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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

John 9

Verse 1

This whole chapter is devoted to the healing of a man born blind, the sixth of the seven signs, and to the discussions afterward which derived from the impact of so great a wonder upon the man himself, his parents, the neighbors, and the religious hierarchy. Presented with remarkable fullness of detail, this great sign, in addition to being a witness of Jesus' deity, was also designed as a type of Jesus' saving men from their sins.


And as he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. (John 9:1)

The length of the time-lapse between this and the preceding chapters is uncertain. John wrote long after the events narrated, and he did not always give the exact chronology of the events recorded.

As he passed by ... Many of life's greatest opportunities occur unexpectedly and incidentally to life's normal progression.

He saw a man ... Jesus saw the human tragedy beneath the beggar's shirt. When men look upon each other they are inclined to see a doctor, a farmer, a rich man, or a beggar, etc.; but Jesus always looks upon the man himself.

Blind from his birth ... This was mentioned because healing of the congenitally blind has ever been impossible for men.

Verse 2

And his disciples asked him, saying, Who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind?

A strange mixture of truth and error prompted this question. The universal instinct that hails all sorrow and disease as the consequence of sin is correct, all of such things deriving, in the last analysis, from the debacle in Eden; but it is not true that every specific instance of handicap, disease, and sorrow should be invariably ascribed to the individual sin of the sufferer. As Paul stated it, "Death reigned ... even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression" (Romans 5:14).

Without regard to such truth, the apostles were quite ready to blame this man's blindness upon himself, or if not upon him, then upon his parents. It seems ridiculous to us that prenatal sin could be committed; but, as Dummelow noted:

The disciples thought that possibly the man had sinned, either in a previous state of existence (in accordance with the doctrine of transmigration of souls), or more probably as an infant before birth. To the Jews who attributed intelligence to unborn children (Genesis 25:22-26; Luke 1:41), this last was a natural idea.[1]

According to Hendriksen, the Jewish Rabbis held that Esau had tried to kill Jacob in the womb, before either was born.[2] This writer rejects the idea that the apostles of Jesus believed either of those monstrous fantasies. Although even Calvin and Beza thought that they had transmigration of souls in view,[3] there is no evidence whatever of the apostles entertaining any such notions, the basic assumption throughout the entire Bible having always been that "the body" is the soul's unique instrument (2 Corinthians 5:10).

The possibility suggested by the apostles to the effect that the sin of the man's parents might have caused his blindness was certainly not unreasonable; but, even so, if that had been the case, no moral blame would have fallen upon the blind son. The mistake of the apostles here was that of imputing blame where none existed. Both the man and his parents were declared by Jesus to have been guilty of nothing which might have caused the blindness. Therefore, one must hold those apostles guilty of a cruel and unfeeling question. They were like millions today who think that every sufferer and every victim of crime, disease, disaster, or calamity has in some manner DESERVED the evil that came upon him.

It was that same universal prejudice that armed the friends of Job against him with their bold accusations of sins foreign to the holy nature of Job, and inspired the accusations of murder against Paul by the citizens of Malta (Acts 28:4). The reasons underlying this disastrous human prejudice are apparently psychological outcroppings of man's innate selfishness and pride. Ryle said of it:

It has the advantage of rendering it needless to weep with them that weep. It saves a man of the obligation, when he sees heavy affliction, of smiting his breast and saying, "God be merciful to me, a sinner." It gives the natural man the comfortable feeling that he is so much better than the sufferer, as he is the more fortunate.[4]

Christ taught here the fact of undeserved suffering. This is one of the great problems, and the Scriptures shed this light upon it. Jesus said that the rains and floods beat upon both houses, the one on the rock and the one on the sand (Matthew 7:25). God makes his sun to shine on the just and the unjust. Time and chance happen unto all men (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Therefore, may those whose child was born handicapped, or only to die: and those unfortunates whose lives have been overwhelmed with disease and sufferings; and all whose lot has been to walk in weakness, pain, and humiliation - may all of them take heart. Christ sees and knows; and, for many of them, perhaps it is true that they suffer that "the works of God should be manifest in them"!

[1] J. R. Dummelow, A Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 790.

[2] William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel according to John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1961), II, p. 73.

[3] Ibid.

[4] J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan), p. 583.

Verse 3

Jesus answered, Neither did this man sin, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be manifest in him.

Jesus' reply did not mean that either the man or his parents were sinless but that they were guilty of no sin that had caused the blindness. The great problem of why some should be born handicapped, and others not, or why disasters should overwhelm some and not others, and why natural disasters like storms, floods, and earthquakes should destroy some and not others - all such things, affecting in their aggregate every life on earth, are not parceled out to men on a measure-for-measure basis related to the number and degree of their sins. All such elemental things are related to man's constitution and to his environment by the all-wise God who created both man and the world where he lives; and they have the design of encouraging all men to take account of the power of God in their lives. The reason would seem to be that God intended that man should never get too cozy, as far as his hope of tomorrow is concerned. "Ye know not what shall be on the morrow" (James 4:14) is the sentence of God written over and above all human designs.

That the works of God should be manifest in him ... The truth that God has a plan for every person ever born shines in this. That child was born blind in anticipation of the wonder wrought in this episode. What a lifetime of agony the parents of the man born blind had endured! How often had they been the butt of scorn or open charge of sin; and yet how wrong they were who felt no pity and, in their smug self-righteousness, slandered and criticized them! God had a plan for the life of that blind man that led at last to light and glory and salvation at the pool of Siloam.

Verse 4

We must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work.

The malignant opposition of his foes was in the Lord's mind here. His day of life on earth was running to its close. The autumn had fallen upon the hills of Judaea, and the winter was coming on; and the times were hastening to that April morning when his quivering flesh would be nailed to the tree. Indeed "the night" was not far away.

The urgency Jesus felt is here too. There was so much to do and so little time. Every man, like Jesus, should confront each new day in the consciousness that "on my day of life the night is falling." Like him, may we all fill every fleeting hour with love and labor for mankind.

Verse 5

When I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

This is the second of the great "I am's" of John. For the list of these, see under John 8:12.

When I am in the world ... has the meaning of "as long as I am in the world" (KJV), an admission that there would come a time when Jesus would be no longer on earth; but that has reference only to his physical life. Such was the glory of Christ that, through the preaching of his apostles, the light would continue to shine unto all generations.


The world cannot do without Jesus. He is as vital and necessary as the sun itself is to the physical world. All energy and life derive from him. See further discussion of this under John 8:12.

I. This metaphor reveals Jesus as God. Only of one identified with deity could it be said of him that he is the light of the world. The Old Testament made it clear that only God is light: "Jehovah is my light and my salvation" (Psalms 27:1); and an apostle identified God as "the Father of lights" (James 1:17). Therefore, when Jesus said, "I am the light of the world," he forever lifted himself above the category of mere mortality. Only a lunatic, or the world's true Saviour, could sincerely have said such a thing as this; and the receding centuries have left no doubt that the Redeemer said it and that he is indeed the world's light. He was God come in the flesh.

II. This metaphor teaches the sinless and undefiled nature of Christ, light being the only thing that may fall upon rottenness and corruption and itself remain uncontaminated. The Light of the world shines upon the wretched ugliness of our shameless world, saves it, changes it, and lifts it up, but is not himself contaminated. No matter how squalid the room in which the light shines, the light remains pure. Peter wrote:

And we have the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place (Greek: squalid room), until the day dawn and the Day-star arise in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19).

III. This light obligates all who see it. Men may be pardoned for stumbling in darkness; but those who close their eyes against the light commit a sin against nature as well as against God. The obligation imposed by the presence of light may not be assumed or rejected by men, for the very existence of light carries the inherent requirement that men shall walk in it. Jesus summed it up thus: "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in me may not abide in darkness" (John 12:46).

IV. Jesus is the light of the world eternally, for even in heaven, "the Lamb is the light" of the eternal city (Revelation 21:23). Bonar's hymn catches the mystery of this thought perfectly:

Light of the world, forever, ever shining, There is no change in thee. True light of life, all joy and health enshrining, Thou canst not fade nor flee.

V. This metaphor is an apt figure of the universality of the gospel, there being no place on earth where light cannot reach. Similarly, the saving message of Christ shines throughout all the earth. The witness of the calendar, of Christendom, of history, of the progress of civilization, etc. - imperfect as the witness surely is, it is nevertheless undeniably universal. As John said of Jesus, he is "even the light which lighteth every man" (John 1:6-9).

VI. Men are commanded to respond to the light. They should believe on the light and become sons of light (John 12:36); they should walk in the light (1 John 1:6,7); they should put on the whole armor of light (Romans 13:12); and they should arise and shine in the reflected glory of the light (Isaiah 60:1). The import of all this is that all men should exhibit an obedient faith in Christ.

Verse 6

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle, and anointed his eyes with the clay.

Why did Jesus do this? We may never know, but it might have been to emphasize his humility. He did not affect any professional airs, mutter mysterious words, or pass his hands over the man's eyes; and, by the use of a means so simple, he forever removed the idea that he might have used some powerful medicine. The anointing with clay also had the function of emphasizing the blind man's condition. Even a casual glance at his mud-anointed eyes would eloquently reveal his handicap to any who chanced to see him. All so-called rationalization of this miracle based on the alleged efficacy of certain kinds of clay should be rejected. If there had been any curative powers in Jerusalem dirt, a market would have been established for it, and it would have been exported all over the world.

Verse 7

And said unto him, Go wash in the pool of Siloam (which is by interpretation, Sent). He went away therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

The big thing in this verse, aside from the loving mercy of the Saviour's awesome power, is the blind man's obedience. Let it be supposed, for a moment, that this blind man exhibited the same attitude prevalent in our own times. Suppose he had said, "Now look, Jesus, this pool of Siloam business is not really necessary, you know. I believe in you and will just take my eyesight right here where I stand; and, after I am able to see clearly, then I will go and wash, like you said, just to show I trust you. Certainly, water cannot cure eyesight; so I'll just take it here and now by faith only! Of course, I'll go and wash later to show I trust you."

What would have resulted from such an attitude? Can anyone doubt that he would have died as blind as he was born, if he had responded with any such proposal? To his honor and exceedingly great reward, he did not claim a blessing while denying the condition upon which it was promised. "He went away, therefore, and washed, and came seeing."

The analogy in the foregoing will not be lost on a student of the word of God. Blindness, from the most ancient times, has been held as a type of sin. This does not mean that a blind man is a sinner but that the terrible handicap is a forceful illustration of sinful condition. Jesus said, "If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Luke 6:39). See also 2 Peter 1:9 and Revelation 3:18. Thus, blindness is a Scriptural type of sin; and the detail of this sixth sign's deployment upon the sacred page compels the conclusion that this blind man's healing must be construed as typical of the far greater wonder of healing men of sin. Most of John's signs are thus to be understood in their dual significance in both the physical and spiritual sectors. Therefore, we shall note the bearing of this sign upon the forgiveness of sin.

Salvation from sin is specifically promised by Christ, thus: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). This is as simple and easily understood as "Go wash in the pool of Siloam." Why then should Mark's record of Jesus' promise be hard to understand, and why all the quibble about whether water can wash away sins? Of course, it cannot; and, since the Dark Ages, no one has ever believed that it could, But, if a man can understand why the blind man received his sight after washing in the pool of Siloam, and wholly apart from any power of those waters, and without in the least supposing that the waters of the pool had anything to do with his healing, then such a person should have no difficulty with the analogy of the way one is saved in the washing of the waters of baptism, when he is baptized into Christ, and yet without supposing the water had any efficacy.

The blind man was healed in the act of washing in Siloam. He did not go seeing and then wash; but he went and washed and came seeing.


