8.Then the neighbors, and those who had formerly seen him. The blind man was known not only to the neighbors, but to all the inhabitants of the town, having been wont to sit and beg at the gate of the temple; and the common people look more readily at such persons than at others. This circumstance — of the man being known — contributed to make many people acquainted with the fame of the miracle. But, as impiety is ingenious in obscuring the works of God, many thought that it was not the same man, because a new power of God openly appeared in him. Thus we find that the more brightly the majesty of God is displayed in his works, the less credit do they obtain among men. But the doubts of those men aided in proving the miracle, for, in consequence of those doubts, the blind man celebrated more highly the grace of Christ by his testimony. It is not without good reason, therefore, that the Evangelist brings together all those circumstances which seemed to exhibit more clearly the truth of the miracle.
That he was blind – Ὁτι τυφλος ην: but, instead of this, προσαιτης, when he begged, or was a beggar, is the reading of ABC*DKL, seven others, both the Syriac, both the Arabic, later Persic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Sahidic, Gothic, Slavonic, Vulgate, eight copies of the Itala, and some of the primitive fathers. This is in all probability the true reading, and is received by Griesbach into the text.
Beggars in all countries have a language peculiar to themselves. The language of the Jewish beggars was the following: זבי כי Deserve something by me – Give me something that God may reward you. רכי ני זכי גר מך O ye tender-hearted, do yourselves good by me. Another form, which seems to have been used by such as had formerly been in better circumstances, was this: סכי כי מה הוינא אסתכל בי מה אנא Look back and see what I have been; look upon me now, and see what I am. See Lightfoot.
11. A man that is called Jesus] This looks as if he had heard little of the fame of Jesus. But the better reading gives, ‘The man that is called Jesus,’ which points the other way.
made clay] He does not say how, for this he had not seen. The rest he tells in order. Omit the words ‘the pool of.’
I received sight] The Greek may mean either ‘I looked up,’ as in Mar_6:41; Mar_7:34; Mar_16:4, &c.; or ‘I recovered sight,’ as Mat_11:5; Mar_10:51-52, &c. ‘I looked up’ does not suit Joh_9:15; Joh_9:18, where the word occurs again: and though ‘I recovered sight’ is not strictly accurate of a man born blind, yet it is admissible, as sight is natural to man.
Note the gradual development of faith in the man’s soul, and compare it with that of the Samaritan woman (see on Joh_4:19) and of Martha (see on Joh_11:21). Here he merely knows Jesus’ name and the miracle; in Joh_9:17 he thinks Him ‘a Prophet;’ in Joh_9:33 He is ‘of God;’ in Joh_9:39 He is ‘the Son of God.’ What writer of fiction in the second century could have executed such a study in psychology?
He—the man there singled out—answered (and said), The Man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, Go to the £ Siloam, and wash. So I went, and when I washed I received my sight. Nothing more as yet than the name of his Benefactor has broken upon him. The name is full of significance to him—the “Savior,’: the “Healer;” but he knows nothing of his Messianic claims, nor of his Divine authority. He began, where all disciples must, with the Man. The manner of man soon wakes within him loftier questionings and a better explanation. At present the process seems magical, altogether inexplicable. Clay and Siloam water do not cure birth-blindness, tie is in a maze, as well he might be. The ἀνέβλεψα should be rendered, according to Meyer, “I looked up”. It cannot be so translated in Joh_9:15 and Joh_9:18. Doubtless it strictly means, “I received sight again;” but there is something in Grotius’s explanation, “No one is incorrectly said to receive that which, though he be deprived of it, belongs to human nature as a whole” (see Westcott). The eyes were there, but unused. Meyer quotes from Pausanias the similar use of ἀναβλε ́πειν, in reference to the recovery or obtaining of sight by a man born blind.
13.They bring to the Pharisees. The following narrative shows that wicked men are so far from profiting by the works of God, that, the more they are urged by their power, so much the more are they constrained to pour out the venom which dwells within their breasts. The restoration of sight to the blind man ought undoubtedly to have softened even hearts of stone; or, at least, the Pharisees ought to have been struck with the novelty and greatness of the miracle, so as to remain in doubt for a short time, until they inquired if it were a divine work; but their hatred of Christ drives them to such stupidity, that they instantly condemn what they are told that he has done.
The Evangelist mentions the Pharisees; not that other sects were favorable to Christ, but because this sect was more zealous than the rest in maintaining the present condition. Hypocrisy is always proud and cruel. Being swelled with a false opinion of their holiness, they were chiefly wounded by the doctrine of the Gospel, which condemned all their counterfeit righteousnesses; and above all, they fought for their power and kingdom, under the pretense of endeavoring to maintain the Law.
When the Evangelist says that the multitude brought the blind man to the Pharisees, it is difficult to determine with what disposition or with what intention they did so. Scarcely an individual among them could then be ignorant of the inveterate hostility ofthe Pharisees to Christ; and therefore it is possible that many flatterers, in order to obtain their favor, purposely attempted to conceal the glory of the miracle. Yet I think it is probable that the greater part of the people, suspending their judgment, as usually happens, determined to refer to the arbitration and decision of those who held the government. But wilfully shutting their eyes, while the sun is shining, they bring darkness on themselves to obscure its light. It is a foolish superstition of the common people that, under the pretense of honoring God, they adore the wicked tyrants of the Church, and despise God himself, both in his word and in his works, or, at least, do not deign to look at him.
They bring to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. The “Pharisees” is not a conclusive definition of the Sanhedrin itself, which is generally denoted by the addition of the phrase, “the chief priests” (Joh_7:32 or 45). The Pharisees were a highly organized society, and some well-known gathering of them may have been easily accessible. They were the generally accredited religious guides of the people. One thing militates against such a casual gathering. In Joh_9:18 the term, “the Jews,” the synonym of the ruling ecclesiastical powers in the city, is once more introduced. Moreover, the authorities before whom the discussion and examination were taken appear to possess the power of excommunication from the synagogue. It appears that, in Jerusalem, there existed two minor councils or synagogue-courts, of twenty-three assessors each, corresponding with the similar courts in the Jewish cities, standing in relation to the Sanhedrim and possessing the faculty of delivering the minor degrees of excommunication from the congregation of Israel. It cannot be said that this presentation of the case to an ecclesiastical court of more or less authority necessarily took place on the day of the healing. It is an open question whether the courts sat on the sabbath. There is nothing to prove immediate trial of the matter.
14.Now it was the Sabbath. Christ purposely selected the Sabbath-day, which must have given ground of offense to the Jews. He had already found, in the case of the paralytic, that this work was liable to slander. Why then does he not avoid the offense — which he could easily have done — but because the defense malignantly undertaken by men would tend to magnify the power of God? The Sabbath-day serves as a whetstone to sharpen them, to inquire more eagerly into the whole matter. And yet what advantage do they reap from a careful and earnest examination of the question but this, that the truth of the Gospel shines more brightly? We are taught by this example that, if we would follow Christ, we must excite the wrath of the enemies of the Gospel; and that they who endeavor to effect a compromise between the world and Christ, so as to condemn every kind of offenses, are altogether mad, since Christ, on the contrary, knowingly and deliberately provoked wicked men. We ought to attend, therefore, to the rule which he lays down, that they who are blind, and leaders of the blind, (Mat_15:14,) ought to be disregarded.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
14. it was the sabbath] We cannot be sure whether this is the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Joh_7:37) or the next Sabbath. There were seven miracles of mercy wrought on the Sabbath: 1. Withered hand (Mat_12:9); 2. Demoniac at Capernaum (Mar_1:21); 3. Simon’s wife’s mother (Mar_1:29); 4. Woman bowed down eighteen years (Luk_13:14); 5. Dropsical man (Luk_14:1); 6. Paralytic at Bethesda (Joh_5:10); 7. Man born blind.
Now it was sabbath on the day that Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The phrase is peculiar, and implies that the day may have been a festival sabbath. The introduction here shows that the difficulty of the neighbors and other friends had already been raised, and something more than a desire on their part for religious guidance actuated their appeal to the Pharisees. Why should the healed man be taken to the Pharisees, or the synagogue-court at all, unless some question of casuistry had been raised? The movement was one unquestionably adverse to Jesus. It could have had no other motive. Nor can any doubt arise that Jesus had violated the rabbinical rules of the sabbath, though his act had been in perfect harmony with the spirit and even letter of the Mosaic Law. The making of clay with the spittle and the sand was an infringement of the rule (‘Shabbath,’ 24:3). It was curiously laid down in one of the vexatious interpretations (preserved in Jerusalem Gemara on ‘Shabbath,’ 14) that while “wine could by way of remedy be applied to the eyelid, on the ground that this might be treated as washing, it was sinful to apply it to the inside of the eye” (Edersheim). And it was positively forbidden (in the same Gemara) to apply saliva to the eyelid, because this would be the application of a remedy. All medicinal appliances, unless in cases of danger to life or limb, were likewise forbidden. Consequently, the Lord had broken with the traditional glosses on the Law in more ways than one (see Winer, ‘Bibl. Realw.,’ 2:346; Lightfoot, ‘ Ad Joan. 9.; ‘Wetstein on Mat_12:9; Wunsche, in loc.).
15.The Pharisees also asked him. The people had already heard this confession from the mouth of the blind man; and now the Pharisees also are made witnesses of it, who might have objected that a report had been groundlessly circulated by the common people, and had been as groundlessly believed. And, first, leaving out of view the question as to the fact, they dispute only about the law of the case; for they do not deny that Christ restored sight to the blind man, but they find a crime in the circumstance of the time when it was done, and assert that it is not a work of God, because it violated the Sabbath. But we ought first to inquire if a work of God was a violation of the Sabbath. And what hinders them from seeing this, but that, in consequence of having been blinded by sinful motives and by malice, they see nothing? Besides, they had already been abundantly instructed by Christ, that the benefits which God bestows on men are not more inconsistent with the Sabbath than circumcision; and the words of the Law enjoin men to abstain from their own works only, and not from the works of God, (Exo_20:8.) When they take for granted an error which has been so frequently refuted, it must be imputed to obstinate malice; or at least there is no other reason why they go wrong but because they choose to go wrong.
Thus the Palmists do not cease to bring forward, with hardened effrontery, their idle and foolish slanders, which have been answered a hundred times. What, then, must we do with them? When an opportunity occurs, we must endeavor, as far as lies in our power, to oppose the wicked attempts of those who, actuated by false zeal, reproach and slander the gospel. If no defense, however just, shut their mouth, we have no reason to be discouraged, but ought to trample under foot, with boldness and magnanimity, that eagerness to slander by which they wish to oppress us. They take up maxims which we readily grant to them, that we ought not to listen to those who revolt from the Church, and break up the unity of the faith. But they pass by, and pretend not to have observed — that which ought to form the principal subject of inquiry, and which we have explained clearly in many passages — that nothing can be farther removed from the Church than the Pope with all his band; that a medley composed of lies and impositions, and stained by so many superstitious inventions, is widely distant from the purity of faith. But with all their furious arrogance, they will never hinder the truth, which has been so frequently and so firmly maintained by us, from being at length successful. In like manner, the Pharisees brought against Christ a plausible maxim, That he who does not keep the Sabbath is not from God; but they unjustly and falsely asserted that the work of God is a violation of the Sabbath.
Again therefore the Pharisees, before whom the blind man had been brought, unwilling to rest with mere hearsay evidence of such grievous transgression of the Law, themselves also—or, in their turn—asked him (ἠρώτων, imperfect, were interrogating) how he received (recovered) his sight (see note on Joh_9:11). Not the miracle itself, but the manner of it interested and excited them. And he said to them, (He) put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and I see. This is a shorter and significant abridgment of the process already described. The healed man seems to guess, by their manner, that some charge was being meditated against his Benefactor, and he shrewdly omits the saliva and the making of the clay, and the order of the Savior, and the place whither he had been sent to wash.
16.How can a man who is a sinner do these things? The word sinner is employed here, as in many other passages, to denote a person of immoral conduct and a despiser of God.
Why doth your Master eat with publicans and sinners? (Mar_2:16.)
That is, “Why doth your Master eat with men of ungodly and wicked lives, whose baseness is stamped with universal infamy?” For from the violation of the Sabbath the enemies of Christ inferred that he was a profane person, and destitute of all religion. Those who stand neutral and judge more candidly, on the other hand, conclude that he is a good and religious man, because God has endued him with remarkable power to work miracles. And yet the argument does not appear to be quite conclusive; for God sometimes permits false prophets to perform some miracles, and we know that Satan, like an ape, counterfeits the works of God so as to deceive the incautious.
Suetonius relates that, when Vespasian was in Alexandria, and was seated on his tribunal to dispense justice in the open court, a blind man requested him to anoint his eyes with spittle, and said that one Serapis had pointed out to him that cure in a dream; that Vespasian, being unwilling to expose himself to contempt without any good reason, was slow and reluctant to comply; but that, when his friends urged him on all sides, he granted to the blind man what he asked, and that in this way his eyes were instantly opened. Who would reckon Vespasian among the servants of God on that account, or adorn him with the applause of piety? I reply, among good men and those who fear God, miracles are undoubted pledges of the power of the Holy Spirit; but it happens by a just judgment of God, that Satan deceives unbelievers by false miracles, as by enchantments. What I have just now quoted from Suetonius I do not reckon to be fabulous; but I rather ascribe it to the righteous vengeance of God, that the Jews, having despised so many and so illustrious miracles of Christ, were at length — as they deserved to be — sent away to Satan. For they ought to have profited in the pure worship of God by the miracles of Christ; they ought to have been confirmed by them in the doctrine of the Law, and to have risen to the Messiah himself, who was the end of the Law. And undoubtedly Christ, by giving sight to the blind man, had clearly proved that he was the Messiah.
