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Loved By Jesus

The Blinding

Rev. Philip Miller | February 21, 2021

Selected highlights from this sermon

The Gospel of John is a curated collection of events, interactions, and dialogue written so that we may believe the Jesus is the Son of God, and that by believing in Him, we may have eternal life.

As we look at John 9, Pastor Miller shows us four refractions of Jesus as the Light of the world and how each sheds light on who Jesus is and even who we are. Then he asks an important question, one which determines your eternal destiny: What will you do with the Light?

There is no greater blindness than that which insists it can see when it cannot.

The Blinding

John’s Gospel is not only a historically accurate account of the life of Jesus. It is a brilliant literary masterpiece. John isn’t, in this Gospel, just assembling random events involving Jesus, sort of slapping them together, weaving them thoughtlessly in place here. No, it’s a brilliant strategy, his assembling of material. He is weaving together a biography of theological and rhetorical brilliance.

He tells us as much at the end of his book. In John 21:25, this is what we read: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” So John tells us, “I’m not giving you everything there is to know about Jesus. I’m being selective.”

It’s like the Monet exhibit at the Art Institute Museum. When there’s a traveling exhibit, we don’t get to see everything that the painter painted. It’s a curated exhibit, isn’t it? We have representative samples of his work. And in a well-curated exhibit, it helps us experience the artist in an even deeper way. By placing certain paintings next to and alongside other paintings in juxtaposition, we begin to compare and contrast and make connections we otherwise wouldn’t make concerning the artist’s work. And what we have here in the Gospel of John is we have a curated picture of who Jesus is.

In John 20:30 and 31, John tells us exactly what he’s doing. He says, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

So all this material in the Gospel, all the events, the interactions, the dialogue, has been carefully curated so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, that He is indeed the Son of God, and that by believing in Him we might have life in His name. And this curation is brilliant. The way John has arranged his material is so insightful. Just for example, something we’ve seen already, in chapter five it ends with the statement, “Moses bears witness concerning me,” Jesus says. Moses was bearing witness.

Chapter 6 then immediately shows us that Jesus is, in fact, the new Moses, who is teaching on the mountainside, bringing bread in the wilderness, delivering his followers safely across the sea. And of course, the bread that He gives in the wilderness then sets up the bread of life discourse where Jesus proclaims Himself to be the bread come down from heaven. And so out of all the dozens of miracles and teachings and healings that happen in the life of Jesus, John is honing in on these brilliant connections, arranging this material so that we would see Jesus, and he does this again in chapter 9, which is where we are today. We’re going to be in John, chapter 9, the whole chapter, verses 1 all the way down to 41. And you’ll recall in the previous chapter Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” And now in chapter 9 we are going to see four refractions of the light of the world, the light of Jesus. We’re going to see the parable of the light, the polarization of the light, the piercing of the light, and the paradox of the light this morning. And each one of these refractions sheds light on who Jesus is, and who we are as well.

So will you bow your heads as we open God’s Word together?

Heavenly Father, shine the light of Jesus we pray. May we see Him. May we see ourselves, and may we not shrink back from the light but let it expose all that’s in us so that we might come fully into the light today. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen. Amen.

So the first refraction here is the parable of the light. In John 9:1 this is what we read: “As he (This is Jesus) passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”

So here we have Jesus walking along and as He walks along, He notices this man, this blind man who has been blind all of his life from the womb. In verse 8 we’re going to learn that he’s a beggar, so here he is, probably begging along the side of the street, overlooked by most, but seen by Jesus. “And his disciples (Following His gaze, they notice He’s interested in this man) asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’”

Now, they make an assumption, don’t they? They assume that this blindness is a punishment. There’s some reason for it. Either he deserves to be blind because of his particular sinfulness, or maybe his parents deserve the blind son because of their sin. But either way, they believe basically in what we now call karma. They believe that you get what you deserve in life, and so this man is obviously paying for something.

So Jesus answers. Look at His answer. He doesn’t play this game. “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents.” “Listen, you’ve got this completely wrong. This man is not blind because of his sin or his parents’ sin.” Jesus is telling us here (this is very important to us) that we cannot draw a direct line from personal suffering to personal sin. We can’t draw that line. He’s blind, yes, but not because he’s been bad.

Now it is true that, in the universe, all suffering ultimately is due to sin. If Adam hadn’t sinned, there would be no suffering. We know this, so you can draw a generic line, see, from sin to generic suffering. All suffering is due to sin. It’s called the curse. But what we cannot do is draw a specific line between personal suffering and personal sin. That’s not the curse. That’s karma, and that’s not biblical, which is why, by the way, it makes my blood boil whenever I hear people saying foolish and hurtful things to people like, “Well, the reason you have cancer is because you don’t have enough faith.”

