Probably Jesus healed this man in Jerusalem ( John 8:59), perhaps on the day following the events just narrated in or near the temple. [Note: Edersheim, 2:177.] John apparently noted that the man had been blind from birth to prove his helpless condition and to compare him with those who were spiritually blind from birth (cf. John 9:39-41; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:1-3). While the Synoptics record several instances in which blind people received their sight, this is the only case of this happening to a man who was born blind. The miracle also illustrates the origin and development of faith.
The healing of the Prayer of Manasseh 9:1-12
The exact time of this miracle and Jesus" resultant discourse is unclear. Evidently these events transpired sometime between the feast of Tabernacles ( John 7:2; John 7:10; September10-17, A.D32.) and the feast of Dedication ( John 10:22-39; December18, A.D32.). [Note: Hoehner, p143; cf. Brown, 1:388-90.] This sixth of John"s seven select signs shows Jesus" power over misfortune. [Note: Tenney, John: The Gospel . . ., p312.]
The Jews regarded blind people as especially worthy of charity. [Note: Ibid, 2:178.] The disciples" question reflected popular Jewish opinion of their day. Clearly the Old Testament taught that sin brings divine punishment (e.g, Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7; Ezekiel 18:4). This cause and effect relationship led many of the Jews, as well as many modern people, to conclude that every bad effect had an identifiable sinful cause. [Note: Cf. Talmud tractates Shabbath55 a, and Nedarim41 a, quoted in Edersheim, 1:494.] That conclusion goes farther than the Bible does (cf. Job; 2 Corinthians 12:7; Galatians 4:13). Sin does lie behind all the suffering and evil in the world, but the connection between sin and suffering is not always immediate or observable.
The disciples, like their contemporaries, assumed that either one or both of the blind man"s parents had sinned, or he had, and that this sin was the cause of his blindness.
"It is not absolutely certain they were thinking of the possibility of the man having sinned in a pre-natal condition. As R. A. Knox points out, they may not have known that the man was born blind, and the Greek might be understood to mean, "Did this man sin? or did his parents commit some sin with the result that he was born blind?"" [Note: Tasker, p126. The source mentioned is Ronald A. Knox, The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ newly translated from the Vulgate Latin ..., 1945 ed.]
"The disciples did not look at the man as an object of mercy but rather as a subject for a theological discussion. It is much easier to discuss an abstract subject like "sin" than it is to minister to a concrete need in the life of a person." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:324.]
Neither of the disciples" options was the reason for this man"s blindness. Rather God had permitted it so He might display His work in this man"s life. It is wrong to conclude that every instance of suffering springs immediately from a particular act of sin. It is also wrong to conclude that God permits every instance of suffering because He intends to relieve it miraculously. Jesus was talking about that particular man"s case. He did not reveal all the reasons for the man"s condition either.
"Only God knows why babies are born with handicaps, and only God can turn those handicaps into something that will bring good to the people and glory to His name." [Note: Ibid.]
Notice the positive viewpoint of Jesus. The disciples viewed the man"s condition as an indication of divine displeasure, but Jesus saw it as an opportunity for divine grace.
There is no punctuation in the Greek text, so it may help to understand Jesus" meaning to omit the period at the end of John 9:3 and to read John 9:3-4 as follows. "But that the works of God might be displayed in him, we must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day."
Jesus" "we" probably refers to Himself alone, though He could have meant Himself and the disciples. Jesus later spoke of His disciples continuing His work ( John 14:12; cf. John 20:21). The day in view is probably a reference to the daylight made such by the Light of the World"s presence on the earth. Darkness would descend when He departed the earth and returned to heaven (cf. John 12:35). The nighttime when no man can work may refer to the spiritual darkness that will yet engulf the world. I doubt that this is a reference to the Tribulation.
The healing of the blind man that followed shows the Light of the World dispelling darkness while it was still day. Perhaps Jesus spat on the ground so the blind man would hear what He was doing. Jesus applied His saliva directly when He healed the deaf man with the speech impediment in the Decapolis ( Mark 7:33) and the blind man near Bethsaida ( Mark 8:23). Here He mixed His saliva with clay. Applying the moist clay to the blind man"s eyes would have let him feel that Jesus was working for Him. Jesus may have intended these sensory aids to strengthen the man"s faith. Jesus may have varied His methods of healing so people would not think that the method was more important than the man doing the healing.
Perhaps Jesus also used saliva and clay to associate this act of healing with divine creation ( Genesis 2:7). [Note: Lindars, p343; Blum, p307.] Another suggestion is that by covering the man"s eyes with mud Jesus was making his blindness even more intense to magnify the cure (cf. 1 Kings 18:33-35). [Note: Calvin, 1:241.] Some students of this passage have suggested that Jesus was using something unclean to effect a cure to show His power to overcome evil with good. [Note: D. Smith, "Jesus and the Pharisees in Socio-Anthropological Perspective," Trinity Journal6NS:2 (Autumn1985):151-56; cf. M. Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo.] Another view is that Jesus introduced an irritant so the man would want to irrigate his eyes. [Note: Wiersbe, 1:324.] Compare the Holy Spirit"s ministry of conviction that leads to obedience.
"The blind Prayer of Manasseh, introduced as the theme of a theological debate, becomes the object of divine mercy and a place of revelation." [Note: Barrett, p358.]
Jesus then instructed the blind man to go to the pool of Siloam in southeast Jerusalem and wash the mud off his eyes. [Note: See the diagram "Jerusalem in New Testament Times" at the end of these notes.] He obeyed Jesus, received his sight, and departed from the pool seeing. His obedience evidenced faith that something good would come of obeying Jesus.
It is probably significant that Jesus sent the man to that particular source of water. John interpreted the meaning of "Siloam" as "sent" for his readers. Jesus had sent the Prayer of Manasseh, he obeyed, and he received sight. Likewise all who obeyed Jesus" command to believe on Him received spiritual sight.
"Sight was restored by clay, made out of the ground with the spittle of Him, Whose breath had at first breathed life into clay; and this was then washed away in the Pool of Siloam, from whose waters had been drawn on the Feast of Tabernacles that which symbolized the forthpouring of the new life by the Spirit." [Note: Edersheim, 2:181.]
John"s record of the conversation of the blind man"s neighbors is interesting. It shows that the change in him was so remarkable that even some people who knew him well could not believe that he was the same man. The former beggar"s personal testimony settled the debate. No one could argue with that.
"The change wrought by regeneration in the converted Christian is so great that other people often find it difficult to believe he is the same person; so it was with the physical change effected by Jesus in the blind beggar." [Note: Tasker, p124.]
Evidently this man had been a beggar out of necessity rather than choice. He later demonstrated a sense of humor, knowledge of history and Scripture, the ability to withstand intimidation, and facility in arguing logically (cf. John 9:27; John 9:30-32). These traits show that he was far from mentally incompetent.
Jesus had not accompanied the man to the pool so he could identify Him to the crowd as his healer. Here is further evidence that Jesus was not promoting Himself to gain glory but was simply doing the work that God had given Him to do.
When questioned about the miracle, the former blind man could only report the facts of his case and the name of Jesus, whom he had not yet seen. The crowd obviously wanted to find Jesus. The man"s description of Jesus gives no indication that he was a true believer. Jesus did not perform this healing because the man believed that He was God"s Son or even the Messiah. It was simply an expression of God"s grace that became an opportunity for teaching.
The man"s neighbors probably brought him to their religious leaders to hear their opinion of what had happened to him.
The Pharisees" first interrogation9:13-23
"John evidently wants us to see that the activity of Jesus as the Light of the world inevitably results in judgment on those whose natural habitat is darkness. They oppose the Light and they bring down condemnation on themselves accordingly." [Note: Morris, p429.]
John now introduced the fact that Jesus had healed the man on a Sabbath because it became the basis for much of the discussion that followed. Most of the Pharisees would have regarded Jesus" action as inappropriate work that violated Sabbath ordinances (cf. John 5:9; John 5:16; John 7:21-24). He had healed a Prayer of Manasseh, made clay, and anointed the man"s eyes.
When the Pharisees asked the man how he had received his sight, he explained the method that Jesus had used.
Jesus" produced a division among the people again (cf. John 7:40-43). Some of them, impressed with Jesus" violation of traditional Sabbath laws, concluded that He could not represent God who had given the Sabbath laws. Their argument was a priori, beginning with the law and working forward to Jesus" action. Others found the evidence of a supernatural cure more impressive and decided that Jesus must not be a common sinner but someone special who could do divine acts. Their argument was a posteriori, beginning with the facts and working back to Jesus" action. Ironically the second group had the weaker argument since miracles do not necessarily prove that the miracle-worker is from God. Still their conclusion was true whereas the conclusion of the first group with the stronger argument was false. At least some of the Pharisees considered the possibility that Jesus had come from God (cf. John 3:2).
Faced with having to decide if Jesus was from God or not, the healed man concluded that He was a prophet similar to other miracle-working Old Testament prophets (e.g, 2 Kings 2:19-22; 2 Kings 4:18-44; 2 Kings 5:1-14). This was an advance over his previous description of Jesus as simply "the man called Jesus" ( John 9:11). His faith was growing.
The Jews in view are the Pharisees ( John 9:13). Evidently they chose to interview the healed man"s parents because they could not unite on a decision about Jesus. They wanted more information from people closer to him than just his neighbors ( John 9:8). Only his parents could affirm that he had been truly blind from birth. If he had not been, the Pharisees could dispute Jesus" miracle.
The man"s parents confirmed that he was indeed their son and that he had been blind from birth, so they testified that a genuine miracle had happened. Yet they were unwilling to give their opinion about how their son became able to see or to identify Jesus as his healer. They probably knew the answers to these questions since John proceeded to explain that they had other reasons for hedging ( John 9:22-23). They suggested that the investigators question their son on these points since he was capable of giving legal testimony himself. Jewish boys became responsible adults at the age of13. The age of this man is unknown, but in view of his confident responses to the Pharisees that follow he appears to have been at least in his twenties.
The reason for the parents" silence was their fear of excommunication from their local synagogue for affirming that Jesus was the Messiah.
"For a Jew to be put out of the synagogue meant that he was ostracized by everyone." [Note: The New Scofield …, p1139.]
We now learn that the official position about Jesus was that He was not the Messiah, and anyone who affirmed that He was suffered religious persecution (cf. John 7:13). Some scholars have argued that such a test of heresy was impossible this early in Jewish Christian relations. [Note: E.g, Barrett, pp261; et al.] However, other scholars have rebutted these objections effectively. [Note: E.g, Carson, The Gospel . . ., pp369-72.]
""Already the Jews had decided" does not necessarily indicate a formal decree of the Sanhedrin. It might well mean that some of the leading men had agreed among themselves to take action against the supporters of Jesus, perhaps to exclude them from the synagogues, perhaps to initiate proceedings in the Sanhedrin." [Note: Morris, p435.]
Interestingly the Apostle John considered confession of Jesus as the Messiah to be a litmus test that identifies genuine Christians ( 1 John 5:1). In 1 John 5:1 the title "Christ" (the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Messiah") comprehends all the biblical revelation about Messiah, specifically that He was divine as well as human. During Jesus" ministry, however, confessing Jesus as the Messiah did not necessarily involve believing in His deity (cf. John 1:41; Matthew 16:16). It meant at least believing that He was the promised messianic deliverer of Israel, the popular conception of Messiah.
The Pharisees proceeded to question the healed man again. They had already decided that Jesus was not the Messiah, but they had to admit that He had done a remarkable miracle. Having failed to prove Jesus a sinner they now hoped the healed man would cave in to pressure from the authorities and testify that Jesus was a sinner. Moreover they suggested that the man would be glorifying God if he agreed with their verdict and admitted his guilt in glorifying Jesus (cf. John 9:15). Another evidence of Johannine irony appears. The Pharisees assumed that glorifying God and glorifying Jesus were mutually exclusive whereas to glorify the Son is really to glorify the Father.
Their disdain for Jesus comes through in their calling Him simply "this man." A sinner in the Pharisees" eyes was someone who broke the oral traditions as well as the Mosaic Law. They hoped the restored man would identify some instance of disobedience that would confirm their conclusion. Notice that these judges prejudiced everyone against Jesus from the start by saying that they had already determined that He was a sinner.