They who refuse to acknowledge God in his works make this refusal, not only through indifference, but through malicious contempt; and do they not deserve that God should give them up to the delusions of Satan? Let us then remember that we ought to seek God with a sincere disposition of heart, that he may reveal himself to us by the power of his Spirit; and that we ought to lend our ears submissively to his word, that he may clearly point out true prophets by miracles that are not delusive. Thus shall we profit, as we ought to do, by miracles, and not be exposed to the frauds of Satan.
As to the men themselves, though they act commendably in this respect, that they speak with reverence about the miracles in which the power of God is displayed, still they do not bring forward a sufficiently strong argument, to prove that Christ ought to be reckoned a Prophet of God. And even the Evangelist did not intend that their answer should be regarded as an oracle. He only exhibits the wicked obstinacy of the enemies of Christ, who maliciously pick a quarrel with what they cannot but acknowledge to be the works of God, and, when warned, do not even attend to them for a short time.
And there was a division among them. A schism is a highly pernicious and destructive evil in the Church of God; and how comes it then that Christ sows the occasion of discord among the very teachers of the Church? The answer is easy. Christ had no other object in view than to bring all men to God the Father, by stretching out his hand to them. The division arose from the obstinate malice of those who had no disposition to go to God. All who do not yield obedience to the truth of God, therefore, rend the Church by schism. Yet it is better that men should differ among themselves, than that they should all, with one consent, revolt from the true religion. Wherefore, whenever differences arise, we ought always to consider their source.
indicates, as the evangelist so often does elsewhere (Joh_7:43; Joh_10:19), that the words and works of Christ produce opposite effects on different classes. Certain individuals of the Pharisees therefore said among themselves, This Man—referring to Christ, then uppermost in their minds and in their machinations—This Man is not from God, because he keepeth not the sabbath. The form of the sentence is peculiarly contemptuous, the word “man” being thrown very emphatically to the end of the sentence. This, in their opinion, is another offence against the Law, after serious warning. The previous controversy (Joh_5:1-47.) had produced no effect upon Jesus. He continued, in their opinion, to invalidate all his claims by violating the sabbath laws, which they had brought to the highest point of perfection. Renan and others insist on Christ’s repeated violation of the sabbath; but the fact is that the Lord sustained the highest meaning of the sabbath, though he resolutely repudiated the inhuman glosses and manifest absurdities of the traditionary customs and rabbinical rules. Jesus could not be, they thought (or argued), “from God,” invested with his authority, or doing his works, so tong as he would not take their view of the sabbath. This Jesus is making obstinate assault upon their prejudices. On seven distinct occasions the Lord chose to heal on the sabbath, and thus to set the restrictions of august rabbis at defiance. But even in the great Sanhedrin, in the highest council of the nation, sat men of the character of Joseph, Nicodemus, and Gamaliel, who would get some idea of the Divine commission of Jesus from the simple fact of the miracles. In this smaller court the opponents of Christ ignore and doubt the miracle itself, on account of the unsabbatic heresy, while a few are convinced that signs of this kind (and probably they had many in their minds) were in themselves proof of Divine co-operation and approval. But others said, How can a man that is a sinner (on your hypothesis) do such signs? “As far as they go, these miracles are demonstrative proof that at least God must be with him, as he has said, and they make it extremely doubtful whether he can be a bad man after all—can have verily broken the Divine Law.” Such a speech as this from Pharisees is an emphatic proof of the profound effect produced by Jesus upon the life of the nation. It stands in close association with the remarkable statement of Nicodemus (Joh_3:2), “We know that no man can do these miracles (signs) which thou art doing, except God be with him.” Jesus and rabbinism are here face to face. Either he is from God and they are actually making the Law of God void and vapid by their traditions, or they and their code are from God and he, having broken with them, has broken with God, and the miracle will turn out to he magic or falsehood, collusion or worse. Thus a solemn crisis of profound importance occurs. And there was a division (σχίσμα, cutting into two parties) amongst them. These opposite effects and conclusions are the confirmation of the words of the prologue (Joh_1:4, Joh_1:5, Joh_1:11, Joh_1:12), and they further triumphantly refute the charge that the author of the Gospel was actuated by an untiring hostility to the kingdom and polity of the ancient Israel.
This man is not of God – Is not sent by God, or cannot be a friend of God.
Because he keepeth not the sabbath-day – They assumed that their views of the Sabbath were correct, and by those views they judged others. It did not occur to them to inquire whether the interpretation which they put on the law might not be erroneous. Men often assume their own interpretations of the Scriptures to be infallible, and then judge and condemn all others by those interpretations.
A sinner – A deceiver; an impostor. They reasoned conclusively that God would not give the power of working such miracles to an impostor. The miracles were such as could not be denied, nor did even the enemies of Jesus attempt to deny them or to explain them away. They were open, public, frequent. And this shows that they could not deny their reality. Had it been possible, they would have done it; but the reality and power of those miracles had already made a party in favor of Jesus, even in the Sanhedrin Joh_7:50; Joh_12:42, and those opposed to them could not deny their reality. It may be added that the early opponents of Christianity never denied the reality of the miracles performed by the Savior and his apostles. Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian – as acute foes of the gospel as perhaps have ever lived – never call this in question. They attempted to show that it was by some evil influence, or to account for the miracles in some other way than by admitting the divine origin of the Christian religion, but about the facts they had no question. Were they not as well qualified to judge about those facts as men are now? They lived near the time; had every opportunity to examine the evidence; were skilful and talented disputants; and if they could have denied the reality of the miracles they would have done it. It is scarcely possible to conceive of more conclusive proof that those miracles were really performed, and, if so, then the Lord Jesus was sent by God.
A division – Greek, “A schism.” A separation into two parties.
17.They say to him who had been blind. The more diligently they inquire, the more impressively does the truth of God appear; for they act as if one were endeavoring to extinguish a strong flame by his breath. Thus, when we see wicked men contrive all that they can to crush the truth of God, we have no reason to be afraid, or to be excessively anxious about the result, for all that they can gain in this way will be to cause its light to burn with greater brightness.
