They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind.
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE EARTHLY SERVICE. The works themselves to which Jesus here referred were special. By "works" he undoubtedly intended miracles, signs, wonders - such deeds of power and mercy as that which the condition of the blind man suggested that he should perform for his benefit. But our Lord often spoke of his "work" in a more general sense; and even here there is nothing exclusive of his spiritual ministry, to which this language certainly applies. This saying of Jesus casts light upon the character of the earthly service rendered by himself, and required of all his faithful disciples and followers.
1. Diligence is characteristic both of the Master and of his servants. No reader of the Gospels can fail to be impressed with the laboriousness of Christ's public life. There were times when he had no leisure even to eat; there never was a time when he neglected an opportunity of benevolence. Whether in teaching or in healing he was ever occupied, and occupied for purposes unselfish and brotherly.
2. His works were the proof of his obedience. Our Lord evidently lived a life of devotion to the Father who "sent" him. He did not his own will, but the Father's. It was his meat to do the will of him who sent him, and to finish his work. His advent, his ministry, his death, were all proofs of his obedience. Though a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. How much more must subjection to the Father's will befit us, who are the creatures of his power, the subjects of his dominion! It gives dignity to our life to feel that we too are sent into the world by God - that we are his messengers, his servants, his children, bound to do his behests, and to live as accountable to him.
3. Obligation characterizes all true service. Even the Son of God could say, "I must." On his part there was no compulsion. He of his own accord undertook a life of consecration and self-denial. What he did he "must needs" do, for the fulfillment of the Divine purposes, for the satisfaction of the benevolent yearnings of his own heart, and for the salvation of mankind. In our case there is a stringent moral obligation to serve God. As creatures, we are bound to obey a righteous Maker; as redeemed, emancipated freedmen, we are bound to glorify a Divine Deliverer. We are not our own. The duty that binds us to service is indeed a duty sweetened by grateful love, but a duty it cannot cease to be.
II. THE LIMITATION OF THE EARTHLY SERVICE. Our Lord condescended to accept the natural limits of human life. The day is for labor. Christ's day was from the dawn at Bethlehem to the evening on Olivet. There are those of his followers whose day is even shorter than his. There are many whose day is far longer. But in the case of every one of us there are limits which we cannot pass over. There are the "twelve hours" of the day, to which we cannot add. From this language we learn that the day, the period for our work on earth, is:
1. A prescribed, unalterable period. We cannot add a cubit to our stature, a year to our life. There is "an appointed time" for man upon earth.
2. A period during which the light still shines upon our path. If a man walk in the day he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of the world. Christians are favored with the light of revelation - with the light of the Spirit given during the gospel dispensation. It is for them to walk and to work while the daylight lasts.
3. A period during which strength is unspent. The laborer toils until the lengthening shadows tell him that the day's work is approaching the close. He needs repose with evening, but until the evening his vigor enables him to continue his efforts. Whilst the Christian lives, God gives him power to serve. God is not a hard Taskmaster; his demands do not exceed his gifts. The voice from eternity that speaks with authority bids us "work while it is day."
III. THE SPECIAL MOTIVE TO THE EARTHLY SERVICE. "The night cometh, when no man can work." There has never been spoken by human lips anything more solemn, and at the same time more precious, than this. We all, when we think upon the matter, feel this declaration to be so indisputably true. Yet we are all prone to overlook, sometimes almost anxious to forget it.
1. Consider this reflection as bearing upon Christ himself. He knew that the end of his earthly life and ministry was near. But he knew also that much remained for him yet to do and to suffer. There was a work for him to accomplish whilst he was still in this world - a work which he must accomplish within the swiftly closing day, or not at all. His advanced and final lessons to his disciples, his last assertions of supernatural power, his crowning revelation of majestic meekness and patience, his mysterious sufferings, - these all had to be crowded into his last brief days. The cup had yet to be drained, the cross had yet to be borne. All must be finished before the twilight deepened into darkness. For the Father had given him all this to do; and he would leave undone nothing-that he had undertaken.
2. How powerfully does this reflection bear upon our own moral life! Every one of us who is alive to the real meaning of his existence, must feel, and does feel, that this short day of life is given us, not for pleasure, but for progress; not for ease, but for toil. If, through weakness and temptation, this feeling sometimes fails us, there is one effectual method of reviving it. "The night cometh!" Venit nox! There is much to be done that must be done before the sunset of life's day, if it is not to remain undone forever. Here or nowhere; now or never! That the future life will be a scene of service is not to be doubted. But earthly service must be rendered upon earth. Here the gospel must be embraced; here the new birth to spiritual realities must commence the life that is Divine. Now is the day of salvation. The earthly service must be rendered in this life. The voice comes, "Go, work today in my vineyard." Neglect or refuse to obey that summons, and that piece of work will remain undone. Yet the time is very short, and night is very near. Labor, before the hand be palsied. Give, before the substance be beyond control. Speak, before the tongue be forever silent. Do all as looking forward, onward, to the end.
APPLICATION. Let the laborious remember that not all labor is wise and blessed. Work for self, and such work will be consumed in the fire that shall try all things. But work for God shall stand; no power can destroy it. Let the indolent remember that time unredeemed can only witness against them at the last. Let the young remember that, if a lengthened day be given them, the greater will be their responsibility and the larger their opportunity of commending themselves as faithful laborers to the just and gracious Master. Let the aged remember that, near as is night for them, they have a witness yet to bear, and a memory of inspiration to leave behind. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." - T.
They brought to the Pharisees him.I. AN IMPORTANT ADMISSION. The Pharisees recognized that the man saw (ver. 13). If therefore he had been previously blind, there must have been a miracle.
II. AN IRRELEVANT QUESTION. They wished to know how the man had received his sight (ver. 15), when all that they had to determine was whether he had received his sight.
III. A STRAIGHTFORWARD ANSWER. The man having nothing to conceal, gave a simple recitation of what had taken place (ver 15).
IV. A PALPABLE EVASION. Some of the Pharisees attempted to avoid giving judgment as to the miracle by pronouncing on a question that was not before them, viz., the character of Christ, whom they declared could not be "from God," because He kept not the Sabbath (ver. 16).
V. A SOUND CONCLUSION. Others reasoned that the miracle had been proved, and decided that the worker of such a "sign" could not be a sinner, and therefore could not have really violated the Sabbath law (ver. 16).
VI. A SAFE DEDUCTION. The healed man inferred, as Nicodemus had done (John 3:2), that the Physician who had cured him was a prophet (ver. 17).
VII. A DISINGENUOUS PROCEDURE. The matter seemed settled and the miracle made out; but the hostile party, unwilling to allow a verdict so favourable for Jesus to go forth, determined to hold the man an impostor, or at least to suspend their judgment until they had heard the man's parents.
(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
I. THEY WERE TECHNICAL RATHER THAN MORAL IN THEIR STANDARD OF JUDGMENT (ver. 16). Christ, in performing the miracle on the Sabbath, struck a blow at their prejudices, and declared "The Sabbath was made for man." Instead of thanking God that their poor brother had been healed, and seeking acquaintance with the Healer, they endeavour to make the whole thing a ceremonial crime. They had more respect for ceremonies than for souls. They exalted the letter above the spirit, the ritual above the moral.
II. THEY WERE BIASSED RATHER THAN CANDID IN THEIR EXAMINATION OF EVIDENCE. They had made up their minds not to believe, and all their questionings and cross questionings were intended to throw discredit on the fact. They did not want evidence, and if it came up they would suppress or misinterpret it. This spirit is too common in every age, and shows the blindness of prejudice and the heartlessness of technical religion.
III. THEY WERE DIVIDED RATHER THAN UNITED IN THEIR CONCLUSIONS. "There was a division," There were some, perhaps Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, touched with candour, who could not but see the Divinity of the act. Infidels ridicule Christians for their divisions, whilst they themselves are never agreed. Error is necessarily schismatic; evil has no power to unite.
IV. THEY WERE MALIGNANT RATHER THAN GENEROUS IN THEIR AIMS. Had they been generous they would have been disposed to believe in the mission of the Divine Restorer. Instead of that they repudiate the fact. Their browbeating of the young man, their accusation that Christ was a sinner, and their excommunication of those who behoved on Him show that the malign not the benign was their inspiration. Conclusion: This class is not extinct. There are those who are bitterly prejudiced against Christianity everywhere. They are proof against all evidence and argument. Prejudice turns a man's heart into stone.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
(R. Besser, D. D.)What will not prejudice do? It was that which made the Jews call Christ a Samaritan, a devil, a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. It was that which made them hale the apostles to their governors, and cry out, "Away with them! it is not fit that they should live." It was this made Ahab hate the upright Micaiah, and the Athenian condemn the just Aristides, though he had never seen him. It was this made the poor man, who knew not what John Huss's doctrine was, so busy and industrious to carry wood for his funeral pile, and as zealous to kindle it, inasmuch that the martyr could not but cry out, "O holy simplicity!" It is this sets men against consideration of their ways, and makes them give out that it will crack their brains and disorder their understanding.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
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