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Oct 28, 2012

Sightseeing with the Blind

Passage: John 9:1-41

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Life to the Full

Keywords: vision, sight, blindness, blind, trials, trouble, restoration

Summary:

So much of life depends on sight: relationships, language we use, how we approach life. Blindness changes everything, too. This message looks at the blindness that afflicts all of us and how Jesus desires to heal of us. Will we let him heal us in his way or demand that it be done according to our expectations?

Detail:

Sightseeing with the Blind

Life to the Full—John 9:1-41

October 28, 2012

 

Get Acquainted:  Imagine your closest family member or best friend has been born blind and has never seen even 1 second of what you have experienced sighted for life.  How would you describe one of the following visual experiences:

  • A beautiful sunset
  • A mountain vista
  • A disco ball

 

VIDEO:  YouTube’s 5-minute“Jake Olson's Out of Sight Faith"--http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZwd2__ahMY&feature=related

 

Sight is an unbelievable gift, is it not?  Every one of our 5 sense is, but there is something very special about sight. 

 

Just close your eyes right now for 60 seconds and think about what happens when you cannot see?

  • Time slows down.
  • What you try to do decreases.
  • We become more cut off from others.
  • We become more dependent upon others.
  • We become more vulnerable to every danger every day…greater fear of what is going on around us.
  • We have difficulty taking care of our own needs:  grooming, cooking, cleaning, etc.
  • We slow down everything we do.

 

How many of us actually have friends who are blind?  With an estimated over 40 million blind people worldwide, that works out to about 1 per 150 people.  Most of us know hundreds, sometimes thousands of people.  Yet how many blind people have we really known?  Blindness changes more than just your sight.  It changes every moment of every day of your life…and it changes YOU!

 

Statistically there are more blind people in the 2/3rds world population than in the industrialized world.  That was the world to which Jesus wanted to come.  If you asked Jesus, “Tell me, how many blind people have you met,” he would answer, “Quite a few…but they aren’t blind anymore!”  You see, Jesus healing of the blind was one of the prophecies he fulfilled which should have been sound and solid evidence to the Jews that he was the Christ.

 

Isaiah 35:4-6

Behold, your God will come with vengeance,
With the recompense of God;
He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then the lame shall leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the dumb sing.

Isaiah 42:

1“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.

“I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness,
And will hold Your hand;
I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the Gentiles,
To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the prison,
Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.

When John the Baptist was in prison and apparently experiencing a few doubts (as we all do) when life was not unfolding as he had expected with Jesus, he sent two of his disciples to question Jesus as to whether He was really the Promised One.  Matthew 11 records his question:

“Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

Matthew 15--29 Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. 31 So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

 

But instead of recognizing what was so very plain to any unbiased observer, the leaders of Israel/the People of God refused to “see.”  And Jesus ends up speaking to them over and over again with very direct words, “Woe to you, blind guides…you fools and blind…you blind Pharisees.”  Yet instead of repenting, instead of recognizing that they have a problem, they maintain that they can see just fine, thank you…and they kept walking in the darkness. 

 

APP:  This is one of the dangers for every one of us here today who claims that we now have spiritual sight through knowing Jesus Christ.  The more power we have, the more authority we are entrusted with, the more leadership we are given…the greater the danger that we will be blind to new moves of God all the while declaring how well we see. 

  • Parents with children.
  • Husbands with wives
  • Pastors and church leaders with parishioners
  • Teachers with students
  • Politicians with the populace!
  • Bosses with employees

The capacity for “blindness” in those who should know best should never cease to amaze and humble us.  We are not immune.  Only humility and letting go of what we think we have a right to control can guard us from becoming “blind guides.”

 

APP:  Take stock for a moment of the relationships you are in where that is a real danger.  Are you a parent?  A husband?  An employee?  A teacher?  A church leader? A team leader?  Constant conflict, just as with Jesus, might actually be a symptom that the main problem lies with us, not those “under” us. 

