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PART IV. (C.)
III. THE GROWING CONFLICT, ETC.
1. Jesus manifested as the light of men.—
(1) Shown by the typical “sign” of healing the man born blind (John 9:1-43.9.12);
(2) the opposition of Christ’s enemies, shown in their determined and unscrupulous attempts to break down the testimony of the man who had been healed (John 9:13-43.9.34).
2. The result of the miracle.—
(1) Jesus manifested as the giver of spiritual light (John 9:35-43.9.38);
(2) but for blindness to those who say they see, yet are enemies of the light (John 9:39-43.9.41).
Second Year of our Lord’s Ministry
Time and place in Synoptic narrative.—See Chap. 7, p. 200.
EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL NOTES
John 9:1. The connection of this narrative with what precedes and what follows is variously stated. Westcott, e.g., supposes that the occurrence took place at the feast of Dedication (John 10:22 : “Then was the feast of dedication,” etc.). It is here assumed that it is immediately connected with the previous chapter—that the miracle was wrought in the evening of the festival Sabbath, in the morning of which Jesus declared Himself to be the Light of the world. The blind beggar might be seated not far from one of the temple gates (Acts 3:2). Blind from his birth.—“The miracles recorded in John’s Gospel stand out each as a type of its class. Hence stress is laid on this special fact” (Westcott).
John 9:3. Our Lord does not mean in the words “Neither hath this man sinned,” etc., that the man and his parents were not sinners (Romans 3:23); but that this special calamity was not the result of special criminality or transgression.
John 9:4. I must, etc.—The better reading is ἡμᾶς δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι, We must work (א, B, D, L), with Tischendorf, Tregelles, Westcott and Hort, etc.
John 9:5. As long as I am in the world, etc., or better When I am, etc. (ὄταν).—This evidently refers back to the preceding discourse (John 8:12 ff.). Whilst it is true that Christ is ever the light in the spiritual world: “for the day of Christ’s presence has no evening: His sun never sets” (Augustine in Wordsworth): yet His immediate visible manifestation, the day of His activity in which He gave sight to the blind and relief to the wretched, would soon pass away, φῶς (not τὸ φῶς, the light).—I.e. light manifesting itself in various ways—here healing the blind physically and spiritually.
John 9:6. The application of saliva to the eyes (which was considered salutary), and the making of the clay especially, were in Jewish eyes, and according to rabbinical tradition, a serious breach of the Sabbath law.
John 9:7. Siloam (הַשִׁלחַ from שָׁלַח, to send forth).—Now Birket Silwân, lying south from the temple area, at the foot of Mount Moriah, at the mouth of the Tyropœon valley (see note, p. 268). “Sent.”—The waters of the pool were intermittent, and were popularly supposed to be specially sent with healing power; and doubtless there is a hidden reference in the name and its interpretation to Jesus—the Sent of God.
John 9:8. The neighbours, etc.—Those in whose vicinity the blind man lived. Probably the scene now recorded took place on the day following the miracle. “Who saw him before that he was a beggar” (ὅτι προσαίτης ἧν) is the reading of all the best MSS.
John 9:9. Others said, No, he is like him.—No, οὐχί: א, B, C, L, etc. He.—ἐκεῖνος.
John 9:11. A man, etc.—Better The man called Jesus. The blind man said nothing regarding our Lord’s claim to be Messiah; but the words imply that Jesus was well known, and most likely the man who had been healed knew Him who had been so much talked about in Jerusalem.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—John 9:1-43.9.12
Jesus, the light of the world, heals the man born blind.—It was at the close of a festival Sabbath day (John 9:14, “Now it was Sabbath on the day,” etc.) that Jesus, passing through some place of public resort apparently, “saw a man,” etc. The late afternoon was wearing toward evening, and sitting by the way, conspicuous among the moving crowds, was this blind beggar, known to some extent by the populace (John 9:8). Jesus “saw” this poor man, the narrative tells us. And in the case of the Saviour, to see human misery was to be moved to relieve it. We are to think of Him looking compassionately on the blind beggar. Our great High Priest was ever “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” The difference between divine and human pity is strikingly brought out in the manner in which the disciples regarded this pitiful case. The Lord’s seeing of the blind man led Him to heal; the disciples’ seeing led them to moot a subtle question regarding the origin of such infirmities. Jesus proved that He was the light of the world—
I. In giving sight to the blind.—
1. Jesus had been rejected in the temple, His well-established claim to be the light of the world set aside with scorn, and He Himself assailed violently. But that did not stay His beneficent activity as the world’s light, any more than the clouds can hinder the sun from shining, although they may shut out his beams from the earth, as the Jews shut out the healing rays from their souls. On the high levels of faith His light is undimmed.
2. And here we find the rays of Christ’s love and mercy directed to one sorely in need of them. This man whom Christ restored was one whose case was evidently past all human power. He was known to have been hopelessly blind from his birth; and evidently people were convinced that in some way his affliction was connected, with special sin (John 9:2). This was an opinion familiar to the Jewish people. So that not only was the man a special sufferer; but according to this belief his affliction was the result, so to speak, of a divine decree
3. Thus his restoration would manifestly be a work, not only of mercy, but of divine power; and in this case, where the cure was so extraordinary and so manifest, it could not fail to impress all who witnessed it, that here was One more than man, and that this work, performed by Him, was indeed a work of God (John 9:4-43.9.5), and must have been wrought by One sent from God. Only He who “formed the eye” (Psalms 94:9) could thus be able, or could give power, to heal the eyes to which sight had been denied from birth. It is the Creator who forms the seeing eye, who every day is working this miracle million-fold among the tribes of earth and air by slow gradation. He, therefore, who is able thus, as it were, to carry out and perfect the work of the Creator, must have heavenly power.
II. In the evident fulfilment of the ancient prophecies.—Jesus proved Himself to be the promised “Sun of Righteousness,” the light sent to lighten the Gentiles, etc.
1. In all His miracles our Lord had not only the immediate end in view, such as the alleviation of human suffering, etc., but the general and comprehensive end of manifesting forth His glory as the Messiah, and thus the glory of His Father (John 2:11; John 11:40-43.11.42; John 12:27-43.12.29).
2. This also was to be one of the glories of Messiah’s reign, one of the signs of His working: “The eyes of the blind shall be opened” (Isaiah 35:5). And at the beginning of His public ministry our Lord proclaimed this as part of His mission (Luke 4:18). When John sent from his prison cell two of his disciples to ask, “Art Thou He that should come?” etc., Jesus in answer pointed to His teaching and works in proof of His mission. And at the head of these He places the fact, “The blind receive their sight” (Matthew 11:2-40.11.5).
3. This then was an undoubted sign of Messianic times and of the working of Messiah, and prominence is given to it on account of the included spiritual meaning to which the miracle points. Messiah was to give sight to the spiritually blind. Thus was there placed before the people an evident proof of the truth of Christ’s claim (John 8:12).
III. The awakening of faith in the heart of the man who was healed.—
1. This, so far as the afflicted man was concerned, was the end for which this miracle was wrought. Not only would Jesus restore him to sight, but rescue him from a deeper spiritual blindness—let a more glorious light shine into his soul than the natural light which he now saw for the first time (2 Corinthians 4:6).
2. And it was doubtless as a means of quickening that faith that Jesus in this instance used outward means toward the end in view. This poor man did not see Jesus, and the anointing of his eyes with the clay brought him into contact with the Saviour, showed him the source of the power (as Mark 7:32-41.7.37). From ancient histories we learn that saliva jejuna was held in repute as a remedy for blindness, and clay was considered to have sanative properties. May not all these things have been tried in this man’s case and failed? But now they were to become aids to this man’s faith, to show whence was the healing power.
3. Further, he was sent to wash in Siloam as a test of the trustful obedience of faith. Is there not bound up with the mention of this fountain, and the interpretation of its name, a spiritual meaning? Was it not in reference to the pouring out the water of that spring at the feast of tabernacles that Jesus had pointed to Himself as the true Siloam, sent of God to heal men’s diseases, to bring them spiritual life (John 7:37-43.7.39)?
4. The man went forth trusting in the word of Christ; and he went not in vain. No direct promise had been made; but he believed that He by whom He was sent would not mock him. “He came seeing”—in a double sense; for now he believed that the divine Teacher, of whom so much was spoken, was indeed “the sent of God” (John 9:30-43.9.33). It was a notable miracle; many were cognisant of it; and it was a convincing answer to the opposition and calumnies of the Jews.
5. All believers spiritually go through the same experience as this blind man. Men by nature are poor, miserable, blind, etc. Of themselves they can do nothing to alleviate their wretchedness. “Grace, grace alone, availeth.” The “Sent of God” alone can bring them from darkness to light. But the means He prescribes must be used: they may seem humble enough; but they lead, if used in faith, to the same blessed result, e.g. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching,” etc. (1 Corinthians 1:21). Have we listened to Christ’s gracious command, obeyed it, and have we spiritually received sight? If not, then hear His invitation (Revelation 3:18).
John 9:2-43.9.3. The problem of human suffering.—No thinking man can look abroad unmoved on the spectacle of human pain, and the question that is so fully investigated in the Book of Job must come up for answer. Especially perplexing is the apparently indiscriminate apportionment of suffering and calamity. The good have to bear them as well as the wicked. Often, indeed, the wicked flourish, whilst on the good adversity descends. How can this occur under the government of a just and merciful God? Many, trusting to reason alone for a solution of the problem, have reached either pantheistic ideas regarding evil, considering it only the condition of a higher good, or have embraced materialistic conceptions of the universe, regarding it as the result of the working of laws formed and directed by no intelligent lawgiver.
I. Our Lord did not deny the general connection between sin and suffering.—
1. It is true that in the widest sense suffering is the result of sin. The subtle poison, the dreadful moral disorder, has become widespread and universal in the world. And further, therefore, when suffering overtakes us, it is because we are parts of the great sinful whole.
2. But it must be remembered that suffering often is directly and unmistakably connected with particular sins. This awful conclusion we cannot escape. The transgression of God’s natural laws brings speedy punishment on the transgressor. So too does the transgression of His moral laws, especially where the breaking of them is effected through physical channels.
3. Then there is the vast amount of suffering brought on those who are innocent, through the crimes, sins, and follies of others. Much of the misery in our great cities especially is caused in this way. The children of the intemperate man, e.g., ragged, half starved, pinched, and wretched, bear in this way the iniquity of their father. It is a sad and even overwhelming picture, an awful commentary on the apostolic word, “The wages of sin,” etc.
II. But whilst this is so, our Lord shows us that it is not our part to endeavour to establish the connection between special suffering and special sin.—
1. For in reality we have no infallible means of judging. It is enough if we judge ourselves, and we cannot always do even that perfectly—much less can we investigate fully and pronounce sentence upon the lives of our fellows.
2. Then there are undoubtedly two classes of sufferings, i.e. those which are the direct and immediate result of special sins, and those tribulations which God permits to come even upon His own people for His own wise purposes and their good.
3. There are many who forget this fact, and neglect the warning of our Lord not to judge others (Matthew 7:1). When they hear of calamity overtaking others, they are too ready often to consider it as a divine judgment sent on account of special sin. If some who thus judge would only remember how great would be their own danger in that case! Our Lord rebuked this spirit when some came to tell Him of the eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell (Luke 8:1-42.8.5).
4. Under this condemnation, therefore, would come those who would charge the sufferers from wars, pestilences, conflagrations, storms and floods, etc., as sinners above all others; or think that those into whose family circle come misfortunes of various kinds must always be guilty of secret transgressions. Carefulness and charity in judging others should ever be exercised. And whilst it must be recognised that much of the terrible suffering in the world is the direct consequence of gross sinfulness, yet it is also clear that much of the world’s suffering is often remedial, or is intended as a trial of the faith and patience of the saints.
III. There is a divine purpose of love in much of human suffering.—
1. It was so, Jesus told His disciples, in the case of this man. His “light affliction” was to be a means of manifesting God’s works. A sifting inquiry followed this miracle. The enemies of our Lord tried their utmost to overturn the clear testimony to the fact. But their efforts resulted only in their own confusion. The clear proof of the miracle resulted in showing forth the glory of Christ as the light of the world, and gave the lie to their calumnies.
2. The miracle also testified to Christ’s power as the spiritual physician. He not only healed the physical vision of this man, but the spiritual. May not this blindness have been in the plan of God for this man’s salvation? Might it not have been a means of keeping him from some way of sin into which he might otherwise have gone? Various conjectures might be made as to the divine purposes fulfilled in this man’s affliction. But in regard to the chief purpose of it, it is safe to say that God will never permit any one to endure in vain in His service.
3. The divine purpose in and use of tribulation are recognised by all believing men (Psalms 119:71).
“Sweet are the uses of adversity.”—Shakespeare.
And when affliction comes on Christian men because of their sins directly, it is intended for their profit. Just as pain is a warning to keep from danger, so affliction is often an admonition to beware of sin.
4. And suffering that is not directly but indirectly caused by the sin of others shall become a means for showing forth the works of God. “The poor ye have always with you,” said Jesus to His disciples, thus confiding the wretched to their sympathetic care. And where do care and love show so like God’s as in the care and love of a true mother for the weak and feeble member of her flock? And where is more of the Christ-spirit shown than in the means used by His people for the alleviation of sorrow and suffering? And where are greater triumphs seen of the grace of Christ overcoming than in the case of many on whom sore affliction has been laid, and to whom it has become even here a crown of glory?
5. Add to all this that whilst suffering is the general result of moral evil, it forms in a measure a check to the supremacy of the latter. To what awful lengths might not moral evil go, further than what we see even, did not this salutary check bar its progress! In every way there is a divine purpose of good to man in affliction. If men could not believe this they might well despair.
In view of this Christian men, whilst ready
(1) to judge themselves, and to inquire earnestly when affliction comes for what purpose it has been sent, what sin has been gaining dominion over them, are at the same time
(2) to be slow in judging others. God gives us no right to judge what He alone can know perfectly. But
(3) in imitation of our Master we have a divine mission to fulfil toward those who are afflicted—a mission of mercy and love in His name and spirit to
“Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick, and lead the blind.”
John 9:2-43.9.3. Healing the blind.—This is a signal miracle. The healing of the man born blind was what could not be effected naturally. The circumstances of this blindness were the occasion of these words in John 9:2-43.9.3. We have first:
1. A question of Christ’s disciples. The design and proposal of this question might be twofold:
(1) that it was simply and positively their opinion that all maladies of the body come from the antecedent demerit of sin, according to which all men’s sufferings are the effects of their personal sins, either as sin past and committed, or future and foreknown to God; or
(2) that the opinion was proposed for argument’s sake, occasioned by a former passage in John 5:2. Christ’s rejoinder. The words do not contradict Scripture. They mean that sin was not the cause of his blindness. Having removed the false cause, He subjoins the true: “That the works of God,” etc. These words not only exhibit the erroneous curiosity of the disciples, but show the charity of Christ in clearing the man’s innocence and vindicating God’s proceedings. The design of the words in this view is prosecuted in three propositions:—
I. Men are prone to charge God’s judgments upon false causes.—
1. These false causes are:
(1) sin on his part that suffers;
(2) hatred on God’s part.
2. The principles inducing men thus to charge God’s judgments upon false causes:
(1) the fallibility of the rule, and the falseness of the opinion by which they judge;
(2) their inability in discerning, joined with their confidence in pronouncing;
(3) the inbred malice of our nature.
II. Not always the sin or merit of the person afflicted, but the will of God that afflicts, is sometimes the sole, but always the sufficient, reason of the affliction.—This is apparent from several scriptures. To produce one. See the whole series of Job’s sufferings resolved into this by God Himself. The necessary distinction between punishments and afflictions must be observed. The divine proceeding is cleared from injustice on three reasons:
1. His absolute, unaccountable dominion, etc., over the creature;
2. The essential equity of the divine nature;
3. The unerring, all-disposing wisdom of God.
III. Though God’s will and power be a sufficient reason of any evil inflicted upon men, yet He never inflicts it but for the great end of advancing His glory, and that usually in the way of their good.—This glorious design of bringing these calamities on men is expressed in these words, “That the works of God,” etc. And the works that God intends thus to glorify are usually these:
1. The miraculous works of His power;
2. The works of His grace.
Let us apply this resolve of Christ, in the words of the text, to all the rugged instances of Providence.—“The peremptory way in which men often judge is highly odious to God, more especially on account of the cause of it—curiosity. This is but one remove from rebellion, as breaking through all the bounds God has set about the secrets of His counsel.”—South.
John 9:4. The works of God.—Genuine spiritual religion does not end in acts of worship. It will spur men to effort for the good of others, to do the works of God. Such was Christ’s life here. He not only prayed, engaged in acts of devotion; He preached the gospel to the poor, fed the hungry, healed the sick, relieved the wretched, and went about continually doing good.
I. The works of God should embrace all life’s activity.—
1. If men desire special work after the example of Jesus, it is easy to find it. The Judge of all will not reward those who merely say, “Lord, Lord!” etc. Those who feed the hungry, etc. (Matthew 25:40), shall inherit the kingdom.
2. But work for God cannot be confined within special limits. All labour should be made religious, the whole life should be consecrated (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is the end of redemption. Men are made “new creations,” and fitted for the divine service. There is no true distinction—should be none—between what are termed the sacred and secular spheres. “Ye shall be to Me a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6). Christ shall make His people kings and priests unto God, etc. (Revelation 5:10), and they shall in the heavenly, perfect state “serve Him day and night in His temple.”
3. Those who become citizens in His kingdom consecrate the whole life to Him. What cannot be consecrated were best left undone. Religion was intended to raise our ordinary life higher. Christ’s gospel is not a system that requires men to remove from the society of their fellows to some calmer region, where there are no rude interruptions to the life of devotion. It is a religion for men and women who are striving onward and upward.
4. The gospel sets the seal of its approval on every honest occupation (1 Corinthians 7:20-46.7.21). In doing the common duties of life, “not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of God,” we are doing His work.
5. In this, too, Jesus is our great example. When at the close of His ministry He said, “I have glorified,” etc. (John 17:4), did He not include those preparation years spent in labour and silence at Nazareth? Thus to men in every rank and station He fitly says, “We must work the works,” etc. It is forgetfulness of this truth that tends to stunt the Christian growth of too many. Their practical life-work is not done with a single eye to God’s glory, and becomes a clog on their spiritual progress.
II. Spheres of service.—
1. The general principles laid down should be a guide in every sphere of service. There is one work, however, that must go before all others, if these are to be done for God. It is the work of believing: it is the spring of all genuine work for God (John 6:29).
2. Then our common daily work will be consecrated. St. John mending his fishing-nets, St. Paul labouring at tent-making, were serving God, even as when preaching the gospel. The true Christian workman will prosecute his handiwork “as ever in the great Taskmaster’s eye” (Milton). And if all hand labour were done thus, how much better would it often be done!
3. Then there is the work of providing for those depending on them by God’s people. It is a part of Christian duty especially commanded (1 Timothy 5:8).
4. Young people have a most important work given them to do—the work of training and preparing themselves for life’s duties. Diligence in study, care of health, strengthening of the moral nature, are all incumbent to fit them for the higher duties that will by-and-by engross them.
5. Then there is the work of training the young. Evil increases apace in the heart; good grows slowly. Teachers, parents, have thus a pressing, important work to do. This is truly a divine work, the work of Him who sent Jesus, His only Son, to save men. Soon those children will take their place in life, to work good or evil in their day, pretty much in accordance with the training and example they have received. It is a noble yet serious work to train the young for duty here and their eternal destiny; and in this training, first and all through, believing should be kept in the foreground. Need here for faith and prayer!
6. Thus all through life devotion and action will be blended. They are the warp and woof of every true spiritual life. And thus, if lived in the spirit of devotion,—every talent used, every opportunity seized, every duty entered upon not from selfish motives, but from a desire to do God’s will and finish His work—then the whole life will be an acceptable service.
III. Limits of service.—
1. Our own imperfection and sinfulness, the sin and opposition of the world, may circumscribe and mar our service; but those barriers we must overcome.
2. But there are limits of time. It was so with Christ in His earthly ministry. How promptly and eagerly therefore did He make use of every opportunity!
3. So we have but a day given to us in which to do our work, nor can the length of that day be determined. For some it merely dawns. With others it is eclipsed at noonday. For all it comes to an end. It is inevitable, this onward march of life. The diurnal sweep of the heavens, the seasons in their changeful round, every heart-beat—all proclaim
“The day of life fleets fast away,
And none its rapid course can stay.”
Eventide, with its closing shadows, is swiftly approaching, when our work must be laid aside, and we wait in silence until it is judged on that great day.
John 9:4. “The night cometh, when no man can work.”—The sense of the text lies in these three positions:—
I. There is a work appointed to every man to be performed by him while he lives in the world.—Man as he is—
1. A part or member of the body politic—hath a temporal work, whereby he is to approve himself a good citizen in filling the place of a divine, a lawyer, etc.
2. As a member and subject of a higher and spiritual kingdom, he has also a spiritual calling or profession as a Christian, and the work that this calls him to is threefold:
(1) to make his peace with God;
(2) to mortify the flesh and sin;
(3) to have his heart purified through the operation of the Holy Spirit implanting within it the graces and virtues of the Christian life.
II. The time of this life being once expired, there remains no further opportunity or possibility of performing this work.—The word “day,” as the expression of the time of human existence, here may denote three things:
1. The shortness of it.
2. But also the sufficiency of our time: short as it is, yet it equals the business of the day.
3. Then by a day is denoted to us the determinate stint and limitation of our time.
III. The consideration of this ought to be the highest and most pressing argument to every man to use his utmost diligence in the discharge of this work.—
1. Because of the difficulty of the performance of that work; and
2. Because of its necessity: especially is this so with regard to a man’s salvation.—Abridged from South.
John 9:2-43.9.3. Sin and suffering.—
1. The Master looked on the blind beggar with an eye of pitying love, and the resolve to work a gracious work in him. The disciples seemed to regard him simply as an interesting problem or case.
2. Among the Jews suffering and calamity were regarded as consequences of sin; and in a sense all suffering results from sin, regarded either as failure or transgression. The whole creation participates in this result (Romans 8:22). Our Lord did not deny this connection between sin and suffering (John 5:14). The Decalogue contains this idea in a striking form (Exodus 20:5-2.20.6; Numbers 14:18, etc.). Modern science reaffirms the truth in its doctrine of heredity; the slums of our great cities give a terrible affirmation of it. The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, i.e. the suffering at least descends. Revelation brings in the element of hope, however. It is only to the third and fourth generation of those who hate God that this doom applies. To those who love Him He shows mercy; and even where suffering does follow sin in this case, it is made to serve merciful ends.
3. But though this is true, none of human kind can truly and infallibly pronounce judgment in individual cases. Men suffer individually as a part of the whole of humanity. But they cannot always say this particular calamity is the result of that particular sin. It may have been—in some glaring cases it cannot be denied, e.g. the physical results following drunkenness, etc.; but, generally speaking, where the connection cannot be directly traced, we have no right to suppose that such a special connection exists. The Book of Job was written to teach this among other truths.
4. The disciples seem to have entertained the Jewish ideas on this subject—hence their question. In regard to the first part of their question, some suppose there is a reference to the idea of the transmigration of souls. But that doctrine does not seem to have been held by the Jews generally. A few of such sects as the Essenes may have held ideas approximating to it, or some may have expressed the truth of the soul’s pre-existence in terms which seemed to imply this doctrine. (But see Wordsworth’s Ode to the Intimations of Immortality, and Henry Vaughan’s The Retreat, for an expression of ideas not far removed from metempsychosis.) Others think the disciples were alluding to a rabbinical fancy that a child might sin before birth (Genesis 25:22; Psalms 51:5; Luke 1:41); others, again, that this man had been punished by anticipation for some crime he was to commit during his lifetime (Tholuck, etc.). But such attempts to account for the disciples’ question are somewhat far-fetched. For though the disciples did hold the almost universal ideas as to the nature of Messiah’s kingdom, etc., it does not appear that they were much conversant with or affected by the subtleties of rabbinic lore. There is much to be said for Chrysostom’s idea that the disciples wished to show that both suppositions were baseless—in short, that they were combating the popular view. “The man could not have brought it on himself; and the prophet (Ezekiel 17:2 seq.) warns not to impute such calamities to the sins of others.” But this explanation seems hardly to agree with our Lord’s answer to the disciples. It seems a direct answer to a direct inquiry. Two other explanations of the first part of the disciples’ question seem to afford the simplest and best solution of the difficulty, according to Trench:
(1) “The man could not have brought the affliction on himself, for he was born blind. How and why then was it laid upon him? Or
(2) they failed to perceive at the moment when they asked their question the self-contradiction involved in the first alternative.”
John 9:7. The pool of Siloam.—In the summer of 1880, one of the native pupils of Mr. Schick, a German architect long settled in Jerusalem, was playing with some other lads in the so-called pool of Siloam; and while wading up a channel cut in the rock, which leads into the pool, slipped and fell into the water. On rising to the surface, he noticed what looked like letters on the rock.… He told Mr. Schick of what he had seen, and the latter, on visiting the spot, found an ancient inscription, concealed for the most part by the water. The pool is of comparatively modern construction, but it encloses the remains of a much older reservoir, which, like the modern one, was supplied with water through a tunnel excavated in the rock. This tunnel communicates with the so-called spring of the Virgin, the only natural spring of water in or near Jerusalem. It rises below the walls of the city, on the western bank of the valley of the Kidron, and the tunnel through which its waters are conveyed is consequently cut through the ridge that forms the southern part of the Temple hill. The pool of Siloam lies on the opposite side of this ridge, at the mouth of the valley called that of the Cheesemakers (Tyropœon) in the time of Josephus, but which is now filled up with rubbish and in large part built over. According to Lieutenant Condor’s measurements, the length of the tunnel is 1,708 yards; it does not, however, run in a straight line, and toward the centre there are two culs-de-sac, of which the inscription now offers an explanation. At the entrance, on the western, or Siloam side, its height is about sixteen feet; but the roof grows gradually lower, until in one place it is not quite two feet above the floor of the passage.—Sayce, “Fresh Light,” etc.
John 9:2. Causes of affliction—Affliction may come upon a man either in his own person or in that of some one of his family; but it may not in the remotest degree have been brought on him by any sin at which God would thus mark His displeasure, or for which He would thus exact punishment. And we hardly know a more interesting or consoling truth than this, if you come to consider how it may be made to work among those who are “distressed in mind, body, or estate.” For there is nothing more common with a Christian, when God visits him with a bereavement or trial, than that he anxiously inquires what particular sin he has committed, for which the bereavement or trial is to be taken as the chastisement. And the inquiry is a wholesome one: it is but that which Job so pathetically urges, “I will speak in the bitterness of my soul; I will say unto God, Do not condemn me; show me wherefore Thou contendest with me.” It becomes the Christian, when he is in trouble, to “search and try his ways,” that he may see whether some particular fault be not pointed out by the particular affliction. This is what so often aggravates affliction, and gives it a character which renders it intensely more difficult to endure. Visit a Christian mother, who has been suddenly deprived of a much-loved child, and very probably she is exclaiming in the bitterness of her anguish, “Alas! I must have made an idol of that child: God would never have thus removed the child except to punish my idolatry; and thus, miserable that I am, the child has died for its mother’s sin.” And undoubtedly it is but too possible that the mother may be right; she may have made an idol of her child; and God, who is “a jealous God,” has often to take rough ways of loosening our affections when we suffer them to grow entangled with the creature. But may not the child have died, and yet not have been made an idol? Yes, indeed: “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents.” It does not at all follow, from the sudden removal of the child, that it has been made the object of an undue, inordinate affection. There may have been other and wholly different ends proposed by the bereavement than the correction of an idolatrous regard. If there have been this idolatrous regard, undoubtedly its correction is one of the proposed ends; and the sorrowing parent does right in considering whether or not she have deserved such correction. But what we insist upon is, that the bereavement is not necessarily any proof of the idolatry; whereas the heart-broken mother is almost sure to conclude that it is, and thus to write bitter things against herself, adding a new pang to affliction, a sharper and severer than the mere loss could cause.—Henry Melvill.
John 9:3. The divine end of affliction.—We cannot but dwell with the greatest interest on these words: “that the works of God might,” etc. They seem like a shield of protection thrown gracefully by our blessed Redeemer round the most helpless of our race. They give a kind of dignity to deformity, not only securing it from contempt, but requiring for it respect; denouncing not merely those who could treat it with ridicule or neglect, but those also who fail to discern in it a means for advancing God’s vast, if inscrutable, purposes. I would have the words graven as a motto over every asylum for the blind, the deaf, the crippled, the dumb. They would teach the supporters of such noble institutions that they were doing something more than mitigating a certain species of human misery: that they had under their care one of those mighty hosts by which God wages war with principalities and powers. Oh, who can fail to look hereafter with something more than pity on the deformed, on those wanting in the common organs or faculties; to look on them with a measure of the very feelings excited by the spectacle of instruments employed to the highest ends; if he remember that of every blind, and of every dumb, and of every maimed person there may be good ground for saying, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him”?—Idem.
John 9:2-43.9.3. The meaning and purpose of pain and sorrow for God’s people.—“It pleased the Lord to bruise Him!” Strange pleasure this, surely, to dwell in the heart of the All-beneficent. Is it not the nature of the heavenly Father to give joy? Does He not delight rather in the laughter than in the tears of men? Why, then, should He find pleasure in the bruises of that heart in which there was no violence and no guile? Nay, but look deeper. The prophet tells us that the bruises of the Servant of God were the source of His prosperity: “When Thou shalt make His soul an offering, He shall prolong His days.” Wherever the soul is offered, wherever the will is given, there is a fresh access of life. Did not He find it so in the garden of Gethsemane? When did the angels come to Him with that strength which prolonged His days? Was it not when He took the Father’s cup in His band and said, “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt”? No wonder that the Father was pleased to bruise Him; the bruising of His soul was the surrender of His will, and the surrender of His will was resurrection begun. The pressure of the flower brought out its perfume; the breaking of the alabaster box diffused its fragrance till it filled all the house. It recompensed the Father for the unloveliness of the past; it made atonement for the sins of the world. Art thou chafing under the hand of thy God? Art thou murmuring that He should seem to look on complacently while thy desire is being thwarted, while thy will is being denied? What if He is complacent? What if He is pleased to bruise thee? Thinkest thou that there cannot be a divine benevolence which rejoices in thy moment of pain? Knowest thou not that there is a pain which gives cause for rejoicing? There is a pain which is the proof of convalescence, the sign that death is not yet. There is a pain which tells that the wound has not mortified, that there is life left in the mutilated member. There is a pain which is symptomatic of purity, which cannot be felt by the impure. No conscience can feel the wound of sin but the tender conscience; no spirit can perceive its own unrest but the regenerated spirit. Ought not the sight of such pain to be dear to thy Father’s heart? Must not thy Father strive to produce such pain? What pleasure to Him can be the vision of thy perfect satisfaction with the earth? what is that but the vision that thou wert not made for Him? But if He shall see thee unsatisfied with the earth, then indeed it is meet that He should be glad, for by the very want which earth cannot fill He knows assuredly that thou art made for Himself alone. It is pleasing to thy Father’s heart to see the travail of thy soul.—Dr. Geo. Matheson.
John 9:4. True labourers.—Two men I honour, and no third. First, the toil-worn craftsman, that with earth-made implement laboriously conquers the earth, and makes her man’s. Venerable to me is the hard hand,—crooked, coarse—wherein, notwithstanding, lies a cunning virtue, indefeasibly royal, as of the sceptre of this planet. Venerable, too, is the rugged face, all weather-tanned, besoiled, with its rude intelligence; for it is the face of a man living manlike. Oh! but the more venerable for thy rudeness, and even because we must pity as well as love thee! Hardly entreated brother! For us was thy back so bent; for us were thy straight limbs and fingers so deformed: thou wert our conscript, on whom the lot fell, and, fighting our battles, wert so marred. For in thee, too, lay a God-created form, but it was not to be unfolded; encrusted must it stand with the thick adhesions and defacements of labour, and thy body was not to know freedom. Yet toil on, toil on; thou art in thy duty, be out of it who may; thou toilest for the altogether indispensable—for daily bread. A second man I honour, and still more highly: him who is seen toiling for the spiritually indispensable, not daily bread, but the bread of life. Is not he, too, in his duty, endeavouring toward inward harmony, revealing this, by act or by word, through all his outward endeavours, be they high or low;—highest of all, when his outward and his inward endeavour are one,—when we can name him artist; not earthly craftsman only, but inspired thinker, who, with heaven-made implements, conquers heaven for us! If the poor and humble toil that we have food, must not the high and glorious toil for him in return, that he have light, have guidance, freedom, immortality? These two, in all their degrees, I honour; all else is chaff and dust, which let the wind blow whither it listeth. Unspeakably touching is it, however, when I find both dignities united; and he that must toil outwardly for the lowest of man’s wants, is also toiling inwardly for the highest. Sublimer in this world know I nothing than a peasant saint, could such now anywhere be met with. Such a one will take thee back to Nazareth itself: thou wilt see the splendour of heaven spring forth from the humblest depths of earth, like a light shining in great darkness.—Carlyle.
John 9:4. The sacredness of true work.—All true work is sacred; in all true work, where it but true hand-labour, there is something of divineness. Labour, wide as the earth, has its summit in heaven. Sweat of the brow; and up from that to sweat of the heart; which includes all Kepler calculations, Newton meditations, all sciences, all spoken epics, all acted heroisms, martyrdoms,—up to that “Agony of bloody sweat” which all men have called divine!… Who art thou that complainest of thy life of toil? Complain not. Look up, my wearied brother; see thy fellow-workmen there, in God’s eternity; surviving there, they alone surviving: sacred band of the immortals, celestial body-guard of the empire of mankind.—Idem.
Go! let your deeds His praises prove;
To all make manifest His love;
Like brethren live and journey on.…
Make known His promise to the earth,
Bliss unto all of mortal birth;
To you the Master shall be nigh;
For you He has been raised on high.
John 9:4. Man’s highest happiness in the completion of the work given him to do.—The only happiness a brave man ever troubled himself with asking much about was happiness enough to get his work done. Not “I can’t eat!” but “I can’t work!”—that was the burden of all wise complaining among men. It is, after all, the one unhappiness of a man—that he cannot work; that he cannot get his destiny as a man fulfilled. Behold, the day is passing swiftly over, our life is passing swiftly away, and the night cometh, wherein no man can work. The night once come, our happiness, our unhappiness,—it is all abolished, vanished, clean gone; a thing that has been: “not of the slightest consequence” whether we were happy as Eupeptic Curtis, as the fattest pig of Epicurus, or unhappy as Job with potsherds, as musical Byron with Giaours and sensibilities of the heart; as the unmusical meatjack with hard labour and rust! But our work!—behold, that is not abolished, that has not vanished: our work, behold, it remains, or the want of it remains—for endless times and eternities, remains; and that is now the sole question with us for evermore! Brief brawling Day, with its noisy phantasms, its poor paper crowns tinsel-gilt, is gone, and divine everlasting Night, with her star-diadems, with her silences and her veracities, is come!—Idem.
John 9:5. The word of Christ the true guide of men.—The world truly, which knows and criticises everything, God not excepted, demands first the test of sight ere it will submit to the word of the Lord. But the result is in accordance with this spirit. The world lies, and abides in wickedness (1 John 5:19) until the end of this dispensation. But we shall call in our own experience to counsel us. Oh, how often have we been sensible of the fact that our reputed seeing has been simple deception and illusion, when we have undertaken anything, and sought to carry it through apart from God! How often do people determine on a course which they gain nothing by! How often are we careful in vain and for nothing! How often do we hope vainly because we have not been careful and hoped in accordance with the divine word! What are even the greatest spirits, the wisest of men, otherwise but little children who know not how to help themselves? They are “blind leaders of the blind” who point each other to the way where God’s word is not. Without this word of the living God all the most ingenious and splendid lights which are kindled in the world avail nothing. With the word of Jesus men can implicitly find their way. His word clears the eyes. It is certain, beloved, that when a soul does what the Gospel commands, turns neither to the right hand nor to the left, considers neither what this man or that says, even though it should have to press through nothing but difficulty and perpetual mockery—so truly as there lives a God in heaven, who has given His only begotten Son for us all, that soul will attain to the end it has in view; for God is true, and what He has promised that He will surely perform.—Translated from Lecher, “Predigt.”
John 9:7. Spiritual blindness and its cure.—This man did not act as at first Naaman the Syrian did when he came to Elisha at Samaria. Had the blind man thought that this going to wash in Siloam was a very small matter—had he thought, What can this pool in especial do for me?—or had he thought it too much and had said, Why send me such a distance, I, a blind man? how shall I get through the crowds? why should I make myself a laughing-stock with these clay-bedaubed eyes?—then he would not have come seeing. But he went as Jesus commanded. His faith resulted in obedience, and stood its first test.… Thus, too, obedience is a part of every Christian life. Faith and self-will agree like chaff and wheat. The evangelist himself found the fact worthy of note that Jesus had sent the man to the pool of Siloam, and calls attention to this—that the word Siloam is by interpretation Sent; for people do not send a blind man about. This was truly a blind obedience. And the Christian must blindly obey God’s word, as a child well trained obeys his father.… Blindly, as Noah entered the ark, and Abraham left fatherland and kindred. How can it be otherwise? We are blind by nature.—Idem.
“All our knowledge and our thought
Are with darkness veilèd round,
Where God’s Spirit hath not brought
Light within us to abound.”
Translated from Clausnitzer.
How shall one who is blind see if he will not implicitly obey his Physician and Saviour? if he first seeks to examine the instruments by which he will be operated upon? would seek to test the salve which he must rub in? when he desires to study the prescription which has been written for him?—Idem.
EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL NOTES
John 9:13. They brought.—Better They bring.
John 9:14. Now it was a Sabbath on the day that Jesus made the clay, etc.—It was most likely a festival Sabbath.
John 9:15. The Pharisees.—In the lesser Sanhedrin, or Synagogue Councils.
John 9:16. This man is not of God … a division among them.—The prophecy that was uttered at His presentation in the temple was being fulfilled (Luke 2:34). The Light was separating the righteous from the unrighteous (John 7:43, John 10:19).
John 9:22. The Jews had agreed, etc.—The Sanhedrin had not likely come openly to this agreement. They would have found opposition in their own ranks. A party of the leading sect had done so, however (Acts 23:20). Put out of the synagogue.—Publicly excommunicated from participation in all religious privileges for a time, or for life.
John 9:24. Give glory to God.—Many think that these words are simply a call to the man to abjure his supposed former error, in having called Christ a prophet, although He had broken the rabbinical Sabbath law (see Joshua 7:19). But it surely means also (since they could not deny the fact of the miracle), Give glory to God for the cure of thy blindness.
John 9:27. And ye did not hearken … would ye also become His disciples?—Indignant irony at the crooked method of these Pharisees, who sought to turn truth to error, echoes in these words.
John 9:28. Thou art the disciple of that man, etc.—They implicitly accused him of disloyalty to the law.
John 9:31. Heareth not sinners, etc.—I.e. men who are hardened and impenitent—wicked men, such as you accuse this prophet of being. A worshipper.—I.e. a devout, pious man (θεοσεβής).
John 9:33. Of God.—“The mighty work done by Him proves He is not a wicked man; it proves more, viz. that He is of God.”
John 9:34. Cast him out.—There were three degrees of excommunication. The first excluded the person under the ban for a short period from religious privileges. The second extended for a longer period, and was much more severe in that it debarred the person banned even from social intercourse for the time. The third was almost a virtual cutting off from Israel of the person excommunicated. Perhaps the meaning here is simply that they thrust the man violently out of the place of assembly. Those who were trying him might not have full power to excommunicate. Born in sins.—These men held the idea repudiated by our Lord (John 9:3).
John 9:35. When He found him.—Jesus had a greater work to perform on him than even the cure of his blindness, and therefore He sought him. Son of God.—Some MSS. read Son of man (Tischendorf, Exodus 8:0, etc.); and this to a devout Jew would mean the Messiah, the King of the eternal kingdom (Daniel 7:13).
John 9:38. Worshipped (προσεκύνησεν).—This word does not mean reverence merely, but worship due to God (John 12:20, etc.).
John 9:39. For judgment, etc.—Not to execute judgment (κρίσις), but judgment (κρίμα), a judicial decision, would follow from His very presence among men. The Light must reveal (John 3:17-43.3.20). This world.—In which there is much darkness, much evil and sin (Galatians 1:4).
John 9:40. Some of the Pharisees, etc.—Probably some who still believed on Him (John 8:30); but no doubt also others who, it may be, kept a watch on Christ and His actions. They were not conscious of their spiritual blindness, and thus were not driven to rely on Him who is the light of men.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—John 9:13-43.9.41
The progress of faith and the descent of unbelief.—A mighty miracle had been wrought. The blind man’s neighbours, and many who had before known him as blind, were astonished at the event. But the more minute their inquiries, the more fully was the greatness of the miracle established. The man gave a brief but complete account of what had occurred (notice the circumstantiality of the account; he had not seen how the clay was prepared—John 9:11). But here also the hatred of Christ’s enemies indirectly made itself felt, even in their absence. They had agreed on a line of action which would deter men from openly allying themselves with Christ (John 9:22). Fear of this, and perhaps a wish to ingratiate themselves with the powerful class of the Pharisees, made the man’s neighbours, etc., bring him before a sort of religious judicial court—a lesser Sanhedrin—composed apparently chiefly of Pharisees (John 9:18). In place of a judicial inquiry those unjust counsellors sought only by persuasion and threatening to set aside the truth. But their evil design proved abortive. They brought only confusion on themselves and greater glory to Christ. In this narrative we see—
I. The progress of faith.—
1. The blind man came seeing, after having washed in Siloam. What a wonderful evening that was for him, when first on that long-sealed vision the gentle light of the setting sun and gathering twilight revealed the world in its visible wonder and beauty, the human face divine, etc., and when as night descended the wonders of the celestial sphere, in all the brilliance of an Eastern night, first met his gaze, etc. So much was there indeed to attract his attention, that next day probably, when questioned as to the manner in which he had received his sight, he simply gave the facts, telling what the “man called Jesus” had done and said. Whilst full of gratitude for what had been done, he had not yet given thought as to the source of this man’s power.
2. But the question was soon to be pressed on him for an answer. Taken before the council of the Pharisees and questioned by them, he answered them apparently with some curtness, perhaps desiring to avoid a conflict with this powerful sect. He was no doubt aware of their threat (John 9:22), and also of the fact that the miracle, having been wrought on the Sabbath day, would further excite their enmity. This incontestable evidence had weight with the more honest and open-minded section of the council. The others, however, even though the voice of truth must have spoken to their consciences, clothed themselves in the triple brass of their tradition. But this division among them, and the further question asked, led the man another step upward on the stairway of faith. He is a prophet. Could He be less? for “were not wondrous works the mark of a prophet?” was that not, indeed, what Nicodemus, one of the Sanhedrin, had openly declared Christ to be (John 7:51-43.7.52)?
3. Thus the light which they imagined had been suppressed (John 8:59) burst out on them with even greater brilliancy. Baffled, yet unreconciled to the truth, they sought to prove the man an impostor or a liar, and proceeded to cross-question his parents concerning him. His parents in their answer left no doubt as to his identity, or the fact that their son had been born blind; but in regard to the manner in which their son was healed, they referred their questioners to the man himself, probably bearing in mind the threat of the rulers. With the man who had been born blind they tried another method (John 9:24). The fact of the miracle could not be denied: let the glory be given to God, and Christ denied any genuine participation in the wonder, on the supposition that He was a sinner. But their wicked attempt only led to the man ascending another step toward complete faith in Christ. His scornful utterance on their further cross-examination, “Will ye also be His disciples?” his trenchant repudiation of their attempt to make out Jesus to be a sinner, and his clear affirmation, “If this man were not of God,” etc. (John 9:33), show the man rising rapidly toward a true conception of Christ’s nature and office.
4. And now the rage of Christ’s enemies knew no bounds. We seem to hear the shriek of anger in their closing words as they carried out their threat in this case and excommunicated the man (John 9:34, but see p. 261). But as persecution never really hinders, but ever helps to forward truth, so the rage of our Lord’s enemies against him led this poor man nearer to that spiritual enlightenment toward which he had been progressing. When the Lord heard what had happened He sought out His persecuted disciple, who was now passing through an experience which all His followers would speedily pass through (John 16:2), and gladly aided him up the last step to faith and spiritual enlightenment. In reply to Jesus’ question, “Dost thou believe?” etc. (John 9:35), he had answered, “Who is He, Lord?” etc. (John 9:36). He had already implicit faith in Jesus’ word. And when Jesus in His reply first gently reminded him of the miracle that had been wrought on him, “Thou hast both seen Him,” i.e. with eyes enlightened by Him, etc., the spiritual darkness passed away from the man’s soul, and from the summit of faith he saw salvation (John 9:38). Earth with all its beauty was now lost sight of comparatively in the light of that new spiritual vision which the soul had attained to, and to which a new world of spiritual beauty and eternal glory had been opened. The blind had indeed been made to see (John 9:39). In this history there is further seen—
II. The downward progress of unbelief.—
1. The spirit of unbelief is essentially dogmatic and persecuting. The enemies of Jesus had made up their minds, and no amount of evidence of the truth would convince them. This is brought out in their determination to anathematise whoever should be openly favourable to the claims of Jesus. So now unbelief is dogmatic still. It will accept no proof, no evidence, for the truth of the faith. It has agreed to regard supernatural religion as an exploded idea.
2. The next step the Pharisees took was to attempt to weaken the credibility of the chief witness of the great miracle here recorded—to endeavour to show that the subject of the miracle was, in short, a liar. So unbelief still seeks to discredit the witnesses of the gospel, to resolve their writings into mythical histories, and to class their writers as romancers or forgers.
3. The next step of the Pharisees was virtually to admit the fact of the miracle, as all their attempts to throw discredit on it only made it more evident; but to call upon the man on whom it was wrought to deny to its immediate Author any real participation in it—indeed, by acknowledging Him as an especial sinner and transgressor (John 9:14; John 9:16; John 9:24), to declare that He could have had no part in it. So to-day there are many who cannot help acknowledging the beauty, the moral power, and the wonderfully elevating force in the gospel; but they would have men think that this is so not because the author of the gospel is the “power of God.” They would have them believe that it is all the result of a natural evolution of the human mind. The insincerity of the Pharisees is typical of a certain insincerity of modern unbelief.
4. These baffled Jews, unable to overturn the truth, used the weapon of excommunication. So the leaders of unbelief have their own engine of petty persecution. Refusing themselves to investigate candidly into the origin and progress of the faith, they shut themselves within their charmed circle, excluding therefrom all pertaining to the Christian faith, and stigmatising those who still adhere to it as unscientific. But their anathemas will no more prevail finally against the truth than those of the Jews of Jerusalem.
John 9:25. “One thing I know.”—Scepticism affected to disbelieve in the reality of this miracle, jealousy sought to argue that it was due to other agencies, persecution set itself to awe the man into contradictions. But through all he persisted in his artless and eloquent tale, with its unanswerable conclusion, “If this man were not of God, He could do nothing.” Mark—
I. The change.—
1. It was a radical change. It is impossible to conceive of two more opposite or different states than that of the blind and the seeing. And there is an analogy between this and spiritual blindness. There is the same glorious change from darkness unto light. Do we know it?
2. It was a divinely effected change. No power but a divine power could have wrought this miracle in the man born blind. So, too, with our spiritual blindness. Reason, education, civilisation may all seek to alleviate man’s condition; they cannot effect this change. “Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
3. The change was wrought by means. Christ on this occasion chose to employ them. Thus too, in giving sight to those spiritually blind, God does not supersede the use of means, but He vitalises those means, which must be used, just as the blind man had to go and wash in Siloam. With the divine word the human effort must be conjoined.
II. In this miracle there was a testimony given.—
1. The miracle was so noised abroad that the Pharisees felt constrained to inquire into the circumstances of it. Every effort was made to bring the man who was healed to contradict himself, but in vain. He fell back on the evidence of his own senses. “One thing I know,” was his testimony. So is it in the spiritual life. Religion is a real change. And when God has changed a man’s spiritual life, that man should be able to say, “One thing I know,” etc. Does the Spirit of God testify with our spirit?
2. This testimony is consistent and clear. The man who had been born blind was bold and fearless, telling his tale with outspoken frankness. And so, too, are the witnesses of God’s grace equally sincere. There are differences of temperament. Some are reserved and silent. But all on whom this change has passed will in some way testify to its reality.
3. This testimony is consistent under all circumstances, under every pressure. “When, indeed, have these faithful witnesses not spoken? Not only in the fellowship of the saints, but amid the darkest scenes of life. Reproach may bow down the spirit, but it does not silence the testimony. Affliction may shrivel up the strength, but the Spirit-life waxes into comelier and more heavenly beauty.” Even death pauses till the dying can shout, “O death, where is thy sting?” Yes, the testimony is consistent—all circumstances have witnessed it. In every scene alike, whether of human gladness or of human woe, the cry of the faithful has gone upward to the skies: “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” How is it with us, brethren?—Abridged from Rev. Robert Russell.
John 9:29 ff. “God spake unto Moses.”—
I. In affirming, as they did, “We know that God spake to Moses,” etc., the Pharisees virtually condemned themselves, for—
1. In acknowledging the authority of Moses, his authority as a lawgiver commissioned by God, the Pharisees showed themselves capable of being acted on by that sort of proof which a messenger from heaven might be expected to adduce. Therefore—
2. They were bound, on every principle of justice, to admit the authority of any alleged teacher from heaven who should give as strong proof and of the same kind as Moses. On what ground was Moses acknowledged to have spoken in the name of Jehovah? The supernatural powers he displayed, etc.—the plagues, etc.
3. But if all this was received as an undoubted proof of Moses’ claim as a prophet heaven-sent, much more the beneficent miracles of Jesus should have been held to prove His divine mission. So we can offer the Jew precisely the same reasons for believing in Christ from the New Testament as those on which he founds the authority of Moses in the Old Testament.
II. And if the Pharisees were self-condemned, it becomes us to ask ourselves whether we stand in the same case—whether there may not be in our actions and creeds sufficient to convict us, at the judgment, were we to die without interest in the mercies of the Gospel.
1. There may be many who are furnishing against themselves such a testimony as that which was furnished by the Pharisees—a testimony as to a power of attending to what they neglect, believing what they disbelieve, or doing what they omit, which will supersede all necessity for any other evidence when they shall stand to receive sentence from the Judge of quick and dead.
2. An illustration of this is the forethought men apply to earthly things. But that which urges us to provide against to-morrow ought to urge us to provide against eternity. Religion requires nothing but that we be, in respect of another world, what we continually show ourselves to be in respect of the present world.
3. Again, the first and great commandment is, “Thou shalt love,” etc.; and there is no commandment commonly thought more impracticable. It will be urged by some that God is too highly exalted and removed by the majesty and spirituality of His nature to be the object of love on the part of men. “We will love our earthly benefactors and friends, but, as for God, He is too great and too glorious for such an affection.” Well, if men are so constituted that goodness is with them an object of love, then, as God is emphatically good, He ought surely to excite this love. Men are attached to others by kindness, love, etc. Surely, then, they ought to be attracted to God, whose lovingkindness, etc., is over all His works. It will not do to say: The creature is seen, the Creator unseen. It is not needful that our benefactor should be visible to awaken our gratitude and love. “Let a man, in affliction and poverty, be told of some exalted and admirable person who seems to have gathered every virtue into his character; let him know this person only by the description of his qualities, and let him receive from him continued proofs of his benevolence, the supply of every want, the solace of every care, the shield from every danger: will it be impossible for him to love this unknown and invisible benefactor? You know better.” No; “the domestic charities, feelings of children toward parents, etc., all testify that we are capable of loving God.”—Abridged from Henry Melvill.
John 9:39-43.9.41. The coming of the Light of the world results in a discrimination or judgment.—In these words our Lord made a general observation on the whole course of the events that had just occurred. Jesus came not to judge but to save the world, and His words here are no contradiction of that truth; they are simply a statement of what did actually occur on Christ’s advent. It is not an act of judgment which He performs, but a declaration of the consequences of His coming to various classes of men. But even when considered in this light the passage is a very terrible one. It means that He who came to bring salvation and blessing to men must, through the individual sin and folly of many, become to them a stone of stumbling, etc. (1 Peter 2:8). Nor could the result be unexpected. How many make God’s gifts, through prodigal and sinful misuse or neglect of them, to become a curse to them in place of a blessing? And it was foreseen that such would be the result to many, of the sending of God’s best gift (Luke 2:34-42.2.35). The result of Christ’s coming as the light of the world is—
I. That they which see not might see.—
1. These are those who are longing for the light, but on whom it has not yet risen. Those whose knowledge of divine things is limited and meagre, who, in the words of the Jews, know not the law (John 7:49), but who are conscious of this ignorance and desire enlightenment—these are the “babes” in Christ to whom the Saviour once and again so lovingly refers (Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21). Their hearts and minds are open to the truth, and when it comes they eagerly embrace it.
2. No doubt, also, our Lord refers to those who were in the profoundest spiritual darkness, the other sheep not of that fold which He was to bring in (John 10:16). On those who sat in this great darkness the light was to shine, and to be seen by them with joy (Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 60:2, etc.).
3. Such were those who were blind, and who rejoiced when Jesus came with healing, illuminating power—men like the subject of the great miracle which had been wrought, like the Samaritans who gladly believed His word John 4:41), etc.
II. That they which see might be made blind.—
1. Those who see are those who prided themselves on their knowledge of the law (John 9:29), and who thought themselves infallible interpreters of and guides to truth.
2. But their knowledge was no true knowledge. It was founded on misconceptions of the revelation committed to them. They did not seek to understand its divine, spiritual meaning, but rather sought to make it bear testimony to their own conceptions, and to minister to their own vanity and national pride.
3. From having been long immured in those darkened caverns of tradition, their sight had become defective and rudimentary (like that of the fishes in the waters in great caverns), unable to bear the light, or quite insensible to it. So were those men “blind leaders of the blind” (Romans 2:17-45.2.20). In their proud self-sufficiency they lacked all desire for knowledge of the truth. They accounted themselves so wise and prudent, so infallible, that when the Truth appeared, because He did not conform to their preconceptions of what He should be, they rejected Him blindly and stubbornly.
4. They should have known. A true spiritual life and a spiritual desire to know the divine oracles committed to them would have led them, like a Simeon, an Anna (Luke 2:25-42.2.38), a Nathanael (John 1:49), at once to rejoice in the light when it appeared. But they did not, would not. It was knowingly, in face of the divine revelation committed to them, that they rejected Jesus. They hardened their hearts, and thus committed that sin against the Holy Ghost which abideth. The former class were blind because the eye of knowledge yet waited for the revealing light, and the eye of faith was thus dim. Their sin was thus not the result of wilful rejection, and hope remained for them. Thus the coming of Christ was a revelation of men—“the thoughts of many hearts were revealed.”
III. The proclamation of the gospel leads to the same result now.—
1. Now, as of old, Christ’s truth is “hid from the wise and prudent,” those who presumptuously imagine that their knowledge and wisdom are the measure of the universe. Are they not around us—the men of scientific and philosophical learning, who (like the Sadducees of the council) rely on their own reason and the results of human investigation alone, and who will accept no revelation immediately given by the Eternal, who deny that such a revelation is possible? Founding on their own fancied infallibility, they reject the truth of Christ, forgetting that they, and all men, can see but a little way into the secrets of universal nature even, not to say the Infinite. Even their own boasted knowledge, wonderful as it really is, should lead them to pause in humility, and to examine reverently and earnestly what professes to be a divine revelation. Surely even more truly rational is the position of those who, like the pious Isaac Newton, acknowledge the limits of their knowledge, and confess themselves to be like children sporting on the shore of the infinite ocean of truth,—that “the universe is the centre of a circle whose circumference is infinity” (Pascal). These are the men whose hearts are open to truth, the “babes” to whom the Father will reveal eternal realities (Matthew 11:25).
2. There are those also who, like the Pharisees, shut themselves up in the cells of traditional systems, claiming infallibility; so that when the truth comes to them it must judge; they must choose between it and their traditions. And how many resolutely shut their eyes to the light, whilst at the same time refusing to permit others access to the word of truth, by which they might be led to the light! They take away the key of knowledge, etc., and thus choose the darkness, become wilfully blind. But those whose hearts are open to the word, like Luther and the leaders of the Reformation, burst through the walls of the traditional system. They go, following the divine command, untrammelled by supposed infallible systems, and search in the divine word itself, earnestly desiring the truth, and they come seeing.
3. Again, there is a large class who, like many of the Jewish rulers, are actuated by actual enmity to and hatred of the gospel. Had the people accepted and followed Christ, the personal pride and ambition of those rulers would have been thwarted—indeed, were being thwarted. So with many now. Christ and His gospel stand athwart the path of their pleasure, gain, ambitions, etc. “Thou art an hard man,” etc. (Matthew 25:24); and they refuse to serve, and the end is darkness (Matthew 25:30). “This is the Heir; come, let us kill Him,” etc., and the end is destruction (Luke 20:14-42.20.16). It is to those who realise that earth and the things of earth are not all, who wisely resolve to subordinate and make subservient the things of time to those of eternity, that light shall rise in obscurity, and their darkness be as the noonday (Isaiah 58:8-23.58.10).
John 9:39-43.9.41. Spiritual blindness.—In this miracle this judgment here spoken of was effected, when Christ said: “For judgment am I come,” etc. For just as Moses of old divided Egypt in such a fashion that in all the parts of it inhabited by the Egyptians there was darkness, whilst the Israelites rejoiced in day; thus at the same time when Jesus Christ enlightened the man born blind He blinded the Pharisees, who were the wise and the prudent of the Jewish people. This is a judgment which is daily renewed among us. In this discourse the terrible aspect will be dwelt upon, that some are stricken with an inner blindness, which keeps the soul in the most gross and fatal errors. There is nothing on which Scripture pronounces with such variety of terms as on spiritual blindness. Three kinds of it are here distinguished—a blindness which is itself sin, a blindness which is the cause of sin, and a blindness caused by sin.
I. A blindness which is sin, i.e. which is itself criminal. Why? Because it is voluntary. Such is the blindness of libertines and so-called atheists, who in themselves, and by the way of nature, have light more than sufficient for some knowledge of God, and who in consequence only cease to believe in Him because they will not subject themselves to Him. By continually sinning against Him they come to forget Him and then to deny Him. Such is the blindness of the unfaithful, of sensual and voluptuous men, who in order to be able to enjoy their infamous pleasures, without having their minds disturbed, do not desire to hear eternal truth spoken of. Such is the blindness of certain minds full of vanity, who by the reason of their pride cannot endure the truth, as it humiliates them. Not only will they not see their faults, however gross, but desire others to applaud even their weaknesses. Such is the blindness of many called Christians, who do not desire to be enlightened in certain directions, regarding certain doubts, certain troubles of conscience, because they well know that they are not disposed to accomplish the duties which this enlightenment would press upon them. “Noluit intelligere ut bene ageret.” There is no more pernicious sin than this, nor one more inimical to salvation.
1. Because this voluntary blindness excludes the beginning of all grace—the light divine—and thus arrests the progress of every grace.
2. Because it not only excludes the light, but takes away all desire for the light.
3. Because it makes our will opposed to the divine will, and leads us to flee from the light. God, it is true, can enlighten us; but when we flee from the light, when we hate it, we put serious obstacles in the way of salvation. Let us pray like David, “Open mine eyes.” Lord, enlighten me.
II. Blindness as a cause of sin.—Thus the Jews crucified Christ, because they knew Him not. This species of blindness is still common. How often do men offend against justice, charity, etc., without knowing it, and because they did not know that these acts are sinful! But does this excuse men before God? If it were so, why did David pray, “Cleanse Thou me from secret faults”? I assert that this ignorance is not always a legitimate excuse—that it never is in the case of the majority of Christians; for in the age in which we live there is more than sufficient light to render this excuse invalid. “If I had not come and spoken unto them,” etc. (John 15:22), said Jesus to the Jews. Apply this personally. How many have preached to you and instructed you? “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham to Dives. So God says to men now. When, therefore, men who are Christians sin through ignorance their sin is inexcusable. Then you have servants, children. Their ignorance will not form an excuse for them; but still less will you be excused. It is your duty to endeavour that they should be able to instruct themselves, etc.
III. Blindness as the effect of sin.—When the making of men blind enters into the order of the divine decrees, it must be believed that it is an effect of sin, because it is one of the penalties God attaches to sin: in the words of Isaiah He said, “Shut their eyes” (Isaiah 6:10). If we take the Scripture terms in all their strictness and literality, one would conclude that God effected this blindness by a positive action. But according to their real meaning their signification is, as St. Augustine says, that if God makes us blind it is by way of privation, by withdrawing the light. But, as Augustine adds, God never absolutely deprives men of the light of His grace and the power of choice. He leaves men grace sufficient at least to lead them to seek the way of salvation—to pray, if not to act. This species of blindness is the most terrible punishment God can inflict. It is purely evil, without any leaven of good. After such considerations St. Augustine concludes, “Do you say that God does not even in this life punish sinful men and libertines? If God has not brought this severe judgment on some of you, it is because He has extended His mercy toward you. But who knoweth whether He will longer delay? Who would not tremble at the thought that there is a sin, perhaps, which God has marked as the limit of His forbearance, of His efficacious and victorious grace? What is this sin? I know not. But let me for neglect get nothing, O God, to avert this great evil.”—Abridged from Bourdaloue.
John 9:13-43.9.41. The gospel of the man born blind.—Jesus Christ healed this blind man; but the Pharisees, who sought to depreciate the works of the Son of God, disputed the reality of the miracle. The man who was born blind nevertheless maintained the fact of the miracle, and boldly bore witness to it. From the history we understand:—
I. Into what blindness our self-interest is capable of leading us, and does lead us daily, as it led the Pharisees. This passion of self-interest blinded the Pharisees—
1. As to the person of Jesus Christ.—As He was opposed to the Pharisees, and His influence gave them umbrage, that was sufficient to lower Him in their estimation. They declared He was a sinner, and in spite of all that could be said they believed it or would believe it. Such is the malignity of the spirit of this world. What is it that ordinarily blinds men in their opinions of others and makes them prejudiced? Their selfish interests. If a man is on our side, his devotion to our interests renders him so far as we are concerned a man of worth. But let him be opposed to us; he is then, according to us, one of the most unworthy of men. Justice withdraws when once self-interest prevails. It is because of this that we have a right to challenge a judge or witness in law, if he is proved to be swayed by some special interest in the case to be adjudicated on.
2. As to the miracles of Christ.—However glorious was the miracle wrought on the man born blind the Pharisees would not acknowledge it; and when finally obliged to admit the fact, they denied the working of it to Christ. They denied it without reason, I say, and in opposition to reason, because they thought it was their interest to deny it. This spirit produces the same effects to-day, or the same errors, not only in regard to the miracles of the Son of God, but generally
(1) in regard to the most incontestable facts of religion. A libertine will not believe so that his disordered and corrupt life may not be self-condemned.
(2) In regard to the most natural and best-established duties. A man may reason very justly concerning some matter proposed to him, and give a stringent decision, so long as his own interests are not concerned. But let these be touched, and he will soon modify the stringency of his judgment, and find reasons for doubting what seemed before incontestable.
(3) In regard to the most evident facts relating to justice and charity toward our neighbour. Why do we prepossess ourselves with a thousand false suppositions, which we seek to prove true, supported by judgments that are rash and futile often, but because our self-interests occupy our whole heart, and leave to the mind no room for the exercise of reflection and reason? Consider—
II. How the testimony of the man healed of his blindness teaches us to dissipate the darkness of error by the light of faith, and to confound falsehood by a holy confession of the truth.—The testimony of this man has four qualities:—
1. It was a sincere testimony.—His sincerity touched on naïveté, and it was this that disconcerted the Pharisees. They questioned Him narrowly. But because the truth never contradicts itself, and is ever the same, they could not embarrass the man or cause him to contradict himself. What could they do or say to elude the force of a testimony so simple and faithful?
2. It was a noble testimony.—In vain did the Pharisees threaten this poor man. They managed to intimidate his parents. But he feared nothing, and maintained his position. This showed a generosity and nobleness which was humiliating to those proud men. But it also condemns much more the weakness of many Christians who are persuaded of the truth, and are slack and timid in their defence of it.
3. It was a convincing testimony.—It is worthy of admiration, this stand of a poor man, who, without study or preparation, so reasoned as to shut the mouths of those doctors of the law. The wisest theologians could not have given better answers than those he gave to all they brought up against him. Such is the victory of faith, and so has she triumphed, and will triumph, over the wisdom of the world.
4. It was a steadfast testimony.—He constantly persisted in glorifying his Benefactor, and in publishing abroad the blessing that had been bestowed on him. The Pharisees cast him out of the synagogue with every mark of ignominy; but he became only the more attached to the Saviour. He worshipped Him as God, and embraced His law. If he had been perhaps less firm, as many are, he might have belied by a shameful inconstancy what he had just affirmed in his noble confession. Many of us yield in face of the least difficulty, and permit our faith to become disturbed. Novelty draws us away, and seduces us by the vain glory with which she decks herself. Let us hold fast the faith of Christ Jesus.—Abridged from Bourdaloue.
The healing of the man born blind; or, Jesus, the light of the world.—I. Jesus is the light of the world.—
1. This truth is perceived in the disclosure He makes regarding the designs of God in the enigmatical and inexplicable concerns of this life (John 9:1-43.9.3).
2. As the light of the world He has (like the sun) a set time for His earthly activity (John 9:4).
3. He declares Himself to be the light of the world (John 9:5).
4. And shows Himself to be so through the healing of the man born blind (John 9:6-43.9.7).
II. The evidence adduced in proof of this truth (John 9:8-43.9.23).—
1. Such evidence is necessary, for many are doubtful as to the power of Christ (John 9:8-43.9.9).
2. This testimony should be given by those who have experienced the power and grace of Jesus in themselves (John 9:9): “I am” (John 9:33).
3. Such must be prepared to give such testimony before everyone (John 9:13-43.9.15).
4. And should courageously witness to the truth, not caring how their testimony is received (John 9:16-43.9.17).
5. Many allow themselves to be deterred through the fear of man from giving an open testimony (John 9:18-43.9.23).
III. This testimony must be borne in face of persecution (John 9:24-43.9.34).—
1. The world, which is inimical to Jesus, seeks false witnesses against Him (John 9:24).
2. This sinful world hates and reviles the steadfast and constant friends of the truth (John 9:25-43.9.28).
3. They wantonly refuse to recognise the divine mission of Jesus (John 9:29).
4. They scorn the most powerful and irrefutable witnesses to the honour of Jesus and the holiness of His person (John 9:30-43.9.33).
5. They persecute with passionate anger the witnesses of the truth (John 9:34).
IV. The merciful Saviour receives to Himself those who suffer for His sake (John 9:35-43.9.38).—
1. He seeks those cast out by the world (John 9:35).
2. He inquires into their convictions (John 9:36).
3. He reveals Himself in His dignity to them as the Son of God (John 9:37).
4. He thus works in them joyful faith in His divine mission (John 9:38).
V. The manner in which fellowship with Jesus, the light of the world, is attained (John 9:39-43.9.41).—
1. Not all attain to this fellowship (John 9:39).
2. Humble confession of their own blindness in regard to divine things prepares men for this fellowship (John 9:40-43.9.41).
3. Vain-glorious conceit in their own wisdom shuts men out from this fellowship. (John 9:41). “But now ye say,” etc.—F. G. Lisco.
John 9:30. The careless are inexcusable.—This indication of forethought shall suffice to condemn the ungodly. Why did you live in carelessness as to religion? Why did death come upon you, and find you unprepared? Is it that you could not look forward? Is it that you were shut up, through the nature of your constitution, within things that were, and could not so extricate yourselves as to give heed to things to come? Nay, let the counting-house, the shop, the academy, the study, all witness upon this. These are beings who were always on the wing. They sprang toward coming days, and sought to make them their own. To-day was, with them, but a seed-time for tomorrow. The one toiled for fame, and made his appeal to posterity; another aimed at high station, though there stood many between himself and advancement. This man rose early, and late took rest, that he might add to wealth which he could not exhaust; and that, in order to ennoble his children. In one way or another, they all lived for the future; and, therefore, might they all have lived for eternity. Ay, there is not one of us whom his care for the things of this life will not suffice to condemn for his carelessness as to the things of the next life. There is not one who ever enters into a speculation, who attempts to lay up anything in store, who takes the least pains to secure himself against a possible evil or procure for himself a possible good, who does not thereby show that he might, if he would, give attention to the concerns of the soul, and that, therefore, can he have none but himself to blame if he enter another world with no provision made for the trial to be undergone. The parallel is most accurate, as we would again and again show, between any such case and that of the Pharisees.… The careless man—careless, we mean, as to his soul—will be condemned by his own carefulness; the improvident man, by his own providence; the man who laid up no treasures in heaven, by the treasures which he laid up on earth; the man who sought not the honour which cometh from God, by his having sought the honour which cometh from the world.… The great demand of Christianity is, that we “live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world,” mortifying evil affections, denying ourselves in things which a corrupt nature solicits, but reconciled to present sacrifices and endurances by the prospect of future and everlasting happiness. Does this seem hard? is it too much to ask of us to crucify the flesh, in hope of recompense in some yet distant state? Nay, do not men continually submit to inconvenience, to toil, to pain, for the sake of some advantage which they hope hereafter to reap? Will not a man abandon his home and his family, and go forth to face all varieties of peril and effort, sustained by the hope of accumulating wealth which will enable him to return and spend in quiet ease the close of his days?—Henry Melvill.
John 9:31. A clear proof of our divine sonship.—Let us take heed, then, how we continue to treasure up witness against ourselves. Examine carefully what you are proved capable of doing as to God and eternity, by what you are in the habit of doing as to man and time. This is the gist of our discourse: that in things commonly believed and performed there is conclusive testimony that men might, if they would, have believed the Bible and performed God’s will. God may go, as it were, into our households; and there, not by the blemishes which He finds, but by the beauties; not by the stormy passions which often agitate the inmates, but by those lovely affections which give a sacredness to our firesides—by the respect which parents feel and expect as their due, by the meek submissiveness of children, by their devoted attention to those who gave them life, by their obedience to their wishes, by their regard to their feelings—may He proceed to make good His charges against us, if it shall be found, that having drawn from Him our being, been sustained by His bounty, and protected by His power, we have yielded Him no homage and given Him no love. All then who perish must perish self-condemned, their actions attesting that it was in their power to have obtained salvation, and that, therefore, it was their guilt to have missed it.—Idem.
John 9:39. Praise to Jesus for spiritual sight.—Praise be to Thee, Lord Jesus, that Thou hast brought us to the knowledge of our spiritual blindness. We are born blind, and know not what we shall do for our salvation. But we would fain be saved, and so we plead with Thee this Thy precious word, that Thou hast come that those who see not might see. Oh, let Thy face be turned toward us also.… But what do we ask? Hast Thou not opened the eyes of us Thy Christian people in the washing of regeneration? (Titus 3:5). Yes, Lord, but Thou knowest also that the devil, the world, the flesh, have again obscured our eyes, and that daily the sand of sin streams in on them. Therefore enable us through faith at all times to turn to the Siloam prepared for us, so that the imperishable power of this gracious spring of life may renew us, and that our whole course of life may be continued within the limits of this sacred experience: “I went and washed and came seeing.” … Let Thy grace indeed be known by us from experience, and may we hold it fast whatever worldly wisdom, pride of reason, and human authority may say against it. Let us not be weary in acknowledging what Thou hast done for us, and never deny Thee before a generation at enmity with Thee and Thine. If men cast us out, take Thou us up, O Lord. Make those seasons in which we suffer for Thy name’s sake seasons of quickening for our inner man, so that we may grow in Thy grace and knowledge. May the comfort of Thy seeking love be precious to us; and when we have been found through Thy shepherd faithfulness, let us ever hear and know Thy voice as the voice of the Son of God who speaks to us: “It is He that talketh with thee.” Yes, in Thy word would we see Thee; strengthen our faith in Thy word, so that we may keep it unto the end … and let us then see Thy face eternally.—Besser, “Bibelst.”
John 9:40. “We see” the boast of present-day scepticism.—Just as the Jews felt in their relation to the Gentiles, and as among the Jews the Pharisees felt and comported themselves toward those among their people who were ignorant—self-satisfied, self-sufficient, haughty—so are there not such in our own generation? We see, so speak many cultivated people nowadays; we see the ark of the Church pierced by our scepticism, riddled by our negations—the Church is no longer a proud ship, she is now only a sinking wreck. We see, they affirm further in their selfrighteousness; there is in reality no sin—weaknesses and imperfections, but no guilt which requires forgiveness, no corruption that needs redemption. We see, and we behold Christ deposed from His throne, brought down to the common level, divested of the miraculous, as a Jewish rabbi, an enthusiast, the founder of a religion, and at all events a brave martyr; the days are gone past, for ever gone, in which as the Redeemer He shall wash men clean from their guilty stains, as the Prince of life shall lead them through the dark valley of death, and shall plead for them as their surety at the last judgment. We, we see—we see the coherence of nature as a huge machine: the mechanism of this machine has stifled the breathing of prayer; the regular succession of events has set aside the miraculous; the telescope has dissolved the other world. Like a foundling exposed on the sandbank of the Present, man must just accommodate himself to his poverty as well as he can, must put a good face on a bad business. We are all the more proud to rest on our own resources—unaided to fight the battle of existence. How then? Would not the Lord be justified in replying thus to those people, culture-proud, cultivated, and arrogant: Now you say, We see, therefore your sin remaineth—it abideth unknown, unacknowledged, unconfessed, unforgiven?—Kögel, “Predigt.”
John 9:41. The doom of indecision.—The undecided come under the judgment of Him who said, “He who is not with Me is against Me.” He is called the Amen. Yes, and shall He love a theologian to whom yea and nay are alike? He is called the “Bread of Life,” who for our sakes came down into this wilderness; and shall He leave unpunished those who adopt the thankless tongue of the fault-finder, and say, “That is common food.” His kingdom opposes the kingdom of Satan as light opposes darkness, as holiness opposes impurity, as life opposes death. How then? Shall there be before His sight a position lying midway between right and wrong, sweet and sour? Freedom and the kingdom of heaven will have no half-loyalty. The undecided Pilate crucified Christ. King Agrippa remained with arms crossed, an idle spectator, over against Paul in bonds. The vacillator does not take part in the scourging, but he permits it; he does not mock, but permits the mockery. The receiver stands on the same level as the thief. Participator in the act is to be participator in the punishment. First strabitic, then blind.—Idem.
John 9:41. The folly of indecision.—How foolish, on every calculation, is indecisive behaviour! Would that they would take one side or the other, that they would either be servants of Christ in earnest, or renounce Him openly, and say that they have nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth and His salvation. Happy, indeed, would it be for the Church of Christ if all its false friends were to declare themselves its enemies: the gospel would then no more be reproached with the scandal of their evil lives, and the true believers would be drawn more closely to one another, and would feel the name of Christian to be a real tie of brotherhood. But how much more happy if any of those who know not the Son of God might be brought to learn who He is, and to believe and to worship Him in spirit and in truth? And, under God, there is no way so likely to draw them home as for those who do know Christ, and believe in Him and love Him, to increase their knowledge and love more and more, and to bring their lives to a more perfect conformity with His gospel. That in many things we offend all is a truth which the consciences of every one of us can abundantly confirm; but that our offences may daily become fewer and less flagrant should be at once our labour and our prayer. And for all who in sincerity of heart do thus strive to increase their faith and knowledge of their Saviour, His words to the blind man are a most comfortable prophecy of what He will one day say to them, “that they have seen Him, and He has talked with them,”—on earth, by His word and Spirit; in heaven, by His presence revealed to them, when they shall see Him as He is.—Dr. T. Arnold.
John 9:41. Men must choose light or darkness.—Through the whole of the New Testament runs an either—or. God’s word is a two-edged sword; Christ is a Rock, on which men either raise themselves, or on which they are broken. The cross is either the power of God unto salvation, or weakness and foolishness to men. The gospel is either a savour of death unto death or of life unto life.… The Alexandrian catechist of the fourth century, Didymus, who was blind from his fifth year, and who attained the age of ninety, once said to one who sought to console him, that he could not sorrow over the want of that eyesight which is common even to flies and mosquitoes—the Lord be praised he had been given such an eye as angels see with, with which God can be seen and His light received. How had that master of harmony Händel, blind in his later years, sought to raise his hands in prayer in the aria composed by him in the oratorio of Samson:—
“Darkness around—nor sun nor moon nor stars.”
With what fervency did a Milton, when singing his Paradise Lost, pray for inner light! “Send forth Thy light and Thy truth; let them lead me,” etc. (Psalms 43:0); “let Thy word be a light unto my feet; open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.” Let the eyes of my understanding be opened for a double purpose—that I may realise my sinfulness, and recognise my Saviour, that Saviour who said, “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin. I am come,” etc.… In the grey dawn, of morning, in the falling night, I lift up mine hands and pray: Make me to see, make me blest, O Jesus! Away over the roses and lilies which summer bring forth, over the stubble, across which blows the cold breath of autumn, I cry, “Make me to see,” etc. Over biers that go under, over kingdoms that crash in ruin, over a new generation growing up, high over all I pray Him who was and is and is to come, Ever make me to see, ever bless me, O Jesus!—Translated from Kögel, “Predigt.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on John 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany