides of the people. One thing militates against such a casual gathering. In ver. 18 the term, "the Jews," the synonym of the ruling ecclesiastical powers in the city, is once more introduced. Moreover, the authorities before whom the discussion and examination were taken appear to possess the power of excommunication from the synagogue. It appears that, in Jerusalem, there existed two minor councils or synagogue-courts, of twenty-three assessors each, corresponding with the similar courts in the Jewish cities, standing in relation to the Sanhedrim and possessing the faculty of delivering the minor degrees of excommunication from the congregation of Israel. It cannot be said that this presentation of the case to an ecclesiastical court of more or less authority necessarily took place on the day of the healing. It is an open question whether the courts sat on the sabbath. There is nothing to prove immediate trial of the matter.
And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.
Verse 14. - Now it was sabbath on the day that Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The phrase is peculiar, and implies that the day may have been a festival sabbath. The introduction here shows that the difficulty of the neighbors and other friends had already been raised, and something more than a desire on their part for religious guidance actuated their appeal to the Pharisees. Why should the healed man be taken to the Pharisees, or the synagogue-court at all, unless some question of casuistry had been raised? The movement was one unquestionably adverse to Jesus. It could have had no other motive. Nor can any doubt arise that Jesus had violated the rabbinical rules of the sabbath, though his act had been in perfect harmony with the spirit and even letter of the Mosaic Law. The making of clay with the spittle and the sand was an infringement of the rule ('Shabbath,' 24:3). It was curiously laid down in one of the vexatious interpretations (preserved in Jerusalem Gemara on 'Shabbath,' 14) that while "wine could by way of remedy be applied to the eyelid, on the ground that this might be treated as washing, it was sinful to apply it to the inside of the eye" (Edersheim). And it was positively forbidden (in the same Gemara) to apply saliva to the eyelid, because this would be the application of a remedy. All medicinal appliances, unless in cases of danger to life or limb, were likewise forbidden. Consequently, the Lord had broken with the traditional glosses on the Law in more ways than one (see Winer, 'Bibl. Realw.,' 2:346; Lightfoot, ' Ad Joan. 9; 'Wetstein on Matthew 12:9; Wunsche, in loc.).
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.
Verse 15. - Again therefore the Pharisees, before whom the blind man had been brought, unwilling to rest with mere hearsay evidence of such grievous transgression of the Law, themselves also - or, in their turn - asked him (ἠρώτων, imperfect, were interrogating) how he received (recovered) his sight (see note on ver. 11). Not the miracle itself, but the manner of it interested and excited them. And he said to them, (He) put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and I see. This is a shorter and significant abridgment of the process already described. The healed man seems to guess, by their manner, that some charge was being meditated against his Benefactor, and he shrewdly omits the saliva and the making of the clay, and the order of the Savior, and the place whither he had been sent to wash.
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.
Verse 16 ? indicates, as the evangelist so often does elsewhere (John 7:43; John 10:19), that the words and works of Christ produce opposite effects on different classes. Certain individuals of the Pharisees therefore said among themselves, This Man - referring to Christ, then uppermost in their minds and in their machinations - This Man is not from God, because he keepeth not the sabbath. The form of the sentence is peculiarly contemptuous, the word "man" being thrown very emphatically to the end of the sentence. This, in their opinion, is another offence against the Law, after serious warning. The previous controversy (John 5.) had produced no effect upon Jesus. He continued, in their opinion, to invalidate all his claims by violating the sabbath laws, which they had brought to the highest point of perfection. Renan and others insist on Christ's repeated violation of the sabbath; but the fact is that the Lord sustained the highest meaning of the sabbath, though he resolutely repudiated the inhuman glosses and manifest absurdities of the traditionary customs and rabbinical rules. Jesus could not be, they thought (or argued), "from God," invested with his authority, or doing his works, so tong as he would not take their view of the sabbath. This Jesus is making obstinate assault upon their prejudices. On seven distinct occasions the Lord chose to heal on the sabbath, and thus to set the restrictions of august rabbis at defiance. But even in the great Sanhedrin, in the highest council of the nation, sat men of the character of Joseph, Nicodemus, and Gamaliel, who would get some idea of the Divine commission of Jesus from the simple fact of the miracles. In this smaller court the opponents of Christ ignore and doubt the