Living for Eternity
Manifesting the Works of God
Turn to John 9. Anne and I had a great time away doing nothing. we always enjoy visiting at Lighthouse Fellowship Church in Kincardine on the two Sundays, but good to be back here at Elim. I believe that you realize by now that my teaching when looking at the Bible is to look at it literally, as there can be some danger in trying to find deeper meaning behind the text when the Bible itself does not give that indication. Sometimes numbers or an event can become things in the Bible that many will go out of their way to make some spiritual significant. And there may be some truth to this, but it can also become something that the Scriptures never really teach. There is mystery in the Bible, but there is no need to look for mystery in the Bible when the Bible does not give any mystery. A good rule is to always look for the clear meaning of every passage.
Now after saying this, I would suggest that we can understand John 9 as more than just the story of the healing of the blind man. A few weeks ago, we looked at more of the storyline of John 9, but this morning I wish to look at the spiritual significance of John 9. Now there are two reasons why I am going to break my own rule. The second, the greater reason, I will give you later. But the first reason I suggest this is because it seems so obvious when Jesus confronts this blind man, after considering much of what has already been written in the book of John. John 1:4 – Jesus was the Light of men. John 3:19 – the Light has come into the world. John 4:21 – he who practices the truth comes to the Light. John 8:12 – Jesus said, I am the Light of the world. Then chapter 9 opens with a man who was born blind. A man who lived his entire life, not in the light, but in darkness. So, the tie-in between the spiritual blindness, as we will see, of the Pharisees, with this man’s physical blindness seems to be obvious. So, let’s look at the story.
“As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this was so that the works of God might be manifested in him.’”
John 9:1-3 (LSB)
We notice at the start that nothing is said to the blind man, and the blind man does not say anything himself at this point. But Jesus after seeing the blind man is asked this question by His disciples, who sinned? The next thing we know (vs 6) is that Jesus spits on the ground and makes clay or mud, and rubs this in the eyes of the blind man. We need to notice a few things here. The blind man did not ask for this, he was not even consulted about this, as the reason for the whole event is so that the works of God might be manifested. Now this is a bit comical, for would you be excited if you were the blind man, and had someone spit and make mud and rub it directly on your eyes? We do not see Jesus say to him, do you want to see? Or I am going to heal you and this mud is going to sting for a bit, but you will get over it. No, Jesus makes it clear only that this man was born blind for one reason that the works of God might be manifested. So, we need to understand that this is a miracle directly acted upon by Jesus. And of course, the man is healed of his blindness, which results in for the balance of much of the chapter of questioning of the whole affair. And basically, the questioning is in regard to the man’s healing, saying to him, what happened?
Look at the language. Verse 8, first they questioned if this was the same guy. Verse 9, some thought he maybe only looked like the man. Now you might think that if the guy himself didn’t say anything, we might understand the confusion, but he himself said, I am the guy, I’m him! Verse 10, they ask, how were your eyes open? Verse 11, he tells them; verse 15, the Pharisees now ask him the same question, he gives the same answer. Verse 16, the Pharisees try to discredit Christ and say He is a sinner. Verse 17, so they ask the blind man about Christ and he says Jesus is a prophet. Now that was probably the wrong thing to say, as some things are not politically correct to say. As today, hey, you can’t say that! Verse 18, they do not believe him and call in the parents. The parents admit that he can now see, but they do not offer anything more because they are afraid, and so they say, (vs 23) ask our son.
“Therefore, a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, ‘Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.’ He then answered, ‘Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ So they said to him, ‘What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘I told you already and you did not listen.’”
John 9:24-27a (LSB)
Verse 34, the Pharisees seem a little annoyed that this guy is not coming around to their thinking. So, they put him out of the synagogue. So, what is happening in this story and the reason there is so much pushback by the Pharisees, is because they feel they are losing control. The status quo is that they are the teachers and leaders of Israel, and now Jesus is on the scene and some are following Him and they do not like it, as losing control is not easy, is it? This is why we struggle so much with what is going on in our world, we feel we are losing control. So, though we do not agree with the Pharisees, we can understand the uncomfortableness of losing control, for the tide is changing.
But there is something else happening in this story. And it is the progression of this man’s knowledge of Jesus, Verse 11, he says a man called Jesus healed me. Verse 12, but admitted that he did not know where He came from. Verse 17, he said that Jesus was a prophet. Now we learn (vs 22) that anyone who called Jesus the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. So, naturally there was some fear from the parents to admit too much, and maybe some fear at first from this man, but he continues on. Verse 25, he says he doesn’t know if Jesus was a sinner, but He did heal me. Verse 27, he insinuates that Jesus was worth following, for he speaks about people being disciples of Jesus. Verse 31, he then concludes that Jesus cannot be a sinner since he was able to do such a miracle. Finally (vs 36) the man acknowledges that Jesus is Lord, and he believes in Jesus and worships Him. Notice (vs 38), “And he said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshiped Him,” proving that He believes Jesus to be the Christ. So, in some sense the Pharisees are losing control, and rightly so. But the blind man is becoming more confident in Christ.
And I know this is not an exact analogy here, but let’s consider the fact that we feel we are losing control of society, and we are. I would even suggest that this blind man, though he can now see, has been kicked out of the synagogue, so in some ways he is losing control. In fact, he has been kicked out by spiritual men who are not spiritual. Yet here is his comfort, he has a growing confidence in Christ. In our losing control, may we also have a growing confidence in Christ.
Now it would also be hard to disassociate this entire discourse from the ultimate conversion of this man at the end of the chapter, as this chapter begins with a physical miracle that unleashes an avalanche of controversy, but the man’s faith grows throughout. But what is just as obvious here is the unbelief of the Pharisees. John Piper said that this “physical miracle is morphing into some kind of spiritual metaphor.” And though, as already stated, I have always been very careful about this, in other words, don’t try to make something out of something, when the text does not do this. But here I believe is the transition in this passage. As this is the greatest reason I see this chapter as speaking about spiritual sight and blindness, and it is at the very end.
“And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, ‘Are we blind too?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now that you say, “We see,” your sin remains.’”
John 9:30-41 (LSB)
The man has just come to Christ. So, we could say that Jesus has healed the man physically and now the man has come to Christ spiritually. But Jesus does not word it this way, for He speaks about the whole story of chapter 9 as a reference to both spiritual sight and spiritual blindness. Again (vs 39) Jesus talks about those who do not see, that they might see; (vs 40) the Pharisees say, are we blind too; and Jesus (vs 41) compares the man’s blindness with their spiritual blindness, and concludes that their sin remains. This whole account is not just about the man’s blindness and the man’s healing, but it is about the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees and their condemnation for being spiritually blind. So, let me try to give you three principles from this story. Principle #1:
- Salvation is the Sovereign Work of God
This is so obvious. This man is just minding his own business, and Jesus heals the man and gives him sight. This is the message of John 3:8, where Jesus speaks about being born again and the work of the Spirit, and He says that “the Spirit blows where it wills and no one knows where it is going, so is everyone who has been born of the Spirit.” This is John 6:37 about those who will come, “all that the Father gives to me will come to Me.” This is John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” This is John 6:65, “no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” Listen, coming to Jesus is a gift from God; just as this man’s physical healing was a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
Eph 2:8 (LSB)
The gift is not given when you come. No, the coming itself is the gift. For faith, Ephesians 2:8, is the gift of God. Folks, if you are not given faith by God, you will not believe. That this man was given physical sight was a physical miracle. So too, you who have been given spiritual sight, is a spiritual miracle, because salvation is the sovereign work of God. Principle #2:
- Unbelief in the Human Heart is Real, Persistent, and Accountable
Here is a question that needs to be asked. Is there some way in which these Pharisees are not accountable for their blindness and therefore not accountable for their unbelief? After all, they haven’t been given to Christ by the Father. After all, they have not been drawn to Christ by God. After all, their coming to Christ has not been granted to them by the Father. For the Bible clearly teaches that those who are given to Christ by the Father, those who are drawn, those who are granted to come, will come. In fact, turn to John 12:40:
“He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes and understand with their heart, and return and I heal them.”
