Finding himself excluded from his community and shunned by those who should have rejoiced with him over his healing, the formerly blind man must have ... Read more
Finding himself excluded from his community and shunned by those who should have rejoiced with him over his healing, the formerly blind man must have wondered what good gaining his sight had really done him. But Jesus, on learning of his excommunication, sought him out and found a heart prepared to receive Him. Already convinced that Jesus was a God-sent prophet by the evidence of the miracle that had come to him, the man immediately believed when Jesus identified Himself as the Messiah. The evidence of his new allegiance was an immediate response of worship.
That Jesus accepted the man's worship is itself testimony to His Deity. Throughout the record of Scripture, both angels and godly men consistently refused worship when offered to them and pointed the would-be worshiper back to God (Acts 10:25-26, 14:11-18; Revelation 19:10, 22:8-9). In contrast, one of the marks of Satan's fall was his demand for that which belongs to God alone (Isaiah 14:12-14; Matthew 4:8-10). Only One among men could accept worship as His due, yet be sinless: the Son of God. Read less
In his counter to the Pharisees, the healed man kept coming back to the facts that they did not want to face: the fact that an unprecedented miracle h... Read more
In his counter to the Pharisees, the healed man kept coming back to the facts that they did not want to face: the fact that an unprecedented miracle had taken place, and the fact that such a miracle could only have been done by the power of God. His assertion that God would not have listened to or acted through someone who habitually practiced sin is echoed in multiple places in the Psalms and Proverbs, as well as in the book of Job, all of which would have been quite familiar with his interrogators. But they refused to heed the witness of the Scriptures; instead, they resorted to an ad hominem attack and pronounced the sentence of excommunication against him. Read less
Having heard the healed man's account already, the Pharisees seem to have been pressing for some inconsistency in his story which they might use to ac... Read more
Having heard the healed man's account already, the Pharisees seem to have been pressing for some inconsistency in his story which they might use to accuse him of deception. But the man refused to play their game, standing by his previous statements; his question was probably a sarcastic jibe rather than a genuine inquiry, since he already knew their mind regarding Jesus. Their response betrayed what they were moving toward doing; reviling the healed man as a disciple of Jesus and therefore (in their eyes) a sinner like Him, they clung to the idea that they were following Moses – an undeniable prophet – in rejecting Jesus. Yet in denying that Jesus' authority and power were God-sent, they denied not only the witness of Moses but the testimony of the Father and the Spirit, the words of the other prophets, the witness of John the Baptist, and the evidence of the miracles that He had done (see John 5:31-47 and associated notes). Read less
This passage is a sharp rebuke to those who claim that a lack of evidence is the reason they do not believe in God or in the claims of Jesus. Those wh... Read more
This passage is a sharp rebuke to those who claim that a lack of evidence is the reason they do not believe in God or in the claims of Jesus. Those who had brought the formerly blind man to the Jewish rulers had done so precisely because a miracle had occurred; the man himself had testified as to both his own identity and the change that had come to him. Yet as a group, the Jewish rulers reacted with determination to believe that nothing extraordinary had happened. Setting aside the testimony of eyewitnesses and the man himself, they summoned the man's parents to confirm his identity and the fact that he had been born blind.
If the formerly blind man was present for this part of the hearing, this must have been one of the most painful moments of his life. Instead of his parents being overjoyed with the miracle that had come to him, they withdrew from him out of fear of being excommunicated from the synagogue, which would have meant being ostracized by the entire Jewish community. The moment was heavy with irony: the blind man's receiving sight, which should have restored him to his family and his community with the clear evidence that he was not under any curse from God or punishment for sin, was instead becoming the occasion for his complete severance from them.
Ultimately, the inability of the Jewish rulers to believe that a miracle had occurred was not based on lack of evidence; it was based on their will to disbelieve regardless of the evidence. A mind so set cannot be convinced by any testimony or facts; it can only be changed by a change of heart. Ironically, the Jewish rulers' prearrangement of excommunication as the punishment for any who openly declared belief in Jesus as the Messiah was itself testimony that, in their heart of hearts, they knew very well that a miracle had occurred and did not want the logical implications to be pursued. In their attitudes and their heavy-handed bullying, they were no different than those modern atheists who today demand that Christians be expelled from the public arena, denied education and training or even killed if they will not conform to the atheists' vision of a world without God. As Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10). Read less
As with the other notable healings that Jesus performed on the Sabbath, the majority of the Pharisees were more concerned with Jesus' violation of the... Read more
As with the other notable healings that Jesus performed on the Sabbath, the majority of the Pharisees were more concerned with Jesus' violation of their Sabbath traditions than with the miracle that He had performed or its significance. Yet some of them could not help but recognize that divine power had operated through Jesus regardless of the apparent violation, causing them to question whether He was truly in the wrong. Given the significance of the signs accompanying Jesus' ministry (cf. Isaiah 29:18, 35:6, 42:6-7, 61:1), these more honest men were willing to admit that God might not be limited by their thinking. But this naturally resulted in a division between those Pharisees who were so hardened in their ways that they could not accept any deviation from their own teaching and tradition and those who found themselves unable to dismiss the evidence set before them.
Unlike the Pharisees, the healed man had no difficulty in accepting Jesus' power as coming from God. To him, the overwhelming fact was this: he had been blind all his life, and now he could see. It was small wonder that he acknowledged Jesus immediately as having come from God; although his conception of who Jesus was was still far short of the reality, it was true as far as it went. Read less
In healing the man born blind, Jesus acted in a manner guaranteed to draw notice. In the ancient world, saliva was believed to have healing properties... Read more
In healing the man born blind, Jesus acted in a manner guaranteed to draw notice. In the ancient world, saliva was believed to have healing properties; modern medicine has found that saliva indeed contains antibacterial substances. Thus, Jesus may have made the poultice using His spittle in order to engage the blind man's faith that he could be healed. But in making a mud pack to place across the man's eyes and then sending him through the crowded streets of Jerusalem to wash the mud away, Jesus ensured that there would be many curious eyes watching.
Assuming the blind man had heard about Jesus' miraculous healing abilities, he may well have wondered why Jesus had not simply given him sight with a word or a touch. Nonetheless, he obeyed Jesus' command even if he did not understand the reasons why it was given. The result was healing – and an immediate place at the center of a controversy, as those who saw him after his return debated over who he really was. Some accepted immediately that a miracle had happened; others insisted that no such thing could have occurred, forcing the healed man to repeatedly confirm his own identity.
In the face of the man's persistent self-identification and the testimony of those who recognized him, the doubters eventually had to give in and acknowledge that something miraculous had occurred. Their next question, naturally enough, was to find out how the miracle had taken place, and the formerly blind man gave them a straightforward answer. But the next question revealed that the miracle had made no impact on their hearts; on learning that Jesus had done this thing, they immediately wanted to know where He was, presumably to compel Him to appear before the Jewish authorities. They were once again thwarted since the healed man did not not know. Read less
John's arrangement of his material here is no accident, providing both a type created by Jesus Himself of His function as the Light of the world and a... Read more
John's arrangement of his material here is no accident, providing both a type created by Jesus Himself of His function as the Light of the world and a portrait of the depths to which His enemies had sunk. This incident apparently occurred immediately following Jesus' withdrawal from the Temple, where His claims of Messiahship and Deity had been completely rejected by both the Jewish leaders and the common people. In the man born blind, Jesus found a living illustration of the spiritual state of all men apart from Him. Born in darkness, this man had never known sight and so was a type of the natural condition of the human race; as he had been born into a physical darkness for which there was no human cure, so every human being is born with a sin nature which creates spiritual darkness and cannot be cured by any amount of reformation, self-discipline, self-flagellation, or good works.
Many people believe that illness, disability and misfortune are evidence of divine displeasure or "bad karma" related to previous misdeeds even today, and this belief was rampant in first-century Judaism. In fact, one of the questions debated in the rabbinical schools of Jesus' day was whether children could sin even in the womb and so be visited with a congenital deformity or disability, or whether the birth of a physically or mentally handicapped child was the result of its parents' sin. Thus, when Jesus' disciples noticed the blind man and either discerned from his appearance or learned from others that he had been blind since birth, it was natural that they should ask Jesus which position regarding birth defects was correct. But Jesus' reply was that their underlying assumption was incorrect and that the man's blindness was not the result of personal sin on his own part or that of his parents. Instead, his blindness served the purposes of God.
Jesus' answer is not a comfortable one or an easy one. The thought that God allows children to be born with serious handicaps or even fatal genetic disorders in order for His purposes to be accomplished is one custom-made for doubting either the goodness or the omnipotence of God. Surely a good God would not allow such things if He had the power to prevent them, we reason: therefore, if evil happens in the world, either God is not good or He is not all-powerful. The skeptic's solution to this dilemma is, of course, that God does not exist at all – but then the skeptic is left to explain why we think in terms of moral good and moral evil at all if there is no transcendent basis for judging morality. Evolutionary psychology attempts to explain this by hypothesizing that our feelings regarding morality arose from natural selection regarding behaviors which do or do not enhance our ability to pass on our genes or those of our kin-groups; in this view, the feelings exist because they make it more likely that beneficial rather than harmful behaviors will be chosen and therefore people who had these feelings were more likely to perpetuate their genes. But this fails to explain why actions that have obvious benefit for a person or a kin-group may yet be judged as wrong by the very people who would benefit, or why self-sacrificing actions that preserve the weak, the sick, and the helpless at the expense of the strong and healthy have been greatly admired and judged as right across times and cultures. Logically, as numerous debates between Christian apologists and skeptics have demonstrated, it is easier to explain moral evil in a world where morality is based in the nature of a transcendent God than it is to explain the basis for making moral judgments at all in a purely naturalistic universe.
Part of the problem believers face in understanding the presence of evil and calamity is that both they and skeptics tend to view good in terms of their own pleasure and comfort in the here and now. But pleasure and pain are not the same as moral good and evil, nor is God's concern for us limited to our temporal needs and wants. A parent who holds down a squirming, squalling toddler so that a physician can administer a vaccination or treat an injury is permitting his or her child to experience pain, if not inflicting it; yet few people would call such a parent's behavior evil. Nonetheless, from the toddler's viewpoint, the experience is anything but good or pleasant, not because it is morally evil but because the child lacks the perspective to understand that the parent is acting in love for the child's long-term health and welfare. Likewise, God does many things that we cannot understand in our present lives, but that are designed with an eternity with Him in mind. Suffering, even if it persists throughout an earthly lifetime, is transitory; the purposes for which God works will last forever and will shape our eternal experience with Him (II Corinthians 4:17-18).
That suffering, deformity and calamity can be part of the will and plan of a good, all-powerful God is very hard to accept, but much of the problem is that we do not see the whole picture. As finite beings with very limited understanding of even our own selves and natures, we lack the perspective that God has as He works out the processes of redemption and salvation in a world marred to its very foundations by the entry of human sin. Nor, even knowing of the Incarnation and the Cross, do we truly understand the suffering and cost borne by God Himself in seeking to regain His human family. All we as believers can do is to accept that God in His omniscience knows what He is doing and to trust in His character, believing that the good He is doing awaits both its completion and its revelation in eternity. And in the meantime, we are to work and serve others, so that the purposes of God may be worked out through us; at least in part, we should be God's answer to the world's questions about suffering. Read less
The promise of the Servant-Messiah is inextricably tied to the restoration and redemption of Israel as a nation. While the restoration of the nation h... Read more
The promise of the Servant-Messiah is inextricably tied to the restoration and redemption of Israel as a nation. While the restoration of the nation had a partial fulfillment in the return from the Babylonian Exile, the greater fulfillment awaits Jesus' second coming. God has not forgotten His chosen people, even though they labor under spiritual blindness for now. Read less