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The foregoing chapter acquainted us with a famous encounter which the Pharisees had with our blessed Saviour in the temple at Jeruaslem; this being ended, as he passed from the temple, he saw a man lying, possibly by the highway, who was born blind; him Christ pitches upon as an object fit to exercise his divine power, in the cure and healing of. They that are blind by casuality, may perhaps be relieved by art and industry; but to cure one that is born blind, nothing less is required than almighty power.
Learn hence, That diseases and distempers, which are incurable by the ordinary course of nature, are not insuperable to Christ's power, nor impossible for him to help, but a proper object for him to magnify his power upon. Therefore it is here recorded, that his poor man was blind from his birth: such blindness being accounted incurable by natural means.
Here observe, Something implied or supposed; namely,
1. That all bodily afflictions and calamities do come upon us for sin. Whereas afflictions although they always fall upon a sinner, yet they are not always sent to punish sin, but by way of purigation and prevention of sin.
2. It is here supposed, that as some afflictions come upon men for personal sins, so others come upon them for parental sins, and that children may, and oft-times do, very justly suffer for their parents sins.
3. It is here supposed, that there is no other reason of a person's sufferings, but only sin: whereas though sin be much and often the cause of suffering.
4. It is implied here, that there is a transmigration of souls from one body to another; the disciples supposed, that this soul, when it was in another body, and was now punished by being put into a blind body. This pythagon error was crept in amoung the Pharisees, and the disciples here seemed to be tainted and infected with it. This may teach us, how far the holiest and wisest of men are from an infallible spirit, and that the best of men may be misled by a common error.
Christ's answer must not be understood absolutely, as if he denied this man and his parents to be guilty of sin, for both he and they had sin enough, not only to deserve temporal blindness, but eternal darkness.
The meaning is, that in afflicting this man, the Lord did not so much respect his or his parents sin, as the manifestation of his own glory, in this miraculous cure. Christ doth not deny but that a man's own sin, and the sin of his parents, may be the procuring cause of blindness; but that neither the one nor the other was the cause in that man's case; but that the power and mercy of God might be seen in restoring this man to his sight, therefore was he born blind.
Whence note, 1. That though sin be always the deserving, yet it is not always the procuring cause of affliction.
3. That we seldom think of, or hit upon, any other cause of affliction, but only sin; though the design of God looks beyond the sin of man in afflictions; yet man seldom looks beyond that or thinks of any other design of God in afflicting, but only punishing for sin.
Here our Saviour tells his disciples, That he was sent by God into the world, and had a great work assigned him by God, during his abode in it; namely to instruct, reform, and save mankind; and what our Saviour says of himself, is applicable to every one of us in a lower sense; we are sent into the world to work out our own salvation in the first place, and then to promote the salvation of others as much as in us lies.
Note, 1. That every one has a work to do in the world, a great work assigned him by God that sent him into it.
2. That the time allotted for the finishing and dispatching of this great work, is a limited time, it is a short time; our working season is a short season; While it is day.
3. That after the working season is past and expired, there will succeed a night of darkness, in which there must be a cessation from work. The night cometh.
Two things concurred towards the cure of this blind man, namely, an act of divine power on Christ's part, and an act of faith and obedience on the man's part.
1. An act of divine power on Christ's part, he tempers clay and spittle together, and anoints the man's eyes therewith, and behold he sees.
What an improbable remedy and means was this to human reason! Much fitter to put out a seeing man's eyes than to cure a blind man's. Had Christ pulled out his box, and applied some medicinal ointment to his eyes, then the praise had been ascribed to his kill, not to his power; but now it plainly appeared, that all the virtue was in Christ, not in the means.
Lord! what great things canst thou do by weak and unlikely means; yea, by opposite and contrary means! but it is the praise of Omnipotency to work by probabilities. From the contemptibleness of the means or instrument, always redounds the greater honour to the agent.
Observe, 2. An act of faith and obedience on the man's part; He went away and washed his eyes in the pool of Siloam, and returned seeing.
Where note, 1. How Christ delights to exercise and try the faith of his people, by their subjection and obedience to difficult commands.
2. That true faith, joined with sincere obedience, never faileth the expectation of them that exercise it: especially in obeying the most hard and difficult commands. Therefore the Evangelist added, that the blind man, after washing, returned seeing.
The blind man, thus miraculously cured, returns with much joy to his neighbours and acquaintance, who confer with him about this matter; they inquire, Whether he was the person cured or not? Who was the person that cured him, and where that person was? he assures them, he was the very person that was blind, but now cured, and he that cured him was Jesus: that the means used was clay and spittle; but where the person was, or what was become of him, he knew not.
Learn thence, 1. That the miraculous cures of God work a sensible alteration in men, not only in their own apprehension, but in the judgments of others. This miracle shined forth among the neighbours, who having seen and observed the blind man, admire his healing.
Learn, 2. How frankly the blind man acknowledges, and how freely he confesses, that he was the person whom Jesus had healed; I am he. It is an unthankful silence to smother the works of God in an affected secrecy; to make God a loser by his bounty towards us, is a shameful injustice. O God! we are not worthy of thy common favours, much less of spiritual blessings, if we do not publish thy mercies on the housetop, and praise thee for them in the great congregation.
Observe here, 1. How the Jews, who should have been full of silent wonder, and inclined to believed in Jesus Christ, so omnipotent an agent, are prejudiced against him, and bring the late blind man before the Pharisees, our Saviour's professed enemies,
Observe, 2. The time which our Saviour chose for working this cure, it was on the sabbath? Many, if not most of Christ's famous miracles, were wrought upon the sabbath day. Upon that day he cured the withered hand, Matthew 12:13 Upon that day he cured the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, John 5:9 Upon that day he cured the blind man here. This Christ did probably, for two reasons:
1. To confirm his doctrine which he preached on that day, by miracles: therefore his preaching and working miracles went together.
2. To instruct the Jews (had they been willing to receive instruction) in the true doctrine, and proper duties of their sabbath; and to let them know, that works of necessity and mercy are very consistent with the due sanctification of the sabbath. It is hard to find out any time wherein charity is unseasonable; for as it is the best of graces, so the works of it are fittest for the best of days.
Observe here, 1. How desirous the Pharisees were to obscure the glory of this famous miracle which Christ had wrought: in order to which,
1. They re-examine the man, to know what his thoughts were of the person who had done this for him: they judged him to be an impostor and a great sinner: the man declares freely, That he believed him to be a great prophet.
Hence we learn, That there may be, and sometimes is, more true knowledge of Jesus Christ in one poor man, than in a general counsel of learned rabbies. This blind man saw Christ to be a prophet, when the Jewish sanhedrin saw nothing in him but imposture. This man is not of God, says the council: Verily, he is a prophet, says the blind man.
2. They next examine his parents (being unwilling to believe the man himself) Whether he was their son, or not? If so, whether he were born blind? Lord! what obstinate and willful blindness was found in these Pharisees! How do they close their eyes and say, We will not see; What endeavours are here used to smother a miracle, which undeniably proved Christ to be the expected Messias! They examine first the man, then his parents, then the man again; hoping, that being over-awed with fear, they would either deny, or at least conceal, the truth; but the more they strove to darken and obscure the truth; the more conspicuous and evident they made it. Great is truth, and will prevail, how many soever oppose it, and set themselves against it.
Observe next, The wisdom and cautiousness of his parents answer: they expressly own, the blind man was their son; that he was born blind; but for the way of his cure they wave that, possibly because they did not see this cure wrought, and fearing the sentence of excommunication, a decree being passed among the rulers, That whoso confesseth Christ, shall be put out of the synagogue.
Hence learn, 1. That excommunication or separation from the society of the people of God, is an ancient and honourable ordinance in the church of God, and as such to be revered and esteemed.
2. That this ordinance of God has been, and may be, abused by wicked men, and the edge of it turned against Christ himself, and his sincerest members.
3. That the fear of unjust excommunication must not discourage persons from confessing the truth, when called to it. The parents of the blind man durst not confess Christ, for fear that they should be put out of the synagogue.
Here we have an account of the Pharisees farther practising upon this blind man, to rob Christ of the glory of this miracle; first, they insinuate with him, and then they frown upon him.
First, they insinuate with him, saying, give God, the praise. As if they had said, "Ascribe the cure to God, not to this man," whom they conclude to be a sinner, because he broke (as they thought) the sabbath. It is no new thing to see men pretend to aim at the glory of God, when at the same time they are maliciously opposing Christ and persecuting his members.
Next, they they attempted to frown this poor man into a denial of this miracle wrought upon him, or to persuade the people that it was a cheat: but it is wonderful to observe, how the boldness and confidence of this poor man increased, God giving him that wisdom and courage which all his adversaries were not able to resist or gainstay. Therefore the Pharisees being angry at this boldness of the man, they revile him for being so silly, as to become a disciple to Christ, whose office and authority they knew not; whereas they were the disciples of Moses, whom they knew God spake unto.
Learn hence, That such as are led by malice, and prepossessed with prejudice against Christ, will not only think basely of his person, but refuse to see the clearest evidences of his authority and commission. As for this fellow, say the malicious Pharisees, we know not whence he is, or who gave him this commission.
In these verses the blind man proceeds to vindicate our blessed Saviour, who had cured him of his blindness, from the exceptions of the Pharisees, and endeavours, by solid arguments to convince them, that his cure (being born blind) was truly miraculous; and consequently proved Christ to be of God.
1. The man admires that Christ having wrought such a miracle upon him, they should be ignorant of his authority, This is marvellous, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. He lays down a general proposition, that no deceiver or false teacher is heard of God, or enabled by him to work such miracles as these, but only such faithful servants as do his will, as thus extraordinarily assisted by him. We know that God heareth not sinners; that is, such as love and delight in sin, such as are in a state of sin, and go on in a course of sin, God will not hear such, or answer the prayers of such. Indeed God sometimes hears a sinner's prayer in wrath, and refuses to hear a saint's prayer in mercy: but he never denies a saint's prayer in wrath, or hears a saint's prayer in mercy. The proposition laid down is an eternal truth: God heareth not sinners; that is, so long as they purpose to continue sinners, and go on in a course of sin, and remain bold and presumptuous sinners.
Learn thence, That none that live in a course of sin, can reasonably expect that God should hear them, and give in an answer of prayer to them. God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doth his will, him he heareth: that is, if a man feareth God, and worketh righteousness, him the Lord accepteth, heareth, and answereth.
Learn hence, 1. That such as would be heard of God, and accepted with him, must be devout worshippers of him.
2. That it is not enough to prove men religious and acceptable with God, that they are devout worshippers of him, unless they walk in obedience to him, and do his will. If any man be a worshipper of God, and doth his will, him he heareth.
Observe, 3. How the blind man goes on to prove, that Christ had a special authority from God, and an extraordinary presence of God with him in what he did, because he had done such a work as was never done by Moses, or by any of the prophets, or by any person whatsoever, since the creation of the world.
From whence he wisely and well infers, that Christ was a person authorized by and sent of God.
Learn hence, 1. That Christ having done that which was never done before (namely, to give sight to one that was born blind) was an evidence of his omnipotency.
2. That this act of omnipotency proved him to be God. Whatever miracles the prophets wrought, they wrought them by Christ's power, but Christ wrought this and all other miracles by his own power.
Observe lastly, How this blind man, though unlearned,judges more rightly of divine things, than the whole learned council of the sanhedrin.
When we learn, That we are not always to be led by the authority of councils, popes, or bishops; and that it is not absurd for laymen sometimes to vary from their opinions. These overseers being sometimes guilty of great oversights. Dr. Whitby.
Observe here, 1. A special instance of Pharisaical pride; they account this poor man a vile person, whom heaven had marked by his native blindness for some extraordinary wickedness. How prone are we to judge them the greatest sinners, whom we observe to be the greatest sufferers!
Observe, 2. From reviling they proceed to excommunicating; They cast him out; that is, out of the communion of the Jewish church. O happy man! who having lost a synagogue, has found heaven! Behold this blind man, and admire him for a resolute confessor, stoutly defending the gracious author of his cure, against the cavils of the Pharisees, and maintaining the innocence and honour of so blessed a benefactor.
Observe, 3. Our Saviour's regard to this blind man, whom the Pharisees had set at nought and excommunicated: He finds him out, reveals himself more fully to him, and directs him to believe in him.
Where observe, That the miracle which Christ had wrought upon the blind man, did not convert him, and work faith in him, till Christ revealed himself unto him, and enabled him to discern the truth of what he revealed.
Learn hence, That miracles confirm faith, but miracles alone can work faith. The blind man had experienced a miracle wrought upon him, yet remains an unbeliever, till Christ said, I am he.
Observe, 4. How readily the man receives the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, upon the fore-mentioned revelation of himself unto him: he instantly said, Lord, I believe; and in testimony thereof, worships him; that is, as God incarnate, as God manifested in the flesh.
Thence learn, That true knowledge of the Son of God will beget faith in him: and true faith in him will be productive of homage and adoration, of obedience and subjection to him. He that knows Christ aright, will believe, and he that believes, will worship and obey: He said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
In these words our Saviour declares not the intentional design, but the accidental event, of his coming into the world, namely,
1. That those who were blind might receive sight.
2. That those who presume they see, and know more that others, for despising the gospel, and shutting their eyes against the light of it, should be left in darkness, and by the just judgment of God be more be more and more blinded.
Those who shut their eyes willfully against the clearest light, and say they will not see: it is just with God to close their eyes judicially, and say they shall not see.
Observe here, 1. How the Pharisees, who watched all opportunities to ensnare our Saviour, look upon these last words as reflecting upon them; as if Christ did insinuate that they were blind; Are we blind also? They that shut their eyes, and will not see the light which Christ offers to them, are the worst of blind ones.
Observe, 2. Our Saviour's reply to the Pharisees' question, If ye were blind; that is, simply ignorant of your duty, and without the means of knowledge and instruction, you should have no sin: that is, comparatively to what you have: you should not have had so much sin and guilt upon you as now you have, by shutting your eyes against the light. But now you say we see: that is, being puffed up with the knowledge which you have, as if ye were the only men that saw; this proud conceit of yours renders your condition incurable, and your sin remaineth unpardonable.
Learn hence, 1. That it is a far greater sin to contemn the known laws of God, than to be ignorant of them; pride is a greater hindrance of knowledge than ignorance, because the proud man thinks he wants no knowledge.
2. That the most exalted knowledge is insufficient to salvation, without a suitable and correspondent practice. The Pharisees had the key of knowledge at their girdle, yet our Saviour tells them of double damnation;
Lord! how sad is it so to know Christ in this world, as that he will be ashamed to know us in another world!
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on John 9". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany