Where the world comes to study the Bible

The Light of the World (John 9:1-41)

Introduction

“In 167 B.C. Antiochus’ army put a stop to the Jew’s sacrifices. The people of Jerusalem, under the leadership of Matthias, revolted and then fled to the desert. Their hiding place was soon discovered, and the pursuing soldiers demanded that they repent and surrender.

The Jews refused to give in, but they also refused to fight because it was the Sabbath. They would not block the entrances to their caves or fight in any way. Approximately 1000 men, women and children died without resistance, because they considered the Sabbath sacred.”149

The death of 1,000 people resulted from the sincere conviction that the Sabbath should not be violated. Although this event happened nearly two centuries before the healing of the blind man in John chapter 9, it does give us a feel for the intensity of the conviction of devout Jews that the Sabbath could not be broken. As a matter of fact, the intervening years between the days of Matthias and Christ did not weaken this conviction, but strengthened it.

The sect which especially set out to protect the Sabbath was the Pharisees. In the light of many pagan forces at work to corrupt the purity of the Jewish faith, the Pharisees took upon themselves the task of keeping Judaism pure of foreign and pagan influence. As a result, the Pharisees were separatists (the word Pharisee means separated). Initially devout and well-motivated, this sect became more and more rigid and legalistic. The central issue for the Pharisees was the preservation of the Sabbath.

“The Jerusalem Talmud contained 64 pages, and the Babylonian Talmud 156 double pages, with specific rules on observing the Sabbath.”150

The Pharisees succeeded in turning the Sabbath rest into a burden, rather than a blessing.

“The scribes drew up a list of forty works save one which were forbidden and which, if done knowingly, rendered the offender liable to stoning, and if done inadvertently demanded a heavy sin-offering in expiation. These thirty-nine works in the technical language of the legalists were called ‘fathers,’ and the subsections of derivative pieces of labour were called ‘descendants.’”151

For example, plowing was a ‘father’ prohibited on the Sabbath. Digging was a ‘descendant.’ Dragging a chair on the ground would make a kind of furrow, and therefore was forbidden, but dragging a chair on a hard surface was permitted. Another ‘father’ was carrying a load, and this prohibition was attended by a host of ‘descendants.’ To wear an unneeded garment was prohibited. A tailor had to leave his needle and thread at home, and a scribe could not carry his pen. One matter which caused a great deal of discussion was what a man could do if his home caught on fire on the Sabbath. Nothing could be carried out, but clothing, if it were put on one piece at a time, could be worn outside, taken off, and then one could return for another garment.152 People must have come from miles around to watch the spectacle as the house of a devout Jew burned down!

Although we have only scratched the surface of the issue, you can easily see why our Lord viewed the regulations of the Pharisees as a heavy burden upon the Jews (cf. Matthew 11:28-30; 23:1-4). Those who were skilled in the Law also were skillful in devising ways to circumvent most of the meticulous rules which they had laid down.153 Worst of all, these traditions of the Pharisees were so intertwined with the Old Testament Law that to violate these traditions was viewed as breaking the Law of God.

Such was the backdrop for this healing of the blind man recorded in John chapter nine. As a result of this miracle, there was yet another head-on collision between the Pharisees and the Lord Jesus Christ. From this account, we learn of a blindness far more dangerous and devastating than that of the mere loss of (physical) sight. Here we find the blind given sight and the seeing blinded.

The Blind Receives His Sight
(9:1-12)

In John chapter 8, our Lord had a major confrontation with the Pharisees. He had openly claimed to be God (cf. vs. 58) and they had, in turn, sought to stone Him. Having hid Himself, He went out of the temple. It is possible that our Lord’s encounter with the blind man happened as He was leaving the temple.154 As Jesus passed by, He noticed a man who was blind. There is no indication that this man cried out to Jesus, nor that anyone drew our Lord’s attention to him. In fact, quite the reverse seems to be the case. From beginning to end, the restoration of this man was a healing at the initiative of the Lord Jesus.

When the disciples learned that this man had been blind from birth, they launched into a philosophical discussion, asking our Lord, “Whose sin resulted in this man’s blindness, this man or his parents?” (vs. 2). The disciples were not mistaken in making a connection between sin and human suffering, since all suffering is the result of man’s fall (cf. Genesis 3:16ff.). Moreover, sickness is sometimes the direct result of sin in the life of an individual (Leviticus 26:16; Deuteronomy 28:22; 1 Corinthians 11:30; James 5:15). The sins of the parents can also affect their children (Exodus 20:5). But the disciples doubtless reflected the thinking of their contemporaries when they came to the hasty conclusion that someone’s sin had caused the blindness. As R. Ammi put it: “There is no death without sin, and there is no suffering without iniquity.”155

To the Jew, great suffering could not be thought of apart from great sin. Our Lord’s response jolted His disciples back to reality when He responded, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3).

By His statement, our Lord did not mean that this man and his parents were sinless, for “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He did clearly imply that it was the purpose of God that this man suffer blindness, even from his birth. Rather than stress the human reasons for this man’s suffering, He turned His disciples’ attention to the divine purpose, that ‘the works of God might be displayed in him’ (vs. 3). We shall say more about suffering in the will of God later, but the response of our Lord to the question of His disciples is directed more to their attitudes and actions than to their doctrinal instruction. The disciples, like most of us, had rather philosophize about human suffering than to philanthropize. Our Lord had no time to probe into the specific cause of this man’s suffering. Time was late; His time was limited. They must do the work of God while there was the opportunity (cf. verse 4).

Just prior to healing this man, Jesus made this statement: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). This Jesus said to establish a clear connection between the healing of this blind man and His claim to be the ‘Light of the world’ (John 18:12; cf. John 1:4; 12:46). What our Lord previously claimed He now demonstrated by this miracle.

The healing of this man was unusual from several vantage points. First of all, as we have previously remarked, it was apparently completely at the initiative of our Lord. Then, also, it was not marked with the simplicity of other healings of the blind (cf. Matthew 9:27-30; 20:30-34). Our Lord made clay from the dust and His spittle. With this mixture, He anointed the eyes of the man and then sent him to the pool of Siloam,156 instructing him to wash there. When he returned with his sight, it would appear that our Lord had long since departed.

Why, then, did our Lord heal this man in such a unique fashion? Let me suggest several reasons for the clay and the washing. First of all, we are told by some that spittle was thought by those in Jesus’ time to have medicinal value.157 By the use of the clay and the spittle, our Lord is said to have accommodated Himself to the popular beliefs of His day in order to strengthen the faith of the man.158 Also, as Shepard has suggested,159 our Lord technically violated the Pharisaical interpretation of keeping the Sabbath, for the mixing of the spittle and clay would be considered work, and the application of spittle on the Sabbath was expressly prohibited by Jewish tradition.160

Having noted these scholarly suggestions, let me suggest a couple of my own, much more pragmatic in nature. The smearing of the clay on the eyes of this man greatly facilitated his faith in a very practical way. Even if the man had his doubts about a man smearing mud in his eyes and promising healing, he had to wash his face anyway, and the pool of Siloam may well have been the closest place. Then, also, by having the man wash in the pool of Siloam, the actual miracle took place away from Jesus, and probably away from the gaping eyes of the Pharisees, who were looking for any cause to bring further accusations against Him. The confrontation in this account is between the healed man and the Pharisees, not Jesus and the Pharisees.

It didn’t take long for the word to get out that something strange had happened to this blind beggar. Not only was he no longer blind, but he no longer begged either (cf. verse 8). The neighbors were the first to notice the change, but they did not all agree as to how they should interpret what had happened. Some maintained that this man only resembled the blind beggar (verse 9). When they asked him to explain in detail all he could say was that a man named Jesus had accomplished it, and that he did not know where He was (verses 11,12).

The Blind Man Receives a Hearing
(9:13-34)

While Jesus gave him his sight, the Pharisees gave him a hearing. Those who had first witnessed that the man had been healed did not know how to handle the situation, so they brought the man to the Pharisees (verse 13). Although this was not a meeting of the Sanhedrin, it was no informal gathering either. It must have been some smaller body, convening as a preliminary hearing to see if there was sufficient cause to take more rigorous action.161

At this initial hearing, several points were established. The man apparently had been healed by Jesus, and most significantly, on the Sabbath. The evidence presented led to two contradictory conclusions. Some recognized that such a great work could not be anything other than the work of God. Others, pointing out that the Sabbath had been violated, concluded that Jesus could not have been from God (verse 16). Perhaps in frustration they turned to the man himself. No one was more qualified to judge this matter than the healed man himself. What did he think of Jesus? Without hesitation, he answered, “He is a prophet” (verse 17).