Friends, do you realize Jesus would never say anything like that because it was not that this man sinned or his parents, but that the works of God might just be displayed in him. He says, “This is not a punishment. It is a platform that the works of God may be displayed in his life.” He says, “Look, you see this blind man, and you assume that God is finished with him, but I see this blind man and I tell you God is just getting started.”

Verse 4: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

So friends, Jesus is the light of the world and He is at one moment going to depart. He’s going to leave the world, and when He does, the light goes with Him. It will be night, but for now, it is the light of day, and the time is right for the works of God to be done, the very works of God that Jesus just said must be displayed in this man’s life. He says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Now this is not a throwaway phrase, “I am the light of the world.” Here is a man who cannot see any light in the world, and Jesus is the light of the world. I wonder what will happen when you bring these two people together.

Now, of course, Jesus has said things like this before, and just in the previous chapter, in John 8:12, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This is a theme that we have seen connected all throughout the Gospel of John. In John 1:4, John introduces Jesus and says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” So Jesus is the light. He is here shining brightly for all the world to see, and as we have seen, some are drawn to that light. Their eyes are open to who Jesus is, and they believe in Him; and on the other hand, the irony is that others are blinded by His light. They shut their eyes to Him. They reject who Jesus is. But Jesus Himself told us this would happen in John 3:19–21. “And this is the judgment:” it says, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

So what is about to happen in this chapter is Jesus is going to enact a kind of parable, an illustration of what it means that He is the light of the world. We’ve seen. There’s a pattern. Some eyes are opened. Other eyes are closed. So this is not just a dramatic healing that took place. This is a dramatic real life–enacted parable of the light. Just like Jesus multiplied the bread in order to show that He was the bread of life, now Jesus is opening the eyes of the blind to show us that He is the light of the world.

Now, verse 6: “Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.”

(Laughs) Now, I don’t know about you, but this seems kind of gross to me, okay? Jesus spitting in the mud and making up this little mud pack and putting it on his eyes. It’s the only time Jesus ever heals like this.

What on Earth is going on? Why would He do this? Well, I don’t know, and nobody really knows. We’re all guessing here. But I have three things that I suspect are at play here. The first one is, I think this evokes creation. You remember in Genesis chapter 2, God got down and put His fingers in the dust and He formed humanity from the dust of the ground, and He breathed into Adam the breath of life. Remember this? So, the idea of the Creator working in the mud, in the dust, forming that which will be life, this is evocative of creation itself.

The second thing I think is going on here is this is a personal touch. This man is blind. He doesn’t have the ability to see what Jesus is doing, and so Jesus put this mud on his eyes. I think it’s very tender. It’s a tactile experience of the healing for this man. He can feel what is happening. Jesus is speaking and communicating in his own categories here.

The third thing is that it is creating space. So Jesus, by putting the mud on his eyes and sending him off to go wash at the pool, this gives time for Jesus to slip away. Okay? And He won’t show up until the very end of this chapter, but we will learn in verse 14 that it’s the Sabbath. And we already know what happens when Jesus does healings on the Sabbath, so I think Jesus is wise to this. He slips away. They just tried to stone Him in the previous chapter, so He heals him and then He creates space. “Go wash and then I’m going to slip away from here.”

And so He goes away and here the man comes back seeing, having washed. The Light of the world has opened his eyes to the light. It’s a parable. A parable of light has begun.

Secondly, we see here the polarization of the light, the polarization of the light. 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.’” (chuckles) So the funny thing, of course, is that they can’t believe their eyes when they see this guy. Pun intended, right?

Verse 10: “So they said to him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ (chuckles) 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.’” (laughs) It’s comical, isn’t it? He can finally see, but Jesus can’t be seen anywhere, right? He slipped off.

Well, this news is too big to be contained, so verse 13: “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.” Oh no, we know where this is going, don’t we?

Verse 15: “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.’” (Laughs) You notice this story keeps getting shorter. Right? “He put mud on my eyes, 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 are polarized. Don’t you see this? Some of them on the one hand are saying “He’s not from God. He’s breaking the Sabbath again. He’s healing on the Sabbath. How dare he? Remember this? We’ve had this controversy before.” But the others are saying, “He can’t be a sinner. A sinner can’t do miraculous things like this.”

So on the one hand people are saying he’s a sinner. On the other hand, they are saying, “Only a healing can come from God. God is clearly with this man Jesus. He can’t be a sinner, and if He’s not a sinner, (takes a breath) who is He?” And the light is shining, and some of their eyes are being opened, and others are being shut. It is the polarization of the light.

Now, thirdly we see the piercing of the light, the third refraction. The piercing of the light. Verse 17: “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.’”

Now the irony, you’re supposed to see the connection here. Do you see what’s happened? Jesus has opened his eyes physically to the light, and now his eyes are being opened spiritually to who Jesus is. Now, he has limited understanding. I mean his eyes are just barely open, right? But he’s on his way. Everything is coming into focus, but at first he thinks He’s a prophet. This is a prophet.

