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Sermon November 3, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1418

November 3, 2019 John 9.1-41

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“The Light of the World”

 

Scene 1 – The Light of the World

 

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 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 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

 

The disciples and Jesus see this blind man and so the disciples ask a question about him. We have had this philosophy in the last 15-20 years that there are no dumb questions. And we have had that philosophy, I think, because we wanted children to not fear asking questions and people in general to ask questions without assuming things. While those are good reasons to think that way, it is just not true that there are no dumb questions! Don’t you think that as well? I’ve heard lots of dumb question in my life and even asked some! But even if we don’t push it that far, we can see that some questions are misguided or presume something within the question. So here are the disciples asking a question that presumes something that would have been assumed by many people in the world at the time. They get specific asking if the man’s sin or the parents sin are to blame for his blindness, but perhaps a better question would have been, why is this man blind? That question does not automatically assume sin in involved. Their question is misguided. This is why we sometimes have to answer a different question no matter what question is asked. Many questions assume and presume something in the asking. You know the classic presumptive question, when did you stop beating your dog? The presumption of the disciples is about sin. Or we sometimes have those kinds of questions that have no bearing on the truth. Can God make a rock so big He cannot lift it?

That’s not the right question. Better question – Why is this man blind? The question asked is one Jesus will not answer, a non-question, so Jesus offers another answer to a question not asked. I think it is fine to suggest questions to people. “You ask me who sinned, but a better question might be, how can this man’s need be used by God? How might this man’s condition reveal the glory of God?

Jesus answers the question not asked in order to point the question in a new direction. Steer the question toward the light! I used to make fun of the bumper sticker theology that simply said, JESUS IS THE ANSWER. My sarcastic response was, what is the question? If the question is what’s the best steakhouse in town? Jesus is not the answer. When you need a quick response to “where is the restroom? you don’t need a fifteen minute presentation of the gospel that concludes that Jesus is the answer. Yes, Jesus is the answer to our questions about salvation and eternal life and abundant life and the most important questions of life and death, but not all questions are appropriate. And not all questions will give us opportunity to give witness to Jesus, the Light of the world. So, there are times when we might have to help people ask the right question. There are times when we might have to answer a question not asked. The reason to do that is to find ways to point people to the Light of the world.

Scene 2 – The Cynical Public

 

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?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 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.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

 

We might call the public questions cynical or skeptical, either way they are attempting to discredit what has happened in the blind man receiving sight. Enemies of the gospel will not believe miracles. Enemies of Christ will not believe in the power of God. So, what do they do? They confuse the facts. They cast doubt on the truth. They offer a false narrative to explain away what truly happened. I would like to suggest that their tone was skeptical or sarcastic, Is this the man? No, just looks like him. I am the man. Well then, where is the man you claim anointed your eyes? Where is he? And they think because he can’t locate him that they have proved their cynicism correct.

 

Scene 3 – The Impeachment Process

 

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 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.” 16 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. 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.”

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 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 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.” 22 (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.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

 

They brought the healed man to the religious leaders, those on the left. It is the Sabbath day. The man gave his testimony to the public and now is asked to once again present his story. Their questioning begins with how he received his sight but quickly moves to Sabbath keeping infraction. So they go back to the testimony of the man, what have you to say about Jesus knowing that He broke the Sabbath law? He’s a prophet. The leadership refuses to believe that he had been blind, so they call in his parents. They give their testimony that their son was born blind but as to what Jesus did, they feared being put out of the synagogue for endorsing anything about Jesus. So they put the onus back on their son whom they say is old enough to speak for himself.

The Pharisees are doing all they can to “impeach” Jesus! They bring in witnesses in an attempt to delegitimize Jesus. But this is what happens around testimony about Jesus. Lives are disrupted. Systems are turned upside down. Established powers are threatened. A crisis develops for those who think they see and know better than everyone else. It is inevitable that our conversations and testimonies about Jesus will bring disruption. It is inevitable that the name Jesus will threaten the people seeking to hold power for themselves at the expense of others. It is inevitable that Jesus will bring chaos to establishment entrenched in their own importance.

