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Let’s pray. Our gracious heavenly Father, we ask now for Your grace, Your amazing grace, that we might have ears to hear, a heart to feel, a mind to understand, and a will to obey. Open our eyes, O Lord, that we may behold wonderful things from Your Word. In Christ we pray. Amen.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I should have asked you during the greeting to pinch those who aren’t wearing green, although in my last church I had someone from Belfast and he said “no, you wear orange, not green.” Whatever, I did wear some green, but this may be for Michigan State, if you ask me. [laughter] St. Patrick is worth celebrating. Sort of strange that his holiday has become, in America, a day where I’ve heard all week on the radio commercials for anti-nausea medicine, just anticipating that people are going to be celebrating St. Patrick by drinking too much. I think it is safe to say, though I have not met him, that he would not be pleased to know that there is a holiday bearing His name celebrated in such a way.
There is a new, scholarly biography of Patrick that just came out; I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, but I have a book in my library called The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity. It’s a fascinating book about the long, slow transition in Europe from paganism to Christianity. It’s an excellent, fascinating book, and there’s a section there on Patrick. And this book makes clear, and I hate to burst your bubble, but all sorts of things about Patrick that weren’t true. He did not expel the snakes from Ireland. He did not compose that wonderful hymn known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate. He did not drive a chariot three times over his sister to punish her for her unchastity. He certainly did not use the leaves of the shamrock to illustrate the Persons of the trinity. Heresy.
Determining fact from fiction for Patrick is difficult, in part because his writings were not passed along reliably, and because he wrote in particularly poor Latin. He had received little education and he did not handle Latin very well, let that be an encouragement perhaps to some of us. This book says of his Latin it is simple, awkward, laborious, sometimes ambiguous, occasionally unintelligible. Now it’s not what you’re aiming for in your Latin class, but if your teacher should write that, you could say well, I might be the next St. Patrick. [laughter]
Here’s what most scholars do agree on. Patrick’s adult life fell in the fifth century A.D. and he was actually British, not Irish. He was born into a Christian family with priests and deacons for relatives. By his own admission, however, he was not much of a Christian growing up. As a teenager he was carried by Irish raiders into slavery in Ireland. And there he was for six years and it was during this ordeal that he was either converted or his faith deepened, and upon escaping Ireland, he went back home to Britain and while he was with his family, he claims to have received a dream in which God called him to go back to Ireland to convert the Irish pagans to Christianity. These people that had enslaved him for six years, go back and preach to them the Gospel.
In his confession, Patrick writes movingly about his burden to evangelize the Irish, and he explicitly links his vocation to the commands of Scripture. Biblical allusions like “the nations will come to you from the ends of the earth” and “I have put you as a light among the nations” and “I will make you fishers of men.” These allusions flow from his pen. He saw his life’s work through the lens of Matthew 28 and Acts 1. Patrick prayed that God would “never allow me to be separated from His people whom He has won in the ends of the earth,” and for Patrick, the ends of the earth was Ireland.
Over decades, it seems reliable that Patrick made hundreds, if not thousands, of converts. He evangelized in cities, evangelized in the countryside, he encouraged the monastic way of life, ordained priests, planted churches, and he was soaked in the Bible. And what was unique about Patrick, perhaps for the first time, Patrick connected his work of evangelism to these great missionary texts of the Bible. And so in this book Barbarian Conversion, the author says “Patrick’s originality was that no one within western Christendom had thought such thoughts as these before, had never been previously possessed by such convictions. As far as our evidence goes, Patrick was the first person in Christian history to take the scriptural injunctions literally.” That is, after the apostles, I suppose. “Literally, to grasp that teaching all nations meant teaching even barbarians who lived beyond the border of the frontiers of the Roman Empire,” that Patrick was the first to say not just here, not just in the Roman Empire, but beyond even to the so-called barbarians.
So yes, he sounds like a man deserving of some commemoration and holiday. His passion was to see that the Irish, even the Irish, would be given sight, for they, like he was for so many years, blind, and they needed a miracle if they were to see.
And so, in God’s providence, there is something of this day, St. Patrick’s Day, that relates to our text this morning from John chapter 9, about the blind receiving their sight.
Last week we saw a man born blind, was healed by Jesus. The man, we read, was born blind not because he had sinned or his parents had sinned, though those were popular explanations, but rather in order that the might works of God might be displayed.
You would think that this miracle would be the occasion for much rejoicing. What a great day for the man, what a great day for the community, what a great day for Jesus. But no sooner was the man healed than a series of conversations and a great controversy would ensue, and that’s what we want to read this morning. We’re actually going to go back and pick things up at verse 8.
“The neighbors, and those who had seen him before as a beggar, were saying ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘It is he.’ Others said, ‘No, but he is like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ So they said to him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ He answered, ‘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.’ They said to him, ‘Where is he? He said, ‘I do not know.'”
“They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So 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.’ 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. So 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.'”
“The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he know sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.’ (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be the Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore, his parents said ‘He is of age; ask him.'”
“So for the 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 answered, ‘Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘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?’ And they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man answered, ‘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.’ They answered him, ‘You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?’ And they cast him out.”
” Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him. Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’ 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.”
Our plan this morning is very simple. We are going to walk through this long passage and here’s what we’re going to find. Five conversations. I said last week there were four conversations, but if you count the final interaction with Jesus, there are five, so let’s call it five conversations, more than a dozen questions, and then one final conclusion.
Here’s the first conversation, in verse 8 through 12. The man and his neighbors. They ask the first of many questions in this text: Is this not the man who used to sit and beg? You didn’t have many other options in the ancient world if you were born blind. Unless you came from aristocracy or a family of great means, you were left to yourselves and you would beg, that’s how you would make money for yourselves and perhaps even the parents would encourage you to do so, that you might have sympathy and elicit generous donations. So this person was probably well-known to many people in the community, they all knew, well, that’s where that man sits, the man who’s been blind his whole life, that’s where that beggar is.
Now some of them say “well, no, it’s his look-a-like,” but he says “no, listen, I am he.” And so they ask, “How were your eyes opened?” And he says “spit, mud, eyes, Siloam, wash.” That’s what happened. This man came, he spit, made mud, put it on my eyes, that was strange, he said go, I couldn’t see anyway, he said go and I found my way to the pool of Siloam. I went in there, I washed, and now I see.
And they asked the question again: “Well, where is he?” He says “I do not know.”
Here’s conversation two. So that was the man with his neighbors, we looked at that briefly last week. Conversation number two: The man and the Pharisees. And again they ask, verse 14, we read that it was a Sabbath, and so we know that they are going to ask something to try to attack the miracle and Jesus and they ask again: “How did you receive your sight?” Now that’s verse 15, you don’t see a question mark there, but we have it recorded the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight.
And you can just hear the man perhaps getting a little exasperated. “Look,” his answer is now even shorter, “Mud, eyes, wash, see. Okay? What else do you need to know? I got mud, I got eyes, I washed, now they work.”
But we are given this important piece of information for the first time that the healing took place on the Sabbath, just as one of the other signs in chapter 5 the healing of the invalid there took place on the Sabbath. So of course they think Jesus is a law breaker. He didn’t actually break the Sabbath, but He had violated their overly scrupulous traditions about the Sabbath. Rather than the Sabbath being made for man, they thought man was made for the Sabbath. Rather than it being a day of rest and worship, a day for doing good, a day for healing, it had become a day with dozens and dozens of rules and strictures and fine, fine details. And so He had broken their traditions, though He had not actually violated the fourth commandment.
So in their minds, to do this, to heal on the Sabbath, to spit and make mud on the Sabbath, constituted work and therefore He was a sinner.
When hearts are hard, they can be very hard. You might think to yourself, “Well, if I could just see Jesus face-to-face, then it would be so easy for me to believe.” Or you might think, or know someone who thinks this way, “Of I could see a miracle, well, then I would believe. Then it would be so easy to be a Christian.” Really? What did they have here? They had Jesus right in front of them. They had a miracle right in front of them, and yet their hearts were hardened. They were already invested in Jesus not being the Messiah.
So as we’ll see, they’re going to find whatever reason they can to disqualify this miracle and this sign. Well, it took place on the Sabbath and maybe you’re not really healed, maybe it’s not really your son, maybe it’s not really you, maybe you really weren’t blind, maybe you’ve just been squinting really hard your whole life…. They are looking for reasons to disbelieve in Jesus.
I wonder if that describes any of you. Any people you know? Looking very hard for reasons not to believe in Jesus.
Think about it. These Pharisees, they were already emotionally invested. When you get emotionally invested in something being true, you find reasons to support what you want to be true.
They were relationally invested. There was a whole group of them as Pharisees and they had probably talked about it and “our friends are saying this and the people that I know and like are all thinking the same thing.” You’re relationally invested in what you want to be true.
And they were vocationally invested. These were the conservatives, the Pharisees. We think of them as the bad guys; they would have been the evangelical Christians. They took the Bible seriously, they taught the Bible to people. They were very popular with people because of their piety and their understanding of the Scriptures.
But surely they thought this is, this is a threat to our very livelihoods. This is a threat to our privileged position among the Israelites. This is a threat to our work and career.
And when you are emotionally invested, and relationally invested, and vocationally invested, you find reasons to not believe the Bible. You find reasons not to follow Jesus.
It isn’t that people come and just with great big open minds just say “well, present to me all the facts.” Some of you have had occasion before. I remember one time, I’m not usually like this, this was several years ago, and I wish I were this bold, but I, I’m not usually, but I overheard some people in a restaurant and it’s some college students and they were talking about how they couldn’t trust the Bible, and they had just read a book by Bart Ehrman, not UNC’s finest commodity, I suppose. But, he’s a brilliant scholar and he’s a brilliant marketer, and he’s written a number of books trying to debunk evangelical Christianity. And so you have to be careful. Lots of people have written, you know, smart things in response to his books, but they were talking about one of his books and how they couldn’t trust the Bible and I overheard this conversation about how, you know, Constantine did this or it was the Council of Nicaea that invented the Bible, and nobody, and I thought, “I know something about this.” [laughter]
So I went over and I just said “excuse me, I can’t help but hear you talking about this,” and I gave what I thought to be, you know, a really good two minute apologetic. “I know that book that you’re talking about. Here’s where it’s not true” and I’m mentioning councils and I’m mentioning textual criticism, I’m mentioning, you know, biblical fragments and I’m mentioning probably, you know, “Someday Mike Krueger is going to write a book on the canon. You’re going to want to read it.” I’m doing all of these, these smart things, and they just nodded and said “I don’t believe that.” Ha. [laughter] There was no sort of repartee, there was no sort of “hey, let’s have a really intelligent dialogue about this.” They were already invested in that truth, as they saw it.
Now, they’re not the only ones. We do this all the time with our sorts of things.
The point is, when you get emotionally, relationally, vocationally invested as the Pharisees are, it takes a lot to have your eyes opened. Jesus is in front of them, a miracle is in front of them, and here they are nitpicking about the sabbath.
But not all the Pharisees agreed with a negative assessment. You read that there was a division. And some of the Pharisees said, verse 16, “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?'”
Oddly enough, this is not an airtight argument either. We know that the magicians of Pharaoh performed miraculous signs. Jesus Himself says in the Sermon on the Mount that some on the last day will say “did we not do mighty works in Your Name?” so signs in themselves, miracles in themselves, do not prove that the messenger is from God.
But these Pharisees are right to think, “look, we can’t automatically dismiss this man as a sinner. I mean, look what he did right in front of us.” And so they come back to the man, “maybe you can settle it for us,” verse 17, “what do you say about him?” Passing the buck, perhaps. “Why don’t you settle this? You were with him. He touched your eyes. What do you think?”
Now earlier he said, “um, this man Jesus, that’s what I know about him, His name was Jesus.” Now he goes another step and he says he is a prophet. Probably not the prophet, but a prophet, meaning he’s a holy man, he’s a teacher, he’s a wonder-worker, he’s someone who comes from God, much like the woman at the well when Jesus revealed to her her sins, said “I perceive you are a prophet, you’re someone from God.” So he’s taking steps.
This is often the case. We come to faith in steps. While it’s true that this statement is not a sufficient step of faith, it is a necessary step. And maybe that’s where you are this morning. You’re not ready to fall down at Jesus’ feet and worship Him, which is what happens at the end of this chapter, but you’re at this moment in your life. Something happened to me, I’m not sure what, I’m not sure how to explain it, but this Jesus has to be somebody special.
And so, this man acknowledges He was a prophet. One more step. Maybe you’re taking just another step. Okay, Jesus existed, I get it. Okay, I think He was a good, important person, I think He was from God. All right, maybe He was the chosen one, maybe He was a savior, and finally you say, no, He is my savior, my Lord, my treasure.
We must be patient with people. Not many people just take all of those steps in one great big leap. It comes slowly, in time. So this man, he’s moving quickly, but here’s just a step. He’s a prophet.
Which brings us to the third conversation, next paragraph, beginning at verse 18. Now we have the man’s parents are involved. The Jews did not believe, and so they have to understand what happened. Now if they cannot dispute that the man sees, all right, that seems pretty obvious, he’s there and he is seeing, maybe they can dispute that this is the right person. So they ask them, “Is this your son? And if he’s your son, was he really born blind?”
Now we don’t have any record in Scripture that the parents were rolling their eyes, but I think that they might have. “We know who our kid is. Yes.” “Was he born blind?” “Hmm, let me think. Yes, we’ve remembered it every day of his life. How could we forget? Yes, he was born blind. Yes, he’s our son.”
So then they ask, “Well, how does he now see?”
And the parenthetical statement in verse 22 gives us some background, that apparently the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be the Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. It doesn’t mean there was full-blown persecution of Christians, but it’s not hard to imagine something like this existing already. Jesus Himself made it a point of importance: Who do you say that I am? And Peter finally said, for the group, “We believe You are the Christ.” That is, You’re the Messiah, you’re the chosen One, the One we’ve been waiting for. Years later, Paul will write in Romans chapter 10 that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved.
So this is the crossing of the Rubicon of faith that is the bridge too far for the Jews. Do you know that phrase, to cross the Rubicon? It’s a great phrase to just throw into regular conversation. It goes back to Julius Caesar when his time as governor in Gaul and ___ was over and he was supposed to relinquish his authority, and yet he amassed an army and the Roman Senate forbade him from crossing the Rubicon, that was the northern boundary, the Rubicon River, then the northern boundary of Italy, and so when he disobeyed that order and he crossed over the Rubicon with his army, it was a declaration of civil war, which led to the end of the Roman Republic and then the beginning of the Roman Empire with Julius Caesar, and since that time “crossing the Rubicon” is to go so far and you cannot go back.
Well, this statement, “Jesus is the Christ,” was that Rubicon for the Jews. To acknowledge that this man, who they considered to be a sinner and a blasphemer, that this one is the long awaited messiah, was to go too far. It was to declare civil war, it was to cross over the river and have no hope of return.
And so apparently they had talked among themselves, “if anyone is to make this declaration of faith, they are put out of the synagogue.” And then fearing that, his parents are a bit coy with the Jewish leaders, not eager to give a lot of information. In fact, they’re eager to state all the things they do not know: We don’t know how it happened, we don’t know who this man is, but you could ask our son. I wonder how the son was feeling about it at that point.
Now we read the man born blind, and you may think a grown man, but when it says “he is of age,” it suggests that he was probably just a teenager, maybe 13, 14, 15 years old. And that to look at him might not apparently indicate that he was of age to answer questions for himself, but they announce “he, he’s of age, you can go ask him. We don’t know who the man was. We don’t know what this is all about. But he’s our son, he was blind, now he sees. He’s old enough, go ask him.”
Which leads to the fourth conversation. The man now back with the Jewish leaders, and it seems with the Pharisees. And so in verse 24, “For the second time they called the man who had been blind,” and they say to him “admit it, this man is a sinner, right? Give glory to God.” And the implication here is “Give glory to God and call out this Jesus as an imposter and as a Sabbath breaker. We’re giving you one last chance, young man. Throw Jesus under the bus.”
And what he says in response has to be one of the greatest responses of all time. I mean in the Bible, I mean anywhere, everywhere. And keep in mind, middle schoolers, high schoolers, this person is probably your age, with the Pharisees, the leaders, the respected authority, there in his face: “Give glory to God. This man’s a sinner, right?” I mean, they just, they put it, put it there, there it is, already in form of a question, Alex, there it is. Who is Jesus? Ding, ding, ding, yes. He’s a sinner.
But what does the man say in response? “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know, though I was blind, now I see.”
Brilliant. “You want me to call him a sinner? I just met the guy. Personally, I don’t see how sinners do things like that, but I don’t know him. Here’s what I know. My whole life, for 14, 15, 16 stinking years, okay? I couldn’t see. Not a thing. And now what’s happened to me in the last few minutes, for the first time in my life I see. So I don’t know who he is, I don’t know where his family’s from, I don’t know if he’s a sinner or not, but I know I was blind and now I see.”
We see here the power of a changed life, already earlier with the first conversation, people could see something was different. This man is not like he used to be. They knew he was different, he knew he was different. Again, this is not an absolute apologetic for the Christian faith, that your life is different. Mormons might say the same thing, that my life has purpose now, or I cleaned up my life. Or a 12-step program might help you with that, or prescription medicine might, might do that.
So just because your life has been improved is not an absolute apologetic for Christianity, and yet isn’t it the case that this is often the starting point of the Christian life. Some of you would have testimonies like that. Maybe some of you are there this morning: “I don’t have all the theology down, I wasn’t raised with the Westminster whatever whatever, I don’t know Calvinism and Arminian, I don’t know what’s so bad about Arminians, that seems like a fine country to me, in Armenia, [laughter] I don’t know what is so bad about it. Okay, I don’t know all this stuff. Here’s what I know: I’m not the same person I once was. I don’t know what happened, I don’t have all the theology, I can’t articulate it all, but my life has changed. I was blind, and now I see.”
Which also leads to perhaps an uncomfortable question for some of us: Has anything changed in your life? Or mine?
Now, usually not dramatic like this man, just in an afternoon, slowly, less dramatically, over months or years, but has there been any change in your life?
Was it A.W. Tozer who said the profession of faith that means nothing to the person is the profession of faith that means nothing to God either.
Has anything changed? You say “I was that, I am, by God’s grace, this.” Even if you grew up and you have one of those great testimonies I prayed about, and we heard about with the baptism, that’s my testimony. I don’t know a day when I didn’t know of Jesus. Brought to church, Sunday School, Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday, just glad they didn’t have things the other days of the week or we would have had to be there. [laughter] Might as well as have been Samuel, just go live in the temple. That’s what we did, [laughter] just go to church, church is doing stuff. Yeah, that’s my testimony.
And yet even with that testimony, I, I can point to some moments in some seasons where Christ became real to me. My sin became real to. Where the Word of God became real to me. And I hope to God that I can say I was blind, but now I see.
Can you say that? 15-year-old? Been in the church your whole life? Been in this church your whole life? Maybe you’ve been at Covenant Day your whole life… Yeah, yeah, Jesus. Anything changed in your life? Can you say that, 45-year-old? Going to church because that’s what you do down here. Can you say that, 85-year-old? Something’s changed in me. I was blind, and now I see.
And they asked the question, what did He do to you? How did He open your eyes? He says “I told you already. We’ve been down this road before. Mud, eyes, wash, sight.” And then he comes with such a fantastic reply, this man born blind, he’s amazing. I, I cannot wait to meet him in heaven. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing in giving the reply that he does, and I think you were right, as I read it, to give a little chuckle, because he says “Why do you want to hear? Do you want to become His disciples? Is that it? You have asked me so many questions. You want to be on Team Jesus?”
Do you notice, up to this point, everyone else has been asking the questions. I count 10 questions already, mostly for this man or for his parents, and now for the first time he turns the table. He says “you’ve been asking me questions, I got a question for you: Do you want to be His disciples? Is that why you’re asking this?” And it says they reviled him. That means they hated him. You can imagine, “why you little, teenage brat.”
Okay, teenagers, you’ve been saving up all your sarcastic replies, this is when you use them, right here. “You want to be his disciple?” Oh, of all the nerve, they say, “we are not His disciples, we’re disciples of Moses. We listen to what Moses says. We know that the Word of God came from Moses. We don’t know where this man came from.”
Now, interestingly, if you remember what Jesus’ opponents said about Jesus in John 7: 27, you remember that controversy there around the Feast of Tabernacles? There, they say, we know where this man comes from and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from. Now how does that square with John 9:29? The answer is it doesn’t. This is what I meant earlier: They are looking for reasons not to believe.
In John 7, they say “well, we know that he came from Nazareth, and when the Messiah comes, we won’t know where He comes from, so he cannot be the Messiah.”
Now in chapter 9, “well, we don’t even know where he’s from and we, if we don’t know where he’s from, then he can’t be the Messiah.”
Contradictory? Yes. That’s how hard hearts work. It’s a little something called confirmation bias. We are not really rational creatures so much as we are rationalizing creatures. Not just strict reason, just give me the facts, ma’am, and I’ll just come to my conclusions. Rather we are constantly rationalizing, looking for things that would help us believe what we already want to believe.
Now it’s obvious to the man born blind, Jesus must be from God, God would not give this kind of power to a charlatan. And so they ask one last question of him: Would you teach us? And this reply has a final barb that has to be one of the nastiest things anyone says to anyone else in the Bible, when they say “you were born in utter sin.”
Now they don’t mean you were born as a result of Adam’s fall with the sin nature. They don’t mean that. No, it’s nasty. They mean, “look at you. Fifteen minutes ago you were a blind man, your whole you were blind. Why are people born blind? Because they’re sinners. Why do bad things? Because you’re a bad person.”
What a nasty, false thing to say to someone, but there they say it, “You’re a sinner,” and maybe even there in the background, “You’re nothing but a good-for-nothing, teenaged, disabled sinner, and you’re going to presume to teach us?”
And they put him out. Not just of this synagogue, but out of the synagogue, excommunicated. “You have no part in our faith.” They had forgotten, or perhaps willfully ignored, that one of the signs of the messianic age would be restoration of sight to the blind, Isaiah tells us.
Four conversations. But there’s one last conversation. And that’s the blind man with Jesus. He says “do you believe in the Son of Man?” Notice Jesus has been absent, unmentioned, for most of this event, but every question has really been about Him. Though it may seem like the parents are on trial, or the man born blind is on trial, really Jesus is the one they put on trial. Remember that, if people come at you for believing what you do about the Bible, or about heaven or hell, or the Word of God, or Jesus Christ, and they say it’s about you, it’s about the church, it’s about your upbringing, it’s about Jesus. He reenters the picture, but He never really left. And He gets right to the point. He uses His favorite self-designation in the Gospel, the divine title. Remember, Son of Man does not mean “I’m a human,” we think Son of Man, Son of God, but Son of Man actually is a divine title. It comes from Daniel chapter 7 when the Son of Man, that exalted God-like being, approaches the Ancient of Days to receive from Him glory and honor and a kingdom. Son of Man is a divine title.
The man replies, “Well, who is this Son of Man that I may believe in him?” and Jesus gives one of the most direct responses in the Gospel. He says “you’re looking at Him.”
No doubt there is plenty the man does not know yet. He may not have faith in the full sense that we would look for it today, but he seems to have taken this decisive step, this crossing of the Rubicon, and he says “Lord, that’s what I believe. If you say you’re the Son of Man, I believe it.” And he fell down and he worshipped.
Jesus says that earlier that He did not come into the world to condemn the world, and so it may seem strange that He says here “for judgment I came into the world.” What Jesus means is that His mission was not one of condemnation, His mission was one of salvation, and yet the very mission to save sinners was, by necessity, also a mission that would result in judgment. He would be, as Simeon said, a sign that would be spoken against. He would bring about division, and we’ve seen that wherever He goes there is division, and where there is division, some say “you’re the Son of Man,” others say “you’re a sinner,” there’s bound to be judgment.
And then after this final conversation, this last conclusion. One more question, verse 40, the Pharisees ask. By my count, this is the sixteenth question that we have come upon in this passage. The Pharisees heard it, and they said “Are we also blind?” And then Jesus, in verse 41, gives the perfect summary, and the final conclusion to the whole matter. “If you were blind, you would have no guilt. But now that you say ‘we see,’ your guilt remains.”
What He means is this: If you knew, that’s the implication, if you knew that you were blind, you could see. But the very people that walk throughout this earth so confident that they in their own nature see everything, they’re blind, and they’re lost. They were so confident and they were so wrong.
I have a pastor friend who is, if you met him, you would see he’s always sure of himself, always speaks in very dogmatic sort of assertions, and he has a saying about himself, “I’m always confident, sometimes right.”
Well, the Pharisees here are always confident and, in this episode, always wrong.
Verse 16, some of the Pharisees said “this man is not from God.” Well, that’s wrong.
Verse 24, “give glory to God. We know this man is a sinner.” Uh, wrong.
Verse 29, “we know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” Well, that’s sort of half right. You don’t know, but He comes from God.
Verse 34, “they answered, ‘you were born in utter sin, that’s why you’re blind.'” Again, wrong.
Over and over again, confident and wrong.
Which means the last question for us: Do you know where your sight comes from? The way to truly see in this life is to know that each of us were born blind. You say “What? I got my eyes, seeing since I was a baby.” No, no, no. Spiritually blind. The guilty ones are the ones going throughout life sure of how smart they are, how capable they are, how strong they are, how intelligent they are, how much they see it. Just give me the facts, just give me the science, just give me, I see it, see it, see it. Jesus says those are the guilty ones. The ones who are saved are the ones like this man. He knew every day of his life “I’m blind, I’m blind, I’m blind… I need a miracle if I’m to see.”
And so it is with each of us. Only when we know how blind we are does God come and give us the sight that we may have never known we needed.
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, we ask for Your grace, that any here walking in blindness would be given sight. We pray that we might be the instrument of bringing this sight to others, just as on this day we remember Patrick, one of your servants, and how much more as we remember him do we think of the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave sight to this blind man and has all across this room given sight to blind men and women. What amazing grace, that we who were so blind now, by Your grace, can see. In Jesus we pray. Amen.