Father MacIntyre’s Commentary on John 9:1-41 for the Fourth Sunday of Lent
Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2011
In the following narrative we have the account of another symbolical miracle, one illustrative of the great truth that Christ is the Light of the world. Hence our Lord heals the man s spiritual blindness (35-38) as well as his bodily blindness.
Joh 9:1 And Jesus passing by, saw a man who was blind from his birth.
The narrative is closely connected with the preceding narrative, and the events flow on uninterruptedly. Jesus went out of the Temple, and passing by, saw a man who was blind from his birth. The Holy Name does not occur in the first verse of the original text, but has been repeated from 8:59.
Joh 9:2 And his disciples asked him: Rabbi, who hath sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?
Rabbi, who hath sinned, this man, or his parents? That such inflictions as blindness, disease, &c., are punishments sometimes inflicted for sin, is quite certain; but it was a widespread Jewish opinion that all such calamities were punishments for personal sin, and that children were afflicted because of the sins of their parents. Besides, according to the Rabbis, evil impulse begins its dominion even from birth. We must suppose, therefore, that the disciples, impressed deeply by the greatness of the man s calamity, and with the current notions of the time running vaguely through their minds, put the question to our Lord. The very question is an incidental proof of their belief that our Lord knew all things. Our Lord answered, that the blindness was not the punishment of personal sin.
Joh 9:3 Jesus answered: Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
But (it happened) that (in order that) the works of God (i.e., what God works) should be made manifest in him. The cause of the man’s blindness was the natural working of the natural forces that work through all nature. God permits the ill results that occasionally spring from those forces; but for a high moral purpose. Our Lord declares the reasonableness of such results when they are viewed in connection with that moral purpose. The actual case of the blind man is made an instance in point. His calamity had been permitted in order that the glory of God might be manifested by the miracle that was about to be performed.
Joh 9:4 I must work the works of him that sent me, whilst it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
I must work (the better attested reading is, We must work ) the works of him that sent me (a weakly attested reading gives us ), whilst it is day. Under the form of a general principle, applicable to the Apostles in their association with Christ in the work of converting the world, our Lord gives a reason why He is now about to heal the man’s bodily and spiritual blindness. He must accomplish, while in the flesh on earth, the works which the Father had given Him to accomplish, in the present visible mode and action, on earth.
Joh 9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
As long as I am in the world, explains what is meant by day and night of ver. 4, i.e., the day of life, and the night of death which brought Christ s mortal life to an end (cf. Jn 3:17, 19, 6:14, 8:26). Hence our Lord is speaking of His visible mission on earth, when, in a special way, He was the Light of the world; for, in fact, He has always been the Light (Jn 1:4, 5). The Greek runs literally, When I am in the world, I am Light to the world. That is, I cannot be in the world unless at the same time enlightening the world. The when also suggests a time when He would withdraw His visible presence from the world.
Joh 9:6 When he had said these things, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and spread the clay upon his eyes,
Made clay of the spittle. Our Lord, although usually working miracles by a word (cf. Jn 5: 8), sometimes added, as in the present instance, some ceremony (cf. Mark 7:33, 8:23). St. John does not inform us for what reason our Lord anointed the eyes of the blind man, and we can therefore only conjecture. But we learn, at any rate, how our Lord could have imparted to the sacramental signs their spiritual efficacy.
Joh 9:7 And said to him: Go, wash in the pool of Siloe, which is interpreted, Sent. He went therefore and washed: and he came seeing.
Go, wash in (wash into, i.e., wash away the clay into) the pool of Siloe (Siloam). Or the εις (“in”) may belong, not to νιψαι (wash), but to υπαγε (go) = Go to the pool (see verse 11). The name of the pool still survives in Birket Silwan, situated at the entrance of the Tyropoeon Valley, on the south-east of the hill of Sion. The pool is probably that referred to in Isa 8:6; Neh 3:15.
Which is interpreted, Sent. The term might be either a noun, “ascending forth”, i.e., of water, or a participial adjective, sent. St. John shows that the name was providentially intended to be symbolical; and the prominence given to the pool in the Feast of Tabernacles (see on Jn 7:37) points to such symbolism. In the command, therefore, to wash in Siloe there is a symbolism of Him who was the Sent of the Father.
And he came (ηλθεν: perhaps, “came home”, see verse 8) seeing.
Joh 9:8 The neighbours, therefore, and they who had seen him before that he was a beggar, said: Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said: This is he.
Joh 9:9 But others said: No, but he is like him. But he said: I am he.
No, but he is like him. The acquisition of sight altered his expression of face.
Joh 9:10 They said therefore to him: How were thy eyes opened?
Joh 9:11 He answered: That man that is called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me: Go to the pool of Siloe and wash. And I went: I washed: and I see.
Joh 9:12 And they said to him: Where is he? He saith: I know not.
Where is he? The people were evidently perplexed about the violation of the Sabbath (verses 13, 14); and as they could not themselves answer the question, they seek the authority of the leaders.
Joh 9:13 They bring him that had been blind to the Pharisees.
To the Pharisees. Not, however, to the Sanhedrin, for St. John never designates the Sanhedrin by the simple term, “the Pharisees” (see Jn 7:32, 45, 11:47, 56, 18:3).
Joh 9:14 Now it was the sabbath, when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.
Now it was the sabbath. The ground on which the charge would rest was plain: the healing involved a manifold breach of the Sabbath-law. The first of these was that Jesus had made clay. Next, it would be a question whether -any remedy might be applied on the holy-day. Such could only be done in diseases of the internal organs (from the throat downwards) except when danger to life or the loss of an organ was involved. It was, indeed, declared lawful to apply, for example, wine to the outside of the eyelid, on the ground that this might be treated as washing; but it was sinful to apply it to the inside of the eye. And as regards saliva, its application to the eye is expressly forbidden on the ground that it was evidently intended as a remedy (Eders. l.c., p. 334).
Our Lord worked seven specific miracles of healing on the Sabbath : (1) A man with an unclean spirit (Mk 1:23); (2) Simon’s wife’s mother, Mk 1:29); (3) a man with a withered hand (Matt 12:10); (4) a woman with a spirit of infirmity (Lk 13: 11, 14); (5) a dropsical man (Lk 14:2, 3); (6) a paralytic at Bethesda (Jn 5:10); (7) man born blind.
Joh 9:15 Again therefore the Pharisees asked him how he had received his sight. But he said to them: He put clay upon my eyes: and I washed: and I see.
Again therefore the Pharisees (και οι φαρισαιοι = “the Pharisees also”). The statement looks back to the question put previously by the crowd (verse 10). They had evidently not been satisfied with the account given by those who had brought the man, and so made the man himself repeat it. The shortness of the man’s reply shows that he is getting somewhat angry at the questioning.
Joh 9:16 Some therefore of the Pharisees said: This man is not of God, who keepeth not the sabbath. But others said: How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
Some therefore . . . but others. The undeniable truth of the fact creates a great dilemma. Is their Sabbath-observance Divine, or is the miracle Divine? They are puzzled to find an answer, and therefore ask the man for his opinion. The man readily replied.
Joh 9:17 They say therefore to the blind man again: What sayest thou of him that hath opened thy eyes? And he said: He is a prophet.
Joh 9:18 The Jews then did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight,
Joh 9:19 And asked them, saying: Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then doth he now see?
Joh 9:20 His parents answered them and said: We know that this is our son and that he was born blind:
Joh 9:21 But how he now seeth, we know not: or who hath opened his eyes, we know not. Ask himself: he is of age: Let him speak for himself.
He is a prophet, i.e., a man sent by God (cf. Jn 3:2). The same conclusion had been drawn by Nicodemus, one of themselves; there was force, therefore, in the inference. Only one course was now open to call in question the truth of the already-admitted fact. The man’s parents were summoned. They attested that their son had been born blind; but, fearing the Jews, they prudently declined to make any statement as to the manner in which he had recovered his sight, and reasonably referred the Pharisees to the son himself. In v. 21 there is a strong emphasis on the pronouns ” “we know not,” “he is of age.”
Joh 9:22 These things his parents said, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had already agreed among themselves that if any man should confess him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
For the Jews had already agreed (συνετεθειντο). Not necessarily by a formal decree of the Sanhedrin (see Lk 22:5; Acts 23:20. The word occurs nowhere else in N.T.).
That (ινα) if any man. The particle represents what they had agreed upon as the purpose or intention of their agreement.
He should be put out of the synagogue (αποσυναγωγος γενηται = he should become unsynagogued). Two, or perhaps three, kinds of excommunication are mentioned in Jewish writings. The first two were comparatively mild punishments, and took the form of an admonition or rebuke. The third, called the Cherem or ban, was the real casting out or unsynagoguing. The culprit became as a leper. He might buy the necessaries of life, but he was obliged to wear a culprit s dress, so that all might avoid him; for it was forbidden to eat or drink with him, to show him the road, or to hold intercourse with him.
Joh 9:23 Therefore did his parents say: He is of age. Ask himself.
Therefore: cf. verse 16.
Joh 9:24 They therefore called the man again that had been blind and said to him: Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.
Joh 9:25 He said therefore to them: If he be a sinner, I know not. One thing I know, that whereas I was blind. now I see.
Joh 9:26 They said then to him: What did he to thee? How did he open thy eyes?
Give glory to God (A.V. give God the praise). This is not an invitation to give praise to God for the cure, the truth of which the Pharisees do not wish to admit, but an adjuration to speak the truth, Give glory to God by speaking the truth (cf. Joshua 7:19). They desire the man to withdraw his profession of faith that Christ was a prophet (verse 17).
We (very emphatic -We, the leaders) know that this man is a sinner.
Joh 9:27 He answered them: I have told you already, and you have heard. Why would you hear it again? Will you also become his disciples?
I have told (better, I told) you already, and you have heard (ουκ ηκουσατε = you did not hear). Better, interrogatively, “I told you already, and did you not hear?”
Joh 9:28 They reviled him therefore and said: Be thou his disciple; but we are the disciples of Moses.
Be thou his disciple. Better, “Thou art that man’s disciple.”
Joh 9:29 We know that God spoke to Moses: but as to this man, we know not from whence he is.
We know that God spoke (hath spoken: for the Mosaic revelation still remained) to Moses.
Joh 9:30 The man answered and said to them: why, herein is a wonderful thing, that you know not from whence he is, and he hath opened my eyes.
Why, herein is a wonderful thing. Better, “Herein ( = in this) certainly is the marvel, that you (the leaders of the people) should not know whence he is, and ( = although) he hath opened my eyes.” Moses by miracle had proved that he was sent by God; the Pharisees, therefore, believe in Moses Divine mission: Jesus works miracles, and says He is sent by God; but the Pharisees know not whence He is!
Joh 9:31 Now we know that God doth not hear sinners: but if a man be a server of God and doth his, will, him he heareth.
Now we (i.e., both you and I) know that God doth not hear sinners. It was a Rabbinic maxim, a maxim constantly repeated by them, that answers to prayer depended on a man s being pious. The maxim was an exaggeration and perversion of an undoubted Scriptural truth (Prov 15:29, 28:9; Job 27:8, 9; Isa 1:15, 59:2). But it was their own maxim, and the man urges it against them.
Joh 9:32 From the beginning of the world it hath not been heard, that any man hath opened the eyes of one born blind.
Joh 9:33 Unless this man were of God, he could not do anything.
