June 11, 2010 David Balzer

John 9: You need to believe it to see it

It’s foolish to think you can SEE when you’re really BLIND.  In August last year, police in the Baltic state of Estonia stopped a man who was driving erratically. He was driving so badly, they assumed he was drunk, and tried to breath test him. It was only after he kept missing the tube for the breath tester that they realised he was BLIND. Not just blind DRUNK. But physically blind!

His reasoning was, after a few drinks, that he’d always wanted to TRY it. So he DID. And besides, he was getting instructions from his 16 yr old passenger.

Well, if that wasn’t STUPID enough. According to Reuters news agency, he was arrested ONE WEEK LATER. Doing the SAME THING. But THIS time, with THREE people in the car giving directions. Perhaps he thought the more people, the better the directions. And the less chance of getting caught!

Marge Kohtla, a spokeswoman for the police, said “We arrested the same blind man driving his car again on Saturday in the town of Torvandi, He was drunk”. She said police wanted the court to jail the man for 30 days and confiscate his car.

The foolishness of thinking you can SEE when you’re really BLIND. Which is the exact mistake the Jewish leaders make in John ch 9. When it comes to SEEING who Jesus really is.

It’s a chapter that’s all about SEEING And BLINDNESS. Whether it’s PHYSICAL blindness or SPIRITUAL blindness.

1. Sin and suffering

Which we’ll get to in a moment. But it’s introduced with a discussion about something that’s so important I can’t just overlook it. The connection between SIN and SUFFERING. So, we’re going to spend about half our time having a look at THAT topic before we jump back into the main theme.

As Jesus and the disciples wander along they come across a BLIND man. And the disciples come up with a tricky question. Perhaps they want Jesus to settle an argument for them. V2. This guy’s been blind from birth. Whose sin caused his blindness – his parents, or his own?

One side figured since it was from BIRTH, it must have been his parents who were being punished. The OTHER side reckoned that it was possible even for unborn babies to sin, and therefore, it was the man himself who’d done something wrong as a foetus – like kicking his mum too hard, or something!

But there’s a problem with the question. What’s the assumption behind BOTH sides of the debate? …. That a particular sin caused this particular SUFFERING.

And what’s Jesus’ answer? (v3) You’ve BOTH got it wrong. It’s certainly true that sin in A GENERAL SENSE has consequences in the world. Gen 3 tells us that the fall means the whole creation is suffering because of sin. Every aspect of life is messed up. Rom 8:22 talks about creation GROANING in pain.

And it’s ALSO true that SOMETIMES individual sin can lead to punishment – like Ananias and Sophira in Acts 5. Or Nadab and Abihu in Num 3. But not ALL the time. In fact, it’s surprisingly RARE in the Bible.

And, when it does, it seems to be in the context of serving a BIGGER PURPOSE than just punishing the individual. It’s about God using it AS A WARNING to everyone else. Whether it’s ISRAEL, or the EARLY CHURCH, or to US TODAY.

Something that’s different to PUNISHMENT is CONSEQUENCES. Lots of times we have to suffer the CONSEQUENCES of our sinful actions. It’s just WISDOM. Like running out of petrol because you’re too lazy to fill up. Or losing your license for drink-driving. Or being fined for tax-evasion. Or divorce for ery.

But I can’t see that it’s PUNISHMENT. At least not from God’s point of view. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that for THE CHRISTIAN, there IS no punishment. Rom 8:1 says that there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus. Because Jesus has taken our PUNISHMENT. There’s none left for US.

But the Bible DOES talk about DISCIPLINE. Not in the sense of PUNISHMENT, but in the sense of TRAINING. Heb 12 talks about Christians enduring hardship as DISCIPLINE from the hand of our loving heavenly Father. Something that’s never PLEASANT at the TIME. But will produce a harvest of righteousness for his children who’ve been TRAINED.

But what about for the NON-Christian? Does God punish THEM for their sin NOW? I think that’s a more difficult question. Rom 1 talks about the wrath of God BEING REVEALED against all godlessness. And about God HANDING PEOPLE OVER to their sinful desires.

But is that PUNISHMENT, or CONSEQUENCES?

I think God WILL do is send suffering the way of a non-Christian sometimes as a gracious signpost WARNING him about where his sin will END UP. I think God sometimes says, “If you keep living the way you’re living, there’s a much worse punishment in store for you than just this physical illness or unemployment, or a house fire.” Recognise the warning, and turn to me!

At least, that’s the lesson Jesus wants people to learn in Lk 13:1-5. Some people tell Jesus about a massacre of some Galileans by Pontius Pilate. And Jesus responds,

“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? (In other words, it wasn’t punishment for their individual sin) 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them-do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

But here in Jn 9, Jesus has A DIFFERENT purpose for why this guy was born blind. So let’s look at Jesus’ answer. V3 of Ch 9.

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, (which is what we’ve already discovered) “but this happened SO THAT THE WORK OF GOD MIGHT BE DISPLAYED IN HIS LIFE.

And he goes on to say what THAT WORK IS.

4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Jesus is doing his father’s work. It’s WHY HE’S been SENT. And THIS BLIND GUY is here for that very purpose. So that the work of God, by the hand of Jesus, will be DISPLAYED in his life.

The word for displayed means TO REVEAL. To BE MADE VISIBLE. Which I think is a bit of a pun because this whole chapter’s about seeing and not seeing. About recognising who Jesus is, and about being BLIND to him.

And it’s, ULTIMATELY, the reason why ALL bad things happen. To display God’s glory.

  1. Why did God create Satan? So that God’s POWER would be seen in DEFEATING him.
  2. Why did God allow humans to sin? So that God’s GOODNESS could be seen in SAVING them.
  3. Why did God create hell? So that God’s justice and holiness could be seen in punishing people. And that we might praise him for his COSTLY LOVE in RESCUING us from it.
  4. And why did God cause this man to be born blind? So that many people, including him, would SEE the work of God in his life – would SEE God open his PHYSICAL EYES, and open his SPIRITUAL eyes. And give him GLORY.

Because GIVING GOD GLORY is the whole purpose of the world. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says that the answer to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything is 42.

But the Bible says the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything is the GLORY OF GOD. The Universe is one big God-glorifying machine. That people would RECOGNISE God’s glory, SUBMIT to it, ENJOY it, and EXALT it. Now and forever.

And that’s what THIS chapter is for TOO. Recognising the glory of God.… Which brings us to v6. And the next heading in the outline. Blindness and sight.

2. Blindness and Sight – 6-34.

The work of God is about to be revealed in the life of this blind guy. V6.

6 Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

It’s short, sharp, straight-forward. But full of questions at the same time. Why spit? Why mud? Why doesn’t Jesus just SAY THE WORDS, and he’ll be healed? And who cares what the name of the pool means?

But on the surface at least, it’s clear. Jesus has HEALED the guy. He was BORN BLIND. But NOW he’s got 20 –20 vision. The light of the world has shone into one more dark corner.

But it’s an event that’s SYMBOLISES something ELSE. The restoration of PHYSICAL sight is a symbol of a restoration of SPIRITUAL sight. And the clues are in those questions. In v4 Jesus says his job is to do the work of the one who SENT him. Jesus is the SENT ONE.

And then in v7 he tells the blind man to go and be washed clean in the pool called SENT, or THE SENT ONE. Do THAT, and your eyes will be opened.

Jesus is saying, “I’m the one who opens people’s eyes. I’m the pool. The sent one. Come to ME to be washed clean. To have your sins forgiven. You’ll be CLEAN, AND you’ll be able to see who I am.”

But there’s ANOTHER clue. Look at the words of the blind man down in v11. He’s telling his neighbours and friends how he can see.

“The man they call Jesus made some mud, and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

4 steps to physical sight – make mud, put it on my eyes, told to go and wash, he went and washed (11). Then A RESULT – I could SEE.

And as we follow the story through we see how this guy’s SPIRITUAL eyes are opened AS WELL. How he GRADUALLY comes to recognise who Jesus really is. Once again, in 4 steps. Followed by a result. Check it out. In v11, He recognises Jesus as JUST A MAN. “The man they call Jesus”

But by the time we get down to v17, the Pharisees have landed on the scene. The BIG GUNS. And they can’t work out whether Jesus is a sinner or a good man. And when they ask the healed man what HE thinks. He seems to have a BETTER idea.

17 Finally they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

MORE than a man, he’s someone who COMMUNICATES GOD’S WORDS.

And then, by the time we get to v31-33, and after a bit more to-ing and fro-ing. He comes to THIS conclusion. Step number 3.

31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the GODLY man who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this MAN WERE NOT FROM GOD, he could do nothing.”

Not only is he a PROPHET who speaks God’s words, but he’s GODLY, in fact he’s COME FROM GOD. He’s OUT OF THIS WORLD.

And then finally. When Jesus arrives back on the scene. And confronts this guy (v35) “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” And then adds “You have NOW SEEN him, in fact he’s the one speaking with you.” Your PHYSICAL EYES HAVE BEEN OPENED. But are your SPIRITUAL eyes opened? Do you RECOGNISE who I am?

How will he respond? His answer shows his SPIRITUAL sight is just as clear as his PHYSICAL sight. Healed in four steps. “Lord, I believe!” LORD – that is, Master. KING.

And the result? And he WORSHIPPED him.

3. You have to believe it to see it (35-41)

It’s a story about a blind man who comes to SEE. Not just physically. But to recognise who Jesus is, and to TRUST him. And to submit to him as KING.

But it’s also the story about those who have perfect PHYSICAL sight. But who are BLIND to Jesus.

The Pharisees SHOULD have been the ones who recognised Jesus FIRST. Because the blind seeing was one of the signs that the MESSIAH HAD COME. These guys knew OFF BY HEART Isa 35 where God promised;

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy…they will SEE THE GLORY OF THE LORD, the splendor of our God. …5 THEN WILL THE EYES OF THE BLIND BE OPENED and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

They should have been READY. They, of ALL people. But they MISSED it. MORE worried about whether Jesus had broken the Sabbath law by mixing some mud with his finger, which was considered WORK. Than whether God had broken into history to bring about a NEW AGE.

They were blind. When they should have been able to SEE.

(Show Magic Eye puzzle) Does anyone know what THIS is? What’s it a picture of? On ONE level, it’s a blur of colours and shapes. But it’s also a 3D picture of two dinosaurs, surrounded by palm trees. (Can anyone SEE that?)

The funny thing about Magic Eye puzzles is that the people who CAN see them are not always who you’d EXPECT. It doesn’t matter how many Uni degrees you’ve got. Or how young or old. It doesn’t depend on how much money you earn. Or how hard you try. Or how badly you WANT it. Some people can spend HOURS, and drive themselves CRAZY trying to see them. Others can see them in a few seconds. And aren’t really interested.

And it’s the same with the spiritual sight Jesus is talking about . Look at how Jesus sums up the whole episode. V39.

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

Which rubs the Pharisees up the wrong way. No one likes to be told they’ve got it wrong. “What! Are we blind too?”

When it’s obvious to EVERYONE ELSE EXCEPT THEM that they ARE.

Like the old restaurant owner on the TV show “The Chopping Block”. A world class chef comes in to help him improve his cooking. Give him some hints on how to do things better. But he won’t listen. Nobody knows better than him. He’s kept the same menu for 30 years. The restaurant’s about to go broke. But it’s STILL his way or the highway. And everyone can see it except for HIM. It’s HILARIOUS. And there’s an element of comedy here to.

It’s obvious who’s example to follow, and who’s to avoid. Jesus finishes this chapter.

41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

If you’re HUMBLE ENOUGH to recognise you DON’T have all the answers, then you’re on the way to seeing. There’s HOPE. Come to Jesus, the one sent by God, to wash people clean, and open their eyes.

But if you’re too proud to admit you’re blind, then you’re GUILTY. And headed for judgment.

It’s foolish to pretend you can see, when you’re really blind. Make sure that’s not you!

4. The ex-blind man – the example to follow

But in terms of an example to FOLLOW, this whole story points us to this ex-blind man as THE DISCIPLE WORTH COPYING. Because he’s actually the FOCUS. It’s not Jesus, He’s a minor character. It’s the healed man who’s the evangelist. Who defends Jesus. Who tells others about him.

And I think there’s a number of LESSONS we can learn as we look at how he deals with things.

First. He was HEALED. Jesus can, and does, heal physically today. Let’s not theologise Jesus into IMPOTENCE. Jesus is STILL Lord of the World. He’s ALIVE and REIGNING in HEAVEN. He STILL controls the wind and the waves, sickness and . So ask him CONFIDENTLY if you need healing.

Second lesson. Discipleship and conversion is often a slow process. We sometimes expect people to become Christians the first time we tell them about Jesus. But most of the time, it’s a process over time. That’s why courses like Christianity Explained, or Introducing God, are so good because they give people the chance to think about things, ask questions, work out consequences.

And when they DO make a decision, it’s often one that will LAST. Because it’s INFORMED. So let’s give people the freedom, and the opportunities, and the time, to make an informed decision about following Jesus.

Third. When Jesus sends you, go! This guy OBEYED. Not only when he washed in the pool. Which probably seemed CRAZY. But when he stood up for Jesus before the Pharisees. He courageously told the truth.

Did you notice that even his PARENTS wouldn’t do that? They weren’t willing to step over the line and stand on Jesus’ side. They were more concerned with being accepted by other people. Check out v20

20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue.

More concerned with acceptance by OTHERS, than acceptance by GOD. And isn’t that just like us? More concerned that our friends stay friends with US than they become friends with Jesus.

Compare that sort of wimpiness and fear with the courage of the healed man. It’s a bit cheeky really. He’s quickly learning to give as good as he gets. V27.

They fire the hard questions at him just like they did his parents. And he shoots back.

27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” 28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses!

Which he knows all along!

When Jesus sends you, Go!

Fourth lesson. You don’t need to know everything to tell others. This guy was only just learning what it meant to follow Jesus. But his response to the Pharisees have been used by thousands of Christians since. V25.

25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

I don’t know all the answers. But one thing I DO know. He’s changed ME.

Don’t underestimate how powerful a PERSONAL testimony can be.

I don’t know why it’s the case but over and over I’ve observed it’s true. The longer people have been Christians, the LESS enthusiastic they are about sharing their faith. It’s the NEW Christians who are telling everyone they meet. Sometimes in ways that perhaps aren’t the best. But they’re DOING it.

Why is it that OLDER Christians Don’T. Are they TIRED? Or LAZY. Are they disobedient? Is that YOU? If you understand more of God’s grace, and the beauty of Jesus NOW, then why aren’t you more excited about SHARING it?

Pray that God will give you a new appreciation of grace. Of what you’ve been saved TO. And what you’ve been SAVED from.

Pray that Jesus would open your eyes. And the eyes of the people you talk to. So they can SEE him, and BELIEVE in him.

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