Now, the Jewish leaders can’t argue with his logic here. If Jesus really did open his eyes, then that means He’s wielding the very power of God, which means God is with Him, which means at a minimum this is a prophet sent from God. But they decide they’re not going to try to counter his logic. They’re going to try to counter his testimony because maybe there’s an easy way out of this, and that’s that this guy is a fake.

So verse 18: “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, whom 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 now 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 Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’”

So these (chuckles) poor parents here. These poor parents. They begin to sense that they’re caught in the middle of a political mess here. On the one hand they want to stand up for their son, and rejoice in what’s been done in his life. But on the other hand, they know the political tide is shifting against Jesus, and they are unwilling to take any heat for Him here. And so to save their own skin, they kind of chicken out, don’t they? And they throw their son, in a sense, under the bus. “He’s of age. Ask him.”

Verse 24: “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.’”

What is this? This is very heavy-handed. Do you see this? Give glory to God is the equivalent of an oath. “Say what you’re going to say.” “Tell the truth.” “Give glory to God.” It implies that he was lying the first time around, you see? They’re leading the witness. “We know that this man is a sinner.”

Now they were just divided, but it is the majority view that is being espoused here. Not everyone’s on board with that statement, but the people who believe that Jesus is a sinner have the loudest voice at this moment. “We’ve already made up our minds about this man.” They can’t even say the name of Jesus, you notice. “He’s not a prophet like you said He was. He’s a sinner, a Sabbath breaker.” Definitive answer.

Look at how he responds: “He answered, ‘Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was a blind, now I see.’” (chuckles) Don’t you love his simple straightforward testimony? “I was blind, but now I see.”

Verse 26: “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 disciple?’” (laughs)

Now I love this guy’s cheek here. He knows they keep asking, not because they are earnestly trying to discern what happened, but because they are trying to wriggle off the hook. They’re trying to trap him in his words, or discredit his story somehow. They want to find a way to discount the miracle and dismiss Jesus. And this man has only had sight for just a few minutes. Right? But he sees right through them. “Do you also want to become his disciples?” (chuckles) I love it.

Verse 28: “And they reviled him, saying ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses (you know). We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not [even] know where he comes from.”

Now look at this amazing reply. Verse 30: “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.’”

So simple. So clear. So irrefutable. Isn’t it?

“This man can’t be a sinner. He opened my eyes. Only if He were from God could He do that. Never since the world began has anyone heard of a man who had been born blind having his eyes opened. It’s never been heard of.”

Did you realize if you go back to your Bible, you’ll find that blindness, the healing of blindness in the Bible is extremely rare? Only a few sort of exceptional cases? And congenital blindness, blindness from birth, never, never healed before. It’s never happened before. He says, “Jesus has to be from God. God alone can open the eyes of a man born blind like this.”

Now there’s plenty of biblical precedent for this.

Exodus 4:11: “Then the Lord said to him (This is Moses), ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?’”

Psalm 146:7 and 8: “The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.” The blind receiving sight was a prophecy concerning the Messianic Age.

Isaiah 29:18: “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.”

Isaiah 35:5–6: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

And the servant of the Lord was foretold as having this ability. Isaiah 42:6–8: “I am the Lord; I have called you (a servant) in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other.”

See, there’s ample Old Testament evidence, friends. They should have been able to see Jesus, but here’s the irony: This man sees with perfect clarity, and the Pharisees—their eyes are clouded.

Verse 34: “They answered him, ‘You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?’ And they cast him out.”

So unable to contend are they with his clear logic that they resort to viciously attacking his character, and bullying him away. His very presence is too indicting, and so they want him out of their sight and they kicked him out of the synagogue. Here this man stood up for Jesus, was willing to pay the price, and he did it with his eyes wide open.

Do you notice what’s happening here? The clearer the light shines, the more piercing it is, revealing the hearts of the Pharisees. The light is piercing through, and despite all their holy words and their claims of following Moses, it’s not hard to see what’s going on, is it? That the rationalization that they’re resorting to, the manipulation of the situation, their desperation to have any other answer than that Jesus is who He claims to be, the victimization of the evidence in trying to get rid of this man, how they will stop at nothing to shut their eyes tight in denial about the light that’s right before their eyes, which leads us to the paradox of the light. The paradox of the light.

Look at verse 35. “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’” I love this. He’s been rejected by the leaders, abandoned by his own parents. He has no way to find Jesus. He’s never seen Him with his eyes, but Jesus goes and finds him.

He stood up for Jesus and now Jesus stands up for him. Do you see this? And using his favorite title for Himself, Jesus asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The Son of Man, that figure from Daniel 7, who receives all authority and power and judgment over the nations.

Verse 36, “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.”