What sayest thou of him? When they ask the blind man what is his opinion, they do so, not because they wish to abide by his judgment, or set any value on it, but because they hope that the man, struck with fear, will reply according to their wish. In this respect the Lord disappoints them; for when a poor man disregards their threatenings, and boldly maintains that Christ is a Prophet, we ought justly to ascribe it to the grace of God; so that this boldness is another miracle. And if he so boldly and freely acknowledged Christ to be a Prophet, though he did not as yet know that the Lord Jesus was the Son of God, how shameful is the treachery of those who, subdued by fear, either deny him, or are silent respecting him, though they know that he sitteth at the right hand of the Father, and that he will come thence to be the Judge of the whole world! Since this blind man did not quench a small spark of knowledge, we ought to endeavor that an open and full confession may blaze forth from the full brightness which has shone into our hearts.
They; i.e. the Pharisees, divided in opinion, though probably united in their interrogation. Those, on the one hand, who believed in the miracle, and held that it carried Divine approbation of the conduct of Jesus, and, on the other hand, those who were so satisfied of the moral fault involved in the transaction, that they held that the miracle itself, if not a piece of deception or collusion, might even indicate some demonic source, rather than a Divine one, say therefore unto the blind man again—the πάλιν points to the virtual repetition of inquiries already made (Joh_9:15)—What dost thou say concerning him, seeing that he opened thine eyes? “What explanation hast thou to offer? What view dost thou entertain of the Man himself? Some of us think that his trifling with the sabbatic law puts out of court the idea of any Divine aid having enabled him to work this marvel. Other some, as you see, declare that the fact which has occurred is proof that Jesus must have had God’s approval, and be sustained by Divine grace. But what dost thou, the healed man, say? What conclusion hast thou adopted? Seeing that he has opened thine eyes, what sayest thou of Jesus?” There is a bare chance that the man might give a vague answer, or one which would minimize the miracle. It is obvious that, while the Pharisees were contradicting each other and in danger of open collision, the faith of the blind man who had received his sight became stronger. The light was dawning on him. The answer, so far as it went, boldly took the side of Jesus, and perhaps its cue from the language of those who had said, “How can a bad man do such signs as these?” And he said, He is a Prophet (cf. Joh_4:19; Joh_6:14). Prophets, as divinely sent men, are even more authoritative than learned rabbis. If Jesus has broken through some of these restrictions by which they have “placed a hedge about the Law,” surely he had a prophetic right to do it. The healing marks a Divine commission, and the healed man owned and freely confessed to so much as this: “He is a Prophet.” Maimonides (quoted by Dr. Farrar) shows that the idea was current that a prophet might, on his own ipse dixit, alter or relax even the sabbath law, and that then the people were at liberty to obey him.
35.Jesus heard that they had cast him out. From this circumstance I conjecture that they proceeded to it in a solemn manner, as an affair of great importance, By this example, we are taught how trivial and how little to be dreaded are the excommunications of the enemies of Christ. If we are cast out from that assembly in which Christ reigns, it is a dreadful judgment which is executed against us, that we are delivered to Satan, (1Co_5:5,) because we are banished from the kingdom of the Son of God. But so far are we from having any reason to dread that tyrannical judgment by which wicked men insult the servants of Christ, that, even though no man should drive us out, we ought of our own accord to flee from that place in which Christ does not preside by his word and Spirit.
And having found him. If he had been allowed to remain in the synagogue, he would have been in danger of becoming gradually alienated from Christ, and plunged in the same destruction with wicked men. Christ now meets him, when he is no longer in the temple, but wandering hither and hither; receives and embraces him, when he is cast out by the priests; raises him up from the ground, and offers to him life, when he has received the sentence of death. We have known the same thing by experience in our own time; for when Dr Martin Luther, and other persons of the same class, were beginning to reprove the grosser abuses of the Pope, they scarcely had the slightest relish for pure Christianity; but after that the Pope had thundered against them, and cast them out of the Roman synagogue by terrific bulls, Christ stretched out his hand, and made himself fully known to them. So there is nothing better for us than to be at a very great distance from the enemies of the Gospel, that Christ may approach nearer to us.
Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He speaks to a Jew, who had been from his infancy instructed in the doctrine of the Law, and had learned that God had promised the Messiah. This question, therefore, has the same meaning as if Christ had exhorted him to follow the Messiah and to devote himself to him; though he employs a more honorable name than they were wont at that time to employ, for the Messiah was reckoned to be only the son of David, (Mat_22:42.)
Cambridge Bible Plummer
35. Dost thou believe] There is a stress on ‘thou.’ ‘Dost thou, though others deny and blaspheme, believe?’
On the Son of God] Again there is much doubt about the reading. The balance of MSS. authority (including both the Sinaitic and the Vatican MSS.) is in favour of ‘the Son of man,’ which moreover is the expression that our Lord commonly uses respecting Himself in all four Gospels (see on Joh_1:51). But the reading ‘The Son of God’ is very strongly supported, and is at least as old as the second century; for Tertullian, who in his work Against Praxeas quotes largely from this Gospel, in chap. 22 quotes this question thus, Tu credis in Filium Dei? In Joh_10:36 and Joh_11:4 there is no doubt about the reading, and there Christ calls himself ‘the Son of God.’ Moreover, this appellation seems to suit the context better, for the man had been contending that Jesus came ‘from God’ (Joh_9:33), and the term ‘Son of man’ would scarcely have been intelligible to him. Lastly, a copyist, knowing that the ‘Son of man’ was Christ’s usual mode of designating Himself, would be very likely to alter ‘the Son of God’ into ‘the Son of man.’ Neither title, however, is very frequent in St John’s Gospel. For all these reasons, therefore, it is allowable to retain the common reading. But in any case we once more have evidence of the antiquity of this Gospel. If both these readings were established by the end of the second century, the original text must have been in existence long before. Corruptions take time to spring up and spread. See on Joh_1:13; Joh_1:18.
Jesus heard that they had east him out; or, thrust him forth. Jesus is represented as “hearing,” not from the man’s own lips, but from the current report. He is not said to have become acquainted with the circumstance by intuition, but to have heard by the ordinary processes of knowledge. This simple touch shows how consistent the writer is throughout with the main thesis of his Gospel touching the perfect humanity of the Son of God, that he “was made flesh.” and had “come in the flesh,” though he was “from God.” The excommunication noisily and widely bruited was further proof of the war to the knife between “the Jews” and Jesus. The man has fallen under the ban for practically avowing in the most public way that Jesus was “the Prophet,” if not the Christ. And having found him. So, then, the Lord, as the good Shepherd, sought out the lost sheep in the wilderness, and did not rest until he found him. The daylight that had made an altogether new world for one who had aforetime never looked on human face, had been strangely checkered and shadowed. He only saw angry faces and averted glances, and even his cowardly parents would have hesitated to receive him into their poor abode; but Jesus found him, and said, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? Not “Dost thou wish to believe?” but “Dost thou put thy trust in the Son of God?” Dost thou recognize the fact that the Messiah of the nation’s hope has come? Art thou believing in him? It would be more natural that the more current appellation Son of God, rather than the more recondite idea of Son of man, should have been held out before the healed man. The “thou” is emphatic, and contrasts the state of the mind of this man with that of “the Jews.” He had declared that his Healer was “from God,” that he was “a Prophet,” One who “did God’s will,” and whom “God heareth,” even when he asked for apparently impossible things. Christ tests the quality and caliber of his faith.
