[Table of Contents]|
B. W. Johnson
The New Testament Commentary: Vol. III--John (1886)
JESUS AND THE BLIND MAN.
This miracle is reported only by John, a fact that is not strange when we remember that he alone gives a report of the ministry in Judea in which it occurred. The time cannot be certainly determined. Some have supposed that it occurred on the same day, only a few moments after Christ had escaped from the attempt to stone him; others regard it improbable that he should have stopped at such a moment to perform a miracle. All that is certain is that it was on the Sabbath day; a fact that intensified the animosity of his strict, sanctimonious, but unscrupulous enemies. We are, however, inclined to think that it occurred on the same day as the events of the last chapter.
1. And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. The last verse of the preceding chapter states that Jesus, "going through the midst of them, so passed by." This chapter begins, "As Jesus passed by." When we remember that there was no break into chapters when John wrote the passage, it seems certain that he designed to say that this occurred immediately after. In this case it was Jesus who came to the blind man, not the blind man to him. Blindness from birth is usually incurable by modern science. Like most such unfortunates then, the man was a beggar. See verse 8.
2. Master, who did sin? The disciples observed the Savior's look, resting sympathetically on the sufferer. They ask the solution of a troublesome question. It was the current opinion of the Jews that such an infliction was a punishment for some sin. Traces of this belief are often found in the Scriptures. When Job was a sufferer from an unprecedented sorrow, his friends insisted that he must have been a great sinner. The prophet, describing the sufferings of Christ, declared that the people would say, "He is smitten of God and afflicted." When Paul placed the bundle of sticks on the fire after the shipwreck, and the viper came out and fastened on his hand, the barbarians decided at once that he was a murderer or, at least, a great criminal. The world still believes that great calamities are  judgments. When a great misfortune comes on a nation or an individual, the question is asked, "How did they sin?" Even Christ had said to the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda, "Go, and sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee." This man. Usually our sorrows are the direct result of our own sins. Men are broken in health, reputation, or fortune, because they have transgressed. When the drunkard has delirium tremens, or the rake is on the rack of a ruined constitution, or an outcast woman is dying in shame, they are all reaping what they have sown. The disciples knew this to be true, and did not stop to consider that the man's own sins could not have caused him to be born blind. Or his parents. The disciples knew well that the sins of parents are often visited upon the children. Many a child has received the legacy of a feeble constitution, or a hereditary disease, or of vicious habits, or of a shameful name, from its parents. Nor is such a question strange concerning a member of a race which has inherited the consequences of sin from Adam.
3. Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents. Jesus, does not affirm that they were sinless, but that their sins were not the cause of the calamity. We are not justified in asserting that the sufferer is a sinner. Job's friends tried to prove his guilt by his calamities; the enemies of Christ, when he suffered on the cross, said, "He is smitten of God, and afflicted." Christ here shows that there may be other reasons for sorrow than personal or family sins. But that the works of God should be made manifest in him. By his miraculous cure the work of God shall be made manifest. It is the work of God to believe on Christ (John 6:29), and the blindness of this man was the occasion of faith being produced not only in him, but others. Thus Christ shows a nobler use of suffering. It is often a means of grace, and the saints are often called upon to suffer, that they may themselves be purified, or to show God's grace to others. "The Father chasteneth every son whom he loveth." "If ye be without chastening ye are not sons." "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church."
4. The night cometh, when no man can work. The works of God are to be made manifest in the blind man; Christ must work those works while the short day of life lasteth; the night of death soon cometh to everyone when no man can work. It is probable, when these words were spoken, the afternoon was moving toward night when the work of the day would be over. His night of death was near at hand, and he was diligent to finish his work. So, too, it soon comes to every man. What is to be done must be done first. If we have not "worked out our own salvation with fear and trembling," it will be too late.
5. I am the light of the world. He was the sun that caused the day of life and hope to the soul. He sheds moral and spiritual light upon the world. It was prophesied that he should give sight to the blind. He not only opened blind  souls, but blind eyes. At that moment he was about to be light to one who had been wrapped in darkness all his life.