Joh 9:34 They answered and said to him: Thou wast wholly born in sins; and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
He could not do anything, i.e., miraculous anything like the wonder wrought in me. The Pharisees had nothing to answer. They turn on the man with bitter reproach. Would he presume to teach them? he who was through and through a born reprobate (“wholly born in sins”: cf. verse 2), as was proved by his being born blind.
And they cast him out (και εξεβαλον αυτον εξω), i.e., out of the place of assembly; not excommunicated or unsynagogued him (cf. the different phrases in verse 22). But perhaps some form of excommunication is implied (verse 35).
Joh 9:35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out. And when he had found him, he said to him: Dost thou believe in the Son of God?
Joh 9:36 He answered, and said: Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?
Who is he, Lord? ( = sir). As the man had already declared Jesus to be a prophet, he naturally believed He could point out the Messiah.
Joh 9:37 And Jesus said to him: Thou hast both seen him; and it is he that talketh with thee.
Thou hast both seen him. The Greek may be literally rendered, “Thou even (actually) seest (perfect in sense of present) Him, and He that speaketh with thee is He” (cf. Jn 4:26).
Joh 9:38 And he said: I believe, Lord. And falling down, he adored him.
Falling down he adored. Although the verb προσεκυνησεν does not of itself necessarily imply supreme worship, yet St. John uses it solely of such supreme and Divine worship (Jn 4:20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 12:20).
Joh 9:39 And Jesus said: For judgment I am come into this world: that they who see not may see; and they who see may become blind.
For judgment (κριμα) I am come (came) into this world. As the man knelt at our Lord’s feet in humble adoration (verse 38) our Lord, turning to the bystanders, explains the deep lesson of the miracle. The man had been blind both in mind and body; but in both he can now see. The Pharisees, although really blind of heart, had boasted that they could see (29, 34); but their pride involves them in still denser darkness. The term κριμα, employed only in this place of the Gospel of St. John, occurs in the Apocalypse thrice (Rev 17:1, 18:20, 20:4), and in all three places it means a sentence, favourable or unfavourable. Outside the Apocalypse the term is used in the New Testament twenty-four times, so that it is easy to gather its meaning a decree, a judgment which is formed or passed, a sentence. It can also have the sense of a simple decision.
That (ινα = in order that) they who see not (i.e., those who are involved in the darkness of sin and ignorance) may see (of course, through their acceptance of grace and their obedience to the truth, Jn 1:9, 12): and they who see (i.e., wrap themselves up in the pride of self-sufficiency and boasted knowledge, as did the Pharisees), may become blind (i.e., by God’s decree and just sentence be buried in deeper darkness). Man’s obstinacy is punished by withdrawal of grace. These results, on the one side salutary, on the other side condemnatory, of the Divine decree already passed, must not be confounded with the future judgment of eternal condemnation to be given by Christ (Jn 5:22), from which judgment Christ desires to save all men (Jn 3:17); but such results are, in the case of the obstinate, true consequences, taking effect even in this life, that overtake those who believe not, and who are therefore “already judged” (Jn 3:18), and upon whom “the wrath of God abideth” (Jn 3:36). Compare, for the whole sentence, Jn 1:4, 9, 12, 3:14-21, 36, 5:22-24, 8:21, 26. God’s justice makes men eat the fruit of their own way.
Joh 9:40 And some of the Pharisees, who were with him, heard: and they said unto him: Are we also blind?
And some of the Pharisees. Better, “And those of the Pharisees, who were with Him (probably for the purpose of malicious espionage), heard; (and, perceiving the spiritual drift of Christ’s words) they said unto Him: But surely we also are not blind?”
Joh 9:41 Jesus said to them: If you were blind, you should not have sin: but now you say: We see. Your sin remaineth.
If you were blind (i.e., from simplicity and mere ignorance), you should (would) not have sin: but now you say : We see (are proudly self-reliant and boastful).
Your sin remaineth (abideth: cf. Jn 5:38, 6:27, 57).