Harry Ironside Collection: Ironside, Harry A. - Notes on the Gospel of John: 31-From Blindness and Penury to Eternal Blessing -- Joh_9:1-41

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Harry Ironside Collection: Ironside, Harry A. - Notes on the Gospel of John: 31-From Blindness and Penury to Eternal Blessing -- Joh_9:1-41



TOPIC: Ironside, Harry A. - Notes on the Gospel of John (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 31-From Blindness and Penury to Eternal Blessing -- Joh_9:1-41

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From Blindness and Penury to Eternal Blessing -- Joh_9:1-41



And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not. They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet. But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: but by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him. Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him. And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.



In considering the eighth chapter we have seen that the Lord Jesus Christ was acting in accordance with the special title that He gave Himself, “The Light of the World.”



In this ninth chapter, He is still manifesting Himself as the light of the world, but the difference is this: in chapter 8 we saw the light shining into the darkened hearts of those who were accusing the poor woman who had been brought in her sinful condition to Jesus that He might condemn her to death. He said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (Joh_8:7). And the light shone into their hearts and revealed their own personal guilt, so that not one dared to stone that poor sinner who knelt shamed at His feet.



Now in this ninth chapter we have light entering a darkened heart in order to give the knowledge of the grace of God. We have a blind man, and the light shined through his darkened lids and enlightened his natural eyes, as well as the eyes of his soul. We read, “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth” (Joh_9:1). This was very shortly after the incident recorded in chapter 8, possibly on the same Sabbath day, though we are not sure. This man evidently occupied a special place in the courts of the temple. The people saw him from time to time as he sat there hoping to receive alms from them. Doubtless some were glad to help him.



As they were passing by, the disciples of Christ turned to Him and said, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (Joh_9:2). They knew that sickness and blindness and all the different things from which humanity suffers had come into the world because of sin. Now, like Job’s three friends, they were trying to identify the guilty one. Here was a man who was born blind. Was his punishment because of the sins of his parents or his own sin? You might say, “How could it possibly be because he had sinned?” Well, there were many of the Jews who believed that even a child in the womb could sin. In Genesis we are told of Jacob who “took his brother [Esau] by the heel in the womb” (Hos_12:3; see Gen_25:26). The Jews insisted that self-will could be manifested in an unborn child. They did not believe in the transmigration of souls, therefore, that question does not imply the possibility of his having sinned in a former life. But they were perplexed and confused by the teaching of some of the Rabbis.



“Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (Joh_9:3). He was not saying these people had never sinned at any time, but He was answering their question.



Why was this man born blind? This naturally raises a question that troubles a great many people. Why is it that infants have to suffer? Why is it that some children are born into the world with imperfect, maimed bodies? Some are blind, some deaf and dumb. How can you account for a God of infinite love and grace allowing an infant to suffer? Well, if you leave out the doctrine of the fall of man, I do not know of any way in which you can reconcile an infant’s suffering with a God of love. But when we realize that all pain, suffering, and sorrow have come into the world because of sin, because man, in the beginning, turned away from God, we realize that these things are the effect of man’s disobedience. And our Lord Jesus Christ makes something else clear. It is this: if an infant is born into the world in such a condition as mentioned here, in some way God is going to be glorified by that condition. This man had lived to attain his majority, for we are told that when his parents were questioned, they said, “He is of age, ask him” (Joh_9:21; Joh_9:23). All his years had been spent in the dark. But now think of this wonderful thing: the first person whose face he ever saw was the Lord Jesus Christ! Surely that was some compensation for all that he had endured in those years of darkness!



Mr. Spurgeon used to tell of an aged Christian who was born blind, and yet he was a happy saint. One day when speaking with another believer he said, “You know, I have so much more to give thanks for than you.” “What! More than I?” the other exclaimed. “Why, I have been able to see for years!” The blind man looked up with those sightless eyes and said, “Oh, yes, but you have had to see so many things that have been disagreeable and distressing, so many faces that were unkind and angry and unholy, but the first face that I shall ever see will be the face of my blessed Savior, who loved me and gave Himself for me. So,” he said, “I have more to be thankful for than you.” It takes the grace of God to enable one to speak like that.



I know that many of you who read this have all your lives bewailed the fact that you have had to suffer in ways that others did not, possibly from babyhood. You have said many a time, “The ways of God are hard to understand.” Oh, let me assure you of this, if you will just settle it in your mind that God never makes any mistakes, that He is too good to afflict needlessly the children of men and too loving to do anything unkind, you will then realize that as you study the Word and as you put your heart’s trust in Him, some day you will have reason to thank and praise Him even for the things that have caused you the greatest sorrow and made you weep the bitterest tears.