This is an amazing journey of faith. It started when Jesus sent him to the pool with mud on his eyes. Remember? And he washed and he came back seeing, and then his faith started sprouting when he told everyone what Jesus had done for him, this simple clear testimony of a changed life, and then it started cultivating and growing as he articulated his belief that Jesus was a prophet empowered by God Himself. But then it came to a moment, you realize, when he had to make a choice. Either fit in with the religious establishment of his day, or stand up for his healer, Jesus. And even his parents wavered, but he chose in that moment to stand up and speak truth with clarity and boldness and grace. And he was willing to count the cost, willing to suffer for the name of Jesus. And that’s what happened. They kicked him out, but then Jesus found him. And the Son of Man revealed Himself to him, and he says, “Lord, I believe,” and he worships Jesus.

Friends, do you realize in the book of John this is the clearest confession to this point as to who Jesus is. This is the first time someone bows down in worship of the Son of God. So not only does he see, he sees, you see. And see the great irony, the great paradox. On the one hand, no one has ever seen Jesus as clearly as this man does. He goes from total blindness to crystal clarity in just a few hours. And at the very same time, processing the very same information, in the very same place and time, the religious leaders have never been so blind. They are actively resisting Jesus’ light. And here’s what’s amazing: The guy everyone assumed was furthest from God ends up the very closest to Him. And the people everyone would have assumed were the closest to God end up the furthest away.

Verse 39: “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’” Because, friend, the light does this. It draws some close and others it drives away.

Verse 40: “Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’” We heard you. Were you talking about us?

Verse 41: “Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, “We see,” your guilt remains.’” There is no greater blindness than that which insists it can see when it cannot.

So the takeaway for us, friends, is simple. Jesus’ light is blinding to some and beautiful to others. Jesus’ light is blinding to some and beautiful to others. Think about it with me. What separates these two groups of people, the ones who are drawn to the beauty of His light, and those who are blinded to it? What separates that group? Both of them see Jesus. Both of them hear His words. Both of them are confronted with His power, His authority, His claims, His miracles. What makes those two groups different? Well, it seems to me that it all comes down to whether we are willing to admit our blindness or not. That’s the real differentiator here.

The man who is blind from birth knows he’s blind, not just physically, but spiritually too. That’s why he is so quick to accept that the one who healed his eyes can also heal his soul. He knows there’s a darkness that lies deep within him, and so he welcomes the light. But the Pharisees, on the other hand, insist that they can see, not just physically but spiritually too. And they are too proud to admit that there is darkness actually in their own souls. And so when the light comes it is a threat, you see, because the light exposes the darkness that is in them. And so they do everything they can to shut out the light. And so don’t you see this story, this parable, is not just a story? It’s the story not just of this one man. It’s the story of us.

We may not all be born blind, but we’re all spiritually born blind. And there’s a choice when the light comes that we have to decide. Will we admit the darkness that is within us and discover the beauty of the light, or will we deny the darkness that is in us and be blinded by the light? See, this is the differentiator. This is what separates the two groups. It’s why sinners draw near to Jesus, and self-righteous religious people stand far away, because the closer you get to the light, the more you see your darkness. And if you believe in karma, that you get what you deserve in life, then you can’t admit to your sin because then you deserve condemnation, don’t you? Don’t you see? But if you believe the world is framed in grace, if you believe the world as Jesus reveals it to be, that He comes in order to lay down His life, to have His life snuffed out so that He might take our darkness upon Himself so that we might live forever in the light; if that’s the way the world is, then you can come into the light, you see. If you believe in karma, the light is an enemy. If you believe in grace, the light is your friend.

So, how about you? What will you do with the light? Won’t you let the light in, friends? Jesus is the light of the world. His light is not our enemy, but our friend. Oh, it will expose us. It will show the darkness in the corners of our life, but that’s nothing to be afraid of because the world doesn’t run on karma. The world runs on grace, and the beauty of our Jesus who is the light of the world who came that we might have life abundantly in Him. Won’t you come to the light, even today?

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, we want to admit that our souls are darker than we admit often in public. There are things we hide, things we run from, dark corners in our souls that we are afraid, if they come into the light, of the consequences of that. But Father, we also believe that you sent your Son into the world to be the light, to shine, that His light is not just exposing but is purifying. It’s cleansing. That He comes to drive the darkness out of us so that it no longer defines us, but that we might have freedom and life, and not be enslaved to the darkness any more, that if we would believe in Jesus, that He is your Son, that He came and offered His life on our behalf, died on the cross in our place and for our sake, and rose again to make us right with you, that the light would come in and that we might be changed.

And so, Father, right now we commit ourselves to you, all that we are. Would you shine in our hearts? Draw us into the light. Make us holy and righteous and pure. Be our Savior. Be our Lord. Be our everything. We want to let the light in. So we come to the light, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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