This conclusion was totally unacceptable to the opposing Pharisees. Consequently, they had to investigate the matter more fully. Perhaps this was some kind of hoax. Maybe this man only resembled the blind beggar, as some had already suggested. Perhaps his parents could shed some light on the matter.

The parents were guardedly tight-lipped. It was known to them that the Pharisees had already put the word out that anyone who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue (or excommunicated).162 As a result, the parents confirmed the fact that this man was their son, and that he had been born blind. As to who had healed him and how it was accomplished, they would not conjecture. If the Pharisees wanted to know more, let them ask their son, for he was of age and could speak for himself (verse 21).

Again, the man was called before the Pharisees with the words, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner” (John 9:24).163 The intent of this instruction is not just that the man should give all the glory to God for his healing, and none to Jesus, but it is in effect the swearing of an oath, promising to tell the whole truth.164 At this point, the man did not attempt to interpret the events of his healing, but he tenaciously held to the facts: before, he was blind, but now he could see. Whatever the Jews decided, they could not alter the facts.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that this man had been genuinely healed, and by Jesus, they probed into the manner of the healing. Perhaps there was something here to give the Pharisees a toehold and thus enable them to press charges against Jesus. And so they asked the man to repeat once more how the miracle was accomplished.

The patience of the man gave way to exasperation. He knew all too well that they had no interest in the matter other than to find fault with Jesus. The man turned the tables on his inquisitioners and asked them a question: “I told you already, and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?” (John 9:27).

Here the motives of the Pharisees were laid bare. They did not seek truth, but some shred of evidence that they could use against Jesus, to prove He was not the Messiah. They did not seek this for their sake so much as for the crowds who still generally held Him a likely candidate.

That little word ‘too’ may be significant, for it may indicate that this man has progressed to the point in his thinking that he included himself among the disciples of our Lord. This is the way that the Pharisees took it, for in verse 28, they referred to him as a disciple of Jesus.

The choice confronting the man was to decide whose disciple he would be. They were disciples of Moses, while he followed Jesus. Assuming their traditions to be a part of God’s Law, they thought that Moses was on their side. This also meant that Jesus was a Sabbath-breaker by their definition, and that, as such, He could not be One sent from God. He must be a sinner. He would have to choose between Moses and Jesus. The point they failed to notice was that Moses, like Jesus, was authenticated as God’s messenger by the miraculous works that he performed.

The blind beggar had not only gained his sight, but he was continually gaining insight into the true motives of his inquisitors. They had no interest in the facts. Their minds were made up. They were simply looking for some loophole in the facts which would make room for their preconceived ideas. With this insight, he turned the tables and put the Pharisees on the defensive. He manifested a boldness in the truth that is unmistakable.

“The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not hear sinners; but if any one is God-fearing, and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:30-33).

There was an obvious note of sarcasm in this indictment of the Pharisees by the one who had been healed. How could they possibly conclude that He was not sent from God when He did that which no other prophet had done? How could they defend their position as religious leaders when they had no explanation for His appearance or actions? Their position was so weak and indefensible that even this untrained layman could shoot holes in it. He had lost all respect for their authority, and no longer feared whatever penalty they might mete out to him. He wanted no part of their religion anyway. Let them throw him out.

The self-righteous Pharisees were cut to the quick. All semblance of impartiality and calm judgment were swept aside by the stinging rebuke of the former beggar. In this debate between the beggar and the bigots, the beggar won. This is evidenced by their response to his rebuke:

“‘How dare you, a man whose sins have brought about blindness, speak to us in such fashion,’ they retaliated. And with this they excommunicated him” (John 9:34, my paraphrase).

The Blind Sees and the Seeing Are Blind
(9:35-41)

Just as our Lord initiated the restoration of sight to this blind man, so He now sought him out to grant him spiritual sight. The Savior did not hasten the spiritual birth process. His physical healing set the process in motion. The opposition of the Pharisees, far from hindering his conversion, compelled him to it. The failure of Pharisaism was all too evident. If the Pharisees were wrong, then Jesus must be right.

When our Lord found the man He asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (verse 35).165 He was willing to accept Jesus as a spokesman for God, but did not yet know who the Messiah was. And so it was that he asked who the Messiah was, that he might believe on Him. The One Whom he had beheld with his restored eyes, the One to Whom he had been driven by the obstinance of the Pharisees, the One to Whom he spoke; this One was the Messiah. With this, the man fell at the feet of Jesus in acknowledgement and adoration of His person. And with this bending of the knees came the full sight of the blind man, both physical and spiritual.

But while the healed man bent his knees, the Pharisees stiffened their necks in rebellion and resistance. Our Lord’s coming resulted not only in the restoration of sight to the blind, but also in the blindness of those who professed to see: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind” (John 9:39).

There is no contradiction in these words of our Lord with what He said elsewhere to the effect that He did not come to condemn men, but to save them (e.g. John 3:17; 12:47). Our Lord’s purpose in coming to the world was to accomplish salvation. But in the process of His coming as the ‘Light of the world’ (John 1:4; 8:12; 12:46), He exposed the sinfulness of men. Those who reject the light and refuse to turn from their sins and receive His pardon seal their own condemnation. I may go to my office late at night to get a much needed book, and in the process encounter a burglar who, because of my call to the police, is captured and convicted. What was done for one primary purpose may result in something different. Such is the case with the coming of Christ as the light of the world.

The Pharisees, who were now watching Jesus like a hawk, seeking any infraction of their meticulous rules, could not help but overhear this statement of Jesus and ask, “We are not blind too, are we?” (John 9:40).

They, no doubt, hoped for a simple “No,” while expecting a stinging ‘“Yes.” Jesus explained their guilt in more detail. They would not be blind if they were aware of the issues. But their problem was not a lack of evidence. Their sin was manifested in their refusal to admit that the evidence was true. They refused to let the evidence persuade them to come to the only logical conclusion. Because they claimed to perceive the issues, they were blind, and by their own admission (verse 41).

Conclusion and Application

Historical Interpretation

As I understand this passage in the context of John’s gospel, it serves several purposes. First of all, this healing accredits the claim of our Lord Jesus to be the ‘light of the world,’ especially as it was made in chapter 8 (verse 12). This miracle authenticated the claims of Jesus to be the Christ, the Messiah, just as the miracles of Moses identified him to Israel as a prophet of God. The blind saw the implications of his healing and knelt in worship before Jesus. As the blind man himself reminded the Pharisees, there was no record of a man ever receiving his sight. More than this, the giving of sight to the blind was viewed in the Old Testament as a work of the Messiah (cf. Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:7). It is not without significance that Jesus is recorded to have performed more miracles of restoring sight than of any other kind of healing (cf. Matthew 9:27-31; 12:22f.; 15:30f.; 21:14; Mark 8:22-26; 10:46-52; Luke 7:21f.).

In addition to providing evidence in defense of the claims of Jesus, His miracles practically forced men to come to a decision about him. In this chapter, we can see that the healing of the blind man divided those who learned of it. Some could not resist the compelling nature of the evidence, while others could not accept it. But in either case, it pushed people off ‘dead center.’ No one remained neutral about Jesus. Even the opposition of the Pharisees forced people to arrive at a strong conviction in the matter. Humanly speaking, the blind man might have given no more thought to his healing had the Pharisees not made such an issue of it.

Implications and Applications

This passage has a great deal to say to men today: First of all, it addresses those who have attempted to remain neutral on the issue of Jesus Christ. Let me say to you, my friend, that there is no such thing as neutrality concerning Jesus Christ. To attempt to remain neutral is only a more sophisticated way of rejecting Him. As our Lord Himself said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6).

The apostle John wrote: “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:12).

Once again, our Lord said, “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30).

Those who profess neutrality have failed to take the words of Scripture seriously enough. Those who witnessed the claims and actions of Jesus knew that they must either accept Him for Whom He claimed to be, or utterly reject Him. In this sense, the logic of the Pharisees was not too far from the truth. If Jesus was not the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world, then He should have been done away with. Such a man would have been a menace to society. But if He was right, then men must fall before Him as the Creator of the universe, and the Redeemer of men to Whom all things will be put in subjection (cf. Philippians 2:9-11).

Whatever you do this morning, my undecided friend, do not go away tipping your hat to God by acknowledging that Jesus was a good man, a good teacher, a good example for us to follow. If He was not the Son of God, He was an imposter, deceived and deceiving. Do not give Him what He does not deserve. But if, as the gospel writers tell us, He not only healed the blind and raised the dead, but also claimed to be God in human flesh, then you must accept Him as your Savior or reject Him as a fraud. There is no middle ground. You must face the compelling force of the miracles and teaching of Jesus.