Go wash in the pool of Siloam ... Peloubet identified the name Siloam with its earlier name Shiloah (Isaiah 8:6).[5] John's interpretation of the name as "one sent" makes it a reference to the Messiah who was the "one sent" from God. Therefore, the word Shiloh (Genesis 49:10), which was the name Jacob gave the Messiah, appears to be the original form of the name Siloam. Thus, in Scripture, this name had three forms, Shiloh, Shiloah, and Siloam, all of them laden with an immense weight of symbolism pointing to the Saviour of the world.

"Shiloh" was the poetic name of the Messiah; and Isaiah had made the soft waters of this humble water hole a metaphor of the peaceful government of the Lord as contrasted with the rapacious government of Assyria, the latter being compared to the rampage of Euphrates at flood stage. It was from this pool that the golden pitcher of water was brought to pour out in the temple court during the feast of tabernacles (John 7:37); and, in the presence of those waters from Siloam, Jesus invited all to "come unto me and drink!"

The filling of Siloam came through an underground conduit that entered at the bottom, causing the waters to rise silently, hence Isaiah's reference to "the waters that go softly." Jesus' choice of this pool as the scene of one of his mightiest deeds more than justified the Messianic expectations so long associated with the sacred word Shiloh and its derivatives.

Verse 8

The neighbors therefore, and they that saw him aforetime, that he was a beggar, said, Is not this he that begged?

For thirty years, or more, the blind person of that community had been observed by all; and suddenly he was whole, able to see as well as anyone! Such a wonder set the whole community in a ferment. Everybody knew the blind beggar with his cup in a conspicuous place every day; and the amazed neighbors' question of his identity, probably resulted from the change in the man's personality caused by the marvelous gift of sight. Despite the change his identity was absolutely certain.

Verse 9

Others said, It is he: others said, No, but he is like him. He said, I am he.

Even those with any uncertainty confessed a positive likeness to the beggar they remembered. The man confirmed his identity, already made certain by the more perceptive who recognized him without any corroboration.

Verse 10

They said therefore unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered, The man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to Siloam and wash: so I went away and washed, and I received my sight.

This exchange with the neighbors probably occurred after the man had seen his parents but still only a short while after his healing. His explanation was simple and direct. Jesus had commanded; he obeyed and received his sight.

Verse 12

And they said unto him, Where is he? He saith, I know not.

The blind man's naming Jesus as his healer confronted the people with a dilemma. Many knew of the plot to kill Jesus and were certain that any acceptance of him would result in their excommunication. Perhaps many of them thought, therefore, that with such a sign as this to report, they might be able to persuade their leaders to accept him, thus resolving their own uncertainty.

Verse 13

They bring to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.

This event was before a gathering of the entire hierarchy: (1) because the neighbors' action presupposes an assembly in a stated place known in advance by them, and (2) because "they cast him out" (of the synagogue) indicates a formal and official meeting (John 9:34). That such a full-dress meeting of the Sanhedrin occurred was a testimony of the priority which the religious leaders gave to the problem of Jesus' growing power and influence among the people; and such an astounding miracle wrought under their very noses and supported by irrefutable evidence would have topped any agenda they might have had.

Verse 14

Now it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Again therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he received his sight. And he said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and I see.

Now it was the sabbath ... is written here in anticipation of the objection that would be stated in John 9:16. Of course, the Pharisees had already heard the full story, but they moved here to establish the facts through the testimony of the subject himself. Although the name of Jesus dominated that hearing, neither the healed man nor the examiners mentioned it, suggesting that they had forbidden any mention of the Lord's name.

Verse 16

Some therefore of the Pharisees said, This man is not from God, because he keepeth not the sabbath. But others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such things? And there was a division among them.

The bitter schism in the Sanhedrin itself dominates this part of the narrative, a division mentioned in John 7:43, and John 10:19 also. The enemies of Jesus were the dominant majority; and it is clear that they were moving to silence the contrary elements in their own body as well as against any recognition of Jesus' miracle.