The other thing we might consider in this scene is that we might have to walk through a lot of mud before the truth is revealed. We might have to go through a lot of nonsense to get to the truth. Giving testimony to Jesus is not an easy road. This is why Jesus said we will encounter resistance and suffering and hatred, because the world hates Jesus. We have had it easy for some time in our own nation because of how our nation was created, but as we all know, history is easily forgotten and even attempts to rewrite our past are proving to change perspectives on the notion of being a Christian nation. Religious liberties are no longer assumed and respected, but instead other forces like discrimination laws and or political correctness are sought to overcome the practice of Christian faith.

 

Scene 4 – The Challenge to Discipleship

 

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.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 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?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 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. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

 

The Pharisees don’t get their way the first time, so they call a second meeting and ask the man who received his sight if he wants to change his testimony. We know how that goes in the world today, if you can’t get what you want the first time, dream up another way to get what you hoped for the first time. Now, this is one of the most humorous scenes in the Bible when he witness belittles the leadership’s attempt to discredit him and Jesus. This would be the third time the witness tells his story and the second time to the Pharisees. Verse 27 - 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?” Why do you want to hear this again? Do you also want to become His disciples? Do you want to now follow Jesus like I am going to do? Oh my, how that question riles them up to anger. We don’t want to follow Jesus, we follow Moses! How dare you suggest such a thing. Their arrogance is overwhelming. Their hatred is evident. They can not possibly believe the testimony of this man and they certainly will not let go of their hatred of Jesus.

So, they cast this man out. We’ve been studying what Jesus said and did in conversations, but we can also learn a lot from this man who was born blind and how he handled his testimony before others!

 

Scene 5 – Seeing is Believing or Believing is Seeing

 

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 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.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

 

Notice that in the last three scenes Jesus is personally absent from the narrative. His presence is only known through the testimony given. Now, in scene five he returns to the story having heard that the formerly blind man had been cast out and I’m assuming they did not just cast him out of the hearing room, but cast him out of the synagogue as well.

Jesus asks him if he believes in the Son of Man. The man is still not sure who Jesus is. What he has confessed before is that Jesus is at least a prophet. Now he can see physically and Jesus is asking him to see spiritually. The response is immediate, Lord, I believe. Now, this gives Jesus the opportunity to talk about this entire scenario of these five scenes.

 

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.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

 

Jesus came to bring light. Jesus came to open eyes and hearts and minds. And, Jesus came to blind those who think they see. We can only see when we are in the light. The man born blind could not physically see until Jesus opened his eyes and he could not believe until Jesus opened his heart. He was blind in two ways, physically and spiritually. The Pharisees who believe they can see are blind to the Lordship of Jesus. They are blinded, ironically, by their own practice of religion. They are blinded by the law of Moses that should be opening them up to the Messiah, but their interpretation of Moses is darkening out the light of God’s own witness in Moses. They are blinded by their arrogance and self-importance and power.

Sometimes it is in seeing that people come to believe. Thomas was one disciple who had to see first. Perhaps we could argue that this man born blind had to see Jesus to believe. But what he experienced was more than just seeing Jesus because he also experienced a miracle from Jesus. Both of those things led to his believing. Other times it is what we sometimes call “blind faith” that enables us to see. We believe first and then we begin to see more of what is true and what is not. Faith precedes seeing. I would suggest that this is the norm, that God opens our hearts to believe and in believing we begin to see Jesus for who He really is.

 

This is our last sermon in this series on conversations with Jesus. What can we draw from this to help us have conversations about Jesus and with Jesus?

1. Jesus is the light of the world and we are called to point others to the light and the light of Truth.

2. Help people ask the right questions.

3. Sometimes we may have to endure hardships, resistance, and maybe persecution in our witness about Jesus.

4. Perhaps we will have opportunity to ask those who oppose Jesus if they would also like to follow!

5. We must trust that Jesus came to open the eyes of those who do not see and blind those who think they see.

 

As we read the gospels, let us explore what Jesus said, how He said it, and what actions He took in conversations. Perhaps we can learn ways to help us share our testimony about the Light of the world that others may see...and who knows, might be opportunities to blind or silence those who think they see better than those who truly see Jesus as the Messiah.