Pop Comm Bible Schaff
Joh_9:35.Jesus heard that they had put him out: and when he had found him, he said, Dost thou believe in the Son of man? The man has lost this world: in that loss he shall gain the next. This seems to be the connecting link between this verse and the preceding. Jesus knows well thefirmness and the wisdom which the man had shown in the presence of the Jews. But He knows also that the man had by implication avowed himself His disciple, and for this had been thrust out fromthe presence of the rulers. For this very reason Jesus would draw the bond of discipleship closer, and receive amongst His own him whom theJews rejected. He seeks for the man, and, having found him, asks, Dost thou believe in the. Son ofman? the word ‘thou’ is emphatic, and brings into relief the contrast with those in whose presence he has lately been, who declared Jesus a sinner,and who had agreed that whoever confessed that Jesus was Christ should be excommunicated. The name ‘Son of man’ is equivalent to ‘the Christ,’ but gives prominence to the human nature of the Deliverer. This name therefore is altogether in harmony with the man’s own words (Joh_9:31-33), in which he had spoken of Jesus as a worshipper of God and one who did God’s will, one to whom God would hearken: to him Jesus, though ‘from God’ (Joh_9:33), was still ‘a prophet’ (Joh_9:17) and ‘the man called Jesus’ (Joh_9:11). Has he then true faith in the Messiah in whose cause he has been suffering? Does he give himself to Him with that faith which involves complete union with Himself and His cause, undeterred by the fact that He appears as a man amongst men, yea and as one despised and rejected by men? The ordinary reading ‘Son of God’ is in all probability incorrect. It is easy to see how it might accidentally find its way into the text, being suggested partly by the usual practice of John (who frequently joins ‘believe in’ either with the Son of God or with a name of similar import), and partly by the act of worship related in Joh_9:38.
37.Thou hast both seen him. By these words of Christ the blind man could not be carried higher than to a very small and cold portion of faith. For Christ does not mention his power, or the reason why he was sent by the Father, or what he has brought to men. But what principally belongs to faith is, to know that, by the sacrifice of his death, atonement has been made for our sins, and we are reconciled to God; that his resurrection was a triumph over vanquished death; that we are renewed by his Spirit, in order that, being dead to the flesh and to sin, we may live to righteousness; that he is the only Mediator; that the Spirit is the earnest of our adoption; in short, that in him is found every thing that belongs to eternal life. But the Evangelist either does not relate the whole of the conversation which Christ held with him, or he only means that the blind man professed his attachment to Christ, so that henceforth he began to be one of his disciples. For my own part, I have no doubt that Jesus intended to be acknowledged by him as the Christ, that from this beginning of faith he might afterwards lead him forward to a more intimate knowledge of himself.
[And ] Jesus said, Thou hast both seen him, with the eyes so recently opened. Hast thou not found out that I am thy Healer, thy Prophet, thy Messiah? The ἑώρακας refers to the present interview, not to any previous one; for we are not told that he had already sought or found his Benefactor (Lucke, Meyer, Luthardt). Thou hast seen him with the eyes of thy spirit as well as the eyes of flesh, and, in addition, he that talketh with thee, familiarly as man with man, is he—”that sublime Person who seems to stand far off from thought and experience” (Westcott). The ἐκεῖνος of this passage and Joh_19:35 also is a fairly classical usage for expressing, in the lips of the speaker, a reference to himself pointed at and presented objectively as a third person (see Meyer, and our note on Joh_19:35, and its bearing on the authorship of the Gospel). Nowhere does our Lord more openly admit that he as the Christ, the Son of God. The disciples scarcely rise beyond the climax of this revelation even on the night of the Passion. The man’s faith was waiting for its Object, and the vision comes to his unscaled spiritual vision.
38.And he worshipped him. It may be asked, Did the blind man honor or worship Christ as God? The word which the Evangelist employs (προσέκυνησει) means nothing more than to express respect and homage by bending the knee, or by other signs. For my own part, certainly, I think that it denotes something rare and uncommon; namely, that the blind man gave far more honor to Christ than to an ordinary man, or even to a prophet. And yet I do not think that at that time he had made such progress as to know that Christ was God manifested in the flesh. What then is meant by worship ? The blind man, convinced that Jesus was the Son of God, nearly lost the command of himself, and, in rapturous admiration, bowed down before him.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
38. Lord, I believe] Or, I believe, Lord: the order is worth keeping. Comp. the centurion’s confession (Mat_27:54). There is no need to suppose that in either case the man making the confession knew anything like the full meaning of belief in the Son of God: even Apostles were slow at learning that. The blind man had had his own uninformed idea of the Messiah, and he believed that the realisation of that idea stood before him. His faith was necessarily imperfect, a poor ‘two mites;’ but it was ‘all that he had,’ and he gave it readily, while the learned Rabbis of their abundance gave nothing. It is quite gratuitous to suppose that a special revelation was granted to him. There is no hint of this in the narrative, nor can one see why so great an exception to God’s usual dealings with man should have been made.
he worshipped him] This shews that his idea of the Son of God includes attributes of Divinity. The word for ‘worship’ occurs elsewhere in this Gospel only in Joh_4:20-24 and Joh_12:20, always of the worship of God.
Vv. 35-38. “Jesus heard that they had driven him out; and having found him, he said to him: Dost thou believe on the Son of man? 36. He answered and said, And who is he, Lord, that I may believe on him? 37. Jesus said to him, Thou hast both seen him and he that speaks with thee is he. 38. He said, Lord, I believe. And he prostrated himself before him.”
In order that the true aim which Jesus proposed to Himself might be attained (Joh_9:3-4). the spiritual illumination and salvation of the blind man must result from his corporeal cure; and certainly his courageous fidelity in the face of the enemies of Jesus made him worthy to obtain this new favor. This connection of ideas is indicated by the first words of Joh_9:35 : Jesus heard…and …In the question which He addresses to this man we formerly preferred the reading: on the Son of God, to that of the three ancient Mjj. which read: on the Son of man. It explains better the act of worship with which the scene ends (Joh_9:38). Westcott rightly observes, however, that the substitution of the technical and popular term Son of God for Son of man is much more probable than the reverse. And he cites the very striking example of Joh_6:69, where the term Son of God has evidently taken the place in the received text of Holy One of God. If we must read: on the Son of man, the meaning is: on the man who has an exceptional place among all His brethren and who is raised up in order to save them all. The question: Dost thou believe? does not signify: “Art thou disposed to believe?” (Lucke).
It is one of those questions, such as were sometimes put by Jesus, whose import goes beyond the actual light of the one to whom it is addressed, but which is, even for this reason, fitted to call forth the desired explanation. “Thou who hast just conducted thyself with so much of courage, dost thou then believe?” Jesus ascribes to the conduct of the blind man an importance which it as yet only impliedly possesses. This man had recognized Him as a prophet and had courageously proclaimed Him as such; he had thus morally bound himself to receive the testimony of Jesus respecting Himself, whatever it might be. The blind man accepts without hesitation this consequence of his previous words. And this relation it is which is expressed with much vivacity by the particle καί, and, at the beginning of his question.
This copula serves indeed to identify the light which he waits for with that for which the question of Jesus makes him hope; comp. Luk_18:26. Jesus might have answered: It is I, myself. He prefers to designate Himself by a periphrasis recalling to him who was previously blind the work which he has accomplished on his behalf: Thou hast seen him, and which gives a warranty to His present testimony: It is he who speaks to thee.The first καί in the reply of Jesus: Thou hast both seen him, connects this revelation with the promise of faith which the blind man has just made to Him. The successive καί set forth the ready, easy, natural linking together of all the moral facts which form the course of this story. In this rapid development, one step does not wait for another. Joh_9:38 shows us the consummation of this gradual illumination. In these circumstances, in which there was neither pardon to ask for, nor supplication to present, the genuflexion could be only a homage of worship, or at least of profound religious respect. The term προσκύνειν, to prostrate oneself, is always applied in John to divine worship (Joh_4:20 ff. Joh_12:20).
In the presence of this man prostrate at His feet and inwardly illuminated, Jesus feels Himself called to proclaim a general result which His ministry will have throughout the whole world, and of which the event which has just occurred is, as it were, a first example.
39.For judgment am I come into this world. The word judgment cannot be understood, in this passage, to denote simply the punishment which is inflicted on unbelievers, and on those who despise God; for it is made to include the grace of illumination. Christ, therefore, calls it judgment, because he restores to proper order what was disordered and confused; but he means that this is done by a wonderful purpose of God, and contrary to the ordinary opinion of men. And, indeed, human reason considers nothing to be more unreasonable than to say, that they who see are made blind by the light of the world. This then is one of the secret judgments of God, by which he casts down the pride of men. It ought to be observed, that the blindness which is here mentioned, does not proceed so much from Christ as from the fault of men. For by its own nature, it does not strictly blind any man, but as there is nothing which the reprobate desire more earnestly than to extinguish its light, the eyes of their mind, which are diseased through malice and depravity, must be dazzled by the light which is exhibited to them. In short, since Christ is, by his own nature, the light of the world, (Joh_8:12,) it is an accidental result, that some are made blind by his coming.
But again it may be asked, Since all are universally accused of blindness, who are they that see ? I reply, this is spoken ironically by way of concession, because unbelievers, though they are blind, think that their sight is uncommonly acute and powerful; and elated by this confidence, they do not deign to listen to God. Besides, out of Christ the wisdom of the flesh has a very fair appearance, because the world does not understand what it is to be truly wise. So then, they see, says our Lord Jesus Christ, who, deceiving themselves and others under a foolish confidence in their wisdom, are guided by their own opinion, and reckon their vain imaginations to be great wisdom. Such persons, as soon as Christ appears in the brightness of his Gospel, are made blind; not only because their folly, which was formerly concealed amidst the darkness of unbelief, is now discovered, but because, being plunged in deeper darkness by the righteous vengeance of God, they lose that small remnant of I know not what light which they formerly possessed.
It is true that we are all born blind, but still, amidst the darkness of corrupted and depraved nature, some sparks continue to shine, so that men differ from brute beasts. Now, if any man, elated by proud confidence in his own opinion, refuses to submit to God, he will seem — apart from Christ — to be wise, but the brightness of Christ will strike him with dismay; for never does the vanity of the human mind begin to be discovered, until heavenly wisdom is brought into view. But Christ intended, as I have already suggested, to express something more by these words. For hypocrites do not so obstinately resist God before Christ shines; but as soon as the light is brought near them, then do they, in open war, and — as it were, with unfurled banner, — rise up against God. It is in consequence of this depravity and ingratitude, therefore, that they become doubly blind, and that God, in righteous vengeance, entirely puts out their eyes, which were formerly destitute of the true light.
We now perceive the amount of what is stated in this passage, that Christ came into the world to give sight to the blind, and to drive to madness those who think that they are wise. In the first part of it, he mentions illumination, that they who see not may see; because this is strictly the cause of his coming, for he did not come tojudge the world, but rather to save that which was lost, (Mat_18:11.) In like manner Paul, when he declares that he has vengeance prepared against all rebels, at the same time adds, that this punishment will take place after that believers shall have fulfilled their obedience, (2Co_10:6.)
And this vengeance ought not to be limited to the person of Christ, as if he did not perform the same thing daily by the ministers of his Gospel.
We ought to be the more careful that none of us, through a foolish and extravagant opinion of his wisdom, draw down upon himself this dreadful punishment. But experience shows us the truth of this statement which Christ uttered; for we see many persons struck with giddiness and rage, for no other reason but because they cannot endure the rising of the Sun of righteousness. Adam lived, and was endued with the true light of understanding, while he lost that divine blessing by desiring to see more than was allowed him. Now if, while we are plunged in blindness and thus humbled by the Lord, we still flatter ourselves in our darkness, and oppose our mad views to heavenly wisdom, we need not wonder if the vengeance of God fall heavily upon us, so that we are rendered doubly blind This very punishment was formerly inflicted on the wicked and unbelievers under the law; for Isaiah is sent to blind the ancient people, that seeing they may not see: blind the heart of this people, and shut their ears, (Isa_6:9.)
But in proportion as the brightness of the divine light is more fully displayed in Christ than in the Prophets, so much the more remarkably must this example of blindness have been manifested and perceived; as even now the noon-day light of the Gospel drives hypocrites to extreme rage.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
39. And Jesus said] There is no need to make a break in the narrative and refer these words to a subsequent occasion. This is not natural. Rather it is the sight of the man prostrate at His feet, endowed now with sight both in body and soul, that moves Christ to say what follows. His words are addressed to the bystanders generally, among whom are some of the Pharisees.
For judgment I am come] Better, For judgment I came. The precise form of word for ‘judgment’ occurs nowhere else in this Gospel. It signifies not the act of judging (Joh_5:22; Joh_5:24; Joh_5:27; Joh_5:30) but its result, a ‘sentence’ or ‘decision’ (Mat_7:2, Mar_12:40, Rom_2:2-3, &c.), Christ came not to judge, but to save (Joh_3:17, Joh_8:15); but judgment was the inevitable result of His coming, for those who rejected Him passed sentence on themselves (Joh_3:19). See on Joh_1:9 and Joh_18:37. The pronoun is emphatic.
they which see not] They who are conscious of their own blindness, who know their deficiencies; like ‘they that are sick’ and ‘sinners’ in Mat_9:12-13, and ‘babes’ in Mat_11:25. This man was aware of his spiritual blindness when he asked, ‘Who is He then, that I may believe on Him!’
might see] Better, may see, may really see, may pass from the darkness of which they are conscious, to light and truth.
they which see] They who fancy they see, who pride themselves on their superior insight and knowledge, and wish to dictate to others; like ‘they that be whole,’ and ‘righteous’ in Mat_9:12-13, and ‘the wise and prudent’ in Mat_11:25. These Pharisees shewed this proud self-confidence when they declared, ‘we know that this man is a sinner,’ and asked ‘Dost thou teach us?’
might be made blind] Or, may become blind, really blind (Isa_6:10), may pass from their fancied light into real darkness.
39–41. “The concluding verses contain a saying which is thoroughly in the manner of the Synoptists (cf. Mat_15:14; Mat_23:16-17; Mat_23:24; Mat_23:26). It also supplies a warranty for ascribing a typical significance to miracles.
That the Synoptists do not relate this miracle does not affect its historical character, as the whole of these events in Judaea are equally omitted by them.… The vague and shifting outlines of the Synoptic narrative allow ample room for all the insertions that are made in them with so much precision by S. John.” S. pp. 165, 166.
The sight of the man, enlightened and prostrate in adoring gratitude, led Jesus, in the face of the bystanders, with Pharisees among them (Joh_9:40), to declare the general effects which would follow from his entire self-manifestation (so Meyer, Godet). Westcott says, “Not to any one or group, but as interpreting the scene before him.” A sublime monologue. And Jesus said, I came for judgment. Not κρισιν, to execute judgment, but εἰς κρίμα, with a view to bring about a judicial decision on the moral condition of mankind (see notes on Joh_3:17, Joh_3:18; Joh_5:22, Joh_5:23; Joh_8:11, Joh_8:15, Joh_8:16) as a matter of fact. “This is the κρίσις, that men love darkness rather than light.” Christ came to save—that was his supreme purpose; but to the Son is given the whole κρίσις, and κρῖμα will follow the revelation of the Son of God. He is the Touchstone of humanity. What men think of Christ is the question which decides in every age their moral condition before God. Into this world of sin and strife, of crossing lights and strange delusions, of ignorance and superstition (εἰς τὸν κόσμον is different when τοῦτον is added; see Joh_8:23; Joh_11:9; Joh_12:25, Joh_12:31; Joh_13:1; Joh_16:11; Joh_18:36)—not the world as the mere cosmos, or the sphere of creative activity, nor even the whole of humanity as Joh_3:16, but humanity viewed in its separation from grace, and in all its need—in order that they who see not might see; i.e. not those who merely feel that they cannot see (as Lucke, Meyer, etc.), but the practically blind—the μὴ βλέποντες, those who are sitting in darkness, with the capacity for sight, but not the opportunity; who cannot, as a matter of fact, apart from the revelation of new light, see the face of God; the babes to whom the Lord of heaven and earth has been pleased to unveil himself (see Mat_11:25); the poor in spirit, who do not but now may see the kingdom, and the pure in heart ready to behold their God. So far the κρῖμα declares itself to be a blessed consummation—sight to the blind, cleansing to the leper, life to the dead. Even the man born blind suns himself in the heaven of the Savior’s smile. The Light of the world shines upon them, and they see. But Christ’s coming brings out also the character of those, and pronounces judgment on those, who say of themselves, “We see;” “We have never been in bondage,” “We need no repentance;” “Abraham is our father;” “We know the Law;” “Who (nevertheless) do not come to the Light;” who are not “of the truth;” and the beaming of his unappreciated glory involves in their case, that those who see might become blind (τυφλοί), incapable of seeing. Those who have the knowledge of the Law, “the wise and prudent” (Luk_10:21), who boast their freedom, their knowledge, their advantages, their profession, may, nay do, by resolute turning away from “the Light of this world,” lose their power of spiritual vision. But the unsophisticated, needy, even the publicans and harlots, consciously sitting in the region of the shadow of death, do by faith and repentance find that the great Light has unawares shone upon them.
Pop Comm Bible Schaff
Joh_9:39.And Jesus said, For a judgment came I into this world, that they which see not may see, and that they which see may become blind. The rendering ‘a judgment’ may serve to remind us of the fact that our Lord (here using a word which is not found elsewhere in the Gospel) does not speak of the act of judging, but of the result. He does not say that He came inorder to judge, but that the necessary effect of His coming into this world, a world alienated from God, will be a judgment. Those that see not (the ‘babes’ of Mat_11:25) come to Him for sight: those that see (the ‘wise and prudent’), who know the law and are satisfied with that knowledge, and who having all the guidance which should have led them to Christ do not come, ‘become blind,’—lose all light through losing Him. Knowledge which has priceless value for pointing the way to Christ becomes accursed if put in His place as an object of trust. It is possible that, as the word ‘judge’ seems elsewhere in this Gospel always to have the force of a condemning judgment, this sense should be preserved here also: in the one case the judgment is passed on acknowledged blindness, for they themselves who come to the light pass a condemnation on the blindness of their past state; in the other, judgment is passed upon supposed (or rather upon misused) sight. Thus both classes have a part in the ‘judgment:’ the one by appropriating as just the judgment of Jesus on their blindness apart from Him; the other by deliberately shutting their eyes to the true light. The result of this wilful action is utter blindness,—not merely a disuse of sight, but a destruction of the power of sight.
40.Some of the Pharisees heard. They instantly perceived that they were smitten by this saying of Christ, and yet they appear not to have belonged to the worst class; for the open enemies had so strong an abhorrence of Christ that they did not at all associate with him. But those men submitted to listen to Christ, yet without any advantage, for no man is qualified to be a disciple of Christ, until he has been divested of self, and they were very far from being so.
Are we also blind? This question arose from indignation, because they thought that they were insulted by being classed with blind men; and, at the same time, it shows a haughty contempt of the grace of Christ accompanied by mockery, as if they had said, “Thou canst not rise to reputation without involving us in disgrace; and is it to be endured that thou shouldst obtain honor for thyself by upbraiding us? As to the promise thou makest of giving new light to the blind, go hence and leave us with thy benefit; for we do not choose to receive sight from thee on the condition of admitting that we have been hitherto blind. ” Hence we perceive that hypocrisy has always been full of pride and of venom. The pride is manifested by their being satisfied with themselves, and refusing to have any thing taken from them; and the venom, by their being enraged at Christ and arguing with him, because he has pointed out their wound, as if he had inflicted on them a grievous wound. Hence arises contempt of Christ and of the grace which he offers to them.
The word also is emphatic; for it means that, though all the rest be blind, still it is improper that they should be reckoned as belonging to the ordinary rank. It is too common a fault among those who are distinguished above others, that they are intoxicated with pride, and almost forget that they are men.
Those of the Pharisees who were with him. This expression does not simply mean who were near him at that moment, but who were to a certain extent siding with him (Joh_8:30, Joh_8:31), while criticizing and rejecting his message; who were incensed with him for promising to them “freedom” and sonship, and whose faith in his claims was of the most superficial and vacillating kind. These wavering, self-satisfied Pharisees heard these things, and they said to him, Are we blind also? Many commentators, who call attention to the contrast between the τυφλοί and μή βλέποντες of Joh_9:39, think that the speakers who made use of this word did not draw the distinction, and meant nothing more than their use μὴ βλέποντες by of τυφλοί. But this is unsatisfactory; whatever it ‘means in the one clause, it ought to mean in the other. There is a difference between “becoming blind,” and being “the blind.” They ask whether they are blind also, i.e. as blind as those who have, according to Christ’s own dictum, become so. They seem to admit that some who have the power of sight have been blinded by the very light that shines upon them, but they are in doubt with reference to their own case.
Pop Comm Bible Schaff
Joh_9:40. Those of the Pharisees which were with him heard these things. The whole cast of the language here used shows that those who speak are not representatives of the Pharisees as a body, or of the Pharisaic spirit in its worst characteristics. But lately there has been a division of feeling among the Pharisees in regard to Jesus (Joh_9:16). Some who were then impressed by His signs may have already become disciples; others may have remained in a state of uncertainty, impressed but not convinced,—not brought to the point of ‘leaving all’ their possessions of ‘wisdom and prudence’ and following Him. It may be that those spoken of here were of such a description. No one, probably, who duly apprehends the difference in the usage of John between ‘the Pharisees’ and ‘the Jews,’ will think that necessarily these words were uttered in derision, or that these men were ‘with Him’ as enemies and spies.—And said unto him, Are we blind also? There had been an apparent difficulty in the words of Jesus. They spoke of two classes, distinguished in their character as not seeing and seeing,—in their future lot, as receiving sight and becoming blind. The future lotis the result of the coming of Jesus into thisworld, It isvery clear that He means that those who see not (like the despised blind man who has just been ‘put out’) will come to Him and obtain sight from Him. But what of the Pharisees whom He invites to come? Does He class them also amongst those who ‘see not’? Surely (they think) this cannot be His meaning? And yet, if not, Pharisees are excluded from all hope of blessing, for His words speak of but two classes.
41.If you were blind. These words may be explained in two ways; either, that ignorance would, in some degree, alleviate their guilt, if they were not fully convinced, and did not deliberately fight against the truth; or, that there was reason to hope that their disease of ignorance might be cured, if they would only acknowledge it. The former view is supported by the words of Christ, If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, (Joh_15:22.)
But as it is added in this passage,but now you say you see, in order that the points of contrast may correspond to each other, it appears to be more consistent to explain them to mean, that he is blind who, aware of his own blindness, seeks a remedy to cure his disease. In this way the meaning will be, “If you would acknowledge your disease, it would not be altogether incurable; but now because you think that you are in perfect health, you continue in a desperate state.” When he says that they who are blind have no sin, this does not excuse ignorance, as if it were harmless, and were placed beyond the reach of condemnation. He only means that the disease may easily be cured, when it is truly felt; because, when a blind man is desirous to obtain deliverance, God is ready to assist him; but they who, insensible to their diseases, despise the grace of God, are incurable.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
41. If ye were blind] Christ returns to His own meaning of ‘blind’ or ‘they which see not’ in Joh_9:39. ‘If ye were conscious of your own spiritual darkness, if ye yearned and strove to reach the light, ye would not have sin (see on Joh_15:22); for either ye would find the light, or, if ye failed, the failure would not lie at your door.’ For the construction comp. Joh_5:46; Joh_8:19; Joh_8:42; Joh_15:19; Joh_18:36.
therefore your sin remaineth] Better, your sin abideth (see on Joh_1:33): ‘therefore’ is an insertion, and must be omitted. ‘Ye profess to see: your sin in this false profession and in your consequent rejection of Me abideth.’ It was a hopeless case. They rejected Him because they did not know the truth about Him; and they would never learn the truth because they were fully persuaded that they were in possession of it. Those who confess their ignorance and contend against it, (1) cease to be responsible for it, (2) have a good prospect of being freed from it. Those who deny their ignorance and contend against instruction, (1) remain responsible for their ignorance, (2) have no prospect of ever being freed from it. Comp. Joh_3:36.
The reply of our Lord is not meant to be a crushing and final retort, condemning them to hopeless night, but was obviously intended to show them that they are not yet free from sin, that they are only partially appreciating the light which shines upon them. If ye were blind—incapable of sight; if ye had all along been deprived of the faculty of perceiving the true Light that shineth in the darkness (a condition of things which would have emancipated them from responsibility, and which Christ would not admit to be the case); perhaps more, if ye had been utterly blind to the light which is shining upon you now, which, however, is not true—ye would not have sin. This is akin to the solemn language of Joh_15:22-24. They did not themselves admit that there was any congenital blindness about them. They did not pretend or expect to ride off on such a πρόφασις, such an excuse. Could they be, judicially or naturally, blind?
The very idea was an absurdity, and so Jesus added, But now ye say, We see. You even boast that you are “instructors of the ignorant, and leaders of the blind; a light to those who sit in darkness, having the form of knowledge and truth in the Law” (Rom_2:17-21). You are the very opposite of the “not-seeing” (μὴ βλέποντες); you are self-satisfied; you will not come to the Light. What is the issue? The Lord seems to pause before his answer (the οὖν, “therefore,” is rejected by the best manuscripts and critics): Your sin abideth; or, remaineth. It will remain until you fully admit the great principle and reason, the motive and characteristics, of my mission. The very facility you profess, the intimacy you claim with the Law and its founder, and your partial knowledge of my claim, take away your excuse. The discourse which follows shows how entire must be the submission to Christ, how complete the union with him, of those who say, “We see.”