Jesus giveth Sight to a Man which was born blind. The Pharisee are enraged at it. Jesus preacheth a sweet Sermon on the Occasion.
(John 9:1) And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
Such seems to have been the importance of this miracle of Christ, as it related to his own glory, and as it related to his Church, that the Holy Ghost hath been pleased to cause the relation of it to occupy an whole Chapter, of more than forty verses. And excepting that memorable one, in respect to the resurrection of Lazarus, Joh 11 and which, for very obvious reasons, may be considered as demanding also the special attention of the Church, we do not find any of the Lord's miracles on the bodies of men, so largely dwelt upon. Under the apprehension therefore of its greater importance to our regard, than some of the more ordinary miracles of Christ, I hope the Reader will indulge me with calling his more immediate attention to it: and may both Writer and Reader seek of that wisdom which is from above, in the perusal of it, that we may enter into the design of God the Spirit, in the large relation he hath given; and the glories of God the Son in so distinguishing an act of grace as is here shewn; and to the praise of God the Father, whose name is glorified in his dear Son. John 17:1.
And here, according to my view of the subject, and among the other designs of God the Holy Ghost, in the special, and large relation of this miracle; I humbly conceive, that beside the thing itself in so divine an act of Christ, in displaying the Godhead of his nature, and identifying his Person and Character, as God-Man-Mediator; it was intended as a beautiful illustration of the recovery of every individual member of Christ's mystical body, from the blind estate in which they are all born in the Adam-nature of the fall: and out of which the Lord Jesus alone brings them, as the life and light of his people. If the thought be well founded, and is of God's teaching; and if both Writer and Reader be enabled to consider it through the whole in this point of view, and the Lord should be pleased to bless their attention to it with his grace, both will then find cause to say, as one of old did concerning Jesus and his works: My meditation of Him shall be sweet. Psalms 104:34.
Let us enter on the Chapter. It is said, that as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And who so blind as even God's dear children are to spiritual things, when first born in the Adam-nature of original sin, and transgression, sinners from the womb? Scripture saith, that they are children of wrath even as others, and consequently, until called by grace, have their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts. Ephesians 4:18. They are, in the fullest and strictest sense of the word, blind to the knowledge of God the Father, and his everlasting love to the Church in Christ! Blind to the Person, work, grace, mercy, favor, and all the ten thousand beauties, and excellencies which are in God the Son, in his Mediator-character, as Head, and Husband of his Church, and people! Blind to everything relating to the eternal Power and Godhead of the blessed Spirit, both in his own essence and glory; and in his grace and mercy to the Church: so that in point of knowledge, as to their own apprehension in spiritual understanding, they have never so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost! Acts 19:2. And of their own utterly lost, ruined, and undone estate, in the Adam-fall of nature, they are perfectly unconscious! Reader! Pause, and ask, whether there can be a blindness like this! And yet whether you are now conscious of it or not: this is the real state of every son and daughter of Adam by nature. None so near to us as God: and none so little known, or so little regarded!
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
By this question of the disciples, we cannot suppose that they meant in relation to original sin; as if they doubted the universal corruption of mankind in Adam. This could not be the sense of the disciples' words. They knew what the Lord had said by Moses; that the iniquity of the Father is visited upon the children. Exodus 20:5. But the Reader should be told, that many years before the coming of Christ, a system of Philosophy had been introduced, by one called Pythagorus, who taught, that all mankind had existed in some other body before their appearance in the present form of human nature: and that the sins which had been committed by any of them during that former state, was punished in this. The disciples availed themselves perhaps of this opportunity, to know Christ's sentiments upon it, and put the question, whether the present blindness of this man was according to this system, the result of his father's sins, or his own. I should not have noted the folly and wickedness of such a doctrine, but with a view to call upon the Reader to remark with me, the awful blindness and ignorance of the world before the coming of Christ; when among the wisest of men, such childish and ridiculous notions prevailed. My brother! calculate, if you be able, the auspicious and blessed consequences which the Son of God brought with him, when he graciously visited our world!
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
When our Lord gave this answer to his disciples, that neither this man nor his parents had sinned in that he was born blind; Jesus could not be supposed to mean, that they were not sinners; for Scripture declares that all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23. But the plain and obvious meaning of Christ, is, that this man's blindness was not the immediate effect of any one particular sin, in a way of judgment, but rather to afford occasion for the greater display of the works and glory of God. And in this very instance, our Lord's doctrine in this particular is proved. For what greater glory could possibly be shewn, than by the blindness of this man, the Lord Jesus might manifest his divine nature and mercy, in giving him sight? How sweetly did it teach also the blindness of soul; and Christ's glory in such instances, in giving sight to the spiritually dark, and eyes to the blind in sin. And who shall say, how often the record of this man's history hath proved instrumental in raising trophies of glory to the Lord, through the many intermediate ages from that hour to the present, where sinners, made spiritually alive by grace, have read of the Lord's goodness to him, and felt the Lord's goodness to themselves, in having been brought from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Acts 26:18. Reader! think, I pray you, in how many cases in life such events are perpetually occurring? What numberless opportunities are afforded for the manifestations of the Lord's grace, which grow, out of all the exercises of the Lord's people? And if you know anything of the Lord, I would desire you to say, how would the Lord Jesus prove his love to you, in seasons of sorrow, in hours of temptation, and in all times of trouble; if you had never known sorrow, never felt temptation, or knew what trouble meant?
I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work. (5) As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
I beg the Reader to pause over these verses, and mark some of the great things contained in them. First, observe, how sweetly Jesus speaks in his Mediator-character and office, of doing the works of Him that sent him. Mark the Lord's duty to his Father, and his love to his people, in this zeal of his heart. Secondly, mark no less, the Father's love to the Church, in thus giving, and sending, his dear Son, that the whole body might live, in, by, and through Him. And here before you go further, look at that sweet Scripture in further proof, 1 John 4:10. Thirdly, connect what the Lord Jesus here saith, with what he elsewhere added, upon the subject of doing his Father's work. I have (said Jesus) glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. John 17:4. Reader! pause over these very very blessed words. There can be none more blessed upon earth; no, nor in heaven. Redemption-work is finished. The Church of Christ is saved. Jehovah is glorified. And none but Christ could ever assume such language. No angel of light; no, nor all the creation of God, can use such words. For though they all set forth God's glory, in being the works of his hands; yet no act of theirs, truly and strictly speaking, can add an atom to render God more glorious. Sooner might we increase the sun's brightness by the light of the candle, or swell the ocean by our tears; than we can bring in a greater revenue of glory to the Lord by anything of ours. But the God-Man Christ Jesus hath added to that glory of Jehovah which alone is capable of being exalted, in the manifestation of all that is communicable, to his intellectual creation, Precious Lord Jesus! truly didst thou say in those blessed words: As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. And far better would it be that the sun of this lower world should be extinguished from the heavens, than that Christ the Sun of righteousness, should cease to be the light and 1ife of his Church!
When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. (7) And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is, by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
We now come to the part of this interesting miracle, in which Jesus entered upon the work, of giving sight to the man born blind. The clay, and the spittle, and the pool of Siloam, (which the Evangelist takes care to note, is by interpretation Sent,) were the means only, the Lord was pleased to make use of, in this marvellous work. But we must look higher than to means of any kind, to discover the first and great cause of the deed. If we consider the case of blindness in general, and especially in the instance before us, where the man was born blind, and where the loss of sight could nor have been induced from any injury to the organs of vision; it is but a fair conclusion, as in a multitude of blind persons, it is not merely loss of sight, but a total loss of eyes. Hence, if it be only allowed, that a single one of the many blind to whom the Lord Jesus gave sight in the days of his flesh, had eyeless sockets; here was a complete act of creation, and as manifest a display of divine power, as at the creation of the world. So that Christ hereby gave a full demonstration of his Godhead. The Reader will observe, that I do not presume to say that this was literally the case, in the instance of this man, or any other among the blind which Jesus healed. But no one can say that it was not so. And I venture to think, from what the man himself said, that the probability in favor of this opinion is greater than it is against it. Since the world began, (said he:) was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind, John 9:32. I leave the Reader to form his conclusions. But I cannot help observing, that it would be well for every man who hath the last pause in his mind, whether Christ be God, or not; and infinitely more so, for every man who presumes to deny Christ's Godhead, to ascertain this point. For if this blind man, or any other to whom Christ gave sight, had eyeless sockets; (as is, I believe, in blindness more generally the case
than otherwise;) here was, to all intents and purposes, a creation of the organs of vision. And I again repeat, this deed as fully, and as clearly defined the Godhead, as all the other parts of creation.
I only detain the Reader with a short observation more, before that we pass to the next verses in the history, just to remark, that such were the features of character, by which Christ was to be known. Ages before our Lord's incarnation, the Prophet was commissioned to tell the Church, when pointing to his Person, and Character: behold! (said he,) your God will come and save you! And how was he to be known? Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened. Isaiah 35:4-5.
The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him, that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? (9) Some said, This is he. Others said, He is like him, but he said, I am he. (10) Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? (11) He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus, made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash. And I went and washed, and I received sight. (12) Then said they unto him, Where is he? he said, I know not.
Let the Reader figure to himself, if he can, the wonderful effect which was wrought on the minds of the neighbors, and those who knew him, in beholding one, who from a child, like many we now meet with in life, was blind; having new eyes, and the organs of vision in full exercise! How must they have been astonished? And what a talk must it have made, in the circle of all his acquaintance? But, Reader! how much greater the astonishment to himself, when he saw clearly the objects with which he had long conversed; and daylight, and all the sweet prospects of nature, appearing to his view, everywhere around him! Pause a moment more. If such to a blind man in nature, were the wonders of sight; what must it be, yea what is it daily to a child of God in grace, when his spiritual eyes are opened to see the wonderful, things of God's law?
They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. (14) And it was the sabbath-day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. (15) Then again the Pharisees also asked him, how he had received his sight? he said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. (16) Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath-day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. (17) They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet, (18) But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. (19) And they asked them, saving, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? How then doth he now see? (20) His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: (21) But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. (22) These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews; for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. (23) Therefore said his parents, He is of age, ask him. (24) Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise we know that this man is a sinner. (25) He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner, or no, I know not: one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see. (26) Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? (27) He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? (28) Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples. (29) We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. (30) The man answered and said unto them, Why, herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. (31) Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. (32) Since the world began was it not heard, that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. (33) If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. (34) They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? and they cast him out.
If there be a part of this interesting narrative that we may pass over, as less demanding attention, one, than another, it is this. To behold the wretched delusion of those awful characters, the Pharisees! Their natural enmity to Christ. Their implacable malice to his doctrine. Their determined resolution to oppose, and deafen if possible, the voice of this Charmer, charm he never so wisely! Psalms 58:5. But, Reader! let you, and I, learn from hence the unspeakable mercy of distinguishing grace! Who is it that maketh us to differ from another? And what have we, or what are we, that we did not receive? 1 Corinthians 4:7.
Their bitterness in excommunicating the blind man, shews to what a desperate state they were arrived. Whether this was the milder act of excommunication, called Niddui, which extended but to thirty days separation; or whether the more severe, called Cherem, which was a total separation forever from the congregation of Israel, is not said. But, Reader! how sweetly may we apply the words of the Lord, which he used upon another occasion, to this and all the other cruelties of men. And I say unto you my friends, (said Jesus,) be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear. Fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say unto you, fear him. Luke 12:4-5.
But, Reader, it is high time to look at this miracle in another, and a far more endearing point of view, than the mercy shewn to the body, and see, what rich and blessed lessons there are taught in it, in relation to the soul. I remarked, at the opening of the Chapter, that according to my apprehension, while I behold God the Holy Ghost appointing a whole Chapter to this record of a single miracle of Christ, I am inclined to think, that it was intended, among other things, to minister to this great end; that by so beautiful an illustration, might be shewn, the Lord Jesus spiritually giving sight to the blind in soul, and opening the mind born in trespasses and sins, to the knowledge of himself, in grace here, and to glory hereafter.
And I cannot begin my observations on this ground, without remarking, that if it was the gracious design of God the Spirit, from this miracle of Jesus, to instruct the Church in this precious truth, nothing can be more exactly suited from every circumstance of it. Though the Church of Jesus hath from everlasting a grace-union with her glorious Head; hath a being in him, and a well-being, which nothing in her time-state can finally destroy: yet born as in every individual instance the whole Church is, in the Adam-nature of a fallen, sinful, and corrupt state; all are blind to all knowledge of God, or themselves. So that like this poor man in nature, such is the Church as to grace, alt blind from birth.
And as it was Jesus passing by and seeing him, which first led to the mercy he obtained, so is it in grace; there are no advances made by the blind sinner to the Lord, until the Lord hath passed by and bid him live. Ezekiel 16:1-14. John was taught by the Holy Ghost, thus to teach the Church: If we love him, it is because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19.
Moreover, the case is the same, with respect to the divine glory, in both instances. This man's blindness of body, gave occasion for the works of God to be made manifest in him; so the blindness of soul, affords opportunity for God in Christ, to be magnified in the works of grace. The clay and the pool of Siloam, were merely instrumental, in the hand of Christ: so ordinances and means of grace are but mere channels of communication, from him to his people. And without him, as the clay would rather have contributed to obstruct sight than to give it; so ordinances unaccompanied with his blessing, tend more to increase spiritual blindness than remove it. We are (saith Paul,) unto God a sweet savor of Christ in them that are saved, and in them that perish. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16; Revelation 3:18.
The conduct of the neighbors upon this occasion, in the surprize they expressed, at beholding one, so long known to them as blind, now suddenly blessed with sight; is not unsimilar to that wonder and astonishment the carnal world not unfrequently shew, when at any time some ungodly sinner hath his eyes spiritually opened, to the light of the divine life. The work itself is so great and altogether so divine, that God the Holy Ghost hath caused it to be celebrated in one of his songs of praise. When the Lord, turned again the captivity of Zion; then were we like to them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Then said they among the heathen, the Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us: whereof we are glad. Ps 126.
One word more in relation to the poor man who stands forth in this scripture, and in the Lord's Church so precious a monument of sovereign mercy. He was not conscious at the first, who his great benefactor was. Neither could he tell, how the Lord had accomplished the wonderful cure. He only knew, that he was once blind, and now had sight. Such is not unfrequently the case in respect to spiritual mercies. How little do we know of Jesus, when first he manifests himself to us otherwise than he doth to the world. And even after renewed love tokens of his favor, how backward we are, in apprehension. All the objects we at first behold in spiritual discernment, are but indistinct, like the sight to him, who saw man as trees walking. Mark 8:22-26. But, Reader! it is blessed to be able to give the same sweet testimony as this man. Though you, or I, or any other child of God cannot exactly tell how or when or where, as to time place and method, the Lord was pleased to adopt to our effectual calling; still the day of small things is not to be despised, when we can truly say as he did: One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out: and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? (36) He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? (37) And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. (38) And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him. (39) And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world: that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind. (40) And some of the Pharisees which were with him, heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? (41) Jesus, said unto them, If ye were blind ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
What a most beautiful and interesting view do those few verses give the Church, of the Person, grace, and benignity of her Lord? and what a wonderful work doth that grace and benignity of Jesus accomplish in a short time both upon the bodies and souls of men in every instance to his redeemed, when called forth in exercise. Here is a man born blind in nature, and equally blind in grace. And by the sovereign act of Jesus, without one act of his own, immediately recovered to the blessed sight, both in body and soul. For evidently by his worshipping Christ, he gave ample testimony that this miracle also the Lord had wrought upon him! And I pray the Reader not to overlook the very distinguishing manner, and extent of the mercy, manifested by Jesus to his poor patient. The Son of God, as God, had not at this time made so full and open a revelation of his Name, in the general exercise of his ministry. Excepting to the woman of Samaria, John 4:26; and his disciples in the Mount of Transfiguration, and where he charged secrecy: the Lord had not been as communicative, as to the man born blind. See Matthew 17:5-9. But the Pharisees had cast him out. Jesus therefore in taking him in, will make a glorious discovery who he is, and in whom he hath to trust.
Neither doth the close of the Chapter minister less comfort to the Church, in the awful account the Lord Jesus hath given, of the double purpose of his mission. To root out of his kingdom all things that offend, is as needful a display of his sovereignty, as the gathering of his people to himself. The day of vengeance is in his heart, when the year of his redeemed is come. Isaiah 63:1. Reader! no doubt, the contemplation is tremendously awful. But it is not more awful than sure. Christ is the Rock of ages; the sure foundation, which Jehovah hath laid in Zion. He that believeth shall never be ashamed, nor confounded, world without end. But he is in the same moment, a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence. And on whomsoever he shall fall, it will grind him to powder. Deuteronomy 32:4; Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 1:6-8; Matthew 21:44.
My soul! contemplate in this man, thy state by nature; blind indeed, from thy birth, and in spiritual things, as ignorant as the very, brute that perisheth. And how long didst thou remain, stumbling over the dark mountains of sin, and unbelief? Nay, wouldest thou not have remained so forever, had not Jesus passed by, and created life and light to thy spiritual apprehension? It was indeed the sabbath day when Jesus did this; for He himself became the very sabbath of thy soul. And in this sovereign act of grace, how sweetly hath he proved to thee his own eternal power and Godhead! Surely thou canst say, with this fellow-partaker in the rich mercy: Since the world began was it not heard, that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
Oh! ye blind Pharisees! How long will ye have to learn a right knowledge of the Person and righteousness of Jesus? An whole eternity ye will have to mourn over the darkness of blackness forever! How awfully verified, in that day which unfolds all, will be the words of Jesus! When ye have lifted up the Son of Man; then shall ye know that I am. Yes! know it, to your everlasting condemnation; but not to your joy, as the Lord's people!
Reader! Doth Jesus now put the question to you, and to me, which he put to the man born blind, when he had opened his eyes; Dost thou believe on the Son of God? Hath the Lord opened our eyes? Have we seen the king in his beauty? Seen ourselves in our deformity? Can we, from the heart, and from the soul, fall down and worship him? crying out, as one of old: Rabbi, thou art the Son of God! Thou art the King of Israel! Oh! the blessedness of being taught by him! Surely the Lord will say to us, as he did to the Apostle, on his confession: Blessed art thou Simon Bar-jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on John 9". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany