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§ 198. A Man, born Blind, healed on the Sabbath.—Christ’s Conversation at the Time.—Individual Sufferings not to be judged as Punishment for Sins.—Christ the Light of the World. (John, ix.)

If the charge of heresy brought against Christ, on account of the pretended violation of the Sabbath, produced such striking results, he gave a new stimulus to the rage, and, at the same time, to the jealousy, of the hierarchical party, by a miraculous cure performed on the Sabbath.

As the disciples were leaving the Temple with their Master, his attention was drawn, in passing, to a beggar who had been blind from his birth. Their first thought, suggested by their contracted Jewish ideas of the government of God,539539   Cf. p. 143, 144. was, how far the necessary connexion between sin and evil might be supposed in the case: “Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” An untenable theory drove them to this dilemma; even if, as it is hardly to be supposed that the pre-existence of souls was presupposed by the questioner, he either had no definite idea in referring to “this man,” or did not know certainly at the time that he was born blind. Christ, not admitting such a precise connexion between special sins and special evils, replied, 299at first, concisely, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents;540540   An apocryphal writer would have made Christ contradict this view more fully. but that the works of God should be made manifest in him;” that his sufferings might seem the higher objects of God’s love both to himself and others, and God’s works of saving power and mercy be displayed in him. And for himself, apart from others, the cure of his physical blindness was to lead to that of his spiritual darkness; and then his experience was to become, also, the means of saving others. Passing over directly to the remark that through himself the works of God were revealed, Christ said, “I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day;541541   The day, the time for labour; its fleeting hours must be improved. “I cannot let the opportunity pass without doing what I only upon earth can do. My stay here will soon end. Nothing, therefore, must hinder me from that which I (as the shining Sun) have now to work upon the earth.”he night cometh, when the work of the day cannot be done.542542   The day = the time allotted to Christ’s ministry on earth; the night, therefore, = the approaching end of his earthly labours. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”543543   So long as Christ remained on earth, he must remain according to his nature, the Sun of the world; so long, therefore, he must shed light around him, dispense bodily and spiritual blessings; no opportunity of doing this must pass. The cure of this blind man, bodily and spiritually, was part of his work as “light of the world.” Not, indeed, that he has ever ceased to be “the light of the world;” but his personal and visible manifestation was here in question; the Sun of the world, visible upon the earth itself.

The cure for which he thus prepared them was probably gradual (as in the case mentioned p. 270); the patient, perhaps, begin to see when Christ anointed his eyes, and, after bathing in Siloam,544544   Would any one have invented this, which tends to diminish, instead of magnifying the miracle? “But it was invented for the sake of the mystical allusion to Siloam.” Were this so, a longer explanation than the sentence, “which is, by interpretation, ‘sent’” (v. 7), would have been given. If ὃ ἑρμηνεύεται ἀπεσταλμένος is genuine, and a mystical meaning is assumed, it is needless to insist strictly upon grammatical accuracy in the translator, especially as the word שַׁילוחַ, sending out, could be applied by metonymy to one of the canals from the spring of Siloam; and the form שֶּׁלַח (Neh., iii., 15) comes, in fact, near to this translation. As has been said, a later writer, intending to give a mystical interpretation, would have coloured it more deeply. But, on the other hand, if we do not arbitrarily assume that the operations of the Holy Ghost rudely tore asunder peculiarities that were rooted in the culture of the people and the times, we may readily imagine that John, who eagerly caught at all allusions to the object of his love, would be inclined to find a mystical and higher meaning in the sending of the blind man to wash in the pool, and that the more, because the act in itself was comparatively unimportant; and that he thus made Siloam the symbol of the heavenly ἀπόσταλος, by whom the diseased man was to be healed. was completely healed.545545   John’s omission to mention expressly that the cure was gradual does not militate against our view. If it were not gradual, we should have to supply some other points omitted by the narrative, e.g., that some one led the blind man to the pool, or, that he was so accustomed to the way as to need no guidance. Such omissions as this are no proof that the account was not due to an eye-witness; especially as, on the theory that the account was an invention, it would be impossible to account satisfactorily for the mention of the subsidiary features at all. In all the rest of the narrative—the conduct of the blind man and of the Pharisees—the stamp of eye-witness is indubitable; and the want of minuteness in the detail of the fact itself was probably caused by the narrator’s hastening from the miracle itself to that in which he was most interested, viz., its result.

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