John 12:40 (LSB)
So, how can these guys be accountable? Does this seem fair? Well, this story is going to reveal that it is fair as it will reveal to us the human heart and its persistence in unbelief, proving, that every man is completely accountable for his response to God. For a man is healed from his blindness in this story, his identity is questioned, but it is confirmed that he was the man who was at one time blind. So, they go to the parents. And the identity of the man is again confirmed and the miracle again is confirmed. So, they decide to give the man a second chance of denying Christ, and (vs 24) they say to him, give glory to God, for we know that this man [Jesus] is a sinner. Pretty common way to try to persuade in an argument, right? In other words, if you can’t make your point, just start to criticize the person. In this case they criticize Jesus, saying He is a sinner. In 2-pitch when we couldn’t beat the blue team. So, I just yelled out, the blue team is no good, even though they were way better than us and killing us! Because these guys could not get anywhere with this man who was blind, they quickly conclude that the Man who healed him is a sinner. And here is their condemnation by Christ.
“If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
John 9:41 (LSB)
In other words, if you admitted your blindness. If you would only admit your need of forgiveness. If you would admit that you need Me. You would have no sin, for you would be forgiven. But, since you say “we see,” your sin remains. The miracle of this healing is obvious to you, but you will not acknowledge it. So, these men see something obvious and real, yet they refuse to believe. And what they do is they place themselves above the truth. In other words, they see something that is true, and they say it is not true. Meaning they exalt themselves above God, because it is God who has determined what is true.
I started to read a book by D. A. Carson while I was on holidays. And I was sitting by myself at the beach one day and a group of four ladies came up and we started talking. The usual stuff, weather, great to be on holidays. And then one of the ladies said, “Can I ask what you are reading?’ And I said The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures by D. A. Carson, 1130 pages. No, I didn’t tell them how long it was. To which they quickly moved on down the beach. And one of the things I noted that Carson said, and I paraphrase: That people today are no longer thinking in terms of what something means as truth based upon something that has already been established in the universe, but they are thinking in terms of how we as humans need to bring order and meaning and truth to the universe. Understand this, these men saw truth, but they will not believe it, proving they are blind, yet they still say “we see.” This sounds so similar to our world today doesn’t it? Seeing something that is obvious, but stating otherwise. This is the world we live in. This is the human heart. A world that sees truth, but will not believe it. Proving they are blind. Yet they will still say “we see.” Therefore, Jesus says to the world, your sin remains. Piper states:
“There is a kind of blindness rooted in willful rebellion against God that does not remove guilt.”
See, a person is placing themselves above God when they say, or think “I see.” Those two words are extremely dangerous because it does not matter what their philosophy might be, or how good they act or how bad they act. For if they have not submitted to God, they do not see. Therefore, they lie and they are condemned. And the question to you this morning is, are you blind? Jesus says then you are forgiven. Or do you say “I see”? Jesus says your sin remains.
As a side note, I want to draw your attention to verse 39, where Jesus says “for judgment I came into the world.” For some of you will remember that Jesus has already said:
“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
John 3:17 (LSB)
And later in John 12:47, He will say again “for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” How do we reconcile this with Jesus saying (vs 39), for judgment I came? Well, there is an overwhelming message in the Bible that Jesus came to save. And yet that very salvation ministry reveals those who will be judged. It was not His mission, but because some will be saved, this is the natural fallout of that, some will not. An example would be people drowning in the ocean and the lifeguard comes to save, that is his mission. But some will die, and it is revealed or made known by the saving of others. Hence, the mission of Jesus was not to condemn, but to save. But the condemnation of millions is revealed when they are not saved.
Yet the main thrust of this story is that people saw the miracle. They actually knew the truth of the miracle, yet, they would not believe the miracle. This should help us understand our world. Alistair Begg states this so well. He said this about the unbelief of the Pharisees and the unbelief of the world today:
“Don’t tell me that you can’t believe, tell me that you won’t believe … because there is enough evidence of the living God in creation and in your life and in your very sense of moral oughtness [must be a Scottish term] as to condemn you for your unbelief in God. There is not enough in nature to save you, but there is enough in nature to condemn you. Do not tell me you can’t see, [but admit that] you won’t see.”
He went on to say:
“It wasn’t the absence of good evidence. It wasn’t the compelling nature of the truth that they confronted. They flat-out refused to believe in him.”
For unbelief in the human heart is real, persistent, and accountable. Principle #3:
- Every True Believer has a Tremendous Testimony
We must give so much credit to this man as he makes such a wonderful tribute to what Jesus did for him. The Pharisees say:
“‘We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.’ The man answered and said to them, ‘Well, here is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from, and He opened my eyes.’”
John 9:29-30 (LSB)
The man is totally amazed that they saw something and do not believe it! And he is right as he literally says to them that you will not believe what you saw. And this man had a tremendous testimony. Why? Because he experienced a tremendous healing, and he knew it. Piper said, the power of an argument when you have truth on your side. See, when your Christian testimony is words only, it is nothing, it is so weak. But when your Christian testimony is a real account, it is powerful. But how can you share with someone what the Lord has done and is doing in your life when you are not even certain that a miracle has occurred? Here we have a tremendous testimony from this man because he truly had experienced a miracle, and his excitement cannot be contained. As this is true of anyone whom the Lord has truly changed, their excitement about what the Lord has truly done. And this is what happens to everyone through whom the Lord chooses to save, and through whom He chooses to reveal the work of God. Therefore, we cannot fake this. No work of God, no true conversion. No true conversion, no great and exciting testimony.
I want to invite you to be with us tonight if you can as we begin a new series in the book of Philippians. For Philippians is a book about the joy of the new life. You know there is some talk today about the angry right or the angry conservatives. And I understand this as I can get angry as well, as we have heard more news this week involving further craziness in regards to acceptance of greater ungodly behaviour. Yet we can be fooled into thinking that our priority as Christians is frankly today to become mad and then try to prove others wrong. This is not the message of Philippians, nor is it the message of John 9. For instead of being mad and trying to prove others wrong, we actually are to be overjoyed and share that joy with others. There are certainly times when we must defend our faith, yet there are also times when we should respond like this man. Listen he said, I don’t know everything you are asking me, but Jesus did this for me. Charles Spurgeon said this:
“Defend the Bible? I’d sooner defend a lion. You don’t defend the Bible; you open its cage and let it roar.”
I do not believe that this quote says everything, as there is a time and place for many ways in which we are to express and defend our faith. But what Spurgeon is arguing is for the power of the gospel and the power of a changed life and the power of a testimony! And this seems to be lacking in our society today from the Christian, a telling and sharing, like this blind man, of what the Lord has done in a life. True, the world needs to know that you disagree at times. Young people adults, we need to be bold enough to simply say, I do not agree. But when was the last time you simply shared with someone what Jesus did for you. I was blind and Jesus opened my eyes! For every true believer has a tremendous testimony.
Let’s pray. Lord Your Word is powerful. And maybe there are some here this morning, older or younger, who need to pray for sight. In other words, they have never truly been transformed, never truly born again. And this is something that we cannot do. So, I pray Lord for Your mercy to transform hearts here this morning. For those who would admit their own lostness, who would admit that they cannot see. Maybe those who have been trying to live the Christian life on human strength, but do not really have a miracle story to share. And to those who have truly been born again by the Spirit of God, that we would not bridle that joy. But would be eager and quick to share it with others. So, Lord, would You give us those opportunities, and would You give us the of the man and not the fear of the parents, as our spiritual healing, our spiritual sight has been given so that the works of God might be manifested in us. And all God’s people said, amen.