I must also go on to say that this text exposes the real reason why men reject Jesus as their Savior. It is not an intellectual problem. Let me say it again; it is not, at its roots, an intellectual reason for which men reject Jesus. It is a moral problem. There was no deficiency in the evidence. The problem was that the Pharisees rejected the sheer weight of the evidence, because it did not conform to their preconceived ideas as to the conclusion. It was their presuppositions that killed them (so to speak). They had devised a religious system which outwardly seemed to comply with the Old Testament revelation, but which really defined a God under their control. The reason they rejected Jesus was because He did not conform to their preferences as to what God should be like. They had created a God after their own image, rather than conforming their theology to what God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

And so it is with men today. “I like to think of God as …” people say. And that is precisely their problem. It doesn’t really matter how you wish to think of God. The destiny-determining reality is that we must worship God ‘in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:23). When God does not conform to our preferences, our preferences must give way to the precepts of the Word of God. There is more than enough evidence in the Word of God to persuade any man who is open to the truth (and this, of course, is ultimately the sovereign work of God). No amount of evidence will persuade the one who has determined not to submit to God (cf. Luke 16:27-31). Men do not accept the gospel of Jesus Christ because they know that they must undergo a radical transformation of lifestyle, and rebels against God that we are, we do not (by nature) wish to do any such thing. That is why, in the final analysis, that our salvation must originate with God and not with us.

There is here as well instruction for Christians. We should be rebuked by the hardness of the disciples to the suffering of this man. We, like they, are all too inclined to speculate about the sins of others, rather than to minister to the misery of the suffering. We would rather philosophize than to philanthropize. If we would do His work, we must work while the opportunity is ours, to manifest the grace of God to men.

There is also instruction for the Christian in the matter of apologetics. I am amazed at how this untaught, unlearned beggar stood up to the most highly educated skeptics of his day. He refused to speculate, but tenaciously held to what he knew to be the facts, based upon his own experience with Jesus Christ. And so, I believe, must we stick to what little (“this one thing I know” verse 25) we know from our own experience to be true. The one thing men can’t explain is a life completely transformed by the power of Jesus Christ.

I dare not depart from this text without a word on the matter of suffering and the will of God. First of all, it was a part of the decretive (purposed, determined) will of God that this man be born blind. Second, God is not untouched by suffering (as the disciples seemed to be), but rather was moved with compassion to heal this man. Our Lord came not only to deal with the symptom of suffering, but its root, which is sin. Although the Christian is no more exempt from suffering in this life than was our Lord, when the restoration of all things takes place, there will be no more suffering (cf. Romans 8:18-23; Revelation 21:4). For the time being, suffering is both for the glory of God and the good of the Christian. Although this man spent years in darkness, he came in contact with the ‘Light of the world’ because of his blindness, and came to see not only physically, but spiritually. That man will never, in all of eternity, look back on those years of blindness with regret. He came to experience the truth of Romans 8:28 that suffering, for the Christian, is for the glory of God, as well as the good of the saint.


149 “Man for Sabbath or Sabbath for Man?” William L. Coleman, Eternity, September, 1977, p. 58.

150 Ibid. p. 59.

151 E. M. Blaiklock,, The Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), p. 38.

152 Ibid.

153 “The worst feature of it was that, when the mass of legislation proved impossible of performance, causistic subterfuges were devised by the same legal experts, as means of escape by which they and others could circumvent their own regulations. A most useful fiction was what was called ‘connection.’ A Sabbath-day’s journey was 2,000 cubits beyond the city; but suppose a man wished to go farther than that on the Sabbath. On Friday he could travel to the boundary and deposit food for two meals. This point then technically became his home, and on the Sabbath he could travel to it, and then continue as again. Or, to quote another example, it was unlawful on the Sabbath day to carry anything from one house to another. But suppose several houses looked on to one square or courtyard. The various inhabitants had only to deposit a little food here on Friday, and the whole area was considered as one house on the Sabbath, with all the neighbours able to go and come with what they desired. Another effectual method devised by the lawyers for evading their own Sabbath-observance regulations was that known as ‘intention.’ For example, it was not lawful to eat an egg which a fowl had thoughtlessly laid on the Sabbath day. But if one stated before hand that the hen was intended for the table, the egg might be legitimately eaten, as being something which had merely fallen off the doomed hen.” E. M. Blaiklock, Acts, p. 39.

154 “The connection between the close of the preceding chapter and the opening of this one appears so close, that one is apt to conclude that all happened on one day, and that a Sabbath (vs. 14). But the violence with which the former chapter closes, and the tranquility with which this one opens, renders that somewhat doubtful. At all events, the transactions of both chapters could not have been far apart in time.” David Brown, The Four Gospels (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, Reprint, 1976), p. 407.

155 R. Ammi, Shab. 55a (Soncino edn., p. 255), as quoted by Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), p. 478.

156 There seems to be significance for John in the pool of Siloam, which he informs us means ‘sent’ (verse 7), but it is difficult to determine precisely what John intends for us to grasp. Charles Eerdman suggests, “Jesus had continually declared that he himself had been sent of God, and he is now intimating that he alone could heal; that he fulfilled all the blessings which Siloam typified. Each day of the feast of tabernacles a libation had been brought from that pool, to suggest the gifts of God to his people. Jesus is now saying that as the waters of Siloam will wash the clay from the eyes of the blind man, so he, the true Siloam, the One sent of God, will take away his physical blindness, and also will restore spiritual sight to the world.” Charles Eerdman, The Gospel of John (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1944), p. 86.

157 “We may here recall, that the use of saliva was a well-known Jewish remedy for affections of the eyes. It was thus that the celebrated Rabbi Meir relieved one of his fair hearers, when her husband, in his anger at her long detention by the Rabbi’s sermons, had ordered her to spit in the preacher’s face. Pretending to suffer from his eyes, the Rabbi contrived that the woman publicly spat in his eyes, thus enabling her to obey her husband’s command. The anecdote at least proves, that the application of saliva was popularly regarded as a remedy for affections of the eyes.” Alford Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), II, p 48.

158 “In so doing, He accommodated Himself to the current popular belief in the curative effects of saliva and clay, especially in the case of weak eyes, in order doubtless to stimulate initial faith in the man, as well as to technically violate the traditional rules.” J. W. Shepard, The Christ of the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939), p. 360.

159 Cf. footnote 10.

160 Shepard, The Christ of the Gospels, p. 360.

161 “Similarly, the formal question now put to him by the Jews was as much, if not more, a prepatory inquisition than the outcome of a wish to learn the circumstances of his healing.” Edersheim, Life and Times, II, p. 181.

162 “There were two, or as some say three, kinds of excommunication among the Jews, greatly differing in degrees and intensity; and Christ often speaks of them, as among the sharpest trials which his followers would have to endure for his name’s sake (John xvi. 2). The mildest form was exclusion for thirty days from the synagogue. To this period, in case the excommunicated showed no sign of repentance, a similar or a longer period, according to the will of those that imposed the sentence, was added: in other ways too it was made sharper; it was accompanied with a curse; none might hold communion with him now, not even his family, except in cases of absolute necessity. Did the offender show himself obstinate still, he was in the end absolutely separated from the fellowship of the people of God, cut off from the congregation—a sentence answering, as many suppose, to the delivering to Satan in the apostolic Church (1 Cor. v. 5; 1 Tim. i. 20).” R. C. Trench, The Miracles of Our Lord (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1949), pp. 188-189. Cf. also J. W. Shepard, The Christ of the Gospels, pp. 361-362, Edersheim, Life and Times, II, pp. 183-184, Leon Morris, The Gospel of John, p. 488, fn. 35.

163 It is difficult to read the words of Isaiah 66:5 without thinking of this incident in John 9: “Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at His word; Your brothers who hate you, who exclude you for My name’s sake, have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy.’ But they will be put to shame” (Isaiah 66:5).

164 “The phrase (Give glory to God) is a solemn charge to declare the whole truth. Compare Josh. vii. 19; I Esdr. ix. 8; (1 S. vi. 5). The man by his former declaration (v. 17) had really (so they imply) done dishonour to God. He was now required to confess his error: to recognise in the authoritative voice of ‘the Jews’ his own condemnation, and to admit the truth of it.” B. F. Wescott, The Gospel According to St. John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, reprint, 1973) , p. 146.

165 The expression ‘Son of Man’ was deliberately chosen by our Lord so as to avoid, in this intense period of opposition, a crystal clear statement that He was the Messiah. The blind man understood the implications of this expression, but the opposition could not build a case on it. For a more detailed analysis of this expression, ‘Son of Man,’ see Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, pp. 172-173.

Related Topics: Christology, Soteriology (Salvation), Evangelism