Grace and peace be to you from God our Spiritual Father, and from our Leader and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our Scripture readings for this Sunday have a unifying element. God leading people out of darkness into the light.
It’s a simple metaphor, and we still use it today. “I was completely blind” means I didn’t know something. “I’ve seen the light” means now I understand.
The Bible says that all of us are born blind to spiritual truth. We don’t know who God is, or what He is like. We’re born sinners, and sin make us blind to the truth.
Think about Adam and Eve in the garden. We preached about Adam and Eve’s first sin just a few weeks ago. Of course you remember what the Devil promised – eat from this forbidden fruit and you’ll be as wise as God. But when they did, the opposite happened. They became blind to the obvious.
When they heard God walking through the garden, sinful Adam and Eve tried to hide from their all-knowing creator. You could say sin made them stupid, or blind. It amounts to the same thing.
Maybe you’ve done the same. I have. Done something that was wrong, and tried to hide it. Covered your tracks. Hid the evidence. Lied to people who suspected something. But God knew. Just like Adam and Eve, we can try to hide things from God. But He knows.
In the Bible God makes it clear that He knows what we’ve done. He wants us to know that He knows, not to rub it in our face, but to move us to come to Him openly. Holding up our sin for Him to see, and to forgive.
God is in the business of making the blind see. He leads us see our sins and abandon them. He leads us into the light of forgiveness that Jesus won for us on the cross of Calvary.
In today’s sermon reading we’re going to see examples of spiritual blindness. And we’ll see Jesus make a blind man see in more ways than one.
John 9:1-7 (ESV)
1As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
This story gives us some insight into the way the Jewish people thought. The disciples asked why this man had been born blind. In their view, there were two possible answers: either the man had sinned, or his parents had sinned. They figured that a curse like blindness from birth had to be a specific judgment from God because of some “particularly bad” sin.
This wasn’t the only time Jesus came across this flawed way of thinking. Turn to Luke 13, verse 1.
“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4Or 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? 5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:1-5 NIV).Preachers today level the same condemnation on others whenever some great calamity comes along. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans they said it was because of the horrible sins of Bourbon Street. Or more recently, I’m sure there have been accusations that the people of Japan were being judged by God when the ocean waves crashed over their shores and wreaked havoc.
It’s a good idea to let God tell you when He’s acting in judgment and when He’s not. And it’s a good idea to remember what Jesus said about local tragedies in His day – these people weren’t more guilty than all the others living. Not at all. We’re all guilty of falling short of God’s standards, and unless we realize that, we too will perish – eternally.
But back to the blind man and the disciples. They figured there were only two possible reasons this man had been born blind. Some sin of his, or some sin of his parents. But Jesus said “none of the above”. This man had been born blind so that Jesus could heal him, and bringing glory to God.
Again, remember the garden of Eden. Satan presented Eve with two possible options – don’t take the fruit and remain stupider than God and under his thumb. Or, take the fruit and be just as wise as God. Satan took care not to hint that there just might be a third option: Remain faithful to God and see what blessings He has in store.
Satan does the same thing to us today. He presents only the choices he wants us to see, colored the way he wants them to look. And in our sin we remain blind to the best way – God’s way. When it seems like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, pray that God would open your eyes to His way.
Before we move on, I’ve got to mention one more delightful detail that we find here. Jesus used spit-mud to convey His healing to the blind man. I like this detail because it’s just like God to use the worthless to accomplish miracles.
God’s word often teaches us to do what the sinful world say is worthless. He says to love our enemies. He says to lend without expecting to be repaid. He says to repay evil with good. He says to forgive others not once, or a few times, but unlimited times. Or think of what the Father told the Son to do. In order to defeat death, He was to die. In order to save sinners, He was to die at their own hands. When God calls you to be foolish in the eyes of the world, remember that God’s foolishness is wiser than man’s greatest wisdom.
And what do you know, it worked. The man washed Jesus’ spit-mud off in the pool of Siloam, and for the first time saw the world of color and light. That was a good day for him. And you can almost hear his happiness in our next reading.
John 9:13-17 (NIV)
13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16Some 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. 17So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
It’s not hard to see the cataracts of sin covering the Pharisees eyes here. Jesus has healed a man who was blind from birth. That was utterly unheard of. And the man himself had told them how Jesus did it, with mud. Mud! Obviously this was no natural remedy. But in their spiritual blindness, all the Pharisees can see is Jesus failing to rest on the Sabbath.
Maybe they considered making mud to be “working”. Maybe they classified any kind of healing as “work” not fit for the day of rest. Really, it doesn’t matter. They missed the whole point. This miracle was a sign that Jesus was from God.
The light of this revelation was dimly glowing on the horizon for some of them. We’re told that there was a division among them. Some said Jesus couldn’t be from God because He was working on the day of rest. Others couldn’t get over the magnitude of this miracle. How could any man do this without God being with Him?
In an action very unlike the Pharisees they turned and asked the formerly blind man what he thought. His response glows with admiration. “He is a prophet”, he said.
Jesus had brought this blind man vision, and spiritual insight.
Now, let’s not move on before taking an important lesson from the Pharisees. Remember, they were the religious elite. They knew their Old Testament Bibles like the back of their hand. Their best friends were the Scribes, the people who painstakingly made copies of the Old Testament by hand, and who were the Bible scholars of their day. And yet, the Pharisees were as spiritually blind as everyone else because they didn’t accept Jesus.
There are Bible churches all over this city. All over this country. All over this world. But when the teachers and pastors from those churches don’t know sin and grace – they’re just as blind as everyone else. Is it remarkable that we find all sorts of strange teachings in churches that don’t focus on the message of free grace given through Jesus? Jesus Himself once said,
“22“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”Only through God’s Son can we know God. Only through tracing the Words of the Bible carefully can we truly learn spiritual truths in this world.
23Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (Luke 10:22-24 NIV).
Our last little reading shows what it takes for a blind sinner to become a seeing saint.
We skip ahead to verse 34. The Pharisees have been interrogating the formerly blind man, and he’s gotten a little tired of their repeated questions. He’d already told them what they wanted to know, but they wouldn’t accept it. Finally he sarcastically asked them if they were asking all these questions because they wanted to become Jesus’ disciples. Well, that was too much for the Pharisees.
John 9:34-38 (NIV)
34They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
35Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
If you read the part we skipped over, you’ll find that the Pharisees interrogated the blind man’s parents before him. His parents played dumb because they knew that the Pharisees had decided that anyone who said Jesus was the Christ would be kicked out of the synagogue.
So, when it says that they “cast him out” it probably means two things. One, that they were done talking to him, and that they were kicking him out of the synagogue.
So, Jesus hears that he’s been kicked out, and He seeks him out to have a conversation. And in this conversation Jesus simply tells the man that He is the “Son of Man” from the Old Testament.
How crazy this must have sounded to the formerly blind man. The Son of Man?! Really? The passages in the Old Testament that talked about the “Son of Man” were all about glory and authority and grandeur, and here was Jesus talking to him, a guy that just got booted from the church by the big shots in the church!
Imagine how this man must have gone home and pondered over everything he had ever been taught by the Pharisees. Maybe they didn’t see everything quite so clearly as they let on. This Jesus was the Son of Man. The Christ from God.
Did you notice what had to take place before this man came to faith? Jesus had to tell Him the truth. That’s what it takes for a blind sinner to become a seeing saint. Jesus’ message is heard, and faith takes hold.
Like Paul later wrote…
“For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”Sin makes us blind to God and all His goodness. But the Gospel message makes us see again. Through the Bible we see God’s high standards clearly, and His higher grace in Christ Jesus our crucified and risen Savior.
14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:12-15 NIV).
You’ve heard this message before. You’ve believed. So take one more lesson from our text. Speak the message! You might mess it up. You might say the wrong thing. But this much is guaranteed, if you don’t say anything they won’t have a chance. Sinners are blind, just like you were.
But what should you say, you ask? Well, say something. Better yet, say something that speaks of Christ’s love that YOU have felt personally. Say something, and let Jesus make the blind see.