2020 03 22 Lorna Laister THE MAN BORN BLIND John 9:1-41
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Last UpdatedMarch 24, 2020

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1 Samuel 16:1-13 • Psalm 23:1-6 • Ephesians 5:8-14 • John 9:1-41

The theme this week is seeing by God’s light.

In our 4 scriptures for the week we see this unfolding

  1. In 1 Samuel 16, God tells Samuel to see with God’s eyes and vision as Samuel goes to anoint the new king – to look beyond the outward appearance of a man like Saul. 2.
  2. In Psalm 23, the poet talks about walking by God’s light even in the greatest darkness.
  3. In Ephesians 5, Paul encourages this fledgling faith community to walk in the light of Christ rather than their old darkness.
  4. Our sermon, Jesus and the Invisible Man, is based on John 9. Jesus brings metaphor and concrete reality together by declaring himself to be the light, then giving light to the eyes of the man born blind.

Jesus and the Invisible Man

When we are travelling along the road, we don’t notice everyone. Beggars? There are so many now that we tend to ignore them. They are kind of invisible.

We’ve all experienced “invisible” people in our lives. It’s not that we don’t care, or dislike them, but there are people we simply don’t see.

e.g. The teenage cashier at the coffee shop, the homeless man asleep on the park bench, the person in the next seat on the bus.

It’s not that we are selfish and disregarding, it’s just that we get busy and we are concentrating on the next thing we have to do. They become part of the scenery.

 

In Jesus’ day, people with disabilities like the man born blind in John 9 were part of this invisible category. They were completely dependent on the kindness of the society around them—there were no social services or other support systems. They would beg at the gates and the synagogue, wherever people were gathered.

 

The people back then were so worried about their own survival that it was difficult to help the invisible people. And it’s getting the same in South Africa. They did—in some ways better than we do—but survival for a person with a disability was brutal and meagre.

With this context in mind, our story today disturbs many emotions within us. Turn with me to John 9:1 

While walking along the road, Jesus saw a man who was blind since his birth.

Jesus “saw” him. Jesus took time to LOOK. Jesus stops in his very important and increasingly dangerous journey to “see” an invisible person.

When we think about it - this man, WHO COULD NEVER SEE, was seen by the Lord.

This story tells us Soo00oo many things! We will not be reading the whole of this passage. But when we read it for ourselves, we will watch as this man slowly but surely gets reeled in by Jesus. Watch for this as you read through the scripture and see how the story unravels.

Here is an overview:

First, Jesus sees and heals the man with mud he made from his own spit. Then Jesus tells him to wash in a nearby pool and then he takes off.

The locals see the guy and realise he’s the one who was born blind and now he can see. They ask him over and over what happened, and he tells them. They ask him where Jesus is, and he says he doesn’t know. (this was because he had not yet seen Jesus. He did not know what he looked like…)

They bring the recently blind man to the Pharisees to make sense of it, which spurs a theological debate among them. How can someone who doesn’t follow our traditions be from God? How can someone who is not from God do stuff like this?

They demand that the exasperated and recently blind man tell them what happened, and he essentially says:

“I don’t know how it worked, I don’t even know who the guy was really, but I know I can see!!!”

They ask his parents what’s going on and they jump out of the conversation quickly, so they won’t get in trouble. They come at him again and then cast him out of the synagogue, which is basically like cutting him out of the community.

Jesus finds the man and reveals who he is to him in a one-on-one conversation.

Read this fast enough and it sounds like a slapstick comedy with characters running back and forth across the screen.

  • aren’t you the blind guy?
  • Who did this to you?
  • I’m not sure—I don’t know!
  • Is that your son? We don’t want to get involved!
  • We’re confused!
  • So are we!

The story of “Jesus and the Invisible Man” tells us a lot about Jesus. Not just the unsettling and amazing occurrence of a miracle, but also his heart as he interacts with one of the invisible people in society.

So, what does all this mean to us, today?

  • Jesus sees us.
  • Jesus draws us into his story
  • Jesus finds us

Jesus sees us

 

We’ve talked about the amazing opening line of the story:

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. (John 9:1 ESV)

All through Scripture, we see God drawn to the outsider, the ones society doesn’t see. Jesus’ birth is announced to shepherds and foreign pagan men.

The first missionaries Jesus appoints are a demon-possessed man with a mental illness and the woman at the well—a relationship addict who’s a member of a cult.

Since the very beginning, God sees those we don’t.

In Genesis 16, we see Abraham’s servant Hagar on the run in the desert, pregnant and alone. She’s visited by the angel of the Lord who comforts her and promises her a legacy. She praises God and calls Him “El Roi”—the God who sees me.

