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God’s Works Made Manifest
“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...” (John 9:1-41)
The Lord Jesus performed many miracles of mercy during the three years of his earthly ministry. He turned water into wine, calmed the stormy sea, and multiplied the loaves and fishes. He healed the sick, made the deaf to hear, caused the dumb to speak, made withered arms straight, caused the lame to walk, made the blind to see, and raised the dead to life. By all these things he made manifest the fact that he is God and he is the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior of the world (Isaiah 29:18; 35:4-10; 42:6-7; Matthew 11:4-5).
Two of the Lord’s miracles stand out as being of such great importance, so spiritually instructive that they each occupy an entire chapter in the volume of Holy Scripture. In the 11th chapter of John’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit gives us the very instructive story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. At the outset of that chapter, we are told that Lazarus’ sickness and death was “for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:4).
Here, in the 9th chapter of John’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit holds before us a man who was born blind, whom the Lord Jesus healed. Here, too, the entire chapter is devoted to telling us about this great miracle. Like the resurrection of Lazarus, this man’s healing is full of instruction for our souls. And, as we are told that Lazarus’ sickness and death was “for the glory of God,” we read in John 9:3 that this man’s blindness was designed and intended “that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” This great miracle is intended to illustrate and make manifest the works of God our Savior in saving his people from their sins.
“Jesus Passed By”
The story of this blind man’s healing begins with the Lord Jesus. How appropriate! The fact is everything begins with God our Savior. Before we read about this man, his blindness, or his healing, the Spirit of God tells us, “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man.” It was the Lord Jesus passing by and seeing him that led to the mercy he obtained. So it is in grace. There are no advances made by sinners to the Lord, until the Lord passes by and bids the sinner live. Salvation begins with God coming to man, not with man coming to God (Ezekiel 16:1-14). If we love him, it is because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).
The Son of God hid himself from those Pharisees in the Temple who despised him (John 8:59). He passed by them in judgment, leaving them to themselves steeped in religion and sealed to everlasting destruction in reprobation. Grace is always distinct, particular, and distinguishing. — “And as Jesus passed by” those men in judgment, he passed by this man in mercy. He passed by our souls in eternal election and chose us unto salvation. He passed by our souls in predestination and arranged all things for our everlasting salvation. He passed by our souls at the appointed time of love and called us by his grace. There’s hope for sinners when the Lord Jesus passes by. Bartimaeus understood that. — “And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47).
Reach out and touch the Lord
As He passes by!
You’ll find He’s not too busy
To hear your heart’s cry.
He’s passing by this moment
Your needs to supply,
So reach out and touch the Lord
As He goes by!
“He saw a Man”
Next, we read, “He saw a man which was blind from his birth.” The word translated “saw” carries the idea of staring, gazing upon, and watching. It also carries the idea of discerning, understanding, and knowing. Blessed are those people who are under the watchful eye of the Son of God! The Savior “saw a man.” He saw who he was. He saw where he was. He saw what he was. He saw all that he had done. He saw all that he had been. He saw that he was blind. And he saw all that he would do for this man! We see a similar passage in Luke 15:11-20, where the Spirit of God gives us our Savior’s parable of the prodigal son.
The sovereignty of God in the exercise of his grace is exemplified in this 9th chapter of John’s Gospel. The Savior saw the man; the man did not see him. The man did not call upon the Lord to have mercy upon him; the Lord was the one to take the initiative. That is the way it always is. — “Salvation is of the Lord!”
“Blind from Birth”
This man, we are expressly told by God the Holy Spirit, “was blind from his birth.” There is much to be learned from what is here stated about this man’s blindness.
“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” (vv. 1-3).
The disciples thought, like most people, that bodily afflictions come upon people because of sinful behavior, that sickness is an indication of divine displeasure and disapproval. Such thinking is wrong and betrays an underlying sense of superiority and self-righteousness.
The Lord’s words in verse 3 do not suggest that the man and his parents were not sinners; for both were guilty of original sin, and both had committed actual transgressions (Romans 3:23; 5:12). The Master was simply declaring that it was not his parents’ particular sin nor his own that was the cause of his blindness. We know, of course, that all sickness and death are the result of sin. Were there no sin, there would be no sickness and no death. But the assumption that sickness is an indication of God’s judgment is a display of proud ignorance. That was the error of Job’s three friends. Charismatic, Pentecostal, fake-healers teach the same foolishness.
The fact is this man’s blindness, we are specifically told, was for the purpose of God’s works being made manifest in him. His blindness was designed for his mercy. His blindness was an act of God’s prevenient grace, by which God paved the way for the saving operations of his grace. His blindness was by the special arrangement of divine providence (Romans 8:28). The fact is, for God’s elect, all our afflictions are designed and brought to pass for our everlasting benefit (2 Corinthians 4:17-5:1; 1 Peter 1:2-7).
Let us never imagine that anything comes to pass by accident, or without divine design. Many seem terribly confused by the fact of the fall and of sin’s entrance into the world. They seem to think that Adam’s fall took God by surprise, and that the Creator lost control of his creation when sin entered. But that is not the case at all. When Lucifer fell, it was by divine purpose; and when Adam fell, it was by divine purpose (Isaiah 14:12-14, 24, 26-27; Psalm 76:10; Romans 11:33-36).
Just as this man’s blindness made a way for God to display his works in him, the sin and fall of our father Adam, and the ruin of the human race in Adam’s fall were designed by our God to make a way for the manifestation of his works of grace in Christ, of whom Adam was a type (Romans 5:14), to the praise of the glory of his grace (Romans 5:12-21).
Moreover, this man’s blindness represents the spiritual blindness of all men by nature. This man’s blindness of body gave occasion for the works of God to be made manifest in him. So, also, the blindness of soul affords opportunity for God in Christ to be magnified in the works of grace. We are all born in a state of spiritual blindness, a blindness from which we can never be delivered except by the Son of God. All are by nature blind to the knowledge of God the Father, — blind to his everlasting love, — blind to the Person, work, grace, mercy, favor, and all the ten thousand beauties and excellencies which are in God the Son in his mediatoral character, as Head and Husband of his Church and people, — blind to everything relating to the eternal power and Godhead of the blessed Spirit, both in his own essence and glory and in his grace and mercy to chosen sinners, blind to our own utterly lost, ruined and undone condition, — blind to our need of a Savior, and even blind to our blindness!
“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” (vv. 4-5). — Oh, how I like what I read here! The Lord Jesus Christ, the God-man, our Mediator, our covenant Surety, the sinners’ Substitute, speaks of the work he did upon this earth as a work that had to be done, a work that he “must work,” a work that he must finish before he could leave this world and return to his Father and our Father, who sent him. Jehovah’s Servant must finish his work (John 10:14-18). And finish it he did!
· Righteousness is finished!
· Satisfaction is finished!
· Redemption is finished!
· Justification is finished!
· Forgiveness is finished!
· Sanctification is finished!
· Salvation is finished!
Our message is “the gospel,” good news, not good advice! The Lord Jesus said, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4). What could be more blessed? Redemption-work is finished. The Church of Christ is saved. Jehovah is glorified. — “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7)
In verses 6 and 7, the Lord Jesus used very unlikely means to perform his miracle of mercy on this poor, blind man. — “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.”
Our Savior used means that had no virtue or healing power in themselves; and the means used were both foolish and distasteful to the natural mind. So it is that by the preaching of the gospel, by the foolishness of preaching, spiritually blind and dead sinners are made to see and live. Gospel preaching is foolishness to the world; but it is the power of God unto salvation to those who are saved (1 Corinthians 1:18-24).
Let us understand that the means used are useless, without the blessing of God upon them. The clay and the pool of Siloam, like gospel preaching, were merely instruments in the hand of Christ. But without him the clay would only have been a greater obstruction to sight, not a means of giving sight. So it is that that which we call the means of grace, without his blessing, tend more to increase spiritual blindness than remove it (2 Corinthians 2:15-16; Revelation 3:18).
“Dost thou believe?”
This man experienced an extraordinary miracle, a miracle that could not be denied. It was such an extraordinary thing that it brought him into conflict with the Pharisees. The Pharisees reviled him and finally excommunicated him. But he stood by his experience. He said, “Nothing like this has ever happened to anyone in the history of the world. I know that I was born blind. I know that I now see. And I know that the man who did this great work for me and in me is of God.” But that is not salvation. It takes more than a miracle, even a notable miracle, to produce faith in the heart of a man. Saving faith is the gift of God. It comes only by divine revelation. Faith comes only by Christ revealing himself to us and in us by his omnipotent mercy and irresistible grace.
“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” (vv. 35-38).
This man had received sight; but he must have Christ revealed to him in order to believe on him as Prophet, Priest, and King; and Christ is revealed by the hearing of the Word (Romans 10:9-17). God saves sinners by the means he has ordained; and that means is the preaching of the gospel (1 Peter 1:23-25).
Now, look at verses 39-41, and learn that the very gospel that God uses to cause the blind to see, he uses to make those blind who think they see.
“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.”
Our Lord’s judgment upon these Pharisees and his mercy upon the man born blind reminds me of the cloud in the camp of Israel that gave light to Israel, while engulfing Egypt in darkness (Exodus 14:19-20). Christ is the Rock of ages; the sure Foundation Jehovah has laid in Zion. “He that believeth shall never be ashamed, nor confounded, world without end.” And he is a “stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence.” On whomsoever he shall fall, “it will grind him to powder” (Deuteronomy 32:4. Isaiah 28:16. 1 Peter 1:6-8. Matthew 21:44).
“Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.” (Isaiah 63:1-4)
“Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” God help you to believe. As this blind man was healed on the sabbath day (v. 14), on the day you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, your everlasting sabbath begins (Matthew 11:28-30).