Of this man Jesus said, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” God sent His blessed Son to him just at the right time to make him a wonderful witness to His delivering power. Do you notice this? The Lord was interested in this man long before he was interested in Jesus. He was there by the temple gate asking an alms and hoping that the people who passed by would have mercy on him. He did not know that there was One there who could do far more than give him an alms-One who could give him his sight. But there was Jesus, and He was talking to His disciples and said to them, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (Joh_9:4). We need to take that to heart. Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Joh_9:5). But He said to His disciples, “Ye are the light of the world” (Mat_5:14), and to us also comes the night when no man can work. God give us to be faithful while we have opportunity to make Christ known.



“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay” (Joh_9:5-6). This was a very simple thing. You might say it even made conditions worse. Had there been the least glimmer of light before, the clay would have shut it all out. But there was something wonderful in that simple act. It was a picture of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He had come from heaven’s glory, had taken a body of clay, and that only helped to make the darkness greater for many people. They did not understand when they saw Him going about. They could not understand, until the Holy Spirit showed them, that He was the Sent One of the Father. And so He anointed the eyes of this man with the clay and said “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent)” (Joh_9:7 a). In other words, “When you realize that I am the Sent One of the Father, you will see.” And he did, for he went and washed, and came seeing.



What a wonderful experience it must have been when he opened his eyes upon the beauty of the world, and came and gazed upon the face of the Lord Jesus Christ! “He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (Joh_9:7 b).



But the Savior conveyed Himself away for the moment. The neighbors crowded around and looked at this man and saw that he could see. They said, “Why, this is amazing! ‘Is this not he who sat and begged?’” (Joh_9:8). “Some said, this is he: others said, He is like him” (Joh_9:9 a). They were not quite sure. You know there is such a difference. There is a sort of vacant look upon the countenance of a blind man. They said, “Is this really our old neighbor or not?” They were not certain. “But he said, I am he” (Joh_9:9 b). “Oh, yes, I am the man that was born blind, and now I am able to see.” Thank God that is the kind of a miracle that Jesus works even today. Oh, how many there are who have been blind in their hearts, blind to eternal realities. But when they learned that Jesus was the Sent One of the Father and trusted Him, they were able to see. Everything was different.



And they turned to this man and said, “How were thine eyes opened?” (Joh_9:10). He answered, “ [The] man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the Pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight” (Joh_9:11). I like the simplicity of this man’s confession. He knew how he had himself met the conditions- “[The] man that is called Jesus”- Do you know that lovely name? “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1Ti_2:5). Do you know that blessed Man?



Fairest of all the earth beside,

Chiefest of all unto Thy bride;

Fulness divine in Thee I see,

Beautiful Man of Calvary.



Oh, to know Him is to know God, for He is the exact expression of the divine character. He could say, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (Joh_14:9). Do you know Him? I am not asking you if you profess to be a Christian, or if you belong to some church, or if you from time to time avail yourself of participation in the sacraments of the church, or if you are trying to live a good life. All these things have their places, but I am asking you this, Do you know the Man that is called Jesus? Have you trusted Him as your own Savior? Until you know Him, you do not know God. You are still in your sins. But when you know Him, your sins are put away and you have life eternal. When you know Him, the darkness is past and the true light shines.



This man had met Jesus, and Jesus had given him sight. He says, “A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes.” He heard His voice, who said, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” And he obeyed and received his sight. And so today the ultimatum goes out to everyone, “Wash, and be clean. Wash, and receive your sight. Believe the testimony that God has given concerning His Son, and you have life everlasting.” You remember Joh_5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation [judgment]; but is passed from death unto life.” And so we are told elsewhere, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom_10:9-10).



This man took Jesus at His word, and he received his sight. There are thousands who read this who have taken Him at His word and who can give the same testimony, “I went and washed, and I received my sight.” You who have not received Christ, I plead with you, do that which He asks you to do. Trust Him as the Sent One of the Father, and you shall have light and life and peace.



“Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said I know not. They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind” (Joh_9:12-13). And, of course, the Lord Jesus is put right in conflict with their legalistic consciences. It was so much more important that one should believe their own manmade laws in regard to the observance of the Sabbath than to meet the need of a poor blind man. So Jesus has again exposed Himself to their criticisms. They asked the man how he had received his sight. He said, “He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see” (Joh_9:15). The Pharisees immediately jumped to an unwarranted conclusion, and they passed on their judgment. They said, “This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day” (Joh_9:16 a). No matter what He does for suffering humanity, because He keeps not the Sabbath day He is not of God. He was acting in utter disregard of the many hundreds of laws that they had made themselves. Jesus was quite indifferent to them, and when men and women were in distress He would help them, no matter what offense it gave to these legalists.



There were some among their number who said, “ [But] how can a man who is a sinner do such miracles?” (Joh_9:16 b). So there was division among them. They called the blind man again and said, “What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, he is a prophet” (Joh_9:17). He is God’s messenger. A prophet is a man who comes to act for God. “He said, he is a prophet.”



“But the Jews did not believe concerning him that he had been blind” (Joh_9:18 a). They said, “This is not the beggar who used to sit at the gate of the temple.” So they called his parents and said, “Is this your son, who ye say was born blind?” (Joh_9:19). What an implication there, as though they might have been deceiving all the way along. His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: but by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself” (Joh_9:20-21). And then the next verse tells us why they were so guarded. Already the word had gone around that the Jews would make trouble for anyone who bore witness to Christ. “For the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (Joh_9:22), and they did not want to be put on the spot, as we say. If they were to be put out of the synagogue they would be absolutely on the outside of everything, so people dreaded this sentence of synagogue excommunication. These parents did not want to run the risk of confessing what they, in their hearts, had to believe. They said, “He is of age; ask him” (Joh_9:23).



So again they called the blind man and said to him, “Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner” (Joh_9:24). “There seems no doubt that you were born blind, but do not give any credit to this Man, for He is a sinner.” I like the testimony of this one-time blind man. Looking full upon them with those now-seeing eyes of his, he said, “Whether He be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see” (Joh_9:25). Oh, that is a great testimony, and I am sure that there are many of my readers who could give just the same witness, “[This] one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” “Whereas I was once a poor sinner, having the understanding darkened, now I know that my eyes have been opened.”



Oh, Christ, in Thee my soul has found,

And found in Thee alone,

The peace and joy I sought so long,

The bliss till now unknown.



Now none but Christ can satisfy,

None other name for me;

There’s love, and life and lasting joy,

Lord Jesus, found in Thee.



The pleasures lost I sadly mourned,

But never wept for Thee,

Till grace my blinded eyes received

Thy loveliness to see.



We who are saved are not simply resting on someone’s say so, not even on believing the Word of God itself, but there has come within us an experience of an ever-deepening knowledge of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ with us through the years, that enables us to say from the heart, “I know!” Paul could say, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2Ti_1:12).



Well, this man gives his testimony, and now his interrogators begin to quiz him a little further. “How opened He thine eyes?” (Joh_9:26). I like the seriousness of the man. He looked up and said, “Well, I have already told you. Why are you asking me? If you would really like to know, I will tell you again.” “Will ye also be his disciples?” (Joh_9:27). But that angered them, and they exclaimed, “Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples” (Joh_9:28). But Jesus could say, “Moses wrote of Me.” “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me” (Joh_5:46). Let me say to you who believe Moses to be a prophet of God and who accept the Old Testament as inspired, read those records, ask God to shed light from heaven on those passages, and if you are sincere you will see Christ Jesus in the testimony of Moses.



They said, “We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is” (Joh_9:29). And then the man with the new eyes answered and said, “Wliy, herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing” (Joh_9:30-33). The thing that amazes me is how fast this man grew. Why, only a little while before he was a blind beggar. Doubtless, he had meditated on a great many things, sitting there in his darkness. So many things became clear. WTien you get acquainted with Christ the veil is taken away from heart and mind.



But they, having no answer, became angry. That is generally true, you know, when a person cannot meet an argument, the natural thing is to speak loudly and shout down your adversary. They turned on him and said, “Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us?” (Joh_9:34). Who were these men? They were the folk who said, “Lord, I thank Thee I am not like other men. I am not a drunkard. I am not an adulterer” (see Luk_18:11). And so they looked with contempt upon this poor man. Who is this man? He is born “in sins.” No, the Bible does not say that. It says, “in sin.” “I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me,” David says (Psa_51:5). We fall into sins after we are born.



But they cast him out. That was the greatest thing that could have happened to him. Some folk are so afraid of being cast out. Do you know where they cast him out? Right into the arms of Jesus! Jesus said to him, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” (Joh_9:35). He answered, “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” (Joh_9:36). As much as to say, “I would believe in anyone of whom You tell me.” Jesus said to him, “Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee” (Joh_9:37). And immediately the man worshipped and said, “Lord, I believe” (Joh_9:38). Just think of it, in the beginning of the passage he is a poor blind beggar in great need, and in the end of the passage he is a happy worshipper, looking into the face of Christ. That is a wonderful Pilgrims Progress, from blindness and poverty to worshipping at the Savior s feet, as one enlightened and enriched for eternity.



“And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind [if you had been born that way and had never had the light], ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth” (Joh_9:39-41). They are convicted of deliberately rejecting the light.



The Lord Jesus is still the light of the world. He is still opening blinded eyes, and if there are those of my readers who have never yet come to Him and have not proven to themselves what He can do for the heart that trusts Him, I am glad to commend Him to you. Bring your trials, your sins, your tears, come in all your need, and be assured that He is ready to meet it in His own rich, wondrous grace.



Come, ye disconsolate, where’er you languish;

Come to the mercy-seat, fervently kneel;

Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;

Earth hath no sorrow that heav’n cannot heal.