El Roi—the God who sees. The God who seeks out the banished in the desert and the forgotten by the side of the road.

 

John 9:2-3

2 His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents' sin?” 3 Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents' sins. He is blind so that God's power might be seen at work in him.

Jesus puts us into his story

Now the question the disciples ask Jesus about the “sin”, is an obvious one if you lived back then. People believed that disability was caused by the parents’ sin, and perhaps even by the baby sinning in the womb. They still believed this. So, the disciples’ question: “who caused this suffering?” was a normal question.

But Jesus simply says that this man’s suffering is somehow part of the greater story. That this invisible man is part of God’s great work in the world.

(Does that answer all our questions with respect to the problem of suffering? No, I don’t believe so).

But Jesus is saying that this man’s suffering is neither meaningless, nor is it this man’s fault. Resurrection will be found even in the darkness of this man’s life, and his story has disrupted narrow, legalistic thinking about who God is.

John 9:6-7

6 After he said this, Jesus spat on the ground and made some mud with the spittle; he rubbed the mud on the man's eyes 7 and told him, “Go and wash your face in the Pool of Siloam.” (This name means “Sent.”) So, the man went, washed his face, and came back seeing.

Here Jesus disrupts the story again confronts their understanding of the Sabbath.

  1. First, he makes a paste out of mud and spit, which was against the rules about working on the Sabbath.
  2. He also performs a healing, which was also against the rules.

In Jesus’ time, keeping the ritual was a matter of religious and ethnic identity.

What Jesus reminds them of (reminds us all) is that the incoming of the kingdom trumps keeping rituals. Healing someone, helping the vulnerable – these are more important than the details of keeping rituals. The ritual is supposed to point toward the healing, not the other way around.

Before he’s even healed, this man has become part of the big story of Jesus: pointing us to our need not for more teaching, not for more rules and rituals, but for a complete change of heart.

So, he went and washed and came back seeing. (John 9:7 ESV)

Now, let’s take a bird’s eye view of how all this fits into the greater story of John.

Through the first half of the book, Jesus is constantly disrupting the story and getting in trouble. He keeps showing up at symbolic occasions and in symbolic places and saying that all of it points to him.

  1. He cleanses the temple and then declares that he is the temple—the true place where heaven and earth meet, which will rise up three days after they destroy it.
  2. He goes to the sacred well of Jacob and declares that he is the living water.
  3. At the Passover feast time, he creates a miraculous meal for thousands and then claims to be the bread.
  4. At the Feast of Tabernacles, celebrating the deliverance of Israel, he claims to be the water from the rock in the desert.

Jesus is interacting with metaphors all through here, (I am …) disrupting and reforming them around himself. He keeps telling the people that the rituals they have are just a shadow of the things to come—himself.

If we take our bird back down into this story, we can see some of the details in a new way. Jesus continues his metaphor here, bringing his metaphors of water, bread and temple to a climax.

John 9:4-7

4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me; night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light for the world.” 6 After he said this, Jesus spat on the ground and made some mud with the spittle; he rubbed the mud on the man's eyes 7 and told him, “Go and wash you face in the Pool of Siloam.” (This name means “Sent.”) So, the man went, washed his face, and came back seeing.

Jesus is the figurative light of the world that brought light to this man’s vision. These rituals and customs only point to the reality that is to come, and now that reality is here. Jesus brought metaphor and reality together.

The light that gave light.

The life that gave life.

The resurrection who was physically, bodily resurrected.

Jesus draws this nobody into his story. He gives sight to the invisible man and brings him into the vision (to mix metaphors a bit). In one odd encounter, Jesus brings his greater story into play, disrupting the story of unhealthy culture worship, exclusion of those with special needs, narrow theology and finally exploding the story of physical reality by healing blindness.

Jesus draws us into his transformative story of the whole world, no matter how insignificant we may think we are.

Jesus finds us

This encounter takes a strange turn. Jesus exits the stage immediately. The people are completely confused about the blind guy they probably saw every day suddenly walking around blinking in the sun. The guy’s parents get involved, and then immediately jump out of the conversation because they don’t want to get banished from the synagogue.

Jesus surely healed this blind man, but this miracle quickly got the man into trouble with the religious rulers who hated Jesus. The happiest day of his life also became one of the hardest days in his life, but Jesus works in the hard times too. And this part of the story shows us more about how the Lord wants to work in our lives.