6. He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle. Why he did this we cannot be sure. The ancients believed there was a virtue in saliva, but one way of healing was as easy to the Savior as another. It is probable that this means was adopted in order to send the man to the pool of Siloam to wash. It was Christ's rule to give all who were healed something to do as a test of faith. He had volunteered the cure in this case; he therefore anointed the blind man's eyes and bade him go and wash off the ointment.
7. Go, wash in the pool of Siloam. A pool in the environs of Jerusalem, called Siloah or Shiloah in Neh. 3:15 and Isa. 8:6. South of the temple mount is a basin hewn out of the rock in part and partly built of masonry, fifty-three feet long, eighteen feet wide and nineteen feet deep, which is identified as Siloam. A stream, rising in the fount of Siloam, passes through the reservoir, which is used for domestic purposes and irrigation by the people of the adjacent village of Siloam. Sent. The name of the pool was one of the titles of Christ. He was the Shiloah (Sent), it was Siloam. Came seeing. The man went in obedience, as Naaman went and washed in Jordan. The result in each case was the same. The divine power healed, but the act of obedience was demanded of the man.
8, 9. Is not this he that sat and begged? The only doubt arose from the fact that that was a blind beggar, but this man could see. Apparently, he was a well-known beggar, but their surprise was so great that it required his affirmation before they were sure of his identity. "Both beggary and blindness are much more common in the East than with us,--the former owing to unjust taxation, uneven distribution of wealth, and the total absence of public and systematized charities; the latter owing to lack of cleanliness, and to exposure to an almost tropical sun, and to burning sands."--Abbott.
10, 11. How were thine eyes opened? They were astounded. In surprise they  demand an explanation. His reply is so laconic as to stamp him as a more than ordinary man. The literal rendering of the account of what he, himself, did is, "And going, and washing, I see."
12. Where is he? This question may have been asked out of curiosity. These questioners were the neighbors of the blind man.
13. They brought him to the Pharisees. It was a notable event that demanded investigation. Hence they brought him to religious men of great influence. These Pharisees were then the ruling sect, and the blind man is brought to leaders among them for an informal investigation of his case. The Pharisees, as a sect, were hypocritical, but there were upright men among them. Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Gamaliel and Saul of Tarsus, were of this sect.
14. It was the Sabbath day. Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. We have found in the case of the miracle at the pool of Bethesda how they were angered by any apparent violation of the day. They tried to observe the day in the letter and constantly broke it in the spirit.
15, 16. This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath day. The Pharisees questioned the man, learned that his eyes had been smeared with spittle, and then declared that Jesus had broken the Sabbath. The Jewish doctors of the law, while binding burdens that God had never imposed, declared that on the Sabbath no man could even anoint one of his own eyes with spittle. Hence, according to their logic, Jesus had broken the Sabbath, and was not a man of God. But on the other hand was the wonderful miracle. How could one whom God did not help open the eyes of one blind from birth! Hence, "there was a division among them."
17. He said, He is a prophet. They ask for each man's opinion and, finally, in their perplexity and division, turned to the man healed. A little while before he had said that "a man called Jesus" healed him; now he declares that "he is a prophet;" a little later he is prepared to receive him as the Son of God. His convictions constantly deepened. 
18. But the Jews did not believe . . . that he had been blind. In verses 13-17, the examination of the blind man is conducted by the Pharisees; now not that sect alone, but "the Jews," the official influence of Jerusalem, including also the Pharisees, undertake the investigation. Their only way of escape from the admission that Jesus had wrought an unprecedented miracle is to insist that the young man had not been born blind. They begin this examination by calling his parents. It is to be noted that this is an official examination.
19, 20, 21. How then doth he now see? They ask two questions: 1. Was he blind from birth? 2. How was he cured? for the fact that he now sees is indisputable. The manner of asking the first question is designed to express doubts: "Is this your son, that you say was born blind?" The parents reply: 1. He is our son; 2. He was born blind; 3. He now sees, but by what means he was cured we know not. They refer them to their son for further information as a competent witness. Being of age "he could speak for himself."
22. Because they feared the Jews. The parents were non-committal concerning how their son was cured from fear of those same official classes who were now questioning them. We learn that an agreement had already been reached that any one confessing that Jesus was the Christ should be excommunicated. Though Jesus had not openly proclaimed himself as the Christ this decision of the rulers shows that the people were considering that very question and that the opinion that he was the Christ was gaining credence. The terror of the parents shows that to be "put out of the synagogue" was a punishment of great severity to a Jew. There were, according to Rabbinical writers, various degrees of excommunication, the mildest of thirty days duration. The effect of even the mildest grade was to render the offender a heathen, to cut him off from religious privileges, from association with his Jewish  friends and neighbors, and even from his own family. If, at the end of thirty days, the offence was not repented of, a severer punishment was administered. This resolution to expel all confessors of Christ from the synagogue became a fixed rule after the crucifixion, when the gospel began to be preached with such success. Christ predicts it in Matt. 10:17.
24. Give God the praise. Failing to obtain any satisfaction from the parents, they send for the son. They aim in this second interview to overawe him, and force him to the admission that there was some deception or mistake about Jesus having healed him. "Give glory to God" (see Joshua 7:19) seems to have been a formula used when a criminal, thought to be concealing a part of the truth, was urged to make a full confession. It means, "Remembering that the eyes of God are upon you," and therefore, honor God by telling the truth. The evidence that they urge as proof of a deception is we know that this man is a sinner. Their proof of this was that he healed on the Sabbath.
25. He answered. His answer shows that he was the wrong kind of material to be overawed. He enters into no dispute whether the Healer was a sinner or not, but of one thing there could be no doubt: he had been blind, but now he saw.
26. What did he to thee? They begin a cross examination in the hope that some flaw in the chain of proof might be developed.
27. I have told you already. See verse 15. He had answered these questions to the Pharisees who were an important part of "the Jews." His answers show a growing impatience. Will ye also be his disciples? This question is sarcastic. They seem so interested, have insisted on him telling the story of his cure the second time, ask so many questions; is it that they wish to be his disciples? The "also" implies that he is a disciple. This was bold irony to the stately Sanhedrists.
29. We know that God spake to Moses. Hence they argue that they are on sure ground in clinging to Moses, but as to being the disciple of "this fellow, they do not even know whence he is." 
30. Herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not whence he is. Now follows a marvellous scene, a ragged mendicant who was only that morning begging his bread, in this conclave of great ecclesiastics, expounds theology to the very men who "sat in Moses' seat" and shows a better knowledge of the Scriptures than the self-righteous Pharisees who prided themselves so much on doctrinal knowledge! He frankly declares it a "marvellous thing" that they do not know after the great miracle of opening his eyes. One who wrought such a miracle must be from God.
31. Now we know that God heareth not sinners. His argument was that of the distinguished "master in Israel," Nicodemus, who declared to Christ, "No man can do the miracles thou doest, except God be with him" (John 3:2). In the same spirit the man cured of blindness declares that God only hears true worshipers and those who do his will.
32, 33. Since the world began . . . one that was born blind. He was right. No similar miracle is recorded even in the Scriptures. Nor in ordinary cases of congenital blindness is there any cure even by the developments of modern optical science. However, in certain kinds of blindness, cures are not unknown, but usually a cure is hopeless. This unheard of cure, he insists, can only be due to the favor and power of God; hence Jesus must be a man of God.
34. Thou wast altogether born in sins. In verse 2 it is asked: "Did this man sin that he should be born blind?" They, probably in reference to that belief, declare that he was born "in sins," yet he would presume to teach great doctors like themselves! In their rage there is an implied acknowledgement of the miracle. And they cast him out. Cast him out, not only from their presence, but also from their sympathy, and intercourse with them and the people. It is implied that he was made an outcast, and no doubt their act would be followed by exclusion from the synagogue of which he was a member.
Tholuck remarks: "The narrative of this miracle has a special value in apologetics. How often do we hear the wish expressed that Christ's miracles had been put on documentary record; and had been subjected to a thorough  judicial examination! Here we have the very thing desired; judicial personages, and these too, the avowed enemies of Christ, investigate a miracle of Christ in repeated hearings and they can find no flaw." If the reader will observe he will find that the people refer the case to a great religious order composed of enemies of Christ; that members of this order first examine the facts; then the case is referred to a higher tribunal, the official representatives of the nation, who cross-examine the parents, as well as the subject of the miracle. This judicial investigation shows by the testimony of both that the young man was born blind, that he now saw, and his own testimony was given that he was healed by Jesus. The attempt to disprove the miracle was an utter failure and the court sought to discredit it by excommunicating the chief witness.
35. Jesus heard that they had cast him out. Whereupon he at once sought him. The man had lost the world, but Christ was ready to give him heaven. Dost thou believe on the Son of God? Many manuscripts read, the Son of Man, but at any rate the man knew so little of Jesus that he did not know who was meant.
36. Who is he, Lord? He does not ask this question in doubt, but that he may receive the information which will lead to a complete faith. He has full confidence in Jesus, but has not learned that he is the Son of God, and probably waits to hear him affirm it.
37. Thou hast seen him. Those eyes that have been opened are permitted to see him in the person of the great Healer and he that speaks at that moment is the Son of God. It is a striking fact that this declaration of himself, spontaneously, to the outcast from the synagogue, only has one parallel case, the revelation of Christ to the outcast woman of Samaria (John 4:26).
38. I believe, Lord, and he worshiped him. At once there is an outspoken confession of faith, followed by an act of homage. The believer believes with the heart, confesses with the lips, and shows forth this faith by obedience.
39. For judgment I am come into this world. He came into the world to save it, but the effect of his coming is to reveal every man's true condition. The light reveals the stains that would otherwise be unseen, and Christ's presence reveals the presence and power of sin in the hearts of men. He is the touch  stone. His coming not only gave sight to the blind but opened the eyes of those who were in the darkness of ignorance. Publicans and sinners were enabled to see, while "Jews" and Pharisees, who claimed to be enlightened, were left in darkness, because they closed their eyes.
40. Are we blind also? The form of the question implies that these Pharisees supposed that Christ would answer in the negative. He had spoken of two classes, those who did not see who should see; and those who saw, or had the highest spiritual opportunities, who should become blind by wilfully closing their eyes. The Pharisees think that they belong to neither class.
41. If ye were blind, ye should have no sin. If they were blind, utterly without knowledge, they would have no moral responsibility, but they claimed to see and had the highest opportunities for knowing; hence, when they closed their eyes and thus wilfully refused to see, they were guilty. To other sins was added the sin of the rejection of the light. Our responsibility is measured by our opportunities.
1. Sinners are blind to their own interests, to God, heaven, spiritual life.
2. They are not only blind, but beggars, unable to cure themselves, needing help from God and man.
3. The miracles are "parables of redemption." Observe: (1) The man is in darkness; the state of the sinner; (2) Christ is the light; (3) The condition of receiving the light is faith and obedience; (4) The man believes and obeys and "came seeing."
4. The sinner is blind to his best good, to God's goodness and love, to Jesus, to the Bible, to heaven. He is blind and a beggar, needing help from others. Blind, and grinding in the mill, like Samson among the Philistines.
5. None are so guilty as those who boast that they are enlightened and yet refuse to receive the light. Moral responsibility is measured by opportunity.
6. Sometimes men are called to suffer that "the glory of God may be manifest." Bunyan could never have written the Pilgrim's Progress had he not been cast into prison, nor Milton, Paradise Lost had he not been blind and forsaken by the world. So, too, God's children are sometimes called to endure chastisement in order that they might yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness. They that bear Christ's cross shall wear his crown. They that wear the white robes on high are those who have come up through much tribulation and washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. See Rev. 7:14. 
[Table of Contents]|
B. W. Johnson
The New Testament Commentary: Vol. III--John (1886)
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