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,
I. We have here OUR LORD UNVEILING HIS DEEPEST MOTIVES FOR BESTOWING AN UNSOUGHT BLESSING. It is remarkable that out of the eight miracles recorded in this Gospel, there is only one in which our Lord responds to a request to manifest His miraculous power; the others are all spontaneous. In the other Gospels He heals sometimes because of the pleading of the sufferer; sometimes because of the request of the compassionate friends or bystanders; sometimes unasked, because His own heart went out to those that were in pain and sickness. But in John's Gospel, predominantly we have the Son of God, who acts throughout as moved by His own deep heart. That view of Christ reaches its climax in His own profound words about His own laying down of His life: "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go unto the Father." So, not so much influenced by others as deriving motive and impulse and law from Himself, He moves upon earth a fountain and not a reservoir, the Originator and Beginner of the blessings that He bears. Thus, moved by sorrow, recognizing in man's misery the dumb cry for help, seeing in it the opportunity for the manifestation of the higher mercy of God; taking all evil to be the occasion for a brighter display of the love and the good which are Divine; feeling that His one purpose on earth was to crowd the moments with obedience to the will, and with the doing of the works of Him that sent Him; and possessing the sole and strange consciousness that from His person streams out all the light which illuminates the world — the Christ pauses before the unconscious blind man, and looking upon the poor, useless eyeballs, unaware how near light and sight stood, obeys the impulse that shapes His whole life. "And when He had spoken thus" proceeds to the strange cure.
II. So we come, in the next place, to consider CHRIST AS VEILING HIS POWER UNDER MATERIAL MEANS. This healing by material means in order to accommodate Himself to the weak faith which He seeks to evoke, and to strengthen thereby, is parallel, in principles, to His own incarnation, and to His appointment of external rites and ordinances. Baptism, the Lord's Supper, a visible Church, outward means of worship, and so on, all these come under the same category. There is no life nor power in them except His will works through them, but they are crutches and helps for a weak and sense-bound faith to climb to the apprehension of the spiritual reality. It is not the clay, it is not the water, it is not the Church, the ordinances, the outward worship, the form of prayer, the Sacrament — it is none of these things that have the healing and the grace in them. They are only ladders by which we may ascend to Him.
III. Then, still farther, WE HAVE HERE OUR LORD SUSPENDING HEALING ON OBEDIENCE. "Go and wash." As He said to the impotent man: "Stretch forth thine hand"; as He said to the paralytic in this Gospel: "Take up thy bed and walk"; so here He says, "Go and wash." And some friendly hand being stretched out to the blind man, or he himself feeling his way over the familiar path, he comes to the pool and washes, and returns seeing. There is, first, the general truth that healing is suspended by Christ on the compliance with His conditions. He does not simply say to any man, Be whole. He could and did say so sometimes in regard to bodily healing. But He cannot do so as regards the cure of our blind souls. To the sin-sick and sin-blinded man He says, "Thou shalt be whole, if" — or "I will make thee whole, provided that" — what? — provided that thou goest to the fountain where He has lodged the healing power. The condition on which sight comes to the blind is compliance with Christ's invitation, "Come to Me; trust in Me; and thou shalt be whole." Then there is a second lesson here, and that is, Obedience brings sight. "If any man will do His will he shall know of the doctrine." Are there any of you groping in darkness, compassed about with theological perplexities and religious doubts? Bow your wills to the recognized truth. He who has made all his knowledge into action will get more knowledge as soon as he needs it. "Go and wash; and he went, and came seeing."
IV. And now, lastly, we have here our LORD SHADOWING HIS HIGHEST WORK AS THE HEALER OF BLIND SOULS. The blind man stands for an example of honest ignorance, knowing itself ignorant, and not to be coaxed or frightened or in any way provoked to pretending to knowledge which it does not possess, firmly holding by what it does know, and because conscious of its little knowledge, therefore waiting for light and willing to be led. Hence he is at once humble and sturdy, docile and independent, ready to listen to any voice which can really teach, and formidably quick to prick with wholesome sarcasm the inflated claims of mere official pretenders. The Pharisees, on the other hand, are sure that they know everything that can be known about anything in the region of religion and morality, and in their absolute confidence in their absolute possession of the truth, in their blank unconsciousness that it was more than their official property and stock-in-trade, in their complete incapacity to discern the glory of a miracle which contravened ecclesiastical proprieties and conventionalities, in their contempt for the ignorance which they were responsible for and never thought of enlightening, in their cruel taunt directed against the man's calamity, and in their swift resort to the weapon of excommunication of one whom it was much easier to cast out than to answer, are but too plain a type of a character which is as ready to corrupt the teachers of the Church as of the synagogue.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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,