Getting “thrown out of the synagogue” meant they were pushed out of the centre of community life. They would be whispered about and excluded from the cultural centre. This was devastating. They threw out followers of Jesus because it meant they were no longer under Jewish protection. The Roman powers left the Jewish community alone, at least for their religious observance, but the Christians didn’t have this protection. This left the new believing community unguarded.

So now this man is without a home. Even his own parents distanced themselves from him because of what happened. Yet over and over we hear the same thing from him: “Ummm…. I don’t know how it all worked or who exactly that was, but now I can see!” (Amazing grace) Whatever happened, it worked!

  1. How does faith work? Knowledge is very important, but it will only get us so far—there’s still much that’s a mystery about how the gospel works. But it does! Lives are healed, people are transformed, even though the exact details of it are way beyond our comprehension
  2. Another lesson is that the healed man was willing to believe in Jesus, as the Christ, saying, "Who is he, sir. That I may believe in him?" Application: Commit oneself and believe, in order that one may understand, and one’s seeing will become a way of knowing God, which is ever perfecting. Seeing is believing only if we are willing to believe first. A mistake is to seek to understand first, in order that one may believe later-- doing that leads to spiritual blindness.

If we had to understand something fully before we believe it works, none of us would breathe or speak or even walk. We still only scratch the surface of understanding these things. That’s part of the message of this story—the disciples, the Pharisees, the locals all try to put WHAT THEY UNDERSTAND INTO what happened and MAKE IT MAKE SENSE, but they can’t. They can only behold it. The blind man is the only one who gets it: “Whatever happened, I can see now!”

But Jesus finds us.

This story about a blind man receiving his sight is not only a miracle story, but a description of the process of removing our blindness about who Jesus is. This “healing story” is about developing eyes that can see beneath the surface to truth. It is not about visual sight, but about insight or second sight. All of us are blind and in need of Jesus’ touch.

It is about seeing past the false rules and values of the world to the loving, inclusive, all-forgiving love of God.

These few passages establish a truth—spiritual blindness is a serious condition, a condition that leads to spiritual death.

Now, I know that this story of giving sight to the blind, like all the stories of Jesus giving sight to the blind, is about God giving spiritual sight to all of us who are spiritually blind. It's about God showing all of us the way with new eyes, and a fresh look into the Universe that He made.

But that also means that Jesus comes to us.

And digs in the dirt.

And spits in his hand.

And slathers us with paste.

So that our new eyes may behold the Light of the World.

I can't help thinking of God digging in the dust of the ground in Eden and giving us his breathe that we might live.

God lifted us out of the earth in the beginning, and Jesus is still in the business of lifting us up.

And opening our eyes.

And bringing us Life.

There were a lot of things that healed man did not know about Jesus. I don't think he was even saved at that point. But he gave a testimony for Jesus Christ, and that's what God wants us to do. He knew he had been blind and now he could see.

Please read verses 9-34 for yourselves at this point

*Notice that the blind man didn't have a great speaking voice, or fancy clothes. He was a beggar! He didn't have a great education. He couldn't read. As a matter of fact, he had never seen a word in his whole life. But he did have a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christians, so have we!

*This healed man passed his testimony on to many other people, and now through the Bible, he passed his testimony on to us. (Aren't you glad he did?) You never know how much good you will do when you speak up about our Saviour!

John 9:35-38

35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 The man answered, “Tell me who he is, sir, so that I can believe in him!” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have already seen him, and he is the one who is talking with you now.” 38 “I believe, Lord!” the man said, and knelt down before Jesus. (This was the first time the man had actually seen Jesus – he confesses his belief – until Jesus reveals himself to us we are spiritually blind)

Jesus, the one who sees him, now goes to find him. Jesus finds the invisible man – the one no one else thought of as useful, who was considered a burden. Even after the coldness of his parents who left him out on his own because they feared the cultural machine, Jesus finds him. And in this exchange, we see one of few interactions where Jesus explicitly addresses his identity and accepts worship.

Here we have one of the few converts (at least that we have record of) that are made by Jesus in person. Again, he skipped over the government officials and cultural rock stars and military heroes to choose outsiders like this.

So, this man was without a family and a home and now he’s part of the family of God, welcomed by Jesus himself.

Jesus sees you.

Jesus Includes you in his story.

Jesus finds you.

Let him find you today and make you part of the great story of redemption that started before the beginning of time. He doesn’t need you, but he wants you. You’re never invisible to Jesus.

Let us pray:

O God open our eyes to your presence in our lives. Give our lives meaning as we follow where you lead us. Let us silence the voices of spiritual arrogance and rationalization within us. We humbly ask this in Jesus' holy name.

 



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