 

So let’s go back to John 9 and pick up the story in vs. 1.  Jesus is somewhere in Jerusalem, as we saw last week, the sort of anti-Disneyland-- the most dangerous place on earth for Jesus.  The disciples are with him and they are walking through a street where this blind man could not be ignored or hidden. Apparently they had all seen him…kind of like when you find yourself stealing glimpses of a blind person on the sidewalk, afraid that they will somehow sense you are staring at them! J  And now the disciples have a theological question to ask Jesus as a result of this blind man they just passed.  Perhaps they whispered the question to Jesus or perhaps, popping off like too many of us are prone to do, they just blurted out within earshot of the man the common theological belief of the day:

            “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Nothing like adding insult to injury!  “Hey blind guy, who screwed up in life so badly that you were born blind, you…or your parents?”  Not exactly a big multiple-choice quiz!

            I can imagine the blind man thinking, “Let’s see, I was blind from birth…so, golly, it must have been ME, right?!  What horrible sin could I have possibly committed IN THE WOMB that deserved this???”

            Can we just say that some theology is SO obviously wrong if you just take a moment to think about it that it should never come out of our mouths. 

            So the only real “theological option” they were left with was what?  The parent’s sin must have been responsible for their son’s blindness.  Wow, what a comfort!  J  Yah, for whom???  Certainly not for the parents.  I’m sure this wasn’t the first time someone had suggested that causal option to them.  How much false guilt had they been dragging around every day of their life wondering what they had done wrong that had resulted in a child, a teenager, a man who would never see the light of day for one moment?! 

            The fact is, there is already real distance between this man and his parents over something.  Perhaps his blindness had taken a huge toll on their family and marriage as serious illness often still does in many marriages and families today. 

I think there is a huge disconnect between this son and his parents over something.  Whether they dumped him after years of draining parenting or whether he dumped them through bitterness over what life and they had handed him, we don’t know.  But the simple fact that neither parent shows up to even celebrate his new-found sight until they are summoned by the religious authorities, says volumes.  And when they do show up, they say everything possible to keep themselves as far removed as possible from their son’s miracle.  Really???  But I’m getting ahead of the story.

 

Back to vs. 3.  Jesus is quick to correct the disciples’ (and their culture’s) errant theology as He responds,

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned…but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

You mean to tell me that God would allow a baby, a child, a teenager and then a man to have to live with blindness for all those years just so that “the work of God might be displayed in his life”???? 

Answer:  YES!

APP:  The fact is, God has allowed every one of us, to lesser or greater degrees, to experience the effects of living in a sinful, fallen world SO THAT God might be displayed in our lives. Now we can kick against that truth.  We can shout and rail and curse and swear at God about that truth.  But the reality is, every one of us has grown up “damaged goods.”  Some have handicaps.  Some have mental or emotional challenges.  Some aren’t so smart.  Some have been abused.  Some lived in poverty.  Some didn’t get proper medical care.  Some were in alcoholic or drug-addicted families.  Some were given everything material and nothing relational.   The list is endless!  But the solution is singularJesus’ healing work in a life

 

Our disability, our wounds, our weaknesses…they are all opportunities for God to be glorified and for His work to be displayed in our lives. 

 

STORY:  Susan P. and her counseling practice that resulted from her horrific sexual abuse as a child.

 

APP:  So what do you have that you’ve always thought was sort of a raw deal from God?  What part of your history?  What experience or accident or inherited trait have you resented?  Jesus is walking by you right now.  He’s wanting to do a really big miracle in you today.  He may want to heal you physically…or he may want to heal you relationally or emotionally or spiritually.  I don’t know.  But I do know Jesus IS the God who heals.   And he does it so that his glory, his work, might be shown to the whole world through our need

 

[PRAYER:  Invite people to pray for Jesus’ healing.in groups.] 

 

So we pick it up in vss. 4 & 5.

“I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 

 

It’s interesting what Jesus felt compelled to do in life.  What’s the last event you felt “compelled” to go to?  Sometimes we’re “compelled” to attend an event we don’t really want to. 

ILL:  If you have or have had 5th & 6th grade school children who play a musical instrument in Spokane Public Schools, you’ve had the “joy” of attending the all-city “Band & Strings Spectacular” at the Arena every May.  For 11 years running (Joanna-violin, Daniel-trumpet, Andrew-percussion, David-cello, Mikias-trumpet, Yohannes-flute…only 1 year…thanks, Yo), Sandy and I experienced that “spectacular” where from 2,000-3,000 budding musicians all try to play together something that resembles music you recognize.  J  Love and good parenting “compelled” us to do that…and nothing else!  That’s one kind of “compelling”

There is another kind of being “compelled” to do something that is quite different. It’s what happens when you “fall in love” and feel “compelled” to start dating…or accept a proposal…or even get married.  The motivating force behind both examples is certainly love, but in the latter case of your love life, the compulsion is far from reluctant or coerced.  It’s an inner drive of our soul that “compels” us to do something that we love, something that is pleasing to us. 

 

There were probably certain things in Jesus’ life where he felt reluctantly “compelled” to do the Father’s will.  The crucifixion certainly fell into that category.  But more often than not, I think the feeling of compulsion Jesus had was one of joyful, “I can’t wait to do this” compulsion due to his love for doing the Father’s will.  He knew that the Father had sent him for a reason and that He had given him certain “work” to do.  This healing of the blind beggar was one such “work” God had waiting for him to do that day.  And, as often was the case, there would be plenty of people who would NOT be in favor of what he was doing.

            And there was a certain time-frame in which those “works” could be done.  Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.”  That last phrase refers, I believe, to his upcoming crucifixion.  Literal darkness would descend on the earth in the middle of the day.  But the crucifixion would also spell the end of Jesus’ “works.”  His “it is finished!” would ring across the universe for all time. 

His works would now be finished.  And he would pass on the baton of the Father’s works still to be done to his followers, you and me.  That could not be clearer than when he said in vs. 5, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  Didn’t Jesus say something about US being “the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14-16)In fact, he went on to say in Mt. 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” 

Wow!  It could not be clearer.  There is an inner “compulsion” of the Holy Spirit that calls us, just as it did Jesus, into “the works of Him who sent” us—Jesus. 

APP:

  • What do you feel “compelled to do” in the spectrum of “good works” that you can do in Jesus’ name?  Preach the Gospel?  Take care of widows and orphans?  Heal?  Teach the Scriptures?  Encourage believers? Go into prison and share Christ or lead Bible studies?  Help people coming out of prison to know Christ and turn their lives around?  Fund a ministry in some other part of the world?  Engage in a daily prayer ministry interceding for others?  Start a new church?  Disciple and mentor youth or young adults?  Reach a block, neighborhood of building for Christ?
  • OR have we become so calloused or immune to the Father’s will about good works that we can go weeks and months without actually engaging in them?  

 

APP:  If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for any length of time, you know what that Holy Spirit-led compulsion is all about.  When the Spirit of God lives in you, there is a divine compulsion to do that which our Heavenly Father has prepared for us to do. And when you’re not doing those “God-created good works”, our lives often feel very flat.  Fact is, every single day can hold some of those Heavenly Father-prepared works.  We just need to ask God to show us and be sensitive enough to people and life around us as well as the Holy Spirit to stop, look, listen and engage in what God has for us. 

            That’s what Jesus did in this chapter.  The work he is about to do in this man’s life will radically change both the man and Jesus’ relationship to the religious leaders.  This man will no longer be able to beg for alms.  He’ll have to get a job.  He’ll have to learn a trade he’s never had before.  As we’ll see, he’s going to become the enemy of a bunch of people.  His relationship with his parents is going to change, and maybe not for the better.  BUT, he’s also going to see for the first time…and the rest of his life. 

            Ready for Holy Spirit-led compulsion in life?  Need to PRAY for it?  Respond to it?  Let your light shine?

 

The rest of the story is really pretty straightforward…and humorous, frankly.  Jesus next does something most of us would find pretty repulsive:  he spits into the dust and makes mud.  Then he rubs that mud over the eyes of this blind man. 

            Let’s not try to make this sound better than it was, O.K?  To have someone spit in your eye is bad enough, right?  But to put mud on your eyes…mud made with your spit…that really is over the top, don’t you think?  

            What do you suppose Jesus is testing here?  The man’s willingness to let Jesus mess with his life?  I’m sure he knew how that mud was made.  He could hear Jesus spit.  He could feel the moist mud on his eyes. How many people would have taken Jesus’ actions as unnecessarily humiliating? 

APP:  When we ask Jesus to heal or change something in our lives, we all have some sort of preconceived notions of HOW he is going to do that, don’t we?  Whether consciously or not, there are probably a lot of WAYS of answer our prayers that don’t fit our expectations.  Often the PROCESS God employs to radically change or heal something in our life may be a real test of humility and submission. 

            This blind man could have gotten all offended.  He could have rejected Jesus’ healing at numerous points along the miracle:  the first sound of spitting saliva, the initial mud-pack on his eyes, the probably long and difficult journey to the pool of Siloam, the need to wash in that pool.

But he didn’t.  He let the process of healing follow God’s plan for wholeness. 

            Are we humble enough to let God deal with us as He determines rather than as we demand

            What intervention are you asking for/needing that God may have a different process than what you anticipate?  Willing to submit to Him?  Follow the process no matter how long or difficult or humbling it may be? 

 

PRAY:  submitting to the process of God’s intervention in your life.

 

So this man obeys Jesus and goes to the Pool of Siloam, literally “the pool of the sent.”  How appropriate, no?  Then, for the first time in his LIFE he SEES!  Light, color, shapes, textures, sky, dirt, faces, animals…they all take on a completely new understanding and experience for him.  Can any of us imagine what he must have felt? 

 

You would think that the whole city would be throwing a party for him.  You would think that his family would have been beside themselves with joy and his neighbors parading him through the streets like a sports hero.  But that was, unfortunately, not their reaction.  It’s amazing how hard people will work to deny the power of God. 

 

Notice how 4 different groups of people reacted and related to this man-turned miracle.

 

First, there were his neighbors. Vss. 8-12. 

They were a mixed bag of believers and doubters.  That’s understandable given the fact that simply gaining his sight undoubtedly changed his whole demeanor. 

  • Rather than head down he was probably looking up, drinking in the faces of people and the sights of the city.
  • Rather than withdrawn and unmoving, he was probably brimming over with excitement and greeting everyone whose voice he could remember.

The neighbors also had two questions they hoped he could answer:

1.)    “HOW were your eyes opened?”

2.)    “WHERE is [this Jesus who healed you]?”

The HOW he had an answer for—Jesus did this…and I did what Jesus told me to.  Pretty simple.

The WHERE he didn’t have an answer for. 

 

Then we’re introduced to the second group:  the Pharisees, not exactly Jesus’ fan club.  In vs. 14, John lets us know that it was “a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.”  Already you can smell trouble.  We’re prone to ask, “Since when would a healing of such amazing proportions be a violation of the Sabbath?”  Well, possibly on 3 accounts:  1.) because healing itself was forbidden on the Sabbath except in cases where life itself was in danger, clearly not the case here.  2.) kneading was among the prohibited categories of work on the Sabbath and making mud from pit and dirt could well have struck the leaders as falling under that prohibition.  And finally, the fact that the blind man was required to find his way to the pool and wash may have been considered improper for a blind person. 

            Seems pretty ludicrous to us, doesn’t it?  Until we stop long enough to think about the expectations and demands we in the church make on people trying to figure out what it means to relate to the Living God. 

How comfortable are we in a “church service” with, say people who…

  • …interrupt the preacher?
  • …or fall asleep and snore in the service?
  • ...or wear something we consider inappropriate?
  • …or come from a particular background…or different socio-economic class…whether higher or lower?
  • …a worship service where there is no preaching?
  • …where there is no music?
  • …where there is incense…or written prayers…or cantors…or robes and vestments…or icons and statues…or no musical instruments…or kneeling benches…or use of the sign of the cross.

ILL:  One of the Moody students who I was talking with Friday afternoon as we stood outside of the Riverpark Square offering “Free Prayer” told me this week about how a church treated his brother at one point, asking him to leave the service because he was wearing shorts to the service rather than pants! 

