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Jamieson Commentary on John 9:1-41

From the Commentary on the Whole Bible (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871)

Joh 9:1-41. The Opening of the Eyes of One Born Blind, and What Followed on It.

1-5. as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from birth—and who "sat begging" (Joh 9:8).

2. who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind—not in a former state of existence, in which, as respects the wicked, the Jews did not believe; but, perhaps, expressing loosely that sin somewhere had surely been the cause of this calamity.

3. Neither … this man, &c.—The cause was neither in himself nor his parents, but, in order to the manifestation of "the works of God," in his cure.

4. I must work the works of him that sent me, &c.—a most interesting statement from the mouth of Christ; intimating, (1) that He had a precise work to do upon earth, with every particular of it arranged and laid out to Him; (2) that all He did upon earth was just "the works of God"—particularly "going about doing good," though not exclusively by miracles; (3) that each work had its precise time and place in His programme of instructions, so to speak; hence, (4) that as His period for work had definite termination, so by letting any one service pass by its allotted time, the whole would be disarranged, marred, and driven beyond its destined period for completion; (5) that He acted ever under the impulse of these considerations, as man—"the night cometh when no man (or no one) can work." What lessons are here for others, and what encouragement from such Example!

5. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world—not as if He would cease, after that, to be so; but that He must make full proof of His fidelity while His earthly career lasted by displaying His glory. "As before the raising of Lazarus (Joh 11:25), He announces Himself as the Resurrection and the Life, so now He sets Himself forth as the source of the archetypal spiritual light, of which the natural, now about to be conferred, is only a derivation and symbol" [Alford].

6, 7. he spat on the ground, and made clay … and he anointed the eyes of the blind man—These operations were not so incongruous in their nature as might appear, though it were absurd to imagine that they contributed in the least degree to the effect which followed. (See Mr 6:13 and see on Joh 7:33.)

7. Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, … Sent, &c.—(See 2Ki 5:10, 14). As the prescribed action was purely symbolical in its design, so in connection with it the Evangelist notices the symbolical name of the pool as in this case bearing testimony to him who was sent to do what it only symbolized. (See Isa 8:6, where this same pool is used figuratively to denote "the streams that make glad the city of God," and which, humble though they be, betoken a present God of Israel.)

8-15. The neighbours therefore … said, Is not this he that sat and begged—Here are a number of details to identify the newly seeing with the long-known blind beggar.

13. They brought to the Pharisees—sitting probably in council, and chiefly of that sect (Joh 7:47, 48).

16, 17. This man is not of God, &c.—(See on Joh 5:9; Joh 5:16).

Others said, &c.—such as Nicodemus and Joseph.

17. the blind man … said, He is a prophet—rightly viewing the miracle as but a "sign" of His prophetic commission.

18-23. the Jews did not believe … he had been born blind … till they called the parents of him that had received his sight—Foiled by the testimony of the young man himself, they hope to throw doubt on the fact by close questioning his parents, who, perceiving the snare laid for them, ingeniously escape it by testifying simply to the identity of their son, and his birth-blindness, leaving it to himself, as a competent witness, to speak as to the cure. They prevaricated, however, in saying they "knew not who had opened his eyes," for "they feared the Jews," who had come to an understanding (probably after what is recorded, Joh 7:50, &c.; but by this time well known), that whoever owned Him as the Christ would be put out of the synagogue—that is, not simply excluded, but excommunicated.

24-34. Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner—not wishing him to own, even to the praise of God, that a miracle had been wrought upon him, but to show more regard to the honor of God than ascribe any such act to one who was a sinner.

25. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, &c.—Not that the man meant to insinuate any doubt in his own mind on the point of His being "a sinner," but as his opinion on such a point would be of no consequence to others, he would speak only to what he knew as fact in his own case.

26. Then said they … again, What did he to thee? &c.—hoping by repeated questions to ensnare him, but the youth is more than a match for them.

27. I have told you already … will ye also be his disciples?—In a vein of keen irony he treats their questions as those of anxious inquirers, almost ready for discipleship! Stung by this, they retort upon him as the disciple (and here they plainly were not wrong); for themselves, they fall back upon Moses; about him there could be no doubt; but who knew about this upstart?

30. The man answered, Herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes—He had no need to say another word; but waxing bolder in defense of his Benefactor, and his views brightening by the very courage which it demanded, he puts it to them how they could pretend inability to tell whether one who opened the eyes of a man born blind was "of God" or "a sinner"—from above or from beneath—and proceeds to argue the case with remarkable power. So irresistible was his argument that their rage burst forth in a speech of intense Pharisaism, "Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us?"—thou, a base-born, uneducated, impudent youth, teach us, the trained, constituted, recognized guides of the people in the things of God! Out upon thee!

31. they cast him out—judicially, no doubt, as well in fact. The allusion to his being "born in sins" seems a tacit admission of his being blind from birth—the very thing they had been so unwilling to own. But rage and enmity to truth are seldom consistent in their outbreaks. The friends of this excommunicated youth, crowding around him with their sympathy, would probably express surprise that One who could work such a cure should be unable to protect his patient from the persecution it had raised against him, or should possess the power without using it. Nor would it be strange if such thoughts should arise in the youth's own mind. But if they did, it is certain, from what follows, that they made no lodgment there, conscious as he was that "whereas he was blind, now he saw," and satisfied that if his Benefactor "were not of God, He could do nothing" (Joh 9:33). There was a word for him too, which, if whispered in his ear from the oracles of God, would seem expressly designed to describe his case, and prepare him for the coming interview with his gracious Friend. "Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at His word. Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for My name's sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified; BUT He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed" (Isa 66:5). But how was He engaged to whom such noble testimony had been given, and for whom such persecution had been borne? Uttering, perhaps, in secret, "with strong crying and tears," the words of the prophetic psalm, "Let not them that wait on Thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake; let none that seek Thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel; because for Thy sake I have borne reproach … and the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon me" (Ps 69:6, 7, 9).

35-38. Jesus heard—that is, by intelligence brought Him.

that they had cast him out; and when he had found him—by accident? Not very likely. Sympathy in that breast could not long keep aloof from its object.

he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?—A question stretching purposely beyond his present attainments, in order the more quickly to lead him—in his present teachable frame—into the highest truth.

36. He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I may believe on him?—"His reply is affirmative, and believing by anticipation, promising faith as soon as Jesus shall say who He is" [Stier].

37. Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him—the new sense of sight having at that moment its highest exercise, in gazing upon "the Light of the world."

38. he said, Lord, I believe: and he worshipped him—a faith and a worship, beyond doubt, meant to express far more than he would think proper to any human "prophet" (Joh 9:17)—the unstudied, resistless expression, probably of SUPREME faith and adoration, though without the full understanding of what that implied.

39-41. Jesus said—perhaps at the same time, but after a crowd, including some of the skeptical and scornful rulers, had, on seeing Jesus talking with the healed youth, hastened to the spot.

that they which see not might see, &c.—rising to that sight of which the natural vision communicated to the youth was but the symbol. (See on Joh 9:5, and compare Lu 4:18).

that they which see might be made blind—judicially incapable of apprehending and receiving the truth, to which they have wilfully shut their eyes.

40. Are we blind also?—We, the constituted, recognized guides of the people in spiritual things? pride and rage prompting the question.

41. If ye were blind—wanted light to discern My claims, and only waited to receive it.

ye should have no sin—none of the guilt of shutting out the light.

ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth—Your claim to possess light, while rejecting Me, is that which seals you up in the guilt of unbelief.

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