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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
John 9

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-41

THE MURDEROUS INTENTIONS of the Jews did not fail because they lacked fixity of purpose but because He was beyond their reach until His hour was come. Hiding Himself from them, Jesus left the temple, and as He passed on He encountered a blind man who was to bear striking witness to the leaders of Israel, and in his own person become another “sign” that here amongst them was indeed the Christ, the Son of God.

The question which the disciples raised may seem curious to us, but it expressed thoughts which were common among the Jews, finding their basis in Exodus 20:5, which speaks of the iniquity of the fathers being visited upon the children. The Lord’s reply shows that affliction may come without there being any element of retribution in it, but simply in order that God’s work may be manifested. It was manifested here in working a complete deliverance from the affliction. It may just as strikingly be manifested by complete deliverance from the depression and weight of the affliction, while the affliction itself still persists; and so it is often seen today. It was then the “day,” marked by the presence on earth of “the Light of the world.” Jesus knew that the “night” of His rejection and death was approaching, but until that time He was here to do the Father’s works, and this blind man was a fit subject for the work of God, though he had made no appeal for it, as far as the record goes.

The action taken by the Lord was symbolic, as is shown by the name of the pool being interpreted for us. Jesus was the “Sent One,” who had become flesh, and of His flesh the clay mixed with His spittle was the symbol. Now seeing eyes would be blinded if plastered with clay, and blind eyes rendered doubly blind. Just so it was for the spiritually blind; the flesh of the Word was a stumbling-block and they saw only the carpenter’s Son. For us who believe in Him as the Sent One the reverse is true. It is by His revelation in flesh that we have come to know Him, as 1 John 1:1, 1 John 1:2 shows. His flesh is darkness to the world: it is light to us. We can adopt the language in a spiritual sense and say we “washed, and came seeing.” The rest of the chapter shows that the blind man got the eyes of his heart opened as well as the eyes of his head.

Once his spiritual eyes were opened his measure of light increased. The very opposition he encountered served to produce the increase. The questioning of the neighbours sprang from curiosity rather than opposition, and it served to bring out the simple facts with which he started. He knew how his eyes were opened and that he owed it to a Man called Jesus, though His whereabouts he knew not.

His case was so remarkable that they brought him to the Pharisees, and here at once the antagonistic spirit prevailed. There was no difficulty in finding ground for their opposition for the miracle had been wrought on the sabbath. Again Jesus had broken the sabbath, and this at once condemned Him in their eyes. To fail in this matter of ceremonial observance was fatal: He could not be of God—a conclusion quite typical of the Pharisaic mind. Others, however, were more impressed by the miracle, and so a division was again manifested, which led them to ask the man what he had to say of Him. His reply showed that the Man called Jesus was to him at least a Prophet. This was more than they would admit, so they questioned the truth of his miraculous cure.

The parents were now called into the discussion, only to testify that he was indeed born blind, so his cure was beyond question, though fear led them to refer all further enquiry to the man himself; and the fact comes out that the verdict of the Pharisees on the case was a foregone conclusion. Anyone confessing Jesus to be the Christ was to be excluded from all the religious privileges of Judaism. Thus their base motives stood revealed, and they pursued their examination of the man not to elicit the truth but to discover some possible ground for condemning either Jesus or the man, or both.

Would he ascribe the praise to God, while agreeing that the Man by whom God’s power was exercised was a sinner? The man avoided this subtle trap by simply affirming again the one point as to which he was immovably certain. Like a skilful general who declines battle on ground chosen by the enemy and will only meet the foe in his own impregnable position, so he declined mere theological discussion, in which he was no match for them, and took his stand on what he knew had been wrought in himself. The man’s words in verse John 9:25 are full of instruction for us. The unlettered plough-boy of today can humbly yet boldly confront the numerous counterparts of both Pharisees and Sadducees, if content just to testify of that which the grace of God has done for him and in him.

Next they attempted to extract from the man more exact details of the method Jesus employed, if perchance they might find a point of attack. By now, however, he had perceived their antagonism, and his question, “Will ye also be His disciples?” had in it a touch of sarcasm. This stung them to the point of losing their tempers, so much so that while declaring their adherence to Moses they committed themselves to a declaration of ignorance as to the origin and credentials of Jesus. They took the “agnostic” attitude, just as so many do today. This, however, was a fatal admission. The loss of their tempers was followed by the loss of their case from an argumentative point of view. The simple believer, if he sticks to the foundation facts as to which he can bear witness, will suffer no defeat when he encounters the agnostic.

These Pharisees, who posed as the supreme religious authorities of the day, not only professed ignorance as to this most vital question, but also demanded a verdict on the question wholly contrary to the evidence. Beneficent power had undeniably operated, working deliverance from evil: they professed ignorance of its source, yet demanded that He who wielded it should be denounced as a sinner. The man, however, had felt the action of the power; he knew it was of God, and the wicked opposition he encountered only helped him to the further conclusion that Jesus Himself was “of God” indeed.

Having lost their case and failed to corrupt the thoughts of the man, they resorted to violence and cast him out. As regards Judaism he was excommunicated: was there anything for the poor man except heathenism with its blank darkness? Yes, there was. Jesus Himself was morally outside it already, from the outset of this Gospel He has been so viewed, as we have remarked before; though He was not outside it in the fullest sense till He was led outside the gate of Jerusalem to die the malefactor’s death. In verse John 9:35 we see the rejected Saviour finding the rejected man and propounding to him the greatest of questions— “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” The question reached him in an abstract form. The man hesitated, for he wished the Son of God to be before him in concrete shape. Where should he find Him that he might believe? Thus challenged, Jesus plainly presented Himself as the Son of God. The man at once, and as plainly, accepted Him as such in faith, and worshipped Him.

So once more we are conducted to the main point of this Gospel as expressed in verse John 9:31 of chapter 20. The man had been led step by step to the faith of the Son of God and to life in His name, and the opening of his physical eyes had been a sign of the greater work of opening the eyes of his mind and heart. In verse John 9:39 we have the comment of the Lord on the whole scene. He had come into the world for judgment—not in the sense of condemning men, but as producing a discrimination that cut down beneath surface appearances and reached men as they really were. Some, like this man, had their eyes opened to see the truth. Others who professed to be the seeing ones, like the Pharisees, might be blinded and manifested as being blind. Some Pharisees who were present suspected that He referred to them, and their question gave an opportunity for their perilous position to be shown. Their sin lay in their hypocrisy. They had intellectual sight yet were spiritually blind and their sin remained; whereas those really blind, and confessedly so, are rather objects of compassion.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on John 9:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/john-9.html. 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, September 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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