March 18, 2018
Irish clergyman, Pat Buckley, wrote the following statement. “I believe that life is a journey towards God, and that no one has the right to insist that you go a certain road.” Well, that kind of sentiment is popular these days. But I’m puzzled by this statement. If everyone determines their own road to God, then the god they are journeying towards is one of their own making. I mean, what if God has prepared the road by which we come to him? If we miss that road because we have chosen a different one, then we will miss God.
John 9 tells the story of how Jesus restored sight to a blind man. The story has deep implications concerning our journey towards God. The story shows us that our journey towards God is vitally connected to Jesus Christ. And so I want to ask you: Where are you in your journey with Jesus?
I. STAGE 1: SPIRITUAL DARKNESS. Jn. 9:1-7
Maybe, as far as you know, you are not on a journey with Jesus. In the Gospel of John one prominent metaphor has to do with darkness and light. For example, in Jn.1:4-5 we read, referring to Jesus, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Or in Jn.3:19 it says, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” In Jn.8:12 Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Darkness stands for sin and death. Light stands for Jesus and life.
It is only a small stretch to see the connection between darkness and blindness. John 9 ends with v.41, “Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains.” Well, what does blindness have to do with guilt?
This is the question that begins the story. Jesus is in Jerusalem with his disciples and they see a man blind from birth. In fact he was a beggar because that was the only thing the man was good for. The disciples ask a question. You might say that it is a question about karma. According to the Yogic Encyclopedia, “If you sow evil, you will reap evil in the form of suffering. And if you sow goodness, you will reap goodness in the form of inner joy. Every action, every thought, brings about its own corresponding rewards.” We are not Hindu or Buddhist, but a similar idea is even found in the Bible. In Gal.6:7-8 Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” In Jb.4:8 we read, “those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.” Proverbs tells us, “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity.”
In Jesus’ day it was common to think that if you lived an unrighteous life you would pay for it. So the disciples see this man blind from birth and they ask, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind.” Someone must have sinned. That’s the only conclusion they could come to. Jesus replies, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
It is not uncommon for us to think like the disciples. But Jesus makes it clear that not all suffering is the result of someone’s sin. We live in a fallen world. When Adam and Eve took it upon themselves to order their own lives apart from God in disobedience, they brought sinful disorder into this world. And in a world of sinful disorder, bad things happen. The fact that God exists gives great hope that in the face of suffering and evil, there’s the potential for redemption. God can and does bring good out of evil. God delivers us from sin, evil, and death. It is what the Gospel is all about.
But in v.3-5, Jesus shows that he is not just talking about physical blindness. He speaks about working the works of God. In v.5 he calls himself the light of the world. Well, I can tell you that Jesus came for something more significant than restoring physical sight to blind people. Jesus did not come to just enhance our already full lives. In calling himself “the light of the world,” Jesus is implying that the world is blind. The world is spiritually blind. Just as this man was blind from birth, so the entire world, everyone in the world, is spiritually blind from birth.
This is not a comment on whether or not there is goodness in people. Because we are created in the image of God and because of God’s common grace, most people are not as bad as they could be. There are many wonderful qualities in the people of the world. But that does not negate the fact that we are all spiritually blind to God and his Son, Jesus.
Jesus says he is the light of the world, then he spits on the ground and makes a little mud pack and anoints the man’s eyes with the mud. “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.” Jesus didn’t ask the man any questions. He just did this miracle of unprecedented healing.
Now Stage 1 refers to the reality that everyone in this world is spiritually blind. And what I mean by that is that no one comes to the truth concerning God on their own. We prefer to shape and control our own destinies. We do not view ourselves like this helpless blind man. Our inclinations about life are more in keeping with karma. If I try hard enough and do my best I will reap good things, joy, happiness etc. Life is based on performance and some lucky breaks. Many people do not reflect deeply on spiritual matters. But if they do they still think in terms of performance. If a person believes in God and some kind of afterlife, they think that if they can be good enough they will gain God’s favor. But this is not at all what Jesus demonstrates or teaches. He healed this man while the man was still living in physical darkness. Jesus made the difference in his life. If this man had woken up that morning and decided on his own to wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam, nothing would have happened. The healing came through the work of Jesus. The man did what Jesus told him to do. It is very possible that you are in stage 1 this morning. You are spiritually blind. You are lost in your sins and you don’t know the way to life.
II. STAGE 2: RECEIVING SPIRITUAL LIFE. Jn.9:8-34
The man came back seeing. This miracle caused quite a stir. His neighbors had to look twice to make sure it was the same man. He said, “I am the man.” They asked him how he could see. He replied, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.' So I went and washed and received my sight." It was so astounding that they took the man to the Pharisees to get their thoughts on the whole thing. Why did they do this? It’s because no one had ever cured someone blind from birth. Even today most forms of blindness are incurable. O, and did I mention that Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath? That little bit of information is found in v.14.
In v.15 the Pharisees ask the man to recount how he had received his sight. The man told the story of what Jesus did. Immediately the Pharisees zeroed in on the problem. In v.16 we read, “Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?’ And there was a division among them.” They turned again to the man and asked, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?”
The man knew it was Jesus who opened his eyes, but he never actually saw Jesus. He didn’t know who Jesus was. So he gave it his best guess. “He is a prophet.” Many people thought Jesus was a prophet of some kind.
Well, the Pharisees were not buying it. In fact they started to wonder if the man had really been blind to begin with. Maybe this was hoax. That is still a common way of thinking about Jesus even today. In v.18 they call the man’s parents to find out if they can vouch for their son’s blindness. They ask the parents about how their son came to be able to see. How amazing! The formerly blind man was right in front of them. But they would not accept it. The lengths some people will go to disbelieve what is right in front of their eyes is astounding.
The parents confirmed that the man was their son and that he had been born blind. But they would not comment about how their son was cured because, according to v.22, “they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.”
They call the man again and say, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner." The man responds in v.25. “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." It almost seems as if they want the blind man to renounce his sight. When they asked him to tell them again how Jesus had opened his eyes, the man begins to reveal more about what was happening inside of himself. Verse 27 says, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?" Note the word, “also.” Is the man proclaiming his own discipleship to Jesus? It would seem so. In v.28 the Pharisees are incensed and notice they refer to the man as a disciple of Jesus. In v.28 the Pharisees say that they are disciples of Moses. In v.29 they say, “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." Again see the response of the blind man.
In v.30-33 the man responds, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." Filled with anger and arrogance, the Pharisees cast him out. He was excommunicated.
Now, let me ask. Was this man converted? Had this man received life in Christ? I think so. When Jesus cured his blindness he began a good work in that man. And in his dialogue with the Pharisees we see the light of life dawning in the man. Clearly the man was not going to deny what had happened to him and he would not deny what Jesus had done for him. He forsook all for Jesus sake. He was receiving life from Jesus. The works of God were already on display in this man’s life. If this man had not received life from Jesus I don’t think he would have risked being excommunicated by the Jewish leaders. He threw his lot in with Jesus.
I point this out because when a person comes to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit begins a work of transformation in that person’s life. It is a transformation that draws a person to surrender more and more of his or her life to the Lordship, the rule of Jesus. This is what it means to be converted. A person gives themselves to Jesus. Have you given yourself to Jesus? Have you received spiritual life in Jesus? You are in church; that is a good thing. But have you entered into the spiritual life that Jesus gives?
III. STAGE 3: WHOLEHEARTED WORSHIP. Jn.9:35-41
Someone told Jesus that the Pharisees had cast the man out. Jesus went to find him. In v.35 Jesus asks, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?" Since the man had never seen Jesus he was not sure who the Son of Man actually was. From v.36 we get the idea that the man was more than ready to make his formal declaration of faith. Jesus said, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you."
The man immediately declared his faith in Jesus and he worshipped Jesus. The word means to bow down, to prostrate oneself. This man had no hesitation in acknowledging Jesus Christ publicly as his Lord.
I’m calling this stage 3. But really, it is the natural continuation of stage 2. Those who receive life in Christ and whose lives are being transformed are willing to publically own Jesus before everyone without reservation. Followers of Jesus seek to live out their faith in Jesus every day. We don’t just worship Jesus on Sunday; we worship Jesus in all we do. What does that look like? Well, if Jesus were with you in the flesh at work, at home, with your friends and neighbors how would his physical presence impact your conduct and conversation?
It’s clear that the man publicly professed his faith and surrender to Christ because in v.40 we see that some of the Pharisees were present. The man didn’t care. He wasn’t looking for their approval. He didn’t care what the world thought about his faith in Christ. There was nothing obnoxious about what the man did. He just wasn’t afraid to declare his allegiance and surrender to Jesus Christ.
In v.39 Jesus says, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind." Last week we noted that Jesus did not come to condemn the world. But look! When people encounter Jesus there are only two ways to respond. Either a person embraces Christ or rejects Christ. Jesus Christ stands as a figure who initiates judgment. This man certainly knew that he had been blind. And there are some who recognize their spiritual blindness. They know that there is more to life than what they are experiencing. They recognize the darkness of their own heart and when they hear the good news about life in Christ their eyes are opened and they turn to Christ. Unfortunately many others think they already see. They have no interest in Christ and they remain in their blindness. That is a sad thing. In your spiritual journey with Jesus, do you bow in worship of Jesus every day?
I remember speaking with a man about Jesus. Even though he had been raised Catholic and knew about Jesus, he was convinced that when he stood before God, God would judge him on the basis of how he performed. He was convinced that he would fare okay. Nothing I said could change his mind about that. He thought he was seeing clearly, but he was blind. He was making his own road to god.
Men and women, the gospel message about the gift of life through faith in Christ is unique among all the religions of the world. As far as I know, there is no other world religion that offers to give a person eternal life and the forgiveness of sins as a gift of God through Jesus Christ. Obviously a gift must be received.
If the gift holds no interest for you or if you think you already have the gift of life apart from Jesus Christ, then you are as spiritually blind as the man was physically blind. Jesus restored his sight and gave him a new life. Jesus can do the same for you if you will have him. Amen.