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Bible Commentaries

A.W. Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews
John 9

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-7

Exposition of the Gospel of John

Christ And The Blind Beggar

John 9:1-7

Below will be found an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:—

1. Jesus beholds the man born blind: verse 1.

2. The disciples' question: verse 2.

3. Christ's answer: verses 3-5.

4. Christ anoints the blind man: verse 6.

5. Christ sends the man to the Pool: verse 7.

6. The man's prompt obedience: verse 7.

7. The miracle completed: verse 7.

That there is an intimate connection between John 8 and John 9 is manifest from the first word of the latter, and when the Holy Spirit has thus linked two things together it behooves us to pay close attention to the law of comparison and contrast. The little conjunction at the opening of John 9 is very appropriate, for in the previous verse we read of Jesus hiding Himself from those who took up stones to cast at Him; while in John 9:1 we behold a man blind from his birth, unable to see the passing Savior. That these two chapters are closely related is further seen by a comparison of John 8:12 and John 9:5: in both Christ is revealed, specifically, as "the light of the world." As we read carefully the opening verses of the chapter now before us and compare them with the contents of John 8 it will be found that they present to us a series of contrasts. For example, in John 8 we behold Christ as "the light" exposing the darkness, but in John 9 He communicates sight. In John 8 the Light is despised and rejected, in John 9 He is received and worshipped. In John 8 the Jews are seen stooping down—to pick up stones; in John 9 Christ is seen stooping down—to make anointing clay. In John 8 Christ hides Himself from the Jews; in John 9 He reveals Himself to the blind beggar. In John 8 we have a company in whom the Word has no place (verse 37); in John 9 is one who responds promptly to the Word (verse 7). In John 8 Christ, inside the Temple, is called a demoniac (verse 48); in John 9 , outside the Temple, He is owned as Lord (verse 36). The central truth of John 8 is the Light testing human responsibility; in John 9 the central truth is God acting in sovereign grace after human responsibility has failed. This last and most important contrast we must ponder at length.

In John 8 a saddening and humbling scene was before us. There Christ was manifested as "the light" and woeful were the objects that it shone upon. It reminds us very much of that which is presented right at the beginning of God's Word. Genesis 1:2 introduces us to a ruined earth, with darkness enveloping it. The very first thing God said there was, "Let there be light," and we are told, "There was light." And upon what did the light shine? what did its beams reveal? It shone upon an earth that had become "without form and void"; its beams revealed a scene of desolation and death. There was no sun shining by day nor moon by night. There was no vegetation, no moving creature, no life. A pall of death hung over the earth. The light only made manifest the awful ruin which sin (here, the sin of Satan) had wrought, and the need for the sovereign goodness and almighty power of God to intervene and produce life and fertility.

So it was in John 8. Christ as the Light of the world discovers not only the state of Israel, but too, the common atheism of man. He affirmed His power to make free the bondslaves of sin ( John 8:32): but His auditors denied that they were in bondage. He spoke the words of the Father ( John 8:38): but they neither understood nor believed Him. He told them that their characters were formed under the influence of the Devil and that they desired it to be so ( John 8:44): in reply they blasphemously charged Him with having a demon. He declared that He was the Object who had rejoiced the heart of Abraham ( John 8:56): and they scoffed at Him. He told them He was the great and eternal "I am" ( John 8:58): and they picked up stones to cast at Him. All of this furnishes us with a graphic but accurate picture of the character of the natural man the world over. The mind of the sinner is enmity against God, and he hates the Christ of God. He may be very religious, and left to himself, he may appear to be quite pious. But let the light of God be turned upon him, let the bubble of his self-righteousness be punctured, let his awful depravity be exposed, let the claims of Christ be pressed upon him, and he is not only skeptical, but furious.

What, then, was Christ's response? Did He turn His back on the whole human race? Did He return at once to heaven, thoroughly disgusted at His reception in this world? What wonder if the Father had there and then called His Son back to the glory which He had left. Ah! but God is the God of all grace, and grace needed the dark background of sin so that its bright lustre might shine the more resplendently. Yet grace would be misunderstood and unappreciated were it shown to all alike, for in that case men would deem it a right to which they were entitled, a meet compensation for God allowing the race to fall into sin. O the folly of human reasoning! Grace would be no more grace if fallen men had any claims upon it. God is under no obligations to men: every title to His favor was forfeited forever when they, in the person of their representative, rebelled against Him. Therefore does He say, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy" ( Romans 9:15). It is this side of the truth which receives such striking illustration in the passage which is to be before us.

In John 8 we are shown the utter ruin of the natural Prayer of Manasseh -despising God's goodness, hating His Christ. Here in John 9 we behold the Lord dealing in grace, acting according to His sovereign benignity. This, this is the central contrast pointed by these two chapters. In the former it is the Light testing human responsibility; in the latter, the Light acting in sovereign mercy after the failure of human responsibility had been demonstrated. In the one we see the sin of man exposed, in the other we behold the grace of God displayed.

"And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth" ( John 9:1). That which is dominant in this passage is intimated in the opening verse. The sovereignty of Divine grace is exemplified at once in the actions of our Lord and in the character of the one upon whom His favors were bestowed. The Savior saw a certain man; the man did not see Him, for he had no capacity to do Song of Solomon , being blind. Nor did the blind man call upon Christ to have mercy upon him. The Lord was the one to take the initiative. It is ever thus when sovereign grace acts. But let us admire separately each detail in the picture here.

"And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man." How blessed. The Savior was not occupied with His own sorrows to the exclusion of those of others. The absence of appreciation and the presence of hatred in almost all around Him, did not check that blessed One in His unwearied service to others, still less did He abandon it. Love "suffereth long," and "beareth all things" ( 1 Corinthians 13). And Christ was Love incarnate, therefore did the stream of Divine goodness flow on unhindered by all man's wickedness. How this perfection of Christ rebukes our imperfections, our selfishness!

"He saw a man which was blind from his birth." What a pitiable object! To lose an arm or a leg is a serious handicap, but the loss of sight is far more so. And this man had never seen. From how many enjoyments was he cut off! Into what a narrow world did his affliction confine him! And blindness, like all other bodily afflictions, is one of the effects of sin. Not always so directly, but always so remotely. Had Adam never disobeyed his Maker the human family had been free from disease and suffering. Let us learn then to hate sin with godly hatred as the cause of all our sorrows; and let the sight of suffering ones serve to remind us of what a horrible thing sin is. But let us also remind ourselves that there is something infinitely more awful than physical blindness and temporal suffering, namely, sickness of soul and a blinded heart.

"He saw a man which was blind from his birth." Accurately did he portray the terrible condition of the natural man. The sinner is blind spiritually. His understanding is darkened and his heart is blinded ( Ephesians 4:18). Because of this he cannot see the awfulness of his condition: he cannot see his imminent danger: he cannot see his need of a Savior—"Except a man be born again he cannot see" ( John 3:3). Such an one needs more than light; he needs the capacity given him to see the light. It is not a matter of mending his glasses (reformation), or of correcting his vision (education and culture), or of eye ointment (religion). None of these reach, or can reach, the root of the trouble. The natural man is born blind spiritually, and a faculty missing at birth cannot be supplied by extra cultivation of the others. A "transgressor from the womb" ( Isaiah 48:8). shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin ( Psalm 51:5), man needs a Savior from the time he draws his very first breath. Such is the condition of God's elect in their unregenerate state—"by nature the children of wrath, even as others" ( Ephesians 2:3).

"He saw a man which was blind from his birth." The late Bishop Ryle called attention to the significant fact that the Gospels record more cases of blindness healed than that of any other one affliction. There was one deaf and dumb healed, one sick of the palsy, one sick of a fever, two instances of lepers being healed, three dead raised, but five of the blind! How this emphasizes the fact that man is in the dark spiritually. Moreover, the man in our lesson was a beggar (verse 8)—another line in the picture which so accurately portrays our state by nature. A beggar the poor sinner is: possessing nothing of his own, dependent on charity. A blind beggar—what an object of need and helplessness! Blind from his birth—altogether beyond the reach of man!