The Pharisees" second interrogation9:24-34
The Pharisees, who considered themselves enlightened, now tried to badger the formerly blind man into denying that he saw the light.
The healed man refused to speculate on Jesus" sinfulness. He left that to the theological heavyweights. However, he refused to back down and deny that Jesus had given him sight. Here is another of many instances in the fourth Gospel of personal testimony, which John consistently presented as important and effective. Regardless of a believer"s understanding of Christology, he or she can always testify to the change that Jesus Christ has effected in that person"s life.
The Pharisees hoped that as the man repeated his story he would contradict himself or in some other way discredit his own testimony. This is the fourth time that the Pharisees asked how the miracle had happened ( John 9:10; John 9:15; John 9:19; John 9:26). People are often more curious about the mechanics of miracles than they are about the man who performs them. Likewise people are often more concerned to identify whom to blame than they are in really helping people.
The restored blind man refused to review the obvious facts. He now knew that the Pharisees did not want the truth but information they could use against Jesus. They had not listened to him in the sense of believing him the first time (cf. John 5:25). Sarcastically he suggested that perhaps they wanted to hear about Jesus one more time because they wanted to follow Him as disciples. This response indicates that the man felt no intimidation from his accusers. He knew that he stood on solid ground with his testimony, so much so that he could jibe his examiners with a bit of humor.
The Pharisees saw nothing funny in the man"s reply, however. They were deadly serious in their attempt to execute Jesus. They undoubtedly realized that this former beggar had seen through their veiled attempt to condemn Jesus unjustly. They met his good-natured prod with insult. They turned his charge back on himself and presented following Jesus as irreconcilable with following Moses. Of course, the Pharisees were not the disciples of Moses that they claimed to be. Ironically, Jesus was. Failure to know where Jesus came from amounted to failing to know where He received His authority. Moses had come from God, but Jesus" critics claimed not to know whether He came from God or from Satan ( John 9:16). Most of them suspected the latter.
"The Pharisees were cautious men who would consider themselves conservatives, when in reality they were "preservatives."... A "preservative" simply embalms the past and preserves it. He is against change and resists the new things that God is doing." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:326.]
We see here an essential difference between Judaism and Christianity (cf. John 1:17). The Jews continue to profess allegiance to Moses as the Pharisees did here while Christians claim to follow Jesus, which is what they charged the restored man with doing. Following Jesus involves accepting Moses" revelation as authoritative since Jesus authenticated Moses" writings.
Earlier Jesus" enemies said they knew where He came from, namely, Galilee ( John 7:27). They were wrong in their assessment of Jesus" earthly origin as they were wrong about His heavenly origin. Here they were speaking of His authoritative origin, specifically who had sent Him.
The healed man not only possessed a sense of humor but also common sense. It seemed remarkable to him that the Pharisees could not see that Jesus had come from God. Their unbelief in view of the evidence was incredible to him. The proof that Jesus had come from God was His ability to perform such a powerful and constructive miracle as giving sight to the blind. A fundamental biblical revelation is that God responds positively to the godly, but He does not hear (in the sense of granting the requests of) those who sin ( Job 27:9; Job 35:13; Psalm 34:15-16; Psalm 66:18; Psalm 145:19; Proverbs 15:29; Proverbs 28:9; Isaiah 1:15). Obviously not all miracle-workers had come from God (cf. Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:7), but these had been exceptions to the rule. The former blind man showed considerable spiritual insight.
"It is always risky to identify spiritual power with divine power. But such theological niceties do not trouble the healed man. His spiritual instincts are good, even if his theological argumentation is not entirely convincing." [Note: Carson, The Gospel . . ., p375.]
The man was correct that Scripture recorded no former healing of a man born blind. Evidently Jesus had not healed anyone in this condition previously either. At least this restored man had not heard of any such cases. He concluded that Jesus must have come from God. He did not qualify as the sinner that the Pharisees where making Him out to be.
Scorn has often served as a final resort when evidence fails, and it served the Pharisees this way here. They implied that this man"s congenital blindness was the result of a sinful condition that rendered him incapable of intellectual insight (cf. John 9:2). By saying this they unintentionally admitted that Jesus had cured a man blind from birth.
"How could anybody be steeped in sin at birth? Everybody is born with a sinful nature ( Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12), but a baby can hardly commit numerous acts of sin moments after it is born!" [Note: Blum, p308.]
The Pharisees did not argue the exceptions to the rule that the man cited nor did they offer any other possible explanations. No one seems to have remembered that when Messiah would appear He would open the eyes of the blind ( Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 35:5; Isaiah 42:7).
This poor man lost his privilege of participating in synagogue worship for taking his stand supporting Jesus (cf. John 9:22). Many other Jewish believers followed him in this fate in the years that have unfolded since this incident happened. This is the first persecution of Jesus" followers that John recorded.
"The Rabbinists enumerate twenty-four grounds for excommunication, of which more than one might serve the purpose of the Pharisees." [Note: Edersheim, 2:184.]
The healed man had responded positively and courageously to the light that he had so far, but he did not have much light. Therefore Jesus took the initiative and sought him out with further revelation designed to bring him to full faith. When Jesus found him, He asked if he placed his trust in the Son of Man. Some early manuscripts and modern translations have "Son of God," but "Son of Man" has the better support. This personal response to God"s grace is essential for salvation. "You" is emphatic in the Greek text. Jesus probably chose this title for Himself because it expressed the fact that He was the Man who had come from God ( Daniel 7:13-14; cf. John 1:51; John 3:13-14; John 5:27; John 6:27; John 6:53; John 6:62; John 8:28). Furthermore it connotes Jesus" role as Judges, which He proceeded to explain ( John 9:39).
Jesus was asking the man if he trusted in the God- Prayer of Manasseh, though Jesus did not identify Himself as that Man. The blind man had never before seen Jesus so he did not know who He was.
Spiritual sight and blindness9:35-41
"John is interested in the way the coming of Jesus divides people." [Note: Morris, p439.]
The man replied by asking Jesus to point the Son of Man out to him. He seemed ready to believe in Him and evidently thought that Jesus would identify his healer. "Lord" (Gr. kyrie) means "Sir" in this context. Again someone spoke better than he knew since the man"s questioner was Lord in a larger sense than he first realized (cf. John 9:38).
Jesus then identified Himself as the Son of Man (cf. John 4:26). Perhaps He said that the man had seen Him to connect the miracle with the miracle-worker. The man may have suspected that Jesus was his healer because of the sound of His voice, but seeing made the identification certain. The man had seen Him with the eyes of faith previously, but now he also saw Him physically. Similarly modern believers see Him by faith, but in the future faith will give way to sight.
Jesus removed all possibility of misunderstanding by also identifying Himself as the One who then spoke to the man. The beggar confessed His faith in Jesus and appropriately proceeded to prostrate himself (Gr. proskyneo) in worship before Him. This is the only place in this Gospel where we read that anyone worshipped Jesus. Now the respectful address "Lord" took on deeper meaning for him ( John 9:36). However the man still had much to learn about the full identity of Jesus and its implications, as all new believers do. This man was no longer welcome in his synagogue, but he took a new place of worship at Jesus" feet. Worship means acknowledging and ascribing worthiness to someone or something.
This blind man"s pilgrimage from darkness to light is clear from the terms he used to describe Jesus. First, he called Him "the man called Jesus" ( John 9:11). Second, he referred to Jesus as a prophet ( John 9:17). Third, he came to believe that Jesus was a prophet who had come from God ( John 9:33). Finally, he acknowledged Jesus as Lord ( John 9:38). This man"s progress from dark unbelief to the light of faith is very significant in view of John"s stated purpose to bring his readers to believe that Jesus is the Christ ( John 20:31). It shows that this process sometimes, indeed usually, involves stages of illumination. It is also interesting that the problems that this man had with the Pharisees were what God used to open his eyes to who Jesus really was. It is often through difficulties that God teaches us more about Himself.
Jesus concluded His comments to the man by explaining something of His purpose in the Incarnation.
"The last three verses of chapter ix make it clear that this incident has been recorded primarily because it is an acted parable of faith and unbelief, and therefore of judgment, a theme that is never absent for long from this Gospel." [Note: Tasker, p126. Cf. Beasley-Murray, p161.]
Jesus" primary purpose was to save some, but in doing so He had to pass judgment (Gr. krima, cf. John 3:17-21; John 3:36; John 12:47). Judging was the result of His coming, not the reason for it. The last part of the verse consists of two purpose clauses. Jesus was evidently alluding to Isaiah 6:10; Isaiah 42:19. His coming inevitably involved exposing the spiritual blindness of some so they might recognize their blindness, turn to Jesus in faith, and see (cf. John 9:25; John 9:36). Conversely His coming also involved confirming the spiritual blindness of those who professed to see spiritually but really did not because of their unbelief (cf. John 9:16; John 9:22; John 9:24; John 9:29; John 9:34). Jesus is the pivot on which all human destiny turns. [Note: Tenney, " John," p105.] Jesus explained that what had happened to this man and the Pharisees was an example of what His whole ministry was about. [Note: See Stephen S. Kim, "The Significance of Jesus" Healing the Blind Man in John 9," Bibliotheca Sacra167:667 (July-September2010):307-18.]
". . . a certain poverty of spirit (cf. Matthew 5:3), an abasement of personal pride (especially over one"s religious opinions), and a candid acknowledgment of spiritual blindness are indispensable characteristics of the person who receives spiritual sight, true Revelation, at the hands of Jesus ..." [Note: Carson, The Gospel . . ., p378.]
Some Pharisees had been listening in on Jesus" conversation with the restored man. They suspected that Jesus might be referring to them when He spoke of the spiritually blind ( John 9:39). They wanted to make sure that Jesus was not accusing them of spiritual blindness since they considered themselves the most enlightened among the Jews.
Jesus replied to them in irony. He said that if they were blind spiritually and realized their need for enlightenment they would not be guilty of sin, specifically unbelief, because they would accept Jesus" teaching. However, they did not sense their need and felt quite satisfied that they understood God"s will correctly. Consequently they did not receive the light that Jesus offered. They were wise in their own eyes, but really they were fools ( Proverbs 26:12). Their sin of unbelief remained with them, and they remained in their sin and under God"s condemning wrath ( John 3:36). Light causes some eyes to see, but it blinds other eyes. Jesus" revelations had the same effects.
"By contrast [with the increasing perception of the man born blind] the Pharisees, starting with the view that Jesus is not from God ( John 9:16), question the miracle ( John 9:18), speak of Jesus as a sinner ( John 9:24), are shown to be ignorant ( John 9:29), and finally are pronounced blind and sinners ( John 9:41)." [Note: Morris, p432.]
"If the Pharisees had been really blind, if they had had no understanding of spiritual things at all, they would not have sinned in acting as they did (cf. Romans 5:13). They could not be blamed for acting in ignorance [cf. 1 Timothy 1:13]. They would then not have been acting in rebellion against their best insights. But they claim to see. They claim spiritual knowledge. They know the law. And it is sin for people who have spiritual knowledge to act as they do." [Note: Ibid, p442.]
The deceitfulness of sin often makes those who are in the greatest need of divine revelation and illumination think that they are the most enlightened of human beings. Only the Spirit of God using the Word of God can break through that dense darkness to bring conviction of spiritual blindness and to create openness to the truth (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16).
". . . it is precisely when men say that they see, and because they say that they see, that their sin remaineth. They continue to be guilty men, however unconscious of their guilt." [Note: Tasker, p126.]
This chapter advances the revelation of Jesus" true identity that was one of John"s primary objectives in this Gospel. It also shows that as the light of this revelation became clearer, so did the darkness because some people prefer the darkness to the light ( John 3:19).
"This miracle is a sign that Jesus can open the eyes of the spiritually blind so that they can receive the complete sight which constitutes perfect faith. Faith means passing from darkness to light; and to bring men this faith, to give them the opportunity of responding when the divine Spirit draws them to Himself, is the primary purpose for which Jesus has been sent into the world." [Note: Ibid, pp122-23. See also Howard, pp73-75.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 9". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany