Sermon Notes and Audio
Scripture Focus- John 9
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When Pierre-Paul Thomas was growing up in Montreal, Canada in the 1940s he couldn’t play hockey with his brothers and it broke his heart. Thomas was born blind. For most of his life he could only imagine the world that people often described to him. For years he walked with a white cane to avoid obstacles in front of him. But at the age of sixty-six, Thomas fell down the stairs in an apartment building and fractured the bones of his face. He was rushed to the hospital with severe swelling around his eyes. A team of doctors went to work to repair the bones. Months later he went to be examined by a plastic surgeon for a consultation about repairing his scalp.
The surgeon casually asked Thomas, “Oh, while we’re at it, do you want us to fix your eyes too?” Thomas did not understand. Nor did he know how to respond. Turns out he had a condition that could be overcome. Not long after that, Thomas had surgery and could truly see for the first time.
Suddenly his world consisted of bright colors he had never fathomed before. He spoke of being awestruck by flowers blossoming and trees blooming. As beautiful as this story of a sixty-year-old man who was able to see for the first time is, there is a sad reality. He could have had the same surgery at a younger age and been able to see earlier. Thomas had assumed such a possibility was impossible and had resigned himself to a life of blindness when, in reality, he could have experienced the gift of sight decades earlier.
Adapted from Kyle Idleman, AHA: The God Moment That Changes Everything (David Cook, 2014), page 76; original source: Aaron Derfel, “Blind No More,” Montreal Gazette (7-27-13)
In this passage, we are going to learn about a man who was born physically blind. Jesus, who is the Light of the World, healed this man but the significance of the healing is far greater than what happened physically. In it, Jesus demonstrates that He is the One who provides sight for the blind.
1. People are spiritually blind without the Light of the World.
Jesus was passing by and saw a man. The man was blind- because the man was blind he had never seen his own reflection, he had never watched a sunset. He had never seen the face of a child. He had lived his entire life in a state of darkness.
The man was blind from birth- We aren’t sure how the disciples knew he was blind from birth, but perhaps he was known in the area, or was even asking for help along those lines- “Help me, I have been blind from birth.” The man was begging- no doubt he couldn’t find employment because of his condition and he was reduced to begging for what food and money he received.
There is a parallel here that is crucial to understanding the point of this man’s situation, and our own situation:
The blind man could not see Jesus physically.
People who are not saved, cannot see Jesus spiritually.
In the midst of this, Jesus addressed the Divine necessity of doing the work of God, and the Divine urgency of doing so.
V4 We must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. V5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
Day represents a limited opportunity. Jesus was speaking specifically of the shortness of time that He and the disciples had to work with as the cross approached. For us, day represents our lives, and specifically the window of opportunity God has given us to serve Him and do His work.
Night represents the end of the opportunity. Jesus was speaking of when they would be overcome with darkness, and His death would take place. Death, will mean the end of our lives, and the closing of the opportunity God has given us to serve Him and do His work.
We must serve God with a sense of urgency and purpose.
Ephesians 5:15-17 Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk- not as unwise people but as wise- making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 But if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. IN their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The god of this world is Satan, who controls the ideologies, opinions, hopes, aims, goals, and views that are currently strong in the world. He is behind the world’s philosophy, and ideologies. His attack on humanity, is to blind and delude the lost, so they cannot see the light of the Gospel.
People apart from Jesus are dead in their trespasses and sins, veiled from the truth, haters of light and lovers of darkness.
Ephesians 2:1-3 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.
People apart from Jesus cannot think rightly about spiritual truth because their minds are depraved.
Let me give you a good example of this-
In a popular interview posted on YouTube, scientist Leonard Mlodinow, who co-authored The Grand Design with Stephen Hawking, declared, “Science shows that God is not necessary to explain the universe.” He also adds, “I find it very hard to see how people could believe in the Bible.” But then Mlodinow gave this very surprising answer to another question on the same interview:I tend not to believe things that there is no evidence for. But it is not always true. I do believe, for instance, in aliens. I believe that there is life on other planets, and I think there is no evidence for that. We don’t understand the origin of life on Earth well enough to say how probable it is that on another star life would form. But in my heart for some reason I find myself believing that.
Christian apologist William Lane Craig commented on this quote: That is really bizarre, isn’t it? That he believes in aliens even though he says he has no evidence for it, but he just finds he believes in his heart that extraterrestrial life exists. But he doesn’t apparently find it in his heart to think that God exists the way many people do. If he thinks he is rational in believing in aliens, why isn’t it rational to believe in God?
William Lane Craig, “Leonard Mlodinow and the Rise of Scientific Atheism,” Reasonable Faith podcast (5-1-16)
People are spiritually blind without the Light of the World.
2. The Light of the World displays the glory of God.
The disciples were puzzled about the condition of the blind man they encountered, and asked Jesus, v2 “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
This was a common Jewish view- Sin and Suffering are directly linked. If something is wrong in your life, then you must have done something wrong. This is similar to Job’s ‘friends’ who thought there was a direct reason as to why Job was experiencing his circumstances. The man could not have been responsible for his condition unless he somehow sinned before he was born. That was a view that was widespread in Judaism.
Suffering in general is ultimately a result of sin and the fall of man. Also, specific problems can sometimes arise as a direct consequence of behavior.
There are OT examples in which God promises punishment on children for the sins of their parents.
Exodus 20:5 God said to Israel, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me.”
The point is this- the sin of one generation, is either passed down to subsequent generations directly, or those generations suffer the ongoing consequences of them. Subsequent generations suffer from the previous generations disobedience.
Jesus replied to their inquiry- V3 Neither this man nor his parents sinned. This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in Him.
There was not a direct link here between suffering and personal sin. God chose to use this man’s blindness, for His own glory.
This was sovereignly permitted to be the situation in this man’s life, in order to show how great and wonderful the works of God are. The works of God would bring healing to him, as an act of mercy and power. We should have mercy and compassion on those who are suffering. We can learn from this that God always has a greater purpose in suffering, for the display of His glory.
Illustration from geological world- Clay is actually composed of many microscopic clay mineral crystals, which not even a light microscope can see. But under pressure the clay minerals are not crushed or made smaller. Rather, they grow larger. The minerals change into new larger biotype grains forming slate, found sometimes on buildings. With even more pressure, the minerals become even larger. And some are transformed into garnets, which are semi-precious gems.
This geological process illustrates how pressure and suffering can be used to refine, purify, and mold a person into a more beautiful soul for the glory of God. With even more pressure applied, a new mineral forms called staurolite. The name is from two Greek words meaning “stone cross.” The twin variety forms deep under high mountains in the shape of a cross. A reminder of Christ’s ultimate suffering for us all.
The Light of the World displays the glory of God.
3. The Light of the World can open blind eyes.
The blind man did not call out to Jesus because he could not see Him. Jesus saw the blind man and reached out to him. V6. . . Jesus spit on the ground, made some mud from the saliva, and spread the mud on his eyes.
Why did Jesus spit on the ground and make mud? This is one of two miracles which Jesus is said to have used spit to bring about a cure. The other is the miracle of the deaf mute in Mark 7.
Pliny, the Roman collector of what was referred to as scientific information in those days wrote an entire chapter on the use of spit. He said it was a preservative against poisonous serpents, it protected against epilepsy, and all sorts of others claims, most of which seem like speculative snake oil.
So I don’t know about all that, but what I do know is Jesus is the Great Physician and can use whatever means He sees fit. Some of the early church fathers connected this passage with Genesis 2, and the truth about man being made from the dust of the ground meaning that Jesus was illustrating who He is as the active agent of creation.
After Jesus spread the mud on the man’s eyes, He told him v7, to go wash in the pool of Siloam. ‘Siloam’ is translated “sent”. Water in the pool was sent through the conduit into the city. Jesus had been sent by God the Father to be among the people.
According to William Barclay in his commentary on John 9- The Pool of Siloam was one of the landmarks of Jerusalem; and it was the result of one of the great engineering feats of the ancient world. The water supply of Jerusalem had always been precarious in the event of a siege. It came mainly from the Virgin’s Fountain or the Spring Gihon, which was situated in the Kidron Valley. A staircase of thirty-three rock-cut steps led down to it; and there, from a stone basin, people drew the water.
But the spring was completely exposed and, in the event of a siege, could be completely cut off, with disastrous consequences. When Hezekiah realized that Sennacherib was about to invade, he determined to cut through the solid rock a tunnel or conduit from the spring into the city. If the engineers had cut straight it would have been a distance of 366 yards; but because they cut in a zig-zag, either because they were following a fissure in the rock, or to avoid sacred sites, the conduit is actually 583 yards. The tunnel is at places only about two feet wide, but its average height is about six feet. The engineers began their cutting from both ends and met in the middle–a truly amazing feat for the equipment of the time.
In 1880 a tablet was discovered commemorating the completion of the conduit. It was accidently discovered by two boys who were wading in the pool.
What did the man do? V7 . . .he left, washed, and came back seeing.
Having been cured, he had some difficulty in persuading the people that a real cure had taken place. Jesus is still doing things which seem to the unbeliever far too good and far too wonderful to be true. His neighbors were skeptical and some were not even sure it was him. The formerly blind man kept saying, insistently, I’m the one!! They wanted to know how he had gained sight so he told them what had happened from what ‘the man called Jesus’ had done. They wanted to know where Jesus was, but the man didn’t know.
So they brought the man to the Pharisees and they began to investigate what happened as well. They were so blind; they couldn’t see what a great work Jesus had done in the man’s life. All they were concerned about was that Jesus did it on the Sabbath.
So they pressed a bit further and asked the man what He had to say about Jesus. The man replied- v17 He’s a prophet.
They still couldn’t believe it so they brought the man’s parents in. They confirmed the man was their son, but they had no idea who opened his eyes. Basically they said, he’s a grown man, ask him yourself. They were afraid of the religious leaders.
The Pharisees brought the man back in a second time and told the man that Jesus was a sinner. The man said whether he’s a sinner or not I don’t know. V25 One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I can see!
The Pharisees just wouldn’t let it go and they asked what he did to open the man’s eyes. The man said I already told you and you didn’t listen why do you want to hear it again? V27 You don’t want to become His disciples too do you? All he got for that was ridicule and mocking. The man still wasn’t sure at that point who Jesus was but he knew he could see, and that God had listened to him. There are multiple prophecies in the Scripture about the Messiah coming to bring light to the world. The Pharisees should have known this and concluded who Jesus was.
The man said to them- V33 If this man were not from God, He wouldn’t be able to do anything. On that, he got thrown out.
Jesus found him and asked him- v35 Do you believe in the Son of Man?
The man responded, who is He, Sir, that I may believe in Him? Jesus said, you have seen Him and in fact He is the One speaking to you.
The man exclaimed- v38 I believe, Lord!, and he worshiped Him.
Notice the progression- he referred to ‘the man called Jesus’, ‘a prophet’, the one who ‘opened my eyes’- now. . . Lord!
The Light of the World can open blind eyes.
4. The Light of the World will bring those who think they can see without Him to judgment.
V39 Jesus said, I came into this world for judgment, in order that those who do not see will see and those who do see will become blind.
How should we view the word ‘judgment’ here? It is not condemnation because Jesus says in John 3:17 that He did not come to condemn the world. To judge means to express an opinion in a judicial way. Meaning that Jesus came to declare the true condition of people and show them who they really are.
His coming would have this effect- some would believe and be saved. Others would be condemned because of rejecting Him.
A.W. Pink (Commentary on John)- The object of His mission was salvation; the moral effect of His life was judgment.
Jesus judged no one, but simply by His coming He judged everyone, and eternal judgment has been entrusted to Him by God the Father.
The Light of the World convicts and converts, judges and saves.
Spiritual blindness refuses to admit its blind condition, rejects spiritual sight, and ultimately receives judgment. Spiritual sight only comes to people who acknowledge they do not see, confess their blindness, and receive Jesus who is the Light of the World. They refuse to come to the light because they love the darkness and do not want their evil deeds to be revealed.
The danger for those who reject Jesus and are unwilling to believe, is the danger of remaining permanently blind. Pharaoh hardened his heart against God, and God hardened the heart of Pharaoh. The Pharisees were at that point when they rejected Jesus.
Do you believe?
You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it? C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed.
Our lives are handing over the precipice of eternity. What you believe, and more importantly who you believe in, makes all the difference.