"And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this Prayer of Manasseh , or his parents, that he was born blind?" ( John 9:2). How little pity these disciples seem to have had for this blind beggar, and how indifferent to the outflow of the Lord's grace. Instead of humbly and trustfully waiting to see what Christ would do, they were philosophizing. The point over which they were reasoning concerned the problem of suffering and the inequalities in the lot of human existence—points which have engaged the minds of men in every clime and age, and which apart from the light of God's Word are still unsolved. There are many who drift along unexercised by much of what goes on around them. That some should be born into this world to enter an environment of comfort and luxury, while others first see the light amid squalor and poverty; that some should start the race of mortality with a healthy body and a goodly reserve of vitality, while others should be severely handicapped with an organism that is feeble or diseased, and still others should be crippled from the womb, are phenomena which affect different people in very different ways. Many are largely unconcerned. If all is well with them, they give very little thought to the troubles of their fellows. But there are others who cannot remain indifferent, and whose minds seek an explanation to these mysteries. Why is it that some are born blind?—a mere accident it cannot be. As a punishment for sin, is the most obvious explanation. But if this be the true answer, a punishment for whose sins?

"Master, who did sin, this Prayer of Manasseh , or his parents, that he was born blind?" Three theories were current among the philosophers and theologians of that day. The first obtained in some measure among the Babylonians, and more extensively amongst the Persians and Greeks, and that was the doctrine of reincarnation. This was the view of the Essenes and Gnostics. They held that the soul of man returned to this earth again and again, and that the law of retribution regulated its varied temporal circumstances. If in his previous earthly life a man had been guilty of grievous sins, special punishment was meted out to him in his next earthly sojourn. In this way philosophers sought to explain the glaring inequalities among men. Those who now lived in conditions of comfort and prosperity were reaping the reward of former merit; those who were born to a life of suffering and poverty were being punished for previous sins. That this theory of Revelation -incarnation obtained in measure even among the Jews is clear from Matthew 16:13 , 14. When Christ asked His disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" they said, "Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah , or one of the prophets" which shows that some of them thought the soul of one of the prophets was now Revelation -incarnated in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Further evidence that this view obtained to some extent among the Jews is supplied by the Apocrypha. In "The Wisdom of Solomon"—8:19 , 20—are found these words, "Now I was a goodly child, and a goodly soul fell to my lot. Nay rather, being good, I came into a body undefiled"!

But among the rabbins this theory held no place. It was so completely without scriptural support, yea, it so obviously clashed with the teaching of the Old Testament, they rejected it in toto. How then could they explain the problem of human suffering? The majority of them did so by the law of heredity. They considered that Exodus 20:5 supplied the key to the whole problem: all suffering was to be attributed to the sins of the parents. But the Old Testament ought to have warned them against such a sweeping application of Exodus 20:5. The case of Job should have at least modified their views. With some it did, and among the Pharisees a third theory, still more untenable, was formulated. Some held that a child could sin even in the womb, and Genesis 25:22 was quoted in support.

It was in view of these prevailing and conflicting theories and philosophies which then obtained that the disciples put their question to the Lord: "Master, who did sin, this Prayer of Manasseh , or his parents, that he was born blind?" Evidently they desired to hear what He would say upon the matter. But what is the present-day application of this verse to us? Surely the reasoning of these disciples in the presence of the blind beggar points a solemn warning. Surely it tells of the danger there is of us theorizing and philosophizing while we remain indifferent to human needs. Let us beware of becoming so occupied with the problems of theology that we fail to preach the Gospel to lost souls!

"Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in Him" ( John 9:3). The Lord returned a double answer to the disciples' inquiry: negatively, this man was not born blind because of sin. "Neither did this man sin nor his parents" must not be understood absolutely, but like many another sentence of Scripture has to be modified by its setting. Our Lord did not mean that this man's parents had never sinned, but that their sin was not the reason why their son had been born blind. All suffering is remotely due to sin, for if sin had not entered the world there would have been no suffering among humankind. But there is much suffering which is not due immediately to sin. Indirectly the Lord here rebukes a spirit which all of us are prone to indulge. It is so easy to assume the role of judge and pass sentence upon another. This was the sin of Job's friends, recorded for our learning and warning. The same spirit is displayed among some of the "Faith-healing" sects of our day. With them the view largely obtains that sickness is due to some sin in the life, and that where healing is withheld it is because that sin is unconfessed. But this is a very harsh and censorious judgment, and must frequently be erroneous. Moreover, it tends strongly to foster pride. If I am enjoying better health than many of my fellows, the inference would be, it is because I am not so great a sinner as they! The Lord deliver us from such reprehensible Phariseeism.

"But that the works of God should be made manifest in him." Here is the positive side of our Lord's answer, and it throws some light upon the problem of suffering. God has His own wise reasons for permitting sickness and disease; ofttimes it is that He may be glorified thereby. It was so in the case of Lazarus ( John 11:4). It was so in connection with the death of Peter ( John 21:19). It was so in the affliction of the apostle Paul ( 2 Corinthians 12:9). It was so with this blind beggar: he was born blind that the power of God might be evidenced in the removal of it, and that Christ might be glorified thereby.

"But that the works of God should be made manifest in him." Let us not miss the present application of this to suffering saints today. Surely this word of the Savior's contains a message of consolation to afflicted ones among His people now. Not that they may expect to be relieved by a miracle, but that they may comfort themselves with the assurance that God has a wise (if hidden) purpose to be served by their affliction, and that Isaiah , that in some way He will be glorified thereby. That way may not be manifested at once; perhaps not for long years. At least thirty years (see verse 23) passed before God made it evident why this man had been born blind. As to what God's purpose is in our affliction, as to how His purpose will be attained, and as to when it will be accomplished, these things are none of our affair. Our business is to meekly submit to His sovereign pleasure ( 1 Samuel 3:18), and to be duly "exercised thereby" ( Hebrews 12:11). Of this we may be sure, that whatever is for God's glory in us, will ultimately bring blessing to us. Then do not question God's love, but seek grace to rest in sincere faith on Romans 11:36,8:28.

"I must work the works of him that sent me" ( John 9:4). And what were these works? To reveal the perfections of God and to minister to the needs of His creatures. Such "works" the Son must do because He was one both in will and in nature with the Father. But no doubt there is another meaning in these words. The "works of him" that sent Christ were not only works that were pleasing to God, but they were works which had been predestinated by God. These works must be done because God had eternally decreed them—cf. the "must" in John 4:4,10:16.

"The night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world" ( John 9:4 , 5). More specifically this statement had reference to what Christ was about to do—give sight to the blind beggar. This is clear from the opening words of verse 6: "When he had thus spoken." The miracle Christ was about to perform gave a striking illustration of the yet greater miracle of the Divine bestowment of spiritual vision upon an elect sinner. Such an one must be illumined for the eternal counsels of Deity so determined—compare the "must" in Acts 4:12. The saving of a sinner is not only entirely the "work" of God, but it Isaiah , pre-eminently, that in which He delights. This is what these words of Christ here plainly intimate. How blessed to know, then, that the most glorious of all God's works is displayed in the saving of lost and hell-deserving sinners, and that the Persons of the Trinity cooperate in the outflow of grace.

"The night cometh, when no man can work." Christ here teaches us both by word and example the importance of making the most of our present opportunities. His earthly ministry was completed in less than four years, and these were now rapidly drawing to a close. He must then be about His Father's business. A Divine constraint was upon Him. May a like sense of urgency impel us to redeem the time, knowing the days are evil ( Ephesians 5:16). What a solemn word is this for the sinner: "the night cometh, when no man can work"! This is life's day for him; in front lies the blackness of darkness forever ( Jude 1:13). Unsaved reader, your "night" hastens on. "Today if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts." "Behold now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" ( 2 Corinthians 6:2).

"As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Christ seems to be referring to the attempt which had just been made upon His life ( John 8:59). Soon the appointed time would come for Him to leave the world, but until that time had arrived man could not get rid of Him. The light would shine despite all man's efforts to put it out. The stones of these Jews could not intimidate or hinder this One from finishing the work which has been given Him to do. "Light of the world" He had just demonstrated Himself to be by exposing their wicked hearts. "Light of the world" He would now exhibit Himself by communicating sight and salvation to this poor blind beggar.

"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" ( John 9:6). This was a parable in action and deserves our closest attention. Christ's mode of procedure here though extraordinarily peculiar was, nevertheless, profoundly significant. Peculiar it certainly was, for the surest way to blot out vision would be to plaster the eye with wet clay: and yet this was the only thing Christ did to this blind beggar. Equally sure is it that His mysterious action possessed some deep symbolic significance. What that was we shall now inquire.

"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." The first thing we must do is to study this care* fully in the light of the context. What is before us in the context? This: the "light of the world" ( John 8:12), the "sent one" ( John 8:18), the "Son" ( John 8:36) was despised and rejected of the Jews. And why was that? Because He appeared before them in such lowly guise. They judged Him "after the flesh" ( John 8:15); they sought to kill Him because He was "a man that had told them the truth" ( John 8:40). They had no eyes to discern His Divine glory and were stumbled by the fact that He stood before them in "the likeness of men."

Now what do we have here in John 9? This: once more Christ affirms that He was "the light of the world" ( John 9:5); then, immediately following, we read, "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." Surely the meaning of this is now apparent. "As a figure, it pointed to the humanity of Christ in earthly humiliation and lowliness, presented to the eyes of men, but with Divine efficacy of life in Him" (J.N.D.). Christ had presented Himself before the Jews, but devoid of spiritual perception they recognized Him not. And did the blind beggar, who accurately represented the Jews, did he see when Christ applied the clay to his eyes? No; he did not. He was still as blind as ever, and even though he had not been blind he could not have seen now. What, then, must he do? He must obey Christ. And what did Christ tell him to do? Mark carefully what follows.

"And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent)" ( John 9:7). This, too, was a sermon in action. What the blind beggar needed was water. And of what did that speak? Clearly of the written Word (see our notes on John 3:5 , and cf. Ephesians 5:26). It was just because the Jews failed to use the water of the Word that the eyes of their hearts remained closed. Turn to John 5 , and what do we find there? We see the Jews seeking to kill Christ because He made Himself equal with God (verse 18). And what did He bid them do? This: "Search the Scriptures" ( John 5:39). We have the same thing again in John 10: the Jews took up stones again to stone Him (verse 31). And the Lord asked them why they acted thus. Their answer was, "Because that thou, being a Prayer of Manasseh , makest thyself God" (verse 33). What reply did Christ make, "Jesus answered them, Is it not written?" It was then, this very thing which (symbolically) the Lord commanded the blind beggar to do. He obeyed implicitly, and the result was that he obtained his sight. The difference between the Jews and the beggar was this: they thought they could see already, and so refused the testimony of the written Word; whereas the beggar knew that he was blind and therefore used the water to which Christ referred him. This supplies the key to the 39th verse of this chapter which sums up all that has gone before. "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."

We turn now to consider the doctrinal significance of what has just been before us. The blind beggar is to be viewed as a representative character, i.e, as standing for each of God's elect. Blind from birth, and therefore beyond the help of man; a beggar and therefore having nothing, he fitly portrays our condition by nature. Sought out by Christ and ministered to without a single cry or appeal from him, we have a beautiful illustration of the activities of sovereign grace reaching out to us in our unregenerate state. Our Lord's method of dealing with him, was also, in principle, the way in which He dealt with us, when Divine mercy came to our rescue.

"He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay." This seems to have a double meaning. Dispensationally it symbolized Christ presenting Himself in the flesh before the eyes of Israel. Doctrinally it prefigured the Lord pressing upon the sinner his lost condition and need of a Savior. The placing of clay on his eyes emphasizes our blindness. "And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam." This intimates our need of turning to the Word and applying it to ourselves, for it is the entrance of God's words which, alone, give light ( Psalm 119:130).

The name of the Pool in which the blind beggar was commanded to wash is not without its significance, as is seen by the fact that the Holy Spirit was careful to interpret it to us. God incarnate is the Object presented to the needy sinner's view: the One who was "anointed" by the Holy Spirit ( Acts 10:38). How is He presented to us? Not as pure spirit, nor in the form of an angel; but as "made flesh." Where is He to be thus found? In the written Word. As we turn to that Word we shall learn that the man Christ Jesus is none other than the "sent one" of the Father. It is through the Word alone (as taught by the Holy Spirit) that we can come to know the Christ of God.

"He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing" ( John 9:7). The simple obedience of the blind beggar is very beautiful. He did not stop to reason and ask questions, but promptly did what was told him. As the old Puritan, John Trapp (1647), quaintly puts it, "He obeyed Christ blindly. He looked not upon Siloam with Syrian eyes as Naaman did upon Jordan; but, passing by the unlikelihood of a cure by such means, he believeth and doeth as he was bidden, without hesitation." Let the interested student go over the whole chapter carefully and prayerfully, seeking the personal application of this passage. Let the following questions be studied:—

1. How do verses 8,9 apply to the history of a newly saved soul?

2. What do verses 10,11teach us concerning the young convert?

3. How do verse 12fit in with the application of this passage to a babe in Christ?

4. Study verses 13-16 from a similar viewpoint.

5. What do the beggar's words in verse 17 intimate? Cf. our remarks on John 4:19.

6. What does verse 18 teach the young believer to expect?

7. What do verses 20-23teach the babe in Christ he must do?


Verses 8-23

Christ and the Blind Beggar (Continued)

John 9:8-23

We begin with our usual Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:—

1. The uncertainty of the neighbors: verses 8 , 9.

2. Their questioning of the beggar: verse 10.

3. The beggar's answers: verses 11 , 12.

4. The Pharisees and the Sabbath: verses 13 , 14.

5. The beggar before the Pharisees: verses 15-17.

6. The skepticism of the Jews: verse 18.

7. The beggar's parents interrogated: verses 19-23.

In our last chapter we pointed out how that the opening verses of John 9 supply us with a blessed illustration of the outflow of sovereign grace toward an elect sinner. Every detail in the picture contributes to its beauty and accuracy. Upon the dark background of the Jews' hatred of Christ (chapter 8) we are now shown the Savior ministering to one who strictly portrays the spiritual condition of each of God's elect when the Lord begins His distinguishing work of mercy upon him. Seven things are told us about the object of the Redeemer's compassion:

First, he was found outside the Temple, portraying the fact that, in his natural ‘condition, the elect sinner is alienated from God. Second, he was blind, and therefore unable to see the Savior when He approached him. Third, he had been blind from birth: Song of Solomon , too, is the sinner—"estranged from the womb" ( Psalm 58:3). Fourth, he was therefore quite beyond the aid of man: helpless and hopeless unless God intervened. Fifth, he was a beggar (verse 8), unable to purchase any remedy if remedy there was; completely dependent upon charity. Sixth, he made no appeal to the Savior and uttered no cry for mercy; such is our condition before Divine grace begins to work within us. Seventh, the reasoning of the disciples (verse 2) illustrates the sad fact that no human eye pities the sinner in his spiritual wretchedness.

Our Lord's dealings with this poor fellow shadow forth His gracious work in us today. Note, again, seven things, in connection with Christ and the blind beggar. First, He looked in tender pity upon the one who so sorely needed His healing touch. Second, He declared that this man had been created to the end that the power and grace of God might be manifested in him (verse 3). Third, He intimated that necessity was laid upon Him (verse 4): the eternal counsels of grace "must" be accomplished in the one singled out by Divine favor. Fourth, He announced Himself as the One who had power to communicate light to those in darkness (verse 5). Fifth, He pressed upon the blind beggar his desperate need by emphasizing his sad condition (verse 6). Sixth, He pointed him to the means of blessing and put his faith to the test (verse 7). Seventh, the beggar obeyed, and in his obedience obtained evidence that a miracle of mercy had been wrought upon him. Each of these seven things has their counterpart in the realm of grace today.

As we follow the Divine narrative and note the experiences of the blind beggar after he had received his sight, we shall find that it continues to mirror forth that which has its analogy in the spiritual history of those who have been apprehended by Christ. What is before us here in John 9 is something more than an incident that happened in the long ago—it accurately depicts what is transpiring in our own day. The more the believer studies this passage in the light of his own spiritual history, the more will he see how perfectly this narrative describes his own experiences.

"The neighbors therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?" ( John 9:8). When a genuine work of grace has been wrought in a soul it is impossible to conceal it from our neighbors and acquaintances. At first they will talk among themselves and discuss with a good deal of curiosity and speculation what has happened. The unsaved are always skeptical of God's miracles. When one of their fellows is saved, they cannot deny that a radical change has taken place, though the nature of it they are completely at a loss to explain. They know not that the manifestation of Christ in the outward life of a quickened soul is due to Christ now dwelling within. Yet, even the unbelieving world is compelled to take note and indirectly acknowledge that regeneration is a real thing. Ah! dear reader, if the Lord Jesus has lain His wondrous hand on you, then those with whom you come into daily contact will recognize the fact. "They will see that it is not with thee as it used to be—that a real change has passed upon thee—that the tempers and lusts, habits and influences which once ruled thee with despotic power, now rule thee no longer—that though evil may occasionally break out, it does not habitually bear sway—that though it dwells within it does not reign—though it plagues it does not govern."

"Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he" ( John 9:9). How marvellously accurate is this line in the picture! When one who is dead in trespasses and sins has been quickened into newness of life he becomes a new creature in Christ, but the old man still remains. Not yet has he been delivered from this body of death; for that, he must await the return of our Lord. In the one who has been born again there are, then, two natures: the old is not destroyed, but a new has been imparted. This is plainly foreshadowed in the verse before us: some recognized the one they had known before his eyes were opened; others saw a different personality. It is this which is so puzzling in connection with regeneration. The individual is still the same, but a new principle and element have come into his life.

"Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?" ( John 9:10). How true to life again! The one who has found mercy with the Lord is now put to the proof: his faith, his loyalty, his courage must be tested. It is not long before the quickened soul discovers that he is living in a world that is unfriendly toward him. At first God may not permit that unfriendliness to take on a very aggressive form, for He deals very tenderly with the babes in His family. But as they grow in grace and become strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, He suffers them to be tested more severely and no longer shields them from the fiercer assaults of their great enemy. Nevertheless, testing they must have from the beginning, for it is thus that faith is developed by casting us upon the Lord and perfecting our weakness in His strength.

"Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?" Here was an opportunity afforded this one who had so wondrously received his sight to bear witness to His gracious Benefactor. To confess Christ, to tell of what great things the Lord hath done for him, is the first duty of the newly saved soul, and the promise Isaiah , "Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God" ( Luke 12:8). But this is the last thing which the world appreciates or desires: that blessed Name which is above every name is an offense to them. It is striking to observe how the neighbors of the beggar framed their question: "How were thine eyes opened?" not "Who opened thine eyes?" They wished to satisfy their curiosity, but they had no desire to hear about Christ!

"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" ( John 9:11). The witness borne by this man was simple and honest. As yet he did not have much light, but he was faithful to the light that he did have; and that is the way to obtain more. He did not speculate nor philosophize, but gave a straightforward account of what the Lord had done to him. Two things in this man's confession should be noted as accurately illustrating the witness of a newly saved soul today. First, it was the work of Christ rather than His person which had most impressed him; it was what Christ had done, rather than who He was that was emphasized in his testimony. It is so with us. The first thing we grasp is that it is the Cross-work of the Lord Jesus, His sacrificial death which put away our sins; the infinite value of His person we learn later, as the Spirit unfolds it to us through the Word. Second, in connection with the person of Christ it was His humanity, not His Deity that this man spoke of. And was it not so with us? "A man that is called Jesus"—was it not that aspect of His blessed person which first filled our vision! "A man that is called Jesus" speaks of His lowliness and humiliation. Later, as we study the Scriptures and grow in the knowledge of the Lord, we discover that the man Christ Jesus is none other than the Son of God.

"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." That precious name of "Jesus" was the most hated of all to those Jews; yet did the beggar boldly confess it. "It would manifestly have served the poor man's worldly interest to cushion the truth as to what had been done for him. He might have enjoyed the benefit of the work of Christ, and yet avoided the rough path of testimony for His name in the face of the world's hostility. He might have enjoyed his eyesight, and, at the same time, retained his place within the pale of respectable religious profession. He might have reaped the fruit of Christ's work and yet escaped the reproach of confessing His name.

"How often is this the case! Alas, how often! Thousands are very well pleased to hear of what Jesus has done; but they do not want to be identified with His outcast and rejected Name. In other words, to use a modem and very popular phrase, ‘They want to make the best of both worlds'—a sentiment from which every true-hearted lover of Christ must shrink with abhorrence—an idea of which genuine faith is wholly ignorant. It is obvious that the subject of our narrative knew nothing of any such maxim. He had had his eyes opened, and he could not but speak of it, and tell who did it, and how it was done. He was an honest man. He had no mixed motives. No sinister object, no undercurrent. Happy for him? (C.H.M.).

"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." There is one little detail here which strikingly evidences the truthfulness of this narrative, and that is one little omission in this man's description of what the Savior had done to him. It is to be noted that the beggar made no reference to Christ spitting on the ground and making clay of the spittle. Being blind he could not see what the Lord did, though he could feel what He applied! It is in just such little undesigned coincidences, such artless touches, as this, that makes the more apparent the genuineness of these Divine narratives.

"Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not" ( John 9:12). Equally commendable was the modesty of this man here. He acted up to the light that he had, but he did not go beyond it. He pretended not to possess a knowledge not yet his. O that we were all as simple and honest. When the neighbors enquired, "Is not this he that sat and begged?", he answered, "I am he"—though it is most unseemly for a Christian to advertise the sins of his unregenerate days, yet it is equally wrong for him to deny what he then was when plainly asked. Next, they had asked, "How were thine eyes opened?", and he unhesitatingly told them, not forgetting to boldly confess the name of his Benefactor. Now they said, "Where is he?", and he frankly replied, "I know not." The babe in Christ is guileless and hesitates not to acknowledge that he is ignorant of much. But it is sad to observe how pride so often comes in and destroys this simplicity and honesty. Christian reader, and especially the babe in Christ, hesitate not to avow your ignorance; when asked a question that you cannot answer, honestly reply, "I know not." Feign not a knowledge you do not possess, and have not recourse to speculation.

"They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind" ( John 9:13). "Now the former blind beggar was to become an object of special notice by the Pharisees. Very likely many of them had passed him unheeded. A blind beggar! Which of them would bestow a thought on him whose condition they regarded as an evidence that he was born in sin? But the beggar, no longer blind, was quite a different matter. Were they anxious to learn of the favor he had received in order to honor his Benefactor, or to solicit in their turn favors from Him? Quite the contrary. Their efforts were directed to discredit the miracle as being wrought by One sent from God. He who had shortly before affirmed of Himself in the Temple court, that He was God, had now opened that man's eyes. The insult to the Divine Majesty, as the Jews regarded it, in asserting His Deity, was followed by this miracle, of which the beggar in the Temple precincts was the subject. To discredit the Lord was their purpose. He was a Sabbath-breaker they declared; and therefore that miracle must be disowned as being any display of almighty power and benevolence" (C. E. Stuart).

"They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind." This was a much more severe trial for him than what he had just passed through at the hands of his neighbors. It was a real test of his faith. The opposition of the Pharisees against the Lord, and their desire to get rid of Him were well known: and their determination to excommunicate any one who confessed Him as the Christ was no secret (see verse 22). To face them, then, was indeed an ordeal. Alas that this part of the history is being repeated today. Repeated it certainly Isaiah , for the ones who will treat worst the young believer are not open infidels and atheists, but those who are loudest in their religious professions. These Pharisees have many successors: their tribe is far from being extinct, and their descendants will be found occupying the same position of religious leadership as did their fathers of old.

"And it was the Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes" ( John 9:14). There are two observations which we would make on this verse. First, our Lord here teaches us that the words of the fourth commandment "In it [the Sabbath] thou shalt not do any work," are not to be taken absolutely, that Isaiah , without any modification. By His own example He has shown us that works of necessity and also works of mercy are permissible. This 14th verse therefore reflects the glory of Christ. It was the Sabbath day: how was He occupied? First, (and note the order) He had gone to the Temple, there to minister God's Word; second, now He is seen ministering in mercy to one in need. Perfect example has He left us.

