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The Man Blind from Birth
1. A strange question. As Jesus passed by He saw a man which was blind from his birth. That doubtless was a common occurrence along most any road side. This, however, was a special case. A man blind from birth, and a man who was blind to the objects around him, was yet a man able to see in Christ the One who alone could help and heal him.
As they passed by, the disciples said, "Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" It was the time-worn query. A query based on a sometimes, but a not always fact. Blindness might be caused by sin, even by the sin of parents, for it is written that the sins of the parents shall be visited upon the children unto the third and the fourth generation.
Yes, we must all acknowledge that physical infirmities of all kinds; all sickness, and pain, and death is caused by sin that is, because sin entered into the world. This is verified by this fact, where Christ and redemption by His blood, have wrought their perfect and finished work, and the saints stand with their Redeemer in the city of gold, there will be no more sickness, or pain, or death, for the former things will have passed away.
However, blindness, or any other infirmity of the flesh may not of necessity be laid directly on this one, or on that one. The query of the disciples was as though either the sin of the not yet born embryo, or the sin of parents must, the one or the other, have caused the man to be born blind. It was this very same human idea of sickness that caused the friends of Job to berate and accuse him, because of his afflictions. Eliphaz said, "Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same." In other words, "Job, you are suffering the results of your own iniquity."
2. The Lord's response.
Here are the Master's words, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents." Thus, upon the authority of the divine Christ, we may assert that not all such conditions are directly from personal sin, nor are they caused by the sins of some immediate relative. God has fixed irrevocable laws of conduct in life. These laws have their manifest penalties when they are broken either ruthlessly or in ignorance. It becomes us all, therefore, to study the natural laws in the physical universe, lest we break them through ignorance. Willful sin against physical laws brings physical death, so also do the sins of ignorance. Besides the laws in the natural universe, there are also laws in the spiritual realm, which may bring death. This is all included in the scripture, "If a man sin a sin that is unto death." This "sin" may be one of many, for there are many cases in the Scripture where spiritual sin brought physical death.
3. Christ's answer to the disciples, clarified.
The Lord said, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God might be made manifest in him." So also it was in the case of Job. So it is in many other cases. Paul had an affliction, not because he had sinned, but "lest I should be exalted above measure." This man was born blind, that God through His cure might be glorified. Think of Lazarus sick, and of the Lord purposely staying in the same place for four days, although he knew that Lazarus was sick unto death. Wherefore? That the glory of Christ, as the resurrection and the life, might be verified.
Let us, then, not be hasty in our judgment of others, neither let us complain when we are personally afflicted.
"Not now, but in the coming years,
It may be in the better land,
We'll read the meaning of our tears,
And, up in heaven, we'll understand.
God holds the key, He leads the way,
And guides us with unerring hand;
So, trust in God with all thy heart.
For up in heaven we'll understand."
That beautiful poem in song, I may not have quoted correctly. Here is one, however, I wrote myself which may be appropriate when we can not fathom our sufferings.
I'll trust in God:
I said it to the Lord one day,
When ev'ry human prop, and ev'ry human stay
I said it, and the glimmering moon
Seemed quietly to whisper, God will answer soon;
He has thee in His keeping,
He'll change thy sigh and weeping
I. WORKING THE WORKS OF GOD (John 9:4-5 )
There are two things which Christ said as He faced the condition of the blind man.
1. Christ said, "I must work."
We take it that He faced a definite need, and therefore a definite work. That work was the work of the Father who sent Him. That work had to do with giving the blind man his sight.
You ask, Did Christ come to die for sinners, or did He come to heal the sick, give the blind their sight? etc. We reply He came for both. The work of healing was, however subsidiary to the work of Calvary, because it could be done only upon the basis of His sacrifice. Christ could not undo the works of the devil, and take away the curse, except He die.
However, coming to die, He could also come to heal. When John wanted to know if Jesus was indeed the Christ; the Lord sent him this word: "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them." This was all in accordance with Isaiah 6:1-3 , and Luke 4:18-19 .
Thus, the giving to the blind man his sight was a part of Christ's assigned work.
2. Christ said, "I must work the works of Him that sent Me." We wonder if we are sent of God, to finish His work? Nay, He is returning to do that very thing. We are sent to continue His work. Did He not say, "He that believeth on Me, the works that I do, shall He do also; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto the Father." Are we doing greater works than He did? If not, perhaps, we believe not.
3. Christ said, "I must work while it is day." Let us be up then and doing, for the night cometh when no man can work. Do it now, for then ye cannot do it.
4. Christ said also, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." This word grows in the depths of its meaning, as we think of the blind man who has no sight and therefore no light. What was the beauty of the Jordan valley, with its winding way, to Him? Suppose Jerusalem was "beautiful of situation," he saw not its glory.
He could not walk in the light for He was blind. Therefore Christ stood by the blind man, saying, "I am the light."
II. A TEST OF FAITH (John 9:6-7 )
1. Some things that had everything and yet nothing to do with it.
Christ spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle what did that have to do with giving a blind man his sight? If you think it might aid, try it.
Christ anointed the eyes that were blind with the clay. What did that accomplish? Nothing at all, by way of healing.
Christ said, "Go wash in the pool of Siloam." What virtue was there in washing in that or in any other pool? None at all.
Christ said to a man with the withered hand, "Stretch forth thy hand"; however, the man could not stretch it forth; and, if he could, that could not give him healing.
Christ said to a man sick of the palsy, "Take up thy bed and walk." Is carrying beds a sure cure for palsy? I wot not.
Then, why the clay, the spittle, the anointing, the pool of Siloam? What meaneth all of this. It means a test of the man's faith.
2. Some things that seemed as nothing, yet were everything.
Here it is, "He went his way therefore and washed and came seeing." The things that could mean nothing, did mean everything. Why? Because they meant obedience. Because they meant obedience, where obedience seemed folly. Why did not the blind man try the Naaman method. Why did he not say, "Are not the waters of Jacob's well better than all of these waters of Siloam?" Or, "If washing give one his sight, I have washed many times."
Why did he not ridicule the clay, and the spittle, and announce that they were not scientific? Now do not argue that the blind man was an ignoramus, and had no power of reason. Not so. Any old fool knows that spittle and clay, and washing, has no power to give sight. Remember, this man had been born blind, he had lived in hopeless despair of ever having his sight.
Yes, it was Christ who healed the blind man; however, it was faith that, gripping his soul, caused the blind man to deftly obey every syllable the Master had spoken. He went and came seeing. Where is he who can sever a living, acting, obedient faith from salvation?
Paul said, "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness." Heart belief is more than a mere intellectual assent, it is a living affiance of the life's affections; it is a ready and happy obedience to Him who saves.
III. AN ASTONISHED NEIGHBORHOOD (John 9:8-12 )
There are several surprises in these verses.
1. There was the questioning of the neighbors. They said, "Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said, This is he; others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he."
"This is he," what a startling and amazed acknowledgement.
"He is like him," what a sad and unhappy rejection of facts.
"I am he," what a certainty of restful assurance.
When God, in answer to prayer had healed a dying child of five, whom three physicians had given up, and had healed her suddenly, and completely; a preacher in our city said, "I have heard that God did, sometimes, heal the sick, but I never saw one healed"; and he rushed to the hospital to verify the healing. "O ye of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" And he that doubteth, "let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord."
2. There was the questioning of the Pharisees. The neighbors brought the man that had received his sight to the Pharisees. They, too, asked him how he received his sight. His answer was simple, and yet concise. He said, "He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see."
What then? Did the Pharisees praise God? Nay, they condemned the One who did the healing. They said, "This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath."
Strange reasoning that. They themselves refused to believe in Christ, because he did not follow their self-ordered, and self-manufactured traditions.
Thus it is today. Let some one preach in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, and if he does not belong to some special denomination, and adhere to its statements, he is discounted. "He walketh not with us" is their criticism. No matter how orthodox and how true to the word, you must wear the garb of some sect to be accepted by them.
The Sabbath meant "rest," yet Christ could not give rest on the Sabbath to a lifelong blindness. The Sabbath meant a sign between God and His people Israel, yet God could not magnify the meaning of that sign of COMING CANAAN REST, when the inhabitants of the land shall no longer say "I am sick," and when the blind shall see, and the lame shall leap like a hart, without being maligned as a devil.
Some said: "How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?" Thus there was a division among them.
IV. THE OPERATION OF FAITH WHERE KNOWLEDGE IS LIMITED (John 9:17-25 )
1. There were some things the blind man did not know. The Pharisees said to him, "What sayest thou of Him?" The blind man replied: "He is a prophet." The blind man did not know all that the prophets had said about Christ. He did not know that He had come forth from God, that He had been born of a virgin. There were many things he did not know about this wonderful Saviour.
Salvation is by grace through faith. It is true that we cannot believe in Him of whom we have not heard. It is true that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God; and yet, it is also true that there can be a perfect faith in Christ as a Saviour, where there is a great lack of knowledge concerning the deeper mysteries and theological truths, that cluster around His divine person. This is true in the case of children, as well as of adults. It is true in faraway India, where we have seen those who had never heard the Gospel coming into a saving faith without any deep knowledge of the Scriptures, or of Christ Himself. They knew He was God. They knew that He died, and that He rose again. They heard the story, and received it, as a child receiveth it.
2. There was one supreme thing the blind man did know. This is his own statement. The Pharisees said unto Him, "Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner." 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." We believe there was much of sarcasm in the statement: "Whether He be a sinner or no, I know not." The blind man by no means accepted the negations of the Pharisees concerning Christ. He merely said: "One thing I know."
An atheist may stand before a young convert and defame the name of the living God, and deny Him altogether. He may speak with such argumentative powers that the young Christian will be utterly unable to make reply. Yet, that same youth in Christ will be sure to say, "There is one thing I know: my sins are gone, my heart is at rest, and a new life is throbbing within my soul."
Those who are saved should go on to know the Lord, but not all saints do know Him as they should. After all, the great question is: Do you know that you see? Paul said: "I know whom I have believed." Do you know whom ye believe?
V. THE REJECTION OF TESTIMONY (John 9:18 )
Our verse says: "The Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight." Let us look into this unbelief, for their unbelief was black with the frown of God.
1. They did not believe a triple testimony. First of all there was the testimony of the neighbors, who had known him as the blind beggar. They came to the Pharisees leading the man that was blind.
There was next the testimony of the young man. He said unto them: "I washed and do see."
Thirdly, there was the testimony of the parents. They were greatly afraid because they feared the Jews, yet they said: "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind."
In the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word is established. However, the Jews refused all testimony, and every witness. They knew that the man could see, however, they utterly repudiated that Jesus Christ who gave him his sight. How they explained it away is difficult to understand. These Pharisees were more blind, spiritually, than the blind man was blind, physically.
"Oh, blind, blind, blind! amid the blaze of noon;
Irrecoverably blind, total eclipse,
Without one ray of light."
Are not the men of this world blinded by the devil? They have eyes but they see not; and ears, but they hear not. The god of this world hath blinded their eyes, lest the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ should shine upon them and they should be converted.
Because they have refused to walk in the light, God hath given them blindness of heart. They would not retain Him in their knowledge, and He gave them a reprobate mind. It mattered not how wonderful were the words or the works of Christ; it mattered not how marvelously the prophetic Scriptures concerning Christ were being fulfilled before their very eyes, they still believed Him not.
It is so today. The unregenerate refuse every proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, of His deity, and of His return. They believe not.
VI. IN FEAR OF THE SANHEDRIN (John 9:22 )
We read how the parents of the blind man said: "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."
The parents of the lad did not so speak from any conviction of truth. They thus spake: "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."
