Keith Hunt - Last Great Feast #3 - Page Three   Restitution of All Things

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Last Great Feast #3

The blind will see


                    From Edersheim's book
                "The life and times of Jesus
                        the Messiah"



THE HEALING OF THE MAN BORN BLIND.
(St. John ix.)

AFTER the scene in the Temple described in the last chapter, and
Christ's consequent withdrawal from His enemies, we can scarcely
suppose any other great event to have taken place on that day
within or near the precincts of the Sanctuary. And yet, from the
close connection of the narratives, we are led to infer that no
long interval of time can have elapsed before the healing of the
man born blind....We know that, it was A (in the Greek there is
no "the" - Keith Hunt) Sabbath ....

On two other points there is strong presumption, though we cannot
offer actual proof. Remembering, that the entrance to the Temple
or its Courts was then - as that of churches is on the Continent
- the chosen spot for those who, as objects of pity, solicited
charity; remembering, also, how rapidly the healing of the blind
man became known, and how soon both his parents and the healed
man himself appeared before the Pharisees - presumably, in the
Temple; lastly, how readily the Saviour knew where again to find
him, - we can scarcely doubt that the miracle took place at the
entering to the Temple, or on the Temple-Mount. Secondly, both
the Work, and especially the Words, of Christ, seem in such close
connection with what had preceded, that we can scarcely be
mistaken in regarding them as intended to form a continuation of
it.

It is not difficult to realize the scene, nor to understand the
remarks of all who had part in it. It was the ("a" Sabbath - the
Sabbath AFTER the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the next
day - John 8:1-2 - Keith Hunt) Sabbath ... and Christ with His
disciples was passing - presumably when going into the Temple,
where this blind beggar was wont to sit, probably soliciting
alms, perhaps in some such terms as these, which were common at
the time: 'Gain merit by me;' or, 'O tenderhearted, by me gain
merit, to thine own benefit.' But on the Sabbath he would, of
course, neither ask nor receive alms, though his presence in the
wonted place would secure wider notice and perhaps lead to many
private gifts. 
Indeed, the blind were regarded as specially entitled to    
charity; and the Jerusalem Talmud relates some touching instances
of the delicacy displayed towards them. 
As the Master and His disciples passed the blind beggar, Jesus 
'saw' him, with that look which they who followed Him knew to be
full of meaning. Yet, so, thoroughly Judaised were they by their
late contact with the Pharisees, that no thought of possible
mercy came to them, only a truly and characteristically Jewish
question., addressed to Him expressly, and as 'Rabbi:' through
whose guilt this blindness had befallen him - through his own, or
that of his parents.

For, thoroughly Jewish the question was. Many instances could be
adduced, in which one or another sin is said to have been
punished by some immediate stroke, disease, or even by death; and
we constantly find Rabbis, when meeting such unfortunate persons.
asking them, how or by what sin this had come to them. But, as
this man was 'blind from his birth,' the possibility of some
actual sin before birth would suggest itself, at least as a
speculative question, since the evil impulse (Yetser haRa), might
even then be called into activity. At the same time, both the
Talmud and the later charge of the Pharisees, 'In sins wast thou
born altogether,' imply that in such cases the alternative
explanation would be considered, that the blindness might be
caused by the sin of his parents.' It was a common Jewish view,
that the merits or demerits of the parents would appear in the
children. In fact, up to thirteen years of age a child was
considered, as it were, part of his father, and as suffering for
his guilt. More than that the thoughts of a mother might affect
the moral state of her unborn offspring, and the terrible
apostasy of one Ruth, of the greatest Rabbis had, in popular
belief, been caused by the sinful delight his mother had taken
when passing through an idol-grove. Lastly, certain special sins
in the parents would result in specific diseases in their
offspring, and one is mentioned as causing blindness in the
children. But the impression left on our minds is, that the
disciples felt not sure as to either of these solutions of the
difficulty.    
It seemed a mystery, inexplicable on the supposition of God's
infinite goodness, and to which they sought to apply the common
Jewish solution. Many similar mysteries meet us in the
administration of God's Providence-questions, which seem
unanswerable, but to which we try to give answers, perhaps, not
much wiser than the explanations suggested by disciples.

But why seek to answer them at all, since we possess not all,
perhaps very few of, the data requisite for it? There is one
aspect, however, of adversity, and of a strange dispensation of
evil, on which the light of Christ's Words here shines with the
brightness of a new morning. There is a physical, natural reason
for them. God has not specially sent them, in the sense of His
interference or primary causation, although He has sent them in
the sense of His knowledge, will, and reign. They have come in
the ordinary course of things, and are traceable to causes which,
if we only knew them, would appear to us the sequence of the laws
which God has imposed on His creation; and which are necessary
for its orderly continuance. And, further, all such evil
consequences, from the operation of God's laws, are in the last
instance to be traced back to the curse which sin has brought
upon man and on earth.   
With these His Laws, and with their evil sequences to us through
the curse of sin, God does not interfere in the ordinary course
of His Providence; although he would be daring, who would
negative the possibility of what may seem, though it is not,
interference, since the natural causes which lead to these evil
consequences may so easily, naturally, and rationally be
affected. 

But there is another and a higher aspect of it, since Christ has
come, and is really the Healer of all disease and evil by being
the Remover of its ultimate moral cause. This is indicated in His
words, when, putting aside the clumsy alternative suggested by
the disciples, He told them that it was so in order that the
works of God might be made manifest in him. They wanted to know
the 'why,' He told them the 'in order to,' of the man's calamity;
they wished to understand its reason as regarded its origin, He
told them its reasonableness in regard to the purpose which it,
and all similar suffering, should serve, since Christ has come,
the Healer of evil - because the Saviour from sin. Thus He
transferred the question from intellectual ground to that of the
moral purpose which suffering might serve. And this not in
itself, nor by any destiny or appointment, but because the Coming
and Work of the Christ has made it possible to us all. Sin and
its sequences are still the same, for 'the world is established
that it cannot move.' But over it all has risen the Sun of
Righteousness with healing in His wings; and, if we but open
ourselves to His influence, these evils may serve this purpose,
and so have this for their reason, not as, regards their genesis,
but their continuance, 'that the works of God may be made
manifest.'

To make this the reality to us, was 'the work of Him' Who sent,
and for which He sent, the Christ. And rapidly now must He work
it, for perpetual example, during the few hours still left of His
brief working-day. This figure was not unfamiliar to the Jews,
though it may well be that, by thus emphasising the briefness of
the time, He may also have anticipated any objection to His
healing on the ("a" sabbath - last Great Feast day, the octave
after Tabernacles feast - Keith Hunt) Sabbath. But it is of even
more importance to notice, how the two leading thoughts of the
previous day's Discourse were now again taken up and set forth in
the miracle that followed. These were, that He did the Work which
God had sent Him to do,, and that He was the Light of the world. 
As its Light He could not but shine so long as He was in it.     
And this He presently symbolised (and is not every miracle a
symbol?) in the healing of the blind.

(To heal such a blind man on the Last Great Feast day is very
symbolic of the healing of those who will rise in the White
Throne Judgment, and have the blindness of spiritual blindness
lifted from their eyes, to see the light and truth of the gospel
and Jesus as the Messiah Savior from their sins - Keith Hunt).

Once more we notice, how in His Deeds, as in His Words, the Lord
adopted the forms known and used by His contemporaries, while He
filled them with quite other substance. It has already been
stated,' hat saliva was commonly regarded as a remedy for
diseases of the eye, although, of course, not for the removal of
blindness. With this He made clay, which He now used, adding to
it the direction to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam, a term
which literally meant "sent." A symbolism, this, of Him Who was
the Sent of the Father. For, all is here symbolical: the cure and
its means. If we ask ourselves why means were used in this
instance, we can only suggest, that it was partly for the sake of
him who was to be healed; partly for theirs who afterwards heard
of it. For, the blind man seems to have been ignorant of the
character of his Healer, and it needed the use of some means to
make him, so to speak, receptive. On the other hand, not only the
use of means, but their inadequacy to the object, must have
impressed all. Symbolical, also, were these means,

Sight was restored by clay, made out of the ground with the
spittle of Him, Whose breath had at the first breathed life into
clay; and this was then washed away in the Pool of Siloam, from
whose waters had been drawn on the Feast of Tabernacles
(especially the last day of the Feast as shown in previous
studies under John 7:37 - Keith Hunt) that which symbolised the
forthpouring of the new life by the Spirit. Lastly, if it be
asked why such miracle should have been wrought on one who had
not previous faith, who does not even seem to have known about
the Christ, we can only repeat, that the man himself was intended
to be a symbol, 'that the works of God should be made manifest in
him.'

And so, what the Pharisees had sought in vain, was freely vouch-
safed when there was need for it. With inimitable simplicity,
itself evidence that no legend is told, the man's obedience and
healing are recorded. 
We judge, that his first impulse when healed must have been to
seek for Jesus, naturally, where he had first met Him. On his
way, probably past his own house to tell his parents, and again
on the spot where he had so long sat begging, all who had known
him must have noticed the great change that had passed over him. 
So marvellous, indeed, did it appear, that, while part of the
crowd that gathered would, of course, acknowledge his identity,
others would say: 'No, but he is like him;' in their
suspiciousness looking for some imposture. For there can be
little doubt, that on his way he must have learned more about
Jesus than merely His Name, and in turn have communicated to his
informants the story of his healing. 
Similarly, the formal question now put to him by the Jews was as
much, if not more, a preparatory inquisition than the outcome of
a wish to learn the circumstances of his healing. And so we
notice in his answer the cautious desire not to say anything that
could in criminate his Benefactor. He tells the facts truthfully,
plainly; he accentuates by what means he had "recovered," not
'received,' sight; but otherwise gives no clue by which either to
discover or to incriminate Jesus.

Presently they bring him to the Pharisees, not to take notice of
his healing, but to found on it a charge against Christ. Such
must have been their motive, since it was universally known that
the leaders of the people had, of course informally, agreed to
take the strictest measures, not only against the Christ, but
against any one who professed to be His disciple. The ground on
which the present charge against Jesus would rest was plain: the
healing involved a manifold breach of the Sabbath-Law. The first
of these was that He 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 eye lad lid, 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.


There was, therefore, abundant legal ground for a criminal
charge. And, although on the Sabbath the Sanhedrin would not hold
any formal meeting, and, even had there been such, the testimony
of one man would not have sufficed, yet 'the Pharisees' set the
inquiry - regularly on foot. First, as if not satisfied with the
report of those who had brought the man, they made him repeat it.
The simplicity of the man's language left no room for evasion or
subterfuge. Rabbinism was on its great trial. The wondrous fact
could neither be denied nor explained, and the only ground for
resisting the legitimate inference as to the character of Him Who
had done it, was its inconsistence with their traditional
law. The alternative was: whether their traditional law of
Sabbath-observance, or else He Who had done such miracles, was
Divine? Was Christ not of God, because He did not keep the
Sabbath in THEIR way? But, then; could an open transgressor of
God's Law do such miracles? In this dilemma they turned to the
simple man before them. 'Seeing that He opened' his eyes, what
did he say of Him? what was the impression left on his mind, who
had the best opportunity for judging? 

There is something very peculiar, and, in one sense, most in-
structive, as to the general opinion entertained even by the best
disposed, who had not yet been taught the higher truth, in his
reply, so simple and solemn, so comprehensive in its sequences,
and yet so utterly inadequate by itself: 'He is a Prophet.' One
possibility still remained. After all, the man might not have
been really blind; and they might, by cross-examining the
parents, elicit that about his original condition which would
explain the pretended cure. But on this most important point, the
parents, with all their fear of the anger of the Pharisees,
remained unshaken. He had been born blind; but as to the manner
of his cure, they declined to offer any opinion. Thus, as so
often, the machinations of the enemies of Christ led to results
the opposite of those wished for. For, the evidential value of
their attestation of their son's blindness was manifestly
proportional to their fear of committing themselves to any  
testimony for Christ, well knowing what it would entail. For to
persons so wretchedly poor as to allow their son to live by
begging, the consequence of being 'un-Synagogued,' or 'put
outside the congregation' - which was to be the punishment of any
who confessed Jesus as the Messiah - would have been dreadful.

Talmudic writings speak of two, or rather, we should say, of
three, kinds of 'excommunication,' of which the two first were
chiefly disciplinary, while the third was the real 'casting out,'
'un-Synagoguing,' 'cutting off from the congregation.' The
general designation for 'excommunication' was Shammatta,
although, according to its literal meaning, the term would only
apply to the severest form of it. The first and lightest degree
was the so-called Neziphah or Neziphutha; properly, 'a rebuke,'
an inveighing. Ordinarily, its duration extended over seven days;
but, if pronounced by the Nasi, or Head of the Sanhedrin, it
lasted for thirty days. In later times, however, it only rested
for one day on the guilty person. 
Perhaps St. Paul referred to this 'rebuke ' in the expression
which he used about an offending Elder. He certainly adopted the
practice in Palestine, when he would not have an Elder 'rebuked'
although he went far beyond it when he would have such 
'entreated.' 

In Palestine it was ordered, that an offending Rabbi should be
scourged instead of being excommunicated. Yet another direction
of St.Paul's is evidently derived from these arrangements of the
Synagogue, although applied in a far different spirit. When the
Apostle wrote: 'An heretic after the first and second admonition
reject;' there must have been in his mind the second degree of
Jewish excommunication, the so-called Niddui (from the verb to
thrust, thrust out, cast out). This lasted for thirty days at the
least, although among the Babylonians only for seven days. At the
end of that term there was 'a second admonition,' which lasted
other thirty days. If still unrepentant, the third, or real
excommunication, was pronounced, which was called the Cherem, or
ban, and of which the duration was indefinite. Any three persons,
or even one duly authorised, could pronounce the lowest sentence.
The greater excommunication (Niddui) - which, happily, could only
be pronounced in an assembly of ten - must have been terrible,
being accompanied by curses, and, at a later period, some times
proclaimed with the blast of the horn. If the person so visited
occupied an honourable position, it was the custom to intimate
his sentence in a euphemistic manner, such as: 'It seems to me
that thy companions are separating themselves from thee.' He who
was so, or similarly addressed, would only too well understand
its meaning. Henceforth he would sit on the ground, and bear
himself like one in deep mourning. He would allow his beard and
hair to grow wild and shaggy; he would not bathe, nor anoint
himself; he would not be admitted into an assembly of ten men,
neither to public prayer, nor to the Academy; though he might
either teach, or be taught by single individuals. Nay, as if he
were a leper, people would keep at
a distance of four cubits from him. If he died, stones were cast
on his coffin, nor was he allowed the honour of the ordinary
funeral, nor were they to mourn for him. 

Still more terrible was the final excommunication, or Cherem,
when a ban of indefinite duration was laid on a man. Henceforth
he was like one dead. He was not allowed to study with others, no
intercourse was to be held with him, he was not even to be shown
the road. He might, indeed, buy the necessaries of life, but it
was forbidden to eat or drink with such an one.

We can understand, how everyone would dread such an anathema. But
when we remember, what it would involve to persons in the rank of
life, and so miserably poor as the parents of that blind man, we
no longer wonder at their evasion of the question put by the
Sanhedrin. And if we ask ourselves, on what ground so terrible a
punishment could be inflicted to all time and in every place -
for the ban once pronounced applied everywhere - simply for the
confession of Jesus as the Christ, the answer is not difficult.  

The Rabbinists enumerate twenty-four grounds for excommunication,
of which more than one might serve the purpose of the Pharisees. 
But in general, to resist the authority of the Scribes, or any of
their decrees, or to lead others either away from 'the
commandments,' or to what was regarded as profanation of the
Divine Name, was sufficient to incur the ban, while it must be
borne in mind that excommunication by the President of the
Sanhedrin extended to all places and persons.

As nothing could be elicited from his parents, the man who had
been blind was once more summoned before the Pharisees. It was no
longer to inquire into the reality of his alleged blindness, nor
to ask about the cure, but simply to demand of him recantation,
though this was put in the most specious manner. Thou hast been
healed: 'own that it was only by God's Hand miraculously
stretched forth,' and that 'this man' had nothing to do with it,
save that the coincidence may have been allowed to try the faith
of Israel. It could not have been Jesus who had done it, for they
knew Him to be 'a sinner.' Of the two alternatives they had
chosen that of the absolute rightness of their OWN
Sabbath-traditions as against the evidence of His Miracles. 

Virtually, then, this was the condemnation of Christ and the
apotheosis of traditionalism. And yet, false as their conclusion
was, there was this truth in their premises, that they judged of
miracles by the moral evidence in regard to Him, who was
represented as working them.

But he who had been healed of his blindness was not to be so
betrayed into a denunciation of his great Physician. The
simplicity and earnestness of his convictions enabled him to gain
even a logical victory. It was his turn now to bring back the
question to the issue which they had originally raised; and we
admire it all the more, as we remember the consequences to this
poor man of thus daring the Pharisees. 

As against their opinion about Jesus, as to the correctness of
which neither he nor others could have direct knowledge, there
was the unquestionable fact of his healing of which he had
personal knowledge. The renewed inquiry now by the Pharisees, as
to the manner in which Jesus had healed him, might have had for
its object to betray the man into a positive confession, or to
elicit something demoniacal in the mode of the cure. The blind
man had now fully the advantage. He had already told them; why
the renewed inquiry? As he put it half ironically: was it because
they felt the wrongness of their own position, and that they
should become His disciples?  It stung them to the quick; they
lost all self-possession, and with this their moral defeat became
complete. 'Thou art the disciple of that man, but we (according
to the favourite phrase) are the disciples of Moses.' Of the
Divine Mission of Moses they knew, but of the Mission of Jesus
they knew nothing. 
The unlettered man had now the full advantage in the controversy.
'In this, indeed,' there was 'the marvellous,' that the leaders
of Israel should confess themselves ignorant of the authority of
One, Who had power to open the eyes of the blind - a marvel which
had never before been witnessed. If He had that power, whence had
He obtained it, and why? It could only have been from God. They
said, He was 'a sinner' - and yet there was no principle more
frequently repeated by the Rabbis, 'than that answers to prayer
depended on a man being devout and doing the Will of God.' There
could therefore be only one inference: If 'Jesus had not Divine
Authority, He could not have had Divine Power.'

The argument was unanswerable, and in its unanswerableness shows
us, not indeed the purpose, but the evidential force of Christ's
Miracles. In one sense they had no purpose, or rather were
purpose to themselves, being the forthbursting of His Power and
the manifestation of His Being and Mission, of which latter, as
applied to things physical, they were part. But the truthful
reasoning of that untutored man, which confounded the acuteness
of the sages, shows the effect of these manifestations on all
whose hearts were open to the truth. 
The Pharisees had nothing to answer, and, as not infrequently in
analogous cases, could only, in their fury, cast him out with
bitter reproaches. Would he teach them - he, whose very disease
showed him to have been a child conceived and born in sin, and
who, ever since his birth, had been among ignorant, Law-
neglecting 'sinners'?
But there was Another, Who watched and knew him: He Whom, so far
as he knew, he had dared to confess; and for Whom he was content
to suffer. Let him now have the reward of his faith, even its
completion; and so shall it become manifest, to all time, how, as
we follow and cherish the better light, it riseth upon us in all
its brightness, and that faithfulness in little bringeth the
greater stewardship. 
Tenderly did Jesus seek him out, wherever it may have been:
and, as He found him, this one question did He ask, whether the
conviction of his experience was not growing into the higher
faith of the yet unseen: 'Dost thou believe on the Son of God?"
He had had personal experience of Him - was not that such as to
lead up to the higher faith?  And is it not always so, that the
higher faith is based on the conviction of personal experience -
that we believe on Him as the Son of God, because we have
experience of Him as the God-sent, Who has Divine Power, and has
opened the eyes of the blind-born - and Who has done to us what
had never been done by any other in the world? 

Thus is faith always the child of experience, and yet its father
also; faith not without experience, and yet beyond experience;
faith not superseded by experience, but made reasonable by it.
To such a soul it needed only the directing Word of Christ. 'And
Who is He, Lord, that I may believe on Him?' It seems as if the
question of Jesus had kindled in him the conviction of what
was the right answer. We almost see how, like a well of living
water, the words sprang gladsome from his inmost heart, and how
he looked up expectant on Jesus. To such readiness of faith there
could be only one answer. In language more plain than He had ever
before used, Jesus answered, and with immediate confession of
implicit faith the man lowly worshipped. And so it was, that the
first time he saw his Deliverer, it was to worship Him. It was
the highest stage yet attained. What contrast this faith and
worship of the poor unlettered man, once blind, now in every
sense seeing, to the blindness of judgment which had fallen on   
those who were the leaders of Israel!   

The cause alike of the one and the other was the Person of the
Christ. For our relationship to Him determines sight or
blindness, as we either receive the evidence of what He is from
what He indubitably does, or reject it, because we hold by our
own false conceptions of God, and of what His Will to us is.     
And so is Christ also for 'judgment.'

There were those who still followed Him - not convinced by, nor
as yet decided against Him - Pharisees, who well understood the
application of His Words. Formally, it had been a contest between
traditionalism and the Work of Christ. They also were
traditionalists - were they also blind? But, nay, they had
misunderstood Him by leaving out the moral element, thus showing
themselves blind indeed. It was not the calamity of blindness;
but it was a blindness in which they were guilty, and for which
they were responsible, which indeed was the result of their
deliberate choice: therefore their sin - not their blindness only
- remained!

(In the resurrection of the Last Great Day, the White Throne
Judgment day - people will have blindness removed from their eyes
and mind and heart. They will see the truth, they will have to
admit error and sins, and what is the right of God. They will be
confronted with the reality of the true Messiah and Savior, and
they will be judged according as to how they will respond. The
blind man now seeing responded positively to worship the Savior,
some others did not so respond. The truth may be presented but
man must choose if he will follow and obey. At least when all is
said and done, ALL will have a CLEAR chance at gaining salvation
and eternal life. God wishes that no one should PERISH, but alas,
the hardness of the heart in some individuals may not permit them
to be saved - Keith Hunt)

TO BE CONTINUED


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