In the next place, we would call attention to the fact that our Lord knew full well that His performing of this miracle on the Sabbath would give offense to His enemies. He proceeded to its execution, nevertheless. We have another illustration of the same principle in Mark 7:2: "When they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen hands, they found fault." Though rendering perfect obedience to all the laws of God, Christ paid no regard to the commandments of men. Here too He has left us a perfect example. Let not the believer be brought into bondage by heeding the mandates of religious legislators, when their rules and regulations have no support from the Holy Scriptures.

"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" ( John 9:15). This was an honest effort on the part of these Pharisees to investigate the teaching of that blessed One whose voice they had recently heard and whose power had now been so signally displayed. They—or the influential among them at least, for in this Gospel "the Jews" ever refer to the religious leaders or their agents—had already agreed that if any did confess that Jesus was the Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue (see verse 22). Thus had they deliberately closed their eyes against the truth, and therefore it was impossible that they should now discern it, blinded by prejudice as they were. Their object here was twofold: to discredit the miracle, and to intimidate the one who had been the subject of it. Note the form of their question. They, too, asked the beggar how he had received his sight, not who was the one who had so graciously blest him.

"He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see." The enlightened beggar was not to be cowed. He had returned a straightforward answer to the inquiries of his neighbors, he is equally honest and bold now before the open enemies of Christ. His faithful testimony here teaches us an important lesson. Behind his human interrogators it is not difficult to discern the great Enemy of souls. Satan it is who hurls the fiery darts, even though he employs religious professors as his instruments. But they fall powerless upon the shield of faith, and it is this which is illustrated here. One may be the veriest babe in Christ, but so long as he walks according to the measure of light which God has granted, the Devil is powerless to harm him. It is when we quench that light, or when we are unfaithful to Christ, that we become powerless, and fall an easy prey to the Enemy. But the one before us was acting up to the light that he had, therefore the lion roared in vain against him.

"Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath day" ( John 9:16). A striking contrast is this from what has just been before us. These Pharisees had turned their backs upon the Light, and therefore was their darkness now even more profound. Devoid of spiritual discernment they were altogether incapable of determining what was a right use and lawful employment of the Sabbath and what was not. They understood not that "The sabbath was made for man" ( Mark 2:27), that Isaiah , for the benefit of his soul and the good of his body. True, the day which God blest at the beginning was to be kept holy, but it was never intended to bar out works of necessity and works of mercy, as they should have known from the Old Testament Scriptures. In thus finding fault with Christ because He had opened the eyes of this blind beggar on the Sabbath day, they did but expose their ignorance and exhibit their spiritual blindness.

"Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them" ( John 9:16). We wonder if one of those who spoke up thus was Nicodemus! The argument used here is strictly parallel with the words of that "Master in Israel" which we find in John 3:1 , 2. That we are next told, "And there was a division among them" shows that the second speakers held their ground and refused to side-in with the open enemies of our Lord. On this verse the Puritan Bullinger remarked, "All divisions are not necessarily evil, nor all concord and unity necessarily good"!

"They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes?" ( John 9:17). The Devil is powerless in his efforts to gain an advantage over the sheep of Christ. Repulsed for the moment by the unexpected friendliness toward Christ on the part of some of the Pharisees, the Enemy turned his attention once more to the beggar: "They say unto the blind man again": note the frequency with which this word is used in this passage—verses 15 , 17 , 24 , 26. The Devil's perseverance frequently puts our instability to shame.

"What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes?" A searching question was this. The faith of the beggar was now openly challenged: he must now either confess or deny his Benefactor. But he did not flinch or dissemble. Boldly he answered, "He is a prophet." Divine grace did not fail him in the hour of need, but enabled him to stand firm and witness a good confession. Blessed be His name, the grace of God is as sufficient for the youngest and feeblest as for the most mature and established.

"He said. He is a prophet" ( John 9:17). There is a decided advance here. When answering his neighbors, the beggar simply referred to Christ as, "A man that is called Jesus" (verse 11); but now he owns Him as One whose word is Divine, for a "prophet" was a mouthpiece of God. This was most blessed. At first he had been occupied solely with the work of Christ, now he is beginning to discern the glory of His person; increased intelligence was his. Nor is God arbitrary in the bestowment of this. When the believer walks faithfully according to the light which he has, more is given to him. It was so here; it is so now. This is the meaning of that verse which has perplexed so many: "Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have" ( Luke 8:18): the reference here being to light used and unused-note the "therefore" which looks back to verse 16. In Matthew's account it reads, "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance." A striking illustration of this is furnished in John 9. Light the beggar now had; and that light he let shine forth, consequently more was given to him; later, we shall see how a more abundance" was vouchsafed to him.

"He said, He is a prophet." This is not the first time we have had Christ owned as "prophet" in this Gospel. In John 4:19 we read that the woman of Samaria said to the Savior at the well, "I perceive that thou art a prophet." In John 6:14 we are told, "Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world." Once more, in John 7:40 we read, "Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the prophet." These references are in striking accord with the character and theme of this fourth Gospel. A prophet was the mouthpiece of God, and the great purpose of John's Gospel, as intimated in its opening verse, is to portray the Lord Jesus as "the Word"!

"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" ( John 9:18). How skeptical are the unregenerate! "Children in whom is no faith ( Deuteronomy 32:20) is what the Scriptures term them. A wonderful miracle had been performed, but these Jews were determined not to believe it. The simple but emphatic testimony of the one on whom it had been wrought went for nothing. What a lesson is this for the young convert. Marvelling at what the Savior has so graciously done for and in him, anxious that others should know Him for themselves, he goes forth testifying of His grace and power. Full of zeal and hope, he expects that it will be a simple matter to convince others of the reality of what the Lord has clone for him. Ah! it will not be long before his bright expectations meet with disappointment. He will soon discover something of that dreadful and inveterate unbelief which fills the hearts of his unsaved fellows. He must be shown that he has no power to convince them; that nothing but a miracle of mercy, the putting forth of invincible power by God Himself, is sufficient to overcome the enmity of the carnal mind.

"And they asked them, saying, Is this your Song of Solomon , who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?" ( John 9:19). This was a desperate move. They had been unable to intimidate the one who had been dealt with so graciously by Christ. They were unable to meet the arguments which had been made by some of the more friendly Pharisees. They now decide to summon the beggar's parents. It was their last hope. If they could succeed in getting them to deny that their son had been born blind, the miracle would be discredited. With this object in view they arraign the parents. And Satan still seeks to discredit the witness of the young Christian by getting his relatives to testify against him! This is an oft-used device of his. Let us daily seek grace from God that we may so act in the home that those nearest to us will have no just ground for condemning our profession.

"His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our Song of Solomon , and that he was born blind: But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself" ( John 9:20 , 21). How this serves to expose the folly of a wish we have often heard expressed. People say, "O that I had lived in Palestine during the days of Christ's public ministry; it had been so much easier to have believed in Him!" They suppose that if only they had witnessed some of the wonderful works of our Lord, unbelief had been impossible. How little such people know about the real nature and seat of unbelief; and how little acquainted must they be with the four Gospels. These plainly record the fact (making no effort at all either to conceal or excuse it) that again and again the Lord Jesus put forth His supernatural power, producing the most amazing effects, and yet the great majority of those who stood by were nothing more than temporarily impressed. It was so here in the passage before us. Even the parents of this man born blind believed not on Christ. They were evidently afraid of their inquisitors; and yet their answer nonplussed the Pharisees.

"These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews" ( John 9:22). They represented a large class of religious professors who surround us on every side today—in such bondage are men and women, otherwise intelligent, to religious leaders and authorities. How true it is that "the fear of man bringeth a snare." The only ones who are fearless before men are those who truly fear God. This is one of our daily needs: to cry earnestly unto the Lord that He will put His "fear" upon 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" ( John 9:22). Mark here the desperate lengths to which prejudice will carry men. They were determined not to believe. They had made up their minds that no evidence should change their opinions, that no testimony should have any weight with them. It reminds us very much of what we read of in Acts 7. At the close of Stephen's address we read that his enemies "stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord" (verse 57). This is just what these Pharisees did, and it is what many are doing today. And this is the most dangerous attitude a sinner can assume. So long as a man is honest and open-minded, there is hope for him, no matter how ignorant or vicious he may be. But when a man has deliberately turned his back upon the truth, and refuses to be influenced by any evidence, it is very rare indeed that such an one is ever brought into the light.

"Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him" ( John 9:23). Typically, this tells us that the young and tried believer must not look to man for help; his resources must be in God alone. This man might well have expected his parents to be filled with gratitude at their son's eyes being opened, that they would perceive how God had wrought a miracle of mercy upon him, and that they would readily stand by and corroborate his witness before this unfriendly tribunal. But little help did he receive from them. The onus was thrown back upon himself. And this line in the picture is not without its due significance. The young believer might well expect his loved ones to appreciate and rejoice over the blessed change they must see in him; but oftentimes they are quite indifferent if not openly antagonistic. So too with our fellow-Christians. If we look to them for help when we get in a tight place, they will generally fail us. And it is perhaps well that it should be so. Anything that really casts us upon God Himself is a blessing, even though it be disguised and appear to us a calamity at the time. Let us learn then to "have no confidence in the flesh" ( Philippians 3:3), but let our expectation be in the Lord, who will fail us not.

Let the interested student ponder the following questions:

1. What is meant by "Give God the praise" (verse 24)? Cf. Joshua 7:19.

2. Explain the first half of verse 25 so as not to conflict with verse 33.

3. What other verse in John's Gospel does the second half of verse 29 call to mind?

4. What connection is there between verse 31and what has gone before?

5. Why did Christ wait till the beggar had been "east out" (verse 34) before He revealed Himself as the Son of God (verse 35)?

6. Why are we told nothing more about the beggar after what is said in verse 38?

7. What is the meaning of verse 39? Contrast John 3:17.


Verses 24-41

Christ and the Blind Beggar (Concluded)

John 9:24-41

The following is offered as an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:—

1. The beggar challenged and his reply: verses 24 , 25.

2. The beggar cross-examined and his response: verses 26 , 27.

3. The beggar reviled: verses 28 , 29.

4. The beggar defeats his judges: verses 30-33.

5. The beggar cast out by the Pharisees, sought out by Christ: verses 34 , 35.

6. The beggar worships Christ as the Son of God: verses 36-38.

7. Christ's condemnation of the Pharisees: verses 39-41.

We arrive now at the closing scenes in this inspired narrative of the Lord's dealings with the blind beggar and the consequent hostility of the Pharisees. In it there is much that is reprehensible, but much too that is praiseworthy. The enmity of the carnal mind is again exhibited to our view; while the blessed fruit of Divine grace is presented for our admiration. The wickedness of the Pharisees finds its climax in their excommunication of the beggar; the workings of grace in his heart reaches its culmination by bringing him to the feet of the Savior as a devoted worshipper.

The passage before us records the persistent efforts of the Pharisees to shake the testimony of this one who had received his sight. Their blindness, their refusal to be influenced by the most convincing evidence, their enmity against the beggar's Benefactor, and their unjust and cruel treatment of him, vividly forecasted the treatment which the Lord Himself was shortly to receive at their hands. On the other hand, the fidelity of the beggar, his refusal to be intimidated by those in authority, his Divinely-given power to non-plus his Judges , his being cast out of Judaism, and his place as a worshipper at the feet of the Son of God on the outside, anticipated what was to be exemplified again and again in the history of the Lord's disciples following His own apprehension.

"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" ( John 9:24). The one to whom sight had been so marvelously imparted had been removed from the court of the Sanhedrin while the examination of his parents had been going on. But he is now brought in before his judges again. The examination of his parents had signally failed to either produce any discrepancy between the statements of the parents and that of their Song of Solomon , or to bring out any fact to the discredit of Christ. A final effort was therefore made now to shake the testimony of the man himself.

"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." These shameless inquisitors pretended that during his absence they had discovered something to the utter discredit of the Lord Jesus. Things had come to light, so they feigned, which proved Him to be more than an ordinary bad character—such is the force of the Greek word here for "sinner," compare its usage in Luke 7:34 , 37 , 39; 15:2; 19:7. It is evident that the Sanhedrin would lead the beggar to believe that facts regarding his Benefactor had now come to their knowledge which showed He could not be the Divinely-directed author of his healing. Therefore, they now address him in a solemn formula, identical With that used by Joshua when arraigning Achan—see Joshua 7:19. They adjured him by the living God to tell the whole truth. They demanded that he forswear himself, and join with them in some formal statement which was dishonoring to Christ. It was a desperate and blasphemous effort at intimidation.

"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" ( John 9:25). It is refreshing to turn for a moment from the unbelief and enmity of the Pharisees to mark the simplicity and honesty of this babe in Christ. The Latin Vulgate renders the first clause of this verse, "If he is a sinner I know not." The force of his utterance seems to be this: ‘I do not believe that He is a sinner; I will not charge Him with being one; I refuse to unite with you in saying that He is.' Clear it is that the contents of this verse must not be explained in a way so as to clash with what we have in verse 33 , where the beggar owned that Christ was "of God." The proper way is to view it in the light of the previous verse. There we find the Pharisees adjuring him to join with them in denouncing Christ as a sinner. This the beggar flatly refused to do, and refused in such a way as to show that he declined to enter into a controversy with his judges about the character of Christ.

"Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see." This was tantamount to saying, ‘Your charge against the person of Christ is altogether beside the point. You are examining me in connection with what Christ has done for me, therefore I refuse to turn aside and discuss His person.' The Pharisees were trying to change the issue, but the beggar would not be side-tracked. He held them to the indisputable fact that a miracle of mercy had been wrought upon him. Thereupon he boldly declared again what the Lord had done for him. That his eyes had been opened could not be gainsaid: all the argument and attacks of the Pharisees could not shake him. Let us not only admire his fearlessness and truthfulness, but seek grace to emulate him.

"One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see." These are words which every born-again person can apply to himself. There are many things of which the young believer has little knowledge: there are many points in theology and prophecy upon which he has no light: but "one thing" he does know—he knows that the eyes of his understanding have been opened. He knows this because he has seen himself as a lost sinner, seen his imminent danger, seen the Divinely-appointed refuge from the wrath to come, seen the sufficiency of Christ to save him. Can a man repent and not know it? can he believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to the saving of his soul and not know it? can he pass from death unto life, be delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Song of Solomon , and not know it? We do not believe it. The saints of God are a people that "know." They know Whom they have believed ( 2 Timothy 1:12). They know that their Redeemer liveth ( Job 19:26). They know the), have passed from death unto life ( 1 John 3:14). They know that all things work together for their good ( Romans 8:28). They know that when the Lord Jesus shall appear they shall be like Him ( 1 John 3:2). Christianity treats not of theories and hypotheses, but of certainties and realities. Rest not, dear reader, till you can say, "One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see."

"Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?" ( John 9:26). Unable to get this man to deny the miracle which had been wrought upon him, unable to bring him to entertain an evil opinion of Christ, his judges inquire once more about the manner in which he had been healed. This inquiry of theirs was merely a repetition of their former question—see verse 15. It is evident that their object in repeating this query was the hope that he would vary in his account and thus give them grounds for discrediting his testimony. They were seeking to "shake his evidence": they hoped he would contradict himself.

"Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?" This illustrates again how that unbelief is occupied with the modus operandi rather than with the result itself. How you were brought to Christ—the secondary causes, where you were at the time, the instrument God employed—is of little moment. The one thing that matters is whether or not the Lord has opened the sin-blinded eyes of your heart. Whether you were saved in the fields or in a church, whether you were on your knees at a "mourner's bench" or upon your back in bed, is a detail of very little value. Faith is occupied not with the manner in which you held out your hand to receive God's gift, but with Christ Himself! But unbelief is occupied with the "how" rather than with the "whom."

"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?" ( John 9:27). With honest indignation he turns upon his unscrupulous inquisitors and refuses to waste time in repeating what he had already told them so simply and plainly. It is quite useless to discuss the things of God with those whose hearts are manifestly closed against Him. When such people continue pressing their frivolous or blasphemous inquiries, only one course remains open, and that is "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit" ( Proverbs 26:5). This Divine admonition,, has puzzled some, because in the preceding verse we are told, Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him." But the seeming contradiction is easily explained. When God says, "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him," the meaning Isaiah , I must not answer a fool in a foolish manner, for this would make me a sharer of his folly. But when God says, "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit," the meaning Isaiah , that I must answer him in a way to expose his folly, lest he imagine that he has succeeded in propounding a question which is unanswerable. This is exactly what the beggar did here in the lesson: he answered in such a way as to make evident the folly and unbelief of his judges.

"Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples" ( John 9:28). The word "reviled" is hardly strong enough to express the original. The Greek word signifies that the Pharisees hurled their anathemas against him by pronouncing him an execrable fellow. How true to life! Unable to fairly meet his challenge, unable to justify their course, they resort to villification. To have recourse to invectives is ever the last resort of a defeated opponent. Whenever you find men calling their opponents hard names, it is a sure sign that their own cause has been defeated.

"They reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple." The man of the world has little difficulty in locating a genuine "disciple" of Christ. This man had not formally avowed himself as such, yet the Pharisees had no difficulty in deciding that he was one. His whole demeanor was so different from the cringing servility which they were accustomed to receive from their own followers, and the wisdom with which he had replied to all their questions, stamped him plainly as one who had learned of the God-man. So it is today. Real Christians need no placards on their backs or buttons on their coat lapels in order to inform their fellows that they belong to the Lord Jesus. If I am walking as a child of light, men will soon exclaim, "Thou art his disciple.'' The Lord enable writer and reader to give as clear and ringing a testimony in our lives as this beggar did.

"But we are Moses' disciples." A lofty boast was this, but as baseless as haughty. The Lord had already told them, "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me" ( John 5:46). This too has its present-day application. Multitudes are seeking shelter behind high pretensions and honored names. Many there are who term themselves Calvinists that Calvin would be ashamed to own. Many call themselves Lutherans who neither manifest the faith nor emulate the works of the great Reformer. Many go under the name of Baptists to whom our Lord's forerunner, were he here in the flesh, would say, "Flee from the wrath to come." And countless numbers claim to be Protestants who scarcely know what the term itself signifies. It is one thing to say "We are disciples," it is quite another to make demonstration of it.

"We know that God spake unto Moses" ( John 9:29). Such knowledge was purely intellectual, something which they venerated as a religious tradition handed down by their forebears; but it neither moved their hearts nor affected their lives. And that is the real test of a man's orthodoxy. An orthodox creed, intellectually apprehended, counts for nothing if it fails to mould the life of the one professing it. I may claim to regard the Bible as the inspired and infallible Word of God, yea, and be ready to defend this fundamental article of the faith; I may refuse to heed the infidelistic utterances of the higher critics, and pride myself on my doctrinal soundness—as did these Pharisees. But of what worth is this if I know not what it means to tremble at that Word, and if my walk is not regulated by its precepts? None at all! Rather will such intellectual light serve only to increase my condemnation.

"As for this fellow, we know not from whence he is" ( John 9:29). Proofs went for nothing. The testimony of this man and the witness of his parents had been spread before these Pharisees, yet they believed not. Ah! faith does not come that way. Hearing the testimony of God's saints will no more regenerate lost sinners than listening to the description of a dinner I ate will feed some other hungry man. That is one reason why the writer has no patience with "testimony meetings": another Isaiah , because he finds no precedent for them in the Word of God. But this beggar had faith, and his faith came as the result of being made the personal subject of the mighty operation of God. Nothing short of this avails. Sinners may witness miracles as Pharaoh did; they may listen to the testimony of a believer as these Pharisees; they may be terrified by the convulsions of nature, but none of these things will ever lead a single sinner to believe in Christ. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" ( Romans 10:17)—by the Word applied in the omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit.

"As for this fellow, we know not from whence he is." How inconsistent is unbelief! In the seventh chapter of this Gospel we find the Jews refusing to believe on Christ because they declared they did know whence He was. Hear them, Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is" ( John 7:27). But now these Pharisees object against Christ, "We know not from whence he is." Thus do those who reject the truth of God contradict themselves.

"The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he Isaiah , and yet he hath opened mine eyes" ( John 9:30). Quick to seize the acknowledgement of the ignorance as to whence Christ came, the beggar turned it against them. Though he spoke in the mildest of terms yet the stinging import of his words is evident. It was as though he had said, "You who profess yourselves fully qualified to guide the people on all points, and yet in the dark on a matter like this!" A poor beggar he might be, and as such cut off from many of the advantages they had enjoyed, nevertheless, he knew what they did not—he knew that Christ was "of God" (verse 33)! How true it is that God reveals things to babes in Christ which He hides from the wise and prudent! hides because they are "wise"—wise in their own conceits. Nothing shuts out Divine illumination so effectively as prejudice and pride: nothing tends to blind the heart more than egotism. "If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise" ( 1 Corinthians 3:18); "Proud, knowing nothing" ( 1 Timothy 6:4).

"Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth" ( John 9:31). This verse like many another must not be divorced from its setting. Taken absolutely, these words "God heareth not sinners,'' are not true. God "heard" the cry of Ishmael ( Genesis 21:17); He "heard" the groanings of the children of Israel in Egypt, long before He redeemed them ( Exodus 2:24); He "heard" and answered the prayer of the wicked Manasseh ( 2 Chronicles 33:10-13). But reading this verse in the light of its context its meaning is apparent. The Pharisees had said of Christ, "We know that this man is a sinner" (verse 24). Now says the beggar, "We know that God heareth not sinners," which was one of their pet doctrines. Thus, once more, did the one on trial turn the word of his judges against themselves. If Christ were an impostor as they avowed, then how came it that God has assisted Him to work this miracle?

"Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind" ( John 9:32). This was his reply to their statement that they were Moses' disciples. He reminds them that not even in Moses' day, not from the beginning of the world had such a miracle been performed as had been wrought on him. It is a significant fact that among all the miracles wrought by Moses, never did he give sight to a blind Prayer of Manasseh , nor did any of the prophets ever open the eyes of one born blind. That was something that only Christ did!

"If this man were not of God, he could do nothing." This beggar was now endowed with a wisdom to which these learned Pharisees were strangers. How often is this same principle illustrated in the Scriptures. The Hebrew lad from the dungeon, not the wise men of Egypt, was the one to interpret the dream of Pharaoh. Daniel , not the wise men of Babylon, deciphered the mysterious writing on the walls of Belshazzar's palace. Unlettered fishermen, not the scribes, were taken into the confidences of the Savior. So here, a mouth and wisdom were given to this babe in Christ which the doctors of the Sanhedrin were unable to resist.

"If this man were not of God, he could do nothing." What a beautiful illustration is this of Proverbs 4:18!—"But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." First, this beggar had referred to his Benefactor as "a man that is called Jesus" (verse 11). Second, he had owned Him as "a propehet" (verse 17). And now he declares that Christ was a man of God." There is also a lesson here pointed for us: as we walk according to the light we have, God gives us more. Here is the reason why so many of God's children are in the dark concerning much of His truth—they are not faithful to the light they do have. May God exercise both writer and reader about this so that we may earnestly seek from Him the grace which we so sorely need to make us faithful and true to all we have received of Him.

"They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us?" ( John 9:34). Alas, how tragically does history repeat itself. These men were too arrogant to receive anything from this poor beggar. They were graduates from honored seats of learning, therefore was it far too much beneath their dignity to be instructed by this unsophisticated disciple of Christ. And how many a preacher there is today, who in his fancied superiority, scorns the help which ofttimes a member of his congregation could give him. Glorying in their seminary education, they cannot allow that an ignorant layman has light on the Scriptures which they do not possess. Let a Spirit-taught layman seek to show the average preacher "the way of the Lord more perfectly," and he must not be surprised if his pastor says—if not in so many words, plainly by his bearing and actions—"dost thou teach us?" How marvellously pertinent is this two-thousand-year-old Book to our own times!

"And they cast him out" ( John 9:34). "Happy man! He had followed the light, in simplicity and sincerity. He had borne an honest testimony to the truth. His eyes had been opened to see and his lips to testify. It was no matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, but simple truth, and for that they cast him out. He had never troubled them in the days of his blindness and beggary. Perhaps some of them may have proudly and ostentatiously tossed him a trifling alms as they walked past, thus getting a name amongst their fellows for benevolence; but now this blind beggar had become a powerful witness. Words of truth now flowed from his lips—truth far too powerful and piercing for them to stand, so they ‘thrust him out.' Happy, thrice happy man! again we say, This was the brightest moment in his career. These men, though they knew it not, had done him a real service. They had thrust him out into the most honored position of identification with Christ as the despised and rejected One" (C.H.M.).

"And they cast him out." How cruelly and unjustly will religious professors treat the real people of God! When these Pharisees failed to intimidate this man they excommunicated him from the Jewish church. To an Israelite the dread of excommunication was second only to the fear of death: it cut him off from all the outward privileges of the commonwealth of Israel, and made him an object of scorn and derision. But all through the ages some of the faithful witnesses of Christ have met with similar or even worse treatment. Excommunication, persecution, imprisonment, torture, death, are the favorite weapons of ecclesiastical tyrants. Thus were the Waldenses treated; so Luther, Bunyan, Ridley, the Huguenots; and Song of Solomon , in great probability, will it be again in the near future.

"And they cast him out." Ah! Christian reader, if you did as this man you would know something of his experience. If you bore faithful testimony for Christ by lip and life; if you refused to walk arm-in-arm with the world, and lived here as a stranger and pilgrim; if you declined to follow the customs of the great religious crowd, and regulated your walk by the Word, you would be very unpopular—perhaps the very thing that you most fear! You would be cut off from your former circle of friends, as not wanted; cut off because your ways condemned theirs. Yea, if true to God's Word you might be turned out of your church as an heretic or stirrer up of strife.

"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?" ( John 9:35). This is indeed precious. No sooner had the Sanhedrin excommunicated the beggar than the Savior sought him out. How true it is that those who honor God are honored by Him. Faithfully had this man walked according to his measure of light, now more is to be given him. Great is the compassion of Christ. He knew full well the weight of the trial which had fallen upon this newly-born soul, and He proved Himself "a very present help in trouble." He cheered this man with gracious words. Yea, He revealed Himself more fully to him than to any other individual, save the Samaritan adulteress. He plainly avowed His deity: He presented Himself in His highest glory as "the Son of God."

"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?" The connection between this and the previous verse should be carefully noted: the beggar was "cast out" before he knew Christ as the Son of God. The Nation as such denied this truth, and only the despised few on the outside of organized Judaism had it revealed to them. There is a message here greatly needed by many of the Lord's people today who are inside Prayer of Manasseh -made systems where much of the truth of God is denied. True, if they are the Lord's, they are saved; but not to them will Christ reveal Himself, while they continue in a position which is dishonoring to Him. It is the Holy Spirit's office to take of the things of Christ and to show them unto us. But while we are identified with and lend our support to that which grieves Him, He will not delight our souls with revelations of the excellencies of our Savior. Nowhere in Scripture has God promised to honor those who dishonor Him. God is very jealous of the honor of His Son and He withholds many spiritual blessings from those who fellowship that which is an offense to Him. On the outside with Christ is infinitely preferable to being on the inside with worldly professors who know Him not. The time is already arrived when many of God's people are compelled to choose between these two alternatives. Far better to be cast out because of faithfulness to Christ, or to "come out" ( 2 Corinthians 6:17) because of others' unfaithfulness to Christ, than to remain in the Laodicean system which is yet to be "spued out" by Christ ( Revelation 3:16). Whatever loss may be entailed by leaving unscriptural and worldly churches, it will be more than compensated by the Lord. It was so with this beggar.

"He answered and said, Who is Hebrews , Lord, that I might believe on him?" ( John 9:36). It is indeed beautiful to mark the spirit of this man in the presence of Christ. Before the Sanhedrin he was bold as a lion, but before the Son of God he is meek and lowly. Here he is seen addressing Him as "Lord." These graces, seemingly so conflicting, are ever found together. Wherever there is uncompromising boldness toward men, there is humility before God: it is the God-fearing man who is fearless before the Lord's enemies.

"And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee" ( John 9:37). This is one of the four instances in this Gospel where the Lord Jesus expressly declared His Divine Sonship. In verse 25 He foretold that "the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." Here He says "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?... it is he that talketh with thee." In John 10:36 He asked "Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?" In John 11:4 He told His disciples "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." Nowhere in the other Gospels does He explicitly affirm that He was the Son of God. John's record of each of these four utterances of the Savior is in beautiful accord with the special theme and design of his Gospel.

"And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him" ( John 9:38). What a lovely climax is this in the spiritual history of the blind beggar! How it illustrates the fact that when God begins a good work He continues and completes it. All through the sacred narrative here the experiences of this man exemplify the history of each soul that is saved by grace. At first, seen in his wretchedness and helplessness: sought out by the Lord: pointed to that which speaks of the Word: made the subject of the supernatural operation of God, sight imparted. Then given opportunity to testify to his acquaintances of the merciful work which had been wrought upon him. Severely tested by the Lord's enemies, Hebrews , nevertheless, witnessed a good confession. Denied the support of his parents, he is cast back the more upon God. Arraigned by the religious authorities, and boldly answering them according to the light he had, more was given him. Confounding his opponents, he is reviled by them. Confessing that Christ was of God, he is east out of the religious systems of his day. Now sought out by the Savior, he is taught the excellency of His person which results in him taking his place at the feet of the Son of God as a devoted worshipper. And here, most suitably, the Holy Spirit leaves him, for it is there he will be forever—a worshipper in the presence of the One who did so much for him. Truly naught but Divine wisdom could have combined with this historical narrative an accurate portrayal of the representative experiences of an elect soul.

"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" ( John 9:39). "This is deeply solemn! For judgment I am come into this world.' How is this? Did He not come to seek and to save that which was lost? So He Himself tells us ( Luke 19:10), why then speak of ‘judgment'? The meaning is simply this: the object of His mission was salvation; the moral effect of His life was judgment. He judged no one, and yet He judged every one.

"It is well to see this effect of the character and life of Christ down here. He was the light of the world, and this light acted in a double way. It convicted and converted, it judged and it saved. Furthermore it dazzled, by its heavenly brightness, all those who thought they saw; while, at the same time, it lightened all those who really felt their moral and spiritual blindness. He came not to Judges , but to save; and yet when come, He judged every Prayer of Manasseh , and put every man to the test. He was different from all around Him, as light in the midst of darkness; and yet He saved all who accepted the judgment and took their true place.

"The same thing is observed when we contemplate the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God... But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God' ( 1 Corinthians 1:18 , 23 , 24). Looked at from a human point of view, the cross presented a spectacle of weakness and foolishness. But, looked at from a Divine point of view, it was the exhibition of power and Wisdom of Solomon , ‘The Jew', looking at the cross through the hazy medium of traditionary religion stumbled over it; and ‘the Greek', looking at it from the fancied heights of philosophy, despised it as a contemptible thing. But the faith of a poor sinner, looking at the cross from the depths of conscious guilt and need, found in it a Divine answer to every question, a Divine supply for every need. The death of Christ, like His life, judged every Prayer of Manasseh , and yet it saves all those who accept the judgment and take their true place before God" (C.H.M.). This was all announced from the beginning: "And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel" ( Luke 2:34).

"And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth" ( John 9:40 , 41). This receives explanation in John 15:22-24: "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak (excuse) for their sin. He that hateth Me hateth My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father." The simple meaning then of these words of Christ to the Pharisees is this: "If you were sensible of your blindness and really desired light, if you would take this place before Me, salvation would be yours and no condemnation would rest upon you. But because of your pride and self-sufficiency, because you refuse to acknowledge your undone condition, your guilt remaineth." How strikingly this confirms our interpretation of verse 6 and the sequel. The blind man made to see illustrates those who accept God's verdict of man's lost condition; the self-righteous Pharisees who refused to bow to the Lord's decision that they were "condemned already'' ( John 3:18), continued in their blindness and sin.

Let the interested student carefully ponder the following questions on John 10:1-10:—

1. What is the "sheepfold" of verse 1?

2. What is "the door" by which the shepherd enters the sheepfold? (verse 2).

3. Who is "the porter" of verse 3?

4. Leadeth the sheep "out of" what? (verse 3).

5. What is the meaning of "I am the door of the sheep" (verse 7)?

6. What entirely different line of thought does "I am the door" of verse 9 give us?

7. Who is "the thief" of verse 10?

 


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Bibliography Information
Pink, A.W. "Commentary on John 9:4". "A.W. Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/awp/john-9.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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