Because he keepeth not the sabbath ... The fault of their reasoning here derived from their falsely equating their own traditions of keeping the sabbath with God's true law of keeping it. As Hendriksen noted:

The Pharisees identified their own trifling, hair-splitting sabbath regulations with the law of God. Hence ... "All people who are from God keep our sabbath regulations." ... Because these premises were false, the conclusion was no longer dependable.[6]

Once again in the New Testament is revealed the incredible damage of mingling human traditions with God's word. All of those petty, and even silly, little rules and regulations which they had added to God's true regulations, appear here, not as harmless little embellishments of sacred law, but as flagrant violations of it. The confusion of those men in identifying their own legislation as God's law blinded their eyes to the Sun of righteousness when he arose with healing in his wings!

It is alarming that, even today, the old Pharisaical falsehood that Jesus broke the sabbath is alleged in modern pulpits. Christ kept the law of God perfectly, all of it, not excepting even a jot or a tittle; and yet, in spite of this, such is the mystery of evil, that the old lie of the Pharisees still surfaces in the assemblies of the saints (see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 12:2).

Verse 17

They say therefore unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, in that he opened thine eyes? And he said, He is a prophet.

This was not an admission of the miracle but has the meaning, "Seeing that you say he opened your eyes, who do you say he is?"

He is a prophet ... Some progression in the man's thinking appears in this. He referred to him first as "the man that is called Jesus," and now as "a prophet," reminding one of the progressive enlightenment of the woman of Samaria in John 4.

This recognition of Jesus as a prophet carried a strong negative thrust against the Pharisees' charge of sabbath-breaking. Dummelow pointed out that "prophets had authority over the sabbath."[7] Likewise Clarke stated that "According to a Jewish maxim, a prophet might dispense with the observance of the sabbath."[8] Thus, the blind man refuted the Pharisees' charge; but they would not allow to Jesus even the status of a prophet.

[7] J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 791.

[8] Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (London: Mason and Lane, 1837), Vol. V, p. 586.

Verse 18

The Jews therefore did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and had received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight, and asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?

Such unbelief on the part of the majority of the Sanhedrin suggests the quotation ascribed to Voltaire:

If in the market of Paris, before the eyes of a thousand men, a miracle should be performed, I would much rather disbelieve their two thousand eyes and my own two, than believe it.[9]

Voltaire has many spiritual descendants, some of them being in pulpits, and this is the true explanation of what is called "modernism" in the religious community of our day. The attitude of the Pharisees here shows the folly of supposing that evidence of any kind can persuade men whose purpose is to disbelieve. Faith is a moral thing, as well as intellectual (John 3:19).

They called his parents ... They overreached themselves in this, for they promptly corroborated the son's identity and the fact of his being born blind. The whole neighborhood could have done the same. It was another example of how the Lord "taketh the wise in their own craftiness" (1 Corinthians 3:19).

Ryle quoted Chrysostom who thought that:

"Whom ye say" insinuated that they supposed the parents to be impostors, and that they were acting deceitfully, and plotting on behalf of Christ, by spreading a report that their son was born blind.[10]

The very fact of calling the man's parents shows the desperate nature of the Pharisees' position.

[9] J. C. Ryle, op. cit., p. 600.

[10] Ibid.

Verse 20

His parents answered and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: but how he now seeth we know not; or who opened his eyes we know not; he is of age, he shall speak for himself.

Thus perished the hope of the Pharisees that they might deny that the miracle had occurred. Their insinuation of fraud was totally demolished.

He is of age ... indicates a mature person; and according to Clarke, "Mature age, as fixed among the Jews, was thirty years."[11]

The testimony of the parents that they did not know how or by whom the sign was wrought, although technically correct, was really and avoidance of testifying to what they did actually know. Their fear of the leaders prompted this reluctance on their part.

Verse 22

These things said his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man should confess him to be the Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.

They feared the Jews ... This means fear of the Sanhedrin, a fear mentioned four times in John: here, and in John 7:13; John 12:42, and in John 19:38. Excommunication was the dreaded penalty by which the unscrupulous leaders enforced their will upon the people. They had marshaled the entire apparatus of hierarchical power against any acceptance of Christ by the multitude. To be cut off from all social, religious, and even business communication with the whole nation was a severe and dreaded penalty, and far more than enough to strike terror and apprehension into the hearts of simple people like the parents of the man born blind. One may sympathize with their fears without condoning their timidity.

Verse 24

So they called a second time the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give glory to God: we know that this man is a sinner.

No device of denying the miracle being left to them, the leaders moved to rob Jesus of the credit for it, if possible; and having intimidated the parents into denying that they knew "WHO" did it, they tried here to enlist the son in a similar denial.

Give glory to God ... this man is a sinner ... Thus they forbade him to give glory to Christ. Glory to God ... ah yes, that was all right, only so long as God's beloved Son was not mentioned. Thus, the Pharisees were compelled at last to authenticate the miracle itself. Being absolutely unable to deny it, they would still, if they could, deny Jesus any credit for it. Such blind and vicious prejudice was revolting; and nearly two millenniums have not softened the shock one feels in the presence of such perfidy.

Verse 25

Whether he is a sinner, I know not: but one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.

This return of the healed man to the facts of the wonder was the last thing the Pharisees wanted; and his words are construed as an opposition to their designs. The miracle was proof that Jesus was no sinner; and the Sanhedrin knew this, as one of their own members had admitted (John 3:2).

Verse 26

They said therefore unto him, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?

Drowning men catch at straws; and those evil leaders, confronted with a true miracle of Jesus, again questioned the blind man as to "how" it was done, hoping to find something they could condemn.

Verse 27

He answered them, I told you even now, and ye did not hear; wherefore would ye hear it again? Would ye also become his disciples?

The blind man had hardened his attitude in the face of their unreasonable denials, tacitly admitting himself to be a disciple, and sarcastically demanding to know if they "also" would become his disciples! Disciples indeed! They were his sworn enemies, determined at any cost, moral or otherwise, to kill Jesus; and one can only marvel at the impact these words must have had upon that religious court.

Verse 28

And they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are disciples of Moses.

This was a false boast on the part of the Pharisees. Jesus himself said that if they had believed Moses, they would have believed Christ. They were not the Israel of God in the spiritual sense (Romans 9:6-8).

Thou art his disciple ... Such an indirect admission (John 9:27) was all they needed; and they at once heaped upon him the full weight of their scorn, invective, and slander. They reviled him. Such was the justice and such was the pity of those sons of the devil who sat on Moses' seat in the times of Christ. What had the blind man done to deserve their hatred and abuse? He had merely recognized in deepest humility and appreciation the mercy extended to him by the Lord. What a shock this encounter with the religious leaders must have been to him!

Verse 29

We know that God hath spoken unto Moses: but as for this man, we know not whence he is.

God hath spoken unto Moses ... See article under John 5:39 with regard to knowing and yet not knowing the Scriptures.

This man ... we know not whence he is. Some have fancied that these words do not contradict what these hypocrites said earlier, "We know whence he is" (John 7:27); but of course they do contradict it. As a matter of fact, truth was no consideration to these sons of the devil who would have said anything that seemed, at the moment, to suit their purpose. It is a waste of time to try to "harmonize" this place with John 7:27, in regard to what these liars said.

Verse 30

The man answered and said unto them, Why, herein is the marvel, that ye know not whence he is, and yet he opened mine eyes. We know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God and do his will, him he heareth. Since the world began it was never heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.

The poor blind beggar suddenly emerged here as a thinker of remarkable and penetrating insight into God's moral government of the universe.

Herein is the marvel ... Unerringly, he fingered the greatest marvel in the structure of the day's events, that being the obstinate unbelief of the Pharisees. (See "The Marvel of Unbelief" under John 6:30).

We know that God heareth not sinners ... This great premise deserves further attention.


A remarkable body of teaching in the Old Testament affirms the truth of what the blind man said here of God's not hearing sinners. Note:

Jehovah will not answer (the wicked) (1 Samuel 8:18). God will not hear the cry of the godless (Job 27:9). I will not answer the wicked (Proverbs 1:28). When ye make prayers, I will not hear (Isaiah 1:15). Your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear (Isaiah 59.2). Etc., etc. -

It is astounding that the erstwhile beggar fully understood the truth of God's not hearing sinners, whereas the learned leaders of the people had not the slightest regard of such a fact. Marvel indeed it was.

Of deep significance is the implication of the words here to the effect that the miracle had been wrought in answer to Jesus' prayer, a thing not stated, but implied by the mention of God's "hearing" him.

If any man be a worshipper of God, and do his will ... The actual doing of God's will, as distinguished from merely believing, was properly understood by the healed man as the basis of God's hearing any person whomsoever; and, in such a perception, he was superior not only to the Pharisees but to the majority of the divines in Protestantism.

Since the world began ... appeals to the absolutely unique quality of the miracle Jesus wrought. How preposterous was the thought that God would have allowed some impostor to work a miracle like that!

If this man were not from God, he could do nothing ... In these three verses, the healed man propounded a syllogism of his own, thus turning a favorite weapon of the Pharisees upon themselves and defeating them with it, thus:

Major Premise: God does not hear sinners, but he hears those who worship him and do his will.

Minor Premise: God heard Jesus in the working of the great miracle before us.

Conclusion: Therefore, Jesus is of God; and, if he were not of God, he could do nothing.

Since the time when David, the shepherd of Israel, cut off the head of Goliath of Gath with the giant's own sword, there had occurred nothing any more remarkable than this erstwhile beggar's punishing defeat of the Pharisees through his skillful use of the syllogism, a device claimed by them as their own. Their anger and resentment overflowed against him.

It should be observed that God's not hearing sinners had reference to his not hearing them in the sense of not empowering them to perform a miracle. God heard the prayers of Cornelius (Acts 10:4) at a time when he was technically a sinner; and Jesus heard the petition of the demons (Matthew 8:31,32), granting their request. From these and other New Testament teachings comes the conclusion that God may answer any prayer, provided it fits into the will of God. Nevertheless, there are classes of prayers in which God will never answer sinners, the example cited by the blind man being an example. It should also be noted that Cornelius' prayers, to the extent they requested salvation from sin, were not answered except in the secondary sense of God's sending him a preacher of the gospel who told him what to do to be saved. Thus, the pioneer preachers who cited John 9:31 as proof that sinners might not procure salvation merely by praying for it, but that they should arise and be baptized and wash away their sins (Acts 22:16), were profoundly correct.

Verse 34

They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

The rage of the Pharisees is understandable. A publicly known beggar had defeated them with a syllogism which they could not answer and which was strongly believed by some of their own number (John 3:2). Far from defeating the blind man, they had only aroused him to a vigorous and skillful advocacy of his growing faith in Christ. He no longer said, "Whether he is a sinner, I know not," but now hurled the challenge in their faces, "If this man were not of God, he could do nothing? But, as is ever true, when error is defeated on the intellectual level, its proponents have recourse to slander, invective, and violence, never failing to employ any engine of coercion that might be available.

Born in sins ... This slander had already been refuted by Jesus (John 9:3), but they employed it anyway.

And they cast him out ... that is, out of the synagogue. Upon what grounds? If it must be spoken, upon grounds of spite. It was not upon the grounds of his confessing Christ, for he had not yet done that; but, as they saw his thinking moving in that direction, they cast him out for what they supposed that he would do, and not for what he had already done. His witness proved that Jesus was indeed the Messiah; and their drastic action against him was actually directed against the proof.

Verse 35

Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and finding him, he said, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?

Jesus had no doubt heard with joy of the man's triumphant defense of the truth before the Sanhedrin, and he moved at once to lead him to higher and higher levels of faith and obedience.

Verse 36

He answered and said, And who is he, Lord, that I may believe on him?

The man evidently had an extensive knowledge of the Scriptures, as indicated by his boldness before the Pharisees; but he had not received any testimony except his own deductions from the miracle, to the effect that Jesus was the Son of God. Such testimony, therefore, from the Master himself he sought and received.

Verse 37

Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and he it is that speaketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.

Lightfoot said this was the first worshipper and confessor of Christ to suffer for the Lord's sake, as John the Baptist was the first martyr. Trench pointed out that the Pharisees in their rage made contradictory allegations against the formerly blind man, first denying that he had been born blind (John 9:18) and later declaring that he had been born blind due to sins (John 9:34). This foreshadowed the type of charges that group would bring against the Lord in the trials, of which it is written, "And not even so did their witness agree together" (Mark 14:59).

The healed man confessed Christ at once and worshipped him. The Lord's acceptance of his worship thus adds his own sacred testimony to that of the healed man that Jesus is indeed God come in the flesh.

This narrative, coupled with that of the Samaritan woman in John 4, reveals a pattern in the type of events John selected for his gospel. Both here and there Christ declared in the most emphatic manner possible that he was indeed the Christ; and, in both instances, the persons to whom such declarations were made could not have been allowed as the basis for any charges the Sanhedrin might have brought against Jesus before secular authorities, this being due to the fact of the woman's being a Samaritan, and the previously blind man an excommunicated person.

Verse 39

And Jesus said, For judgment came I into this world, that they that see not may see; and that they that see may become blind.

Two kinds of "seeing" are in view here, "they that see not" in the first instance referring to the physically blind, and "they that see" in the second instance being a reference to the normal eyesight of the Pharisees, who were, nevertheless, spiritually blind. Thus he came to make the blind see and the seeing blind!

In these words, Christ indicated his fulfillment of two classes of prophecies, those stating that the Messiah would bring "recovering of sight to the blind" (Isaiah 61:1f), and those stating that certain of the Israelites would be blinded spiritually, "And seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive" (Isaiah 6:9,10). See more on judicial hardening in my Commentary on Romans, p. 376.

For judgment ... In one sense Christ did not come for judgment, but in another sense he did. See under John 3:17; John 5:22f, and John 12:47. In this reference, his actions were producing the hardening of Israel which had been prophesied, that hardening being indeed an act of divine judgment against Israel.

Evidently, the Pharisees heard the conversation and witnessed the man's worshipping Jesus, as the next verse shows.

Verse 40

Those of the Pharisees who were with him heard these things and said unto him, Are we also blind? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye would have no sin: but now ye say, We see: your sin remaineth.

Are we also blind ... was a sneering, insincere question, such as Pilate's "What is truth?"

If ye were blind ... cannot mean "if ye were physically blind"; and there can be no doubt that Jesus considered them to be spiritual blind; then why the "if"? It means "if" they had only admitted their arrogance, pride, and ignorance, they might have found salvation. The verse is addressed to their conceit. They were the ones who shouted "We know!" (John 9:29); and they were typical examples of the men described by Paul (Romans 2:17-20), who boasted of themselves that they were a guide to the blind, etc. Jesus' statement, "If ye were blind" contrasts with their conceited self-glorification outlined by Paul. Blindness was the last thing on earth the proud Pharisee would have attributed to himself; yet how blind he was!

Now ye say, We see: your sin remaineth ... This is a reference to the conceit mentioned above. Those who would receive life and salvation of Christ must come in meekness and humility, confessing their sins, denying themselves, and crying, "Lord be merciful to me a sinner." The entrenched pride and conceit of the religious leaders were utterly repugnant to the Lord; and, as long as men were wrapped up in such a cloak of self-righteousness, there was absolutely no hope for them. As long as they cried, "We see!" their sin remained.

We see ... And yet, despite the sixth sign, they could not even see the Son of God!

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 9". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.