miracle itself, on account of the unsabbatic heresy, while a few are convinced that signs of this kind (and probably they had many in their minds) were in themselves proof of Divine co-operation and approval. But others said, How can a man that is a sinner (on your hypothesis) do such signs? "As far as they go, these miracles are demonstrative proof that at least God must be with him, as he has said, and they make it extremely doubtful whether he can be a bad man after all - can have verily broken the Divine Law." Such a speech as this from Pharisees is an emphatic proof of the profound effect produced by Jesus upon the life of the nation. It stands in close association with the remarkable statement of Nicodemus (John 3:2), "We know that no man can do these miracles (signs) which thou art doing, except God be with him." Jesus and rabbinism are here face to face. Either he is from God and they are actually making the Law of God void and vapid by their traditions, or they and their code are from God and he, having broken with them, has broken with God, and the miracle will turn out to he magic or falsehood, collusion or worse. Thus a solemn crisis of profound importance occurs. And there was a division (σχίσμα, cutting into two parties) amongst them. These opposite effects and conclusions are the confirmation of the words of the prologue (John 1:4, 5, 11, 12), and they further triumphantly refute the charge that the author of the Gospel was actuated by an untiring hostility to the kingdom and polity of the ancient Israel.
They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.
Verse 17. - They; i.e. the Pharisees, divided in opinion, though probably united in their interrogation. Those, on the one hand, who believed in the miracle, and held that it carried Divine approbation of the conduct of Jesus, and, on the other hand, those who were so satisfied of the moral fault involved in the transaction, that they held that the miracle itself, if not a piece of deception or collusion, might even indicate some demonic source, rather than a Divine one, say therefore unto the blind man again - the πάλιν points to the virtual repetition of inquiries already made (ver. 15) - What dost thou say concerning him, seeing that he opened thine eyes? "What explanation hast thou to offer? What view dost thou entertain of the Man himself? Some of us think that his trifling with the sabbatic law puts out of court the idea of any Divine aid having enabled him to work this marvel. Other some, as you see, declare that the fact which has occurred is proof that Jesus must have had God's approval, and be sustained by Divine grace. But what dost thou, the healed man, say? What conclusion hast thou adopted? Seeing that he has opened thine eyes, what sayest thou of Jesus?" There is a bare chance that the man might give a vague answer, or one which would minimize the miracle. It is obvious that, while the Pharisees were contradicting each other and in danger of open collision, the faith of the blind man who had received his sight became stronger. The light was dawning on him. The answer, so far as it went, boldly took the side of Jesus, and perhaps its cue from the language of those who had said, "How can a bad man do such signs as these?" And he said, He is a Prophet (cf. John 4:19; John 6:14). Prophets, as divinely sent men, are even more authoritative than learned rabbis. If Jesus has broken through some of these restrictions by which they have "placed a hedge about the Law," surely he had a prophetic right to do it. The healing marks a Divine commission, and the healed man owned and freely confessed to so much as this: "He is a Prophet." Maimonides (quoted by Dr. Farrar) shows that the idea was current that a prophet might, on his own ipse dixit, alter or relax even the sabbath law, and that then the people were at liberty to obey him.
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.
Verses 18, 19. - The narrative once more brings "the Jews" into prominence - the hierarchical party, adverse to Jesus. The angry magistrates who were in the court allowed it to be seen at once that they will not be tampered with, nor lose the chance, if possible, of pursuing their malicious plans already formed against Jesus. They take the ground that no miracle had occurred. At all events, they must have further evidence of the fact. The Jews then did not believe, or refused to 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 asked them, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? How then doth he now see? There were three questions proposed after the delay involved in fetching the parents of the blind beggar. The first was identification of the blind man. The second was the fact of his congenital blindness. The third was the means of his cure.
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:
Verse 20. - To the first and second questions the parents give affirmative answers. The identification is complete, and the astounding quality of the cure is demonstrated. His parents (then) answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind. In none of the Gospels, and in no narrative of this Gospel, is more certain proof given of the reality of a perfectly inexplicable phenomenon.
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.
Verse 21. - The third question is prudently remitted back to the consciousness and testimony of the man himself. The parents had some justification for their cowardice. They had no information beyond that which their son had given them. He had stumbled forth as usual on the morning of that sabbath, and bad returned home in transports of joy. Their son had doubtless told them the story (the use of οἴδαμεν instead of γινώσκομεν is significant). They knew by incontestable intuitive knowledge the personality and lifelong affliction of their son; but, say they, We do not know (absolutely) how he now sees; or who opened his eyes, we know not. Ask him (if you want to know); he is of full age, and therefore his testimony is valid in your court. He will speak (concerning) for himself. "We can only come to know from his testimony what he tells us, and he can himself speak for himself, and tell you all he has told us."
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.
Verse 22. - The evangelist accounts for the reticence of the parents by their fear of consequences. These things said his parents, because they feared the Jews. This passage provides strong evidence of the technical use of the term "the Jews." Doubtless these parents were Israelites, but they were not "Jews" in the Johannine sense. The "Jews" were the hierarchical and ecclesiastico-political authorities. For they had already come to the agreement (Luke 22:5; Acts 23:20; 1 Macc. 9:70); had mutually determined - it does not follow that the Sanhedrin had issued a public order, but that a formidable party of "Jews" had made a συνθήκη, had pledged each other and made it sufficiently known even to such persons as the poverty-stricken parents of the blind beggar, that it would be carried out by the adequate authority in such a matter - that if any man should confess that he was Christ ("he" (αὐτὸν) is remarkable - it shows how full the thoughts of the evangelist were of the Personality of Jesus), he should be put out of the synagogue; or, become unsynagoqued. The Talmud speaks of three kinds of excommunication (cf. also Matthew 5:22), of which the first two were disciplinary; the third answers to complete and final expulsion (in 'Jeremiah Moed. K.,' 81, d, הוא יבדל מקהל, Edersheim). The general designation was shammata, from ךשמַד, to destroy. The first form of it was called nesephah, and did not amount to more than severe rebuke. It would exclude from religious privileges for seven or thirty days, according to the dignity of the authority by whom it was pronounced (cf. 1 Timothy 5:1). The second form of shammata was called niddui, which lasted for thirty days at the least, and might be repeated at the end of them. If these admonitions failed to produce their right effect, it might lead to the third and final excommunication, called cherem, or ban, whose duration was indefinite. The second of these forms was accompanied by blast of trumpet and terrible curses, which deprived the sufferer of all kinds of social intercourse. He was avoided as a leper; if he died, he was buried without funeral or mourning. The cherem was even a more terrible anathema, and might last for life. The parents of the blind man might easily fear such a curse. The ban to which this blind man was eventually exposed did not prevent him from moving about the city. The ban pronounced on Jesus led doubtless to the condemnation, issuing in his ignominy and trial for a capital offence. It was probably the second of the three forms of anathema to which he was ultimately condemned. It was quite sufficient temptation for these poor parents to have preserved an obstinate reticence.
Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.
Verse 23. - Therefore said his parents, He is of full age; ask him. They would not incur responsibility for the opinions of their son about his Healer. They knew perfectly well that it was the Jesus who was said to be the Christ of the nation, and they would not implicate themselves in giving any judgment on his claims.
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.
Verse 24. - So they ("the Jews") called a second time the man that was (had been) blind, and said unto him; no longer asking for any details of the process of the cure, they sought with ingenuity to blunt the edge of the powerful testimony which this man had borne to the prophetic rank and even Messianic claims of Jesus, by inducing him to recant. Give glory to God, said they. Many have urged (see Calvin, De Wette, Lange, Lucke, and Meyer) that this is only a solemn form of adjuration, which corresponds with Joshua 7:19; Ezra 10:11; 3Esdras 9:8, and was a hypocritical appeal to the man to eat his own words on oath; and Godet urges, "They demanded that this guilty assertion, 'He is a Prophet,' should be blotted out by the contrary one,' He is a sinner.'" Moulton says, "A formula used when a criminal who was thought to be concealing the truth was being urged to make a full confession." Luthardt, Lampe, and others rightly observe that this adjuration theory, though it suits Joshua 7:19, does not fit 1 Samuel 6:5 or Jeremiah 12:16, and that the Pharisees rather wished the man to give glory direct to God, and not to Jesus. They implied that their action was dictated by zeal for the honor of God, and tempted the man to disclaim the mediation of Divine grace through the lips and at the will of Jesus. They add, We know (οἴδαμεν) absolutely, on theologic grounds beyond the comprehension of the poor man, and we can sustain it with all the weight of our tradition and custom - we know that this Man is a sinner. They give no reference, and do not condescend to particulars. They would overawe the man with their assumption of superior knowledge.
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.
Verse 25. - He therefore answered (and said), Whether he be a sinner - using the words of "the Jews" ironically - I know not. You assert it, but the facts of my experience are altogether of a different kind. I do not know, as you say that you do. The Jews reason from foregone prejudices; the healed man has no such evidence, no such grounds - he adds in immortal words, One thing I know with invincible conviction, that whereas I was blind (De Wette says there is no need to regard the ὤν as an imperfect participle, and the present suggests the whole career of the man from birth till that memorable morning), now I see. The plain consistent testimony of the man triumphs over their logic, which sought to bewilder his judgment. The language which a deeply felt experience can always bring against the a priori demonstrations of the insufficiency of the evidence of Divine revelation. I was blind; now I see the face of God in nature, the kingdom of God all around me, the fact of my own forgiveness, the dawning of a brighter day.
Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?
Verse 26. - They said therefore to him,What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? They sought to draw from him the explicit proof that Jesus had broken the sabbath, or possibly to entangle him in some different statement. The fact of the supernatural change is practically conceded to the obstinacy of the man's reiterated declaration, and the identification of his person by others. Westcott here differs from the majority of recent expositors, and supposes that the "questions suggest that they were willing to believe if the facts were not decisive against belief." But the answer of the man proves that he saw the cunning of his antagonists, and was irritated by their conspicuous design to twist the infinite benefit that he had received into the material of a charge against his Benefactor.
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?
Verse 27. - He answered them, I told you already, and ye did not hear (the Italic Versions and the Vulgate here omit the negation, which De Wette says would be caster of comprehension; but as it stands, the sentence is equivalent to "you had no ears, you took no heed, if you had already listened to the simple facts"): wherefore would ye hear it again? You will pay no more heed now than then; or do ye want to transform it into a charge? There is another alternative, stated in either humble pleading or ironical retort, according as we interpret the καί. The next question is either,
(1) (Lutbardt) Would you also be his disciples, like the many multitudes who are shouting his praise? is that your bent? surely not! or
(2) it may mean, Is it possible that it is in your mind, not only to find out all about the how of this great miracle, but also to become his disciples? Neither of these interpretations is perfectly consistent with his taunt, "ye did not hear." Therefore
(3) (Bengel) the most natural meaning is, Would ye also, as well as myself, the poor beggar, become his disciples? (so Westcott, Moulton, and Lange). The poor man was roused, ironical, and ready, notwithstanding the threat of the great excommunication hanging over him, to announce his own discipleship to any extent and at any risk.
Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples.
Verse 28. - They reviled him, and said, Thou art the disciple of that Man (ἐκείνου) - between whom and us there is an impassable chasm. Here is one of the strongest indications of the irreversible breach between the Jews and Jesus - but we, instead of being his disciples, are disciples of Moses. This speech shows that, whatever the blind man meant to convey by the reproachful entreaty of ver. 27, the Jews took it as proof of his virtual confession of discipleship to Jesus, and this they assumed was tantamount to breaking with Moses. They assume that their traditionary interpretation of the Mastic Law has all the authority of the great Lawgiver himself.
We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.
Verse 29. - They pursue the antithesis between Jesus and Moses, and thus make an involuntary admission of his abnormal and astounding claims. We know - it is the fundamental fact of our religions history, and of the Divine revelation entrusted to us. We know, by supreme conviction, as something almost equivalent to a fundamental law of thought, that God hath spoken to Moses. (Observe the perfect λελάληκεν, "hath spoken" in such fashion that his words abide fur ever and are still sounding in their ears.) Moses was made a little lower than the angels. God spake to him on Sinai, and from the mercy-scat, and face to face as a man speaketh with his friend (Exodus 33:11; Deuteronomy 34:10; Numbers 12:8). The most august ideas and associations clustered round his venerable name. Jesus was supposed to have challenged the supreme authority of Moses, and no sort of comparison could be drawn, in their opinion, between the two. But as for this Man, we know not whence he is. It is remarkable that, in John 7:27, they had been equally explicit in declaring, "We know whence he is." Then they thought to discredit iris Messianic claim by drawing a distinction between the well-known parentage and home of Jesus, and the coming of Messiah from some undiscoverable source, some hidden place, where God retained him before his revelation to Israel (see notes, John 7:27, 28). While, however, Christ (John 8:14) allowed the validity of their superficial knowledge on that occasion, he declared that he alone knew whence he came and whither he was going (see notes, John 8:14). It is, perhaps, in reference to this last expression that they echo his own words. The supernatural source of his being and teaching seemed to their minds, throughout that discourse and controversy, to vacillate between the Divine and the demonic. The contrast between Moses and Jesus in this bitter speech runs along the same low level. "We know not whence" he derives his prophetic character, or his right to legislate for the people of God.
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.
Verse 30. - The man answered and said to them, Why herein is the marvelous thing. Lange translates, "With respect to this man, this is marvelous, to wit." The R.T. has accurately given the force of the γὰρ, the combination of γε and ἄρα, by the rendering "why?" The "herein" is the ignorance which the Jews now profess of the Divine call and mission of the Healer. Their confusion, their obscurity, their vacillation, on such a patent fact is the marvel of marvels, almost more wonderful than the cure of his blindness. That ye know not whence he is, and (yet) he opened my eyes (καί not infrequently has the three of "and yet" - simple juxtaposition conveying a strong contrast; see John 8:55; John 6:70; John 7:4). The man rises into holy and eloquent wrath. Their entire history, their principles of judging of a prophetic call, the whole modus of Divine revelation, ought to have shown that one whose simple will stood in such vivid juxtaposition with work which none but Almighty God could do, ought to have enlightened them. "The blind man, finding he was argued with, grew bolder, and began to argue in turn; if he had not studied theology (say rabbinical casuistry and Mishnaic accretions to the Divine Law), he at least knew his catechism" (Godet).
Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.
Verse 31. - We know - the new-born disputant takes up the language of these proud casuists, and adopts the technical phrase which they had used (vers. 24, 29) - we know, you and I, that God heareth not sinners in any special sense of miraculous approval (Job 27:9; Job 35:13; Psalm 109:7; and especially Psalm 66:18, 19; Proverbs 15:29; Isaiah 1:15). One aspect of Old Testament teaching shows that a man must delight himself in the Lord in order to receive the desires of his heart. If we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us; but the prayer of the sinner, the desire of the wicked, is contrary to the will of' God. When the sinner turns from his sins to the Lord, the cry for mercy is in harmony with the will of God. In one sense every prayer is the prayer of sinful men; but it is the Divine life working within them that offers acceptable prayer. The prayer of the sinner as such is not heard. We know God does not listen to the cry of sinners, when, as sinners, they ask from the ground of their sin, to secure their own sinful purpose; but if any man be a worshipper of God (the word Θεοσεβής is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, and occurs nowhere else in the New Testament), and doeth his (God's) will, this man he heareth. The blind beggar has learned the deepest truth of the Divine revelation about the conditions of acceptable prayer. The immediate application was the miraculous unwonted event as answer to the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man (see James 5:16-18). So much for the general relation of this Healer to God. The rabbis were never tired of urging that the "answers to prayer depended on a man being devout and doing the will of God" (Edersheim, who quotes 'Ber.,' 6, b; 'Taanith,' 3:8; 'Succah,' 14, a; 'Yoma,' 28, a). So that the man was here fighting with drawn sword.
Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
Verses 32, 33. - The man, having once begun, will not be stopped in his argument. Since the world began (ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament; we have ἀπ αἰῶνος three times, and ἀπὸ τῶν αἰῶνων) it was never heard that any one opened the eyes of one born blind. There is no record of any cure of blindness in the Old Testament. The miracle stands forth with grand distinctness on the page of history. If such stories had been told, neither he nor the author of this narrative knew of them. The Pharisees and Jews have no reply to this burst of grateful but indignant testimony to the uniqueness of his Deliverer, and then, with a home-thrust which cut through their weak objections and repudiated their cruel inferences, he added, Unless this Man were from God, he could do nothing; he could neither have wrought this marvel, nor any of the deep impressions wrought upon you. "From God;" that is the man's final answer to the query, "What sayest thou of him, seeing that he hath opened thine eyes?" God has the glory, while I repudiate what you give as a judgment against him. Verily God has heard him as One who in this thing has simply done his will. Thus the Jews are compelled for a few moments to hear, from one known as a street-beggar, words of teaching along the finest lines of a deep experience.
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.
Verse 34. - Vanquished by this logic of simple fact and plain inference, the authorities have no other weapon to use but invective and persecution. They answered and said to him, Thou wast altogether born in sins; through and through a born reprobate. They take up the superstitious idea which seems (ver. 2) to have been floating in the mind of the disciples. From sins of parents or from thine own sins in thy mother's womb, thou earnest into the world with the brand of thy infamy upon thee. Thus they admit the change that has come over him by reverting to the peculiar depravity which had been stamped upon his brow, according to their narrow interpretation of Divine providence. And dost thou presume to teach us? - the chosen, the learned, the approved ministers of God? Dost thou, with all this heritage and mark of separation from God, dare to instruct the chief pastors and teachers of Israel? They did not stop with cruel words, but in their bitterness of spirit they thrust him forth; they violently expelled him from the synagogue where they were then seated (so Meyer, Maldonatus, Bengel, and many others). We are not told that there and then they excommunicated, or unsynagogued, him. It is probable that this ban followed, with the usual terrible formalities. He had practically confessed that the highest claims which Jesus had ever made about himself were true, and he made himself liable to the curse already pronounced (ver. 22). This marvelous narrative, with its lifelike detail, is not made the text of a discourse. It remains forever the startling vindication of our Lord's own word, that he was Light to the world and Eyesight too, and was able to supply both the objective condition and subjective change by which the nature of man could alone receive the light of life. From ver. 8 to ver. 34 is almost the only passage in the Gospel, with the exception of the passage, John 3:22-36, in which we are not standing in the actual presence of the Lord, or are not listening to his judgments on men and things, and to his revelations of the mystery of his own Person. The narrative so far stands by itself, and gives us an insight into the life which was being enacted in Jerusalem contemporaneously with the Divine self-revelation of Jesus.
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?
Verses 35-41. -
(10) The issues of the ministry of light. Verses 35-38. - (a) The vision of those who see not. These verses narrate the sequel so far as the man was concerned. Westcott and others rather exaggerate the bearing of it when they say here was "the beginning of the new society." "The universal society is based on the confession of a new truth" (Westcott). Even in this Gospel the first chapter shows that Jesus gathered disciples about him who from that time onward were to "see angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man." In the second and fourth chapters he "made and baptized disciples." The twelve (John 6.) would not leave him in the midst of widespread disaffection, because they confessed that he was "the Holy One of God," who had "the words of eternal life." Consequently, it is enough to say that, when the authorities of the Jewish ecclesia excluded the disciple of Christ, the Lord admitted him to a nobler fellowship; but the fellowship, the society, had been already formed. Verse 35. - Jesus heard that they had east him out; or, thrust him forth. Jesus is represented as "hearing," not from the man's own lips, but from the current report. He is not said to have become acquainted with the circumstance by intuition, but to have heard by the ordinary processes of knowledge. This simple touch shows how consistent the writer is throughout with the main thesis of his Gospel touching the perfect humanity of the Son of God, that he "was made flesh." and had "come in the flesh," though he was "from God." The excommunication noisily and widely bruited was further proof of the war to the knife between "the Jews" and Jesus. The man has fallen under the ban for practically avowing in the most public way that Jesus was "the Prophet," if not the Christ. And having found him. So, then, the Lord, as the good Shepherd, sought out the lost sheep in the wilderness, and did not rest until he found him. The daylight that had made an altogether new world for one who had aforetime never looked on human face, had been strangely checkered and shadowed. He only saw angry faces and averted glances, and even his cowardly parents would have hesitated to receive him into their poor abode; but Jesus found him, and said, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? Not "Dost thou wish to believe?" but "Dost thou put thy trust in the Son of God?" Dost thou recognize the fact that the Messiah of the nation's hope has come? Art thou believing in him? It would be more natural that the more current appellation Son of God, rather than the more recondite idea of Son of man, should have been held out before the healed man. The "thou" is emphatic, and contrasts the state of the mind of this man with that of "the Jews." He had declared that his Healer was "from God," that he was "a Prophet," One who "did God's will," and whom "God heareth," even when he asked for apparently impossible things. Christ tests the quality and caliber of his faith.
He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
Verse 36. - He answered and said, And who is he, that (ἵνα) I may believe on him? The conjunction adds much to the eagerness of the reply. His faith was ready for full expression. He half suspected, as the Samaritan woman (John 4:25) did, that Jesus was pointing to himself. The τίς; rather than τί; ("who?" rather than "what?") shows the intensity of the man's desire to find and hail and trust "the Son of God." The disposition, the posture, of his mind is that of faith. The adequate object for that faith has not been revealed to him. Apt symbol of many in their passage from darkness to light. When receptive, susceptible, conscious of need, with some notion, though an obscure one, of whom and of what they most of all need, many are disposed even now to utter the same importunate request.
And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
Verse 37. - [And] Jesus said, Thou hast both seen him, with the eyes so recently opened. Hast thou not found out that I am thy Healer, thy Prophet, thy Messiah? The ἑώρακας refers to the present interview, not to any previous one; for we are not told that he had already sought or found his Benefactor (Lucke, Meyer, Luthardt). Thou hast seen him with the eyes of thy spirit as well as the eyes of flesh, and, in addition, he that talketh with thee, familiarly as man with man, is he - "that sublime Person who seems to stand far off from thought and experience" (Westcott). The ἐκεῖνος of this passage and John 19:35 also is a fairly classical usage for expressing, in the lips of the speaker, a reference to himself pointed at and presented objectively as a third person (see Meyer, and our note on John 19:35, and its bearing on the authorship of the Gospel). Nowhere does our Lord more openly admit that he as the Christ, the Son of God. The disciples scarcely rise beyond the climax of this revelation even on the night of the Passion. The man's faith was waiting for its Object, and the vision comes to his unscaled spiritual vision.
And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
Verse 38. - And he said, Lord, I believe - the Kyrie means more than in ver. 36 - and he worshipped him. The verb προσκυνεῖν is used by John for homage paid to God (John 4:20; John 12:20; and twenty-three times in the Revelation, always in the sense of "worship"). This prostration, when no prayer was offered, no forgiveness asked, but a simple act of faith exercised, was nothing less than the highest homage the man could pay. The adoration of this man is a fitting climax to the scene (John 8:59), and anticipates that of Thomas (John 20:28). The higher significance of the Sonship dawned upon him in the unearthly tone and manner of the Lord. These scenes, and the offer of Divine homage unrebuked by Jesus and uncommented upon by the evangelist, are among the most potent arguments for the belief of the Church in the Divine nature of the Lord.
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.
Verses 39-41. - (b) The blindness of those who are satisfied with their twilight. Verse 39. - The sight of the man, enlightened and prostrate in adoring gratitude, led Jesus, in the face of the bystanders, with Pharisees among them (ver. 40), to declare the general effects which would follow from his entire self-manifestation (so Meyer, Godet). Westcott says, "Not to any one or group, but as interpreting the scene before him." A sublime monologue. And Jesus said, I came for judgment. Not κρισιν, to execute judgment, but εἰς κρίμα, with a view to bring about a judicial decision on the moral condition of mankind (see notes on John 3:17, 18; 5:22, 23; 8:11, 15, 16) as a matter of fact. "This is the κρίσις, that men love darkness rather than light." Christ came to save - that was his supreme purpose; but to the Son is given the whole κρίσις, and κρῖμα will follow the revelation of the Son of God. He is the Touchstone of humanity. What men think of Christ is the question which decides in every age their moral condition before God. Into this world of sin and strife, of crossing lights and strange delusions, of ignorance and superstition (εἰς τὸν κόσμον is different when τοῦτον is added; see John 8:23; John 11:9; John 12:25, 31; John 13:1; John 16:11; John 18:36) - not the world as the mere cosmos, or the sphere of creative activity, nor even the whole of humanity as John 3:16, but humanity viewed in its separation from grace, and in all its need - in order that they who see not might see; i.e. not those who merely feel that they cannot see (as Lucke, Meyer, etc.), but the practically blind - the μὴ βλέποντες, those who are sitting in darkness, with the capacity for sight, but not the opportunity; who cannot, as a matter of fact, apart from the revelation of new light, see the face of God; the babes to whom the Lord of heaven and earth has been pleased to unveil himself (see Matthew 11:25); the poor in spirit, who do not but now may see the kingdom, and the pure in heart ready to behold their God. So far the κρῖμα declares itself to be a blessed consummation - sight to the blind, cleansing to the leper, life to the dead. Even the man born blind suns himself in the heaven of the Savior's smile. The Light of the world shines upon them, and they see. But Christ's coming brings out also the character of those, and pronounces judgment on those, who say of themselves, "We see;" "We have never been in bondage," "We need no repentance;" "Abraham is our father;" "We know the Law;" "Who (nevertheless) do not come to the Light;" who are not "of the truth;" and the beaming of his unappreciated glory involves in their case, that those who see might become blind (τυφλοί), incapable of seeing. Those who have the knowledge of the Law, "the wise and prudent" (Luke 10:21), who boast their freedom, their knowledge, their advantages, their profession, may, nay do, by resolute turning away from "the Light of this world," lose their power of spiritual vision. But the unsophisticated, needy, even the publicans and harlots, consciously sitting in the region of the shadow of death, do by faith and repentance find that the great Light has unawares shone upon them.
And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
Verse 40. - Those of the Pharisees who were with him. This expression does not simply mean who were near him at that moment, but who were to a certain extent siding with him (John 8:30, 31), while criticizing and rejecting his message; who were incensed with him for promising to them "freedom" and sonship, and whose faith in his claims was of the most superficial and vacillating kind. These wavering, self-satisfied Pharisees heard these things, and they said to him, Are we blind also? Many commentators, who call attention to the contrast between the τυφλοί and μή βλέποντες of ver. 39, think that the speakers who made use of this word did not draw the distinction, and meant nothing more than their use μὴ βλέποντες by of τυφλοί. But this is unsatisfactory; whatever it 'means in the one clause, it ought to mean in the other. There is a difference between "becoming blind," and being "the blind." They ask whether they are blind also, i.e. as blind as those who have, according to Christ's own dictum, become so. They seem to admit that some who have the power of sight have been blinded by the very light that shines upon them, but they are in doubt with reference to their own case.
Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
Verse 41. - The reply of our Lord is not meant to be a crushing and final retort, condemning them to hopeless night, but was obviously intended to show them that they are not yet free from sin, that they are only partially appreciating the light which shines upon them. If ye were blind - incapable of sight; if ye had all along been deprived of the faculty of perceiving the true Light that shineth in the darkness (a condition of things which would have emancipated them from responsibility, and which Christ would not admit to be the case); perhaps more, if ye had been utterly blind to the light which is shining upon you now, which, however, is not true - ye would not have sin. This is akin to the solemn language of John 15:22-24. They did not themselves admit that there was any congenital blindness about them. They did not pretend or expect to ride off on such a πρόφασις, such an excuse. Could they be, judicially or naturally, blind? The very idea was an absurdity, and so Jesus added, But now ye say, We see. You even boast that you are "instructors of the ignorant, and leaders of the blind; a light to those who sit in darkness, having the form of knowledge and truth in the Law" (Romans 2:17-21). You are the very opposite of the "not-seeing" (μὴ βλέποντες); you are self-satisfied; you will not come to the Light. What is the issue? The Lord seems to pause before his answer (the οϋν, "therefore," is rejected by the best manuscripts and critics): Your sin abideth; or, remaineth. It will remain until you fully admit the great principle and reason, the motive and characteristics, of my mission. The very facility you profess, the intimacy you claim with the Law and its founder, and your partial knowledge of my claim, take away your excuse. The discourse which follows shows how entire must be the submission to Christ, how complete the union with him, of those who say, "We see."