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him, it may be, in the temple, (cf. John v. 14,) " he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God ?” The man knows what the title means, that it is equivalent to Messiah, but
own : such trust, however, has he in his Healer, that whomsoever he will point out to him as such, he will recognize. “ He answered and said unto him, 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.” These words, “ Thou hast seen him," do not refer to some anterior seeing, for it does not appear that the man after his eyes were opened at the pool, returned to the Lord, or that he had enjoyed any opportunity of seeing him since. This past then is in some sense a present: “Thou hast seen him already ; this seeing is not something yet to do; ever since thou hast been speaking with me thine eyes have beheld him, for it is no other than he himself that talketh with thee*.”
And now that to which all that went before was but an introduction, has arrived; “ He said, Lord, I beliece; and he worshipped him:" not that even now we need suppose that he knew all that was contained in that title, Son of God,—or that in this worshipping him we are to understand the very highest act of adoration as unto God. For the fact of “God manifest in the flesh," is far too great a one for any man to receive at once: the minds, even of apostles, could only dilate little by little to receive it. There were, however, in this man the preparations for that ultimate and crowning faith : the seeds which would unfold into it were safely laid in his heart; and he fell down at the feet of Jesus as of one more than man, with a deep religious reverence and fear and awe. And thus the faith of this poor man was accomplished; step by step he had advanced, following faithfully the light which was given him; undeterred by opposition which would have been fatal to a weaker faith, and must have been so to his, unless the good seed had cast its roots in a soil of more than ordinary depth. But because it was such a soil, therefore, when persecution arose, as it soon did, for the Word's sake, he was not offended; (Matt. xiii. 21;) but endured, until at length the highest grace was vouchsafed to him, to know the only-begotten Son of God, however yet he may not have seen all the glorious treasures that were contained in the knowledge of him.
* Corn. à Lapide: Et ridisti eum, nunc cum se tibi ipse videndum offert.
So wonderful was the whole event, so had it brought out the spiritual blindness of those that ought to have been the seers of the nation, so had it ended in the illumination, spiritual as well as bodily, of one who seemed among the blind, that it called out from the Saviour's lips those remarkable words in which he moralized the whole: “ For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind: I am come to reveal every man's innermost state; I, as the highest revelation of God, must bring out men's love and their hatred of what is divine as none other could : (John ii. 19–21:) I am the touchstone; much that seemed true shall at my touch be proved false, to be merely dross ; much that for its little sightliness was nothing accounted of, shall prove true metal : many, whom men esteemed to be seeing, such as the spiritual chiefs of this nation, shall be shewn to be blind; many, whom men counted altogether unenlightened, shall, when my light touches them, be shewn to have powers of spiritual vision undreamt of before.” Christ was the King of truth,—and therefore, his open setting up of his banner in the world was at once and of necessity a ranging of men in their true ranks, as lovers of truth or lovers of a lie*; and he is here saying of himself the same thing which Simeon had said of him before : “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel .... that the thoughts of many
. Augustine (In E. Joh., Tract, ++): Dies ille diviserat inter lucem et tenebras.
hearts may be revealed.” (Luke ii. 34, 35.) He is the stone on which men build, and against which men stumble,—and set for either purpose. (1 Pet. ii. 6–8; cf. 2 Cor. ii. 16.) These words call out a further contradiction on the part of the Pharisees, and out of this miracle unfolds itself that discourse which reaches down to ver. 21 of the ensuing chapter. They had shewn what manner of shepherds of the sheep they were in their exclusion of this one from the fold: “ with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them,” (Ezek. xxxiv. 4* :) our Lord sets over against them himself, the good Shepherd and the true.
• This whole chapter of Ezekiel may be profitably read in the light of the connexion between these 9th and 10th chapters of St. John.
19. THE RESTORING OF THE MAN WITH
A WITHERED HAND.
This is not the first of our Lord's sabbathic cures *, which stirs the ill-will of his adversaries, or is used by them as a pretext for accusing him ; for we saw the same to occur in the case of the miracle immediately preceding; yet I have reserved for this the considering once for all the position which our Lord himself took in respect of the Jewish sabbath, and the light in which he regarded it. The present is the most favourable occasion which will occur, since here, and in the discourse which immediately precedes this miracle, and which stands, if not quite in such close historic connexion as might at first sight appear on reading it in the Gospel of St. Matthew, yet in closest inner relation to it, our Lord himself enters upon the subject, and delivers the weightiest words which upon this matter fell from his lips. To go back then to that preceding discourse, and the circumstances which gave rise to it;—the Pharisees found fault with the disciples for plucking cars of corn and eating them upon the sabbath; they accused them to their Master as transgressors of the law : “ Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful ?” It was not the thing itself, as though it had been an invasion of other men's property, for that was by the law itself expressly permitted *; they might not thrust in a sickle to another man's field, but might pluck the ripe ears for the stilling of their present hunger. (Deut. xxiii. 25.) By restrictions upon an absolute proprietorship, even slight as this, did God assert that he was indeed the true proprietor of all the land, and that the holders held it only of him. It was in the day on which they plucked these ears that their fault consisted.
• The cures on the Sabbath actually recorded are seven in number, and are the following that of the demoniac in the synagogue of Capernauin, (Mark i. 21 ;) that of Simon's wife's mother, (Mark i. 29 ;) of the impotent man at Bethesda, (John v. 9;) of this man with a withered hand; of the man born blind, (John ix. 14;) of the woman with a spirit of infirmity, (Luke xiii. 14;) of the man who had a dropsy. (Luke xiv. 1.) We have a general intimation of many more, as at Mark i. 34, and have already observed that the “one work” to which our Lord alludes, at John vii. 21-23, is perhaps not any of the miracles which he has recorded at length, but one to which we have no further allusion than that contained in these
Our Lord seeks to raise the objectors to a truer standing point from which to contemplate the act of his disciples; and by two examples, and these taken from that very law which they believed they were asserting, would shew them how the law, if it is not to work mischievously, must be spiritually handled and understood. These examples are borrowed, the one from the Old Testament history, the other from the service of the temple which was evermore going on before their eyes. The first, the well-known event which occurred during David's flight from Saul, (1 Sam. xxi. 146,) his claiming and obtaining from the high priest the holy bread, was such as would naturally carry much weight with them whom Christ was seeking to convince, David being counted the great pattern and example of Old Testament holiness ; “ Will ye affirm that they did wrong,—David who in that necessity claimed, or the priest who gave to him, the holy bread ?” The second example came yet nearer home to them with whom he was speaking, and was more stringent still, for it was not an exceptional case, but grounded in the very constitution of the Levitical service : “ Ye do yourselves practically acknowledge it right that the rest of the sabbath should give place to an higher interest, to the service of the temple ; that, as the lesser, it should be subordinated, and, where needful, offered up to this as the greater: the sacrifices, with all the laborious preparations which they require, do not
* See Robinson's Researches, v. 2, p. 192.