            We have this tendency to “strain at gnats while swallowing camels” when we get too “religious,” don’t we.  Or maybe it is when we become too comfortable with the absence of God’s power and life in our routine such that we become threatened by the life-altering transformation of Christ in other people’s lives???  God help us to hunger after the life Jesus wants to give rather than the “order” we want to make of our lives.

 

These Pharisees also asked the “HOW did you get your sight?” question.  Some of them had already made up their minds that Jesus was “not from God (vs. 16), while others were already struggling with the theological problems of such a healing coming through anyone that was not pleasing to God.  Like the blind man’s neighbors, they were divided in their opinion. 

 

Then John lets us know that the blind man himself is forming his own opinions about Jesus in vs. 17.  When asked, “What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes,” the man responds, “He is a prophet.” 

 

Then we get introduced to the 3rd group--his parents.  Since the doubters couldn’t explain the miracle, they could at least try to explain away the evidence by discrediting the man.  The parents are called, questioned as to whether this is their son born blind and how they explain his apparent sightedness now. 

            They obviously smell a trap and do everything short of disowning him to avoid being in any way tied to him and the work of Jesus in his life. 

Some of you know what this is like.  Some of you have come out of pretty confused, convoluted, even corrupted pasts.  Jesus has touched you in some deep ways and your life has changed.  Does everybody in your family believe you and trust in Christ?  Do all your former friends accept your own words about what Christ has done for you?  Hardly.  It’s amazing how hard some people will work to deny the transformational power of Jesus.

 

From here on, it’s all downhill between the Pharisees and this transformed former blind man.  [Read 9:24-34.]

 

Finally we are reintroduced to Jesus.  Having heard that the Pharisees had thrown this man out of the synagogue, Jesus goes searching for him.  And he addresses him about THE most important belief he will ever have—“Do you believe in the Son of God?” (vs. 35).  Jesus brings this whole amazing event back to one critical question:  where do YOU stand with Jesus, the Son of God? 

QUESTION:  Where do you stand with Jesus?  Do you really trust Him?  Really place your whole life, future, eternal destiny in His hands?  Really want Him more than the praise of people or the acceptance of the crowd…of anyone? 

 

Have you allowed Him to touch your spiritual eyes, to ask you to do something you may find humbling, to put your feet to your faith and do whatever he asks you to do? 

 

Or do you think you have all you need spiritually?  Do you think you’ve got it all figured out, that you can “see” as Jesus said.  You can be very religious or “spiritual” in life but be totally outside of Christ and be spiritually blind.  People who think they can handle life and eternity without Jesus are spiritually blind and need to humble themselves before Jesus, asking Him to give them spiritual sight and understanding. 

 

[Personal testimony of our religious family.]

 

But spiritual blindness isn’t limited, unfortunately, to those outside of Jesus.  It can also afflict God’s own children, people who “know the truth” and yet have become so convinced we “get it” that we no longer do.  Jesus’ last words to the last church in the last book of the Bible, the Lukewarm Laodicean church, tells us that we can think we are spiritually rich, wealthy and have need of nothing while, in reality, we don’t even know  we are “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” 

 

Can you imagine a church where that internal spiritual reality was actually the external physical reality? 

  • Wretched:  what would we smell like today if that were true of us?  How would our hair look?  Our skin?  Our clothes look? How horrified would we be to look in the mirror and see ourselves in this condition?
  • Miserable: speaks to the state of our personality and character.  What if we were not respectable, if we had no manners, if we didn’t cover our  crudeness with pleasant behaviors?
  • Poor:  what if all we had that buffers us from poverty were taken away?  What if we were all homeless, all penniless, all destitute of food and the basic essentials of life?  How would we relate differently to God and each other then, regardless of the cause of our poverty?
  • Blind:  add to all those indignities blindness and where are you?  Totally vulnerable, totally destitute, totally in need of a miracle in order to have any kind of a future and hope.
  • Naked:  can there be anything more humiliating? 

 

People of God, brothers and sisters, “blessed are the poor in spirit”…those who know they desperately need a miracle or two from the hand of God if we are to experience life as God truly designed it to be.