1. The fear of men bringeth a snare. There are many today to whom God has given light as to truth, but they are afraid to follow on for fear of some kind of banishment or excommunication on the part of some ecclesiastical system. There are many who believe in the Coming of the Lord, and yet they preach it not because they fear the denominational leaders, or perhaps, their standing in their own local church is at stake. They love the praise of men more than the praise of God. They would rather have the frown of God, than the frown of their associates.
2. The soul that follows fully must suffer. If we would go all the way with God, obey Him fully, confess Him under all and every circumstance, we will find that it costs. It has always cost. Think of what Paul suffered at the hands of His brethren. Think of the shame, the suffering of the martyrs. They died for the faith.
We need men today who will not cringe nor refrain from giving testimony to truth before an accusing populace. Jesus Christ, Himself, as we see in this chapter in John, was maligned, misrepresented. They flatly called Him a sinner. Think you that if the Master of the house has been so persecuted, that we shall not be persecuted. If they call Him Beelzebub, will they not call those of His household Beelzebub? If they hated Him, will they not hate us?
Verse twenty-eight tells us that they reviled this man and they said, "Thou art His disciple; but we are Moses' disciples." Let us ask each one of you, "Whose disciple are you? are you the disciple of men, or of the Lord Jesus?" Is Moses your God, or is Christ? Do you obey the dictates of the church fathers, or the dictates of the Lord of lords. The Sanhedrin had told Peter and John that they should not speak any more in the name of Christ. Peter replied: "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." He obeyed God rather than men.
VII. THE TESTIMONY OF THE MAN BORN BLIND (John 9:30 )
1. First of all, the blind man said: "I was blind but now I see." Should not every one that receives Christ, acclaim Him? It is with the heart that man believeth, but it is with the mouth that confession is made unto salvation. Should the redeemed of the Lord not say so? The Lord Jesus hath said, "Him that confesseth me before men, him will I confess before My Father who is in heaven."
The basest of ingratitude would have marked the spirit of this blind man had he refused to acknowledge his healing. The woman with an issue sought to slip away into the crowd, but the Lord Jesus compelled her to give testimony.
2. Secondly, the blind man said: "He is a prophet." You may argue: that was not enough for the blind man to say. We answer that it was a great deal in comparison with what the Pharisees were saying. We also suggest that the blind man was not ashamed of what he knew; neither was he, like his parents, afraid to tell it out.
"Ashamed of Jesus can it be,
A mortal man ashamed of Thee,
Ashamed of Him whose angels' praise,
Shall ring through heaven through endless days.
Ashamed of Jesus, sooner far,
Let evening blush to own her star."
3. Thirdly, the blind man said: "Why herein is a marvelous thing, that ye know not from whence He is, and yet He hath opened mine eyes." Listen to this erstwhile blind, but now seeing and believing man. He knew whereof he spoke, for he had received his sight. He knew that Christ was not a sinner, for God only can do what Christ did. Since the world began, it was not heard that any man opened the eyes of a man that was born blind. The testimony of this blind man rings out with all assurance, as he says: "If this Man were not of God, He could do nothing."
Beloved, we need today this same kind of a testimony concerning Jesus Christ. We can even see the man born blind growing in grace, and also in knowledge, as he opens up his mouth to testify of God. Somehow or other the antagonisms of the Pharisees gave zest and power to the confession of the one who received his sight. He knew that the Man must have been of God. Immediately, the Pharisees accused the man born blind of having been born in sin, and they said, "Dost thou teach us?" and they cast him out. Such is the lot today of many a man who has dared to face the denials of would be religionists. They, too, have been cast out.
4. Christ to the rescue. When Jesus heard that they had cast him out, He found him, and He said unto him, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" He answered, "Who is He, Lord, that I might believe on Him?" Christ responded, "Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee." Immediately the man answered, "Lord, I believe, and he worshipped Him."
Then said the Lord Jesus, "For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not, may see; and that they which see, might be made blind." Quickly the Pharisees replied, "Are we blind also?" implying that they were not, and had been slandered. Then Jesus said, "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin, but now ye say, We see, therefore your sin remaineth."
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on John 9". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany