John Lesson 19 - To See or Not to See
The blind man in John 8 suffered 38 years before God gave him sight. Why? Was he being punished for something his parents did or for something he did? That's the question people were asking back in Jesus' day and Jesus' answer to them is profound. Lets listen now as Stephen delivers it to us.
To See or Not To See
I have read that in the United States, somebody goes blind every twenty minutes.
My godly mother in law is legally blind as a result of her worsening diabetes. My wife and I had lunch this past week with friends, among whom was a woman also legally blind - a condition from birth. There is a gentleman in our church who is undergoing extensive testing becuase of the ever impending threat of total blindness.
If you and I were told by God to choose a physical disability, I am sure that not one of us would choose blindness.
Yet, in the passage before us, we're about to discover a blindness far worse than the loss of physical sight. We're about to take a journey back to group of people who will choose to remain spiritually blind - yet also observe the wonderful story of a blind man from birth who chooses to see.
In invite you to return to the Gospel by John, and as you're turning let me set the stage;
You remember the setting of this chapter is the Festival of Tabernacles or Booths. And one of the predominate aspects of that festival was water. You remember how the High Priest went down to the pool of Shiloam . . .and dipped the basin into the water. Then he returned carrying the basin of water and with the crowd chanting, "We shall draw water from the wells of salvation." He then poured the water over the rock of the altar, signifying the water that flowed from the rock in the wilderness that allowed the Israelites to drink. At that moment, Jesus stood and said, "If any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink, and out of his belly will flow rivers of living water."
The waters of Siloam provided an excellent background for Jesus' Messianic invitation.
But there's more.
There was a second and equally important aspect of this festival; It was a ceremony called the "Illumination of the Temple." It took place in the treasury, also known as the Court of Women. The court was surrounded with deep galleries, built to hold hundreds of spectators. In the center of that massive couryard were four great candelabra. On the first evening of the Festival of Booths, these four gigantic candelabra were lit and, it was said, they sent such a blaze of light throughout Jerusalem that every courtyard was lit up with their brilliance.
These candleabra played the role of stage prop in this festival play that reminded the Israelites of the pillar of fire that led their forefathers though the wilderness.
One more point as I set up this scene for you. In our last discussion, we studied the final day of this festival. Now today, you need to know that in this passage, the Feast of Booths had ended. Just the day before, in the treasury, these great candle abras had blazed forth their incredible light - now they were dark, the flames have been extinguished.
Now notice 8:12. - Again, therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life!"
Now if this were a stage, you couldn't help but notice the props in the background. . .8:20. These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple. In other words, Jesus is seated in the same courtyard where these candleabra are located. These darkned, silent reminders stood there as if to declare the light in the Temple was a brilliant light, but in the end it flickers and dies. I am the light which lasts for ever!
Back in verse 12 there is hidden in this verse is a challenge that is easy to overlook. "I am the light of the world, he who follows me shall not walk in darkness." The challenge is found in the invitation to follow: "follow"...he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness!"
The word "follow" - akolutheo was used in a number of different ways by Greek writers: For instance,
1) a soldier following his captain.
On the long route marches, into battle, in campaigns in strange lands, the soldier follower wherever the captain may lead. The Christian who walks in the light will be the one who, as a good soldier follows the commander who is Christ
2) a slave following his master.
Wherever the master goes the slave is in attendance, always ready to spring into action and perform some duty or task. He is at his master's beck and call. The Christian who follows Jesus is one who serves his Master Lord.
3) the word "followed" was used of someone who followed or accepted a wise person's counsel.
Just as Plato, Aristotle and Socrates had their followers who followed their counsel. One of the titles of our Savior is "Wonderful Counselor" - so the believer who follows the counsel of the Lord will walk in the light!
Now notice the very first words again of v. 12. Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.
What did He mean, "I am the light of the world."
Last winter, I stored some firewood on the side of our backyard, next to a shed we have. A gentlemen in the church came a got my pickup truck and then loaded it down with firewood.
By the way, this is as good a time as any to tell you that my beloved 75' Ford pickup truck, that I affectionately refer to from time to time, just three few weeks ago, died. By the way, my wife and I moved from Texas to Cary in that truck, a gift from her father and mother to us. I was traveling down the interstate when the engine seized - the oil pump evidently broke down and stopped working and in just a few seconds, that old, faithful, blessed truck, coughed, knocked and died...you know I used to carry Colonial Baptist Church in the back of that truck. Four boxes of hymnals, a couple of artificial trees, some church signs and nursery equipment...two swings and a port-a-crib...I hope you don't mind but a few years ago I secretly inducted my truck into the membership of the church - just kidding - don't go check the church records - well, deep into 6 figure mileage, it finally coughed it's last. I've had people ask me if I'm going to put a new engine in it - I wondered the same thing - in fact, as soon as I was towed in I asked Mike Barker who owns the Exxon station up here, he sent the tow truck after me that fateful day - "Hey Mike, should I put a new engine in it?" He just laughed and said, "Stephen, everything else on that truck's either broken or will break...let it go..." So...I did!
Right now, in honor of my old truck, - just a moment of silence.
Have Jackie play taps! Thank you Jackie. For those of you who used to ask me to park around back of the church so noone would see it, there are no hard feelings.
Let's move on - this fella brought over a bunch of white oak, and first we laid a couple of two by fours down to serve as a
foundation to keep the firewood dry, and then the wood was stacked on top - the following spring, I was cleaning up outside and I happened to pull those two by fours up - and immediately there was a mass of movement - there were zillions of little bugs, some big bugs as well, scurrying and rushing - searching for the shadows. They had been exposed by the light of day.
That's as simple and yet as profound as Jesus' own comments!
That's what happened when Jesus came and kicked over the board called legalistic, Pharisaic Judaism - The Pharisees and Scribes couldn't stand the light and they hated Jesus for disturbing their darkness.
People today don't like Him - he disturbs their darkness.
Now, can you guess what happened in the same spot a few weeks later in my backyard - little green shoots began to appear as the earth, warmed by the light began to experience life!
So when Jesus says, "I am the light of the world" he's indicating two things are going to happen:
People who love the darknes are going to scurry for cover, they choose the shadows, they choose to walk in the dark, while on the other hand, other people will come to life - people who choose the light.
Now, I want to leave this chapter and its declaration and move into the next chapter for the practical demonstration!
Aurthur Pink writes, "In John 8 we behold Christ as the light exposing the darkness, but in John 9 He communicates sight. In John 8 the Light is despised and rejected, in John 9 He is received and worshipped. In John 8 the Jews are seen stooping down to pick up stones; in John 9 Christ is seen stooping down to make anointing clay. In John 8 Christ hides Himself from the Jews; in John 9 He reveals Himself to the blind beggar."
9:1. And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.
2. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?"
These disciples were simply echoing the popular interpretation of their day, "SOMEONE SINNED". If there is sickness, there is sin.
Jesus makes it very clear that sickness can be - For the purpose of exaltation
That's the point here - 9:3. Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order taht the works of God might be displayed in him."
Jesus knew a miracle was about to take place! They didn't!
Let me add to that purpose another; sickness can be:
For the purpose of Instruction
In fact, I rarely visit someone in the hopital without encouraging them to consider that their hospital room is also a classroom and the teacher is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Don't forget, God may use our experience to help instruct and encourage others who pass through the same trials
Sickness may come - For the purpose of Correction I never get the flu or have a physical sickness without asking the Lord - "Is there something you're trying to teach me concerning some error or sin in my life?"
God may use our suffering to break through the hardness of another person and bring about change in them.
He may use suffering for the purpose of salvation: He may use suffering in the life of a person to bring that same person to His side.
Illustration - This morning in the neurological wing of Wake Memorial hospital is a brand new Christian named Gene. A few months ago he was at the wrong place and the wrong time, and he was shot in the back - now paralyzed from the chest down. I visited Gene a few times and finally, laying flat on his back, holding my hand, he prayed to recieve Christ as his Savior. By the way, he told me just this past week, "As soon as I get out, I'm coming to Colonial." For the purpose of salvation!
Now notice 9:5 - "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world"
You recognize that metaphor? You see, here's the key linking verse between what He said in chapter 8 and what He'll do in chapter 9.
Verse 6. When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the caly to his eyes. 7. And said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which is translated, sent). And so he went away and washed, and came back seeing.
Why go wash in the Pool of Siloam...why not just speak the words. Remember, Jesus never healed anyone just becuase they were sick. No, he healed to prove a point. And what an unmistakable point.
You need to understand Christ's strange command within the context of the Festival of Booths. Silaom was, you will recall, the place where the priest dipped up the water that signified God's spiritual and physical supply for His people. Jesus stood and said, "If you're thirsty come drink of me...I'll never run out." And now,
Follow this carefully:
Christ sends the man to the Pool of Siloam.
And in this one miracle, the themes of water and light are now combining as a sign to Israe. Here is the blind beggar, groping for the water's edge, he kneels and obey's the words of Christ, and applies the water to his sightless eyes. Slowly, he lifts his head, water dripping from his face. . .he openes his eyes and a flood of strange light floods in. . .he blinks away the watery mist and finally the light begins to clarify objects, faces, reflections. He rises to his feet as curious onlookers marvel at what they have just witnessed; this man can see!
Here's the point:
If Israel, the blind beggar, will obey the words of Christ and come to Him, the living water, they also will be able to see the light!
Now the rest of the chpater records the response - primarily from the Pharisees:
The Pharisees will respond with a two-pronged approach:
1) cross-examination - This will take place from verse 13-34.
13. They brought to the Pharisees him who was formerly blind. 14. Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15. Again, therefore, the Pharisees also were asking him how he received his sight. And he said to them, "He applied clay
to my eyes, and I washed, and I see." 16. Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, "This man is not fromGod, becuase He does not keep the Sabbath." But others were saying, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And there was a division among them.
Here's what had really rattled their cages - Jesus had performed a miracle - BUT he had performed it on the day of rest.
You need to understand the Laws of the Sabbath:
It was against the law to Carry a burden: The Rabbi's had developed that to include:
carrying a handkerchief from one room to another
lighting a lamp
cutting your fingernails
plucking your beard
And - get this - Performing medicine:
According to rabbinic maxims it was all right to practice medicine if life was in danger, but it was forbidden to do anything to improve life. In fact a doctor could not treat a toothache, nor pour water on a sprained ankle. . .this blind man's life was not threatened - so Jesus performed medicine on him...
So here they are in a real fix. They believed in that day that causing a blind person to see was the undeniable proof of Messiashiip. Why? Because there was not even one record in all the Old Testament of that miracle taking place.
So they try a different approach - "Let's discredit the witness"
18. The Jews therefore did not believe it of him, that he had been blind, and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight. (This is so sad here). 19. And they questioned them, saying, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?" 20. His parents answered them and said, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21. but how he nowsees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he shall speak for himself.
Why didn't they back their son up?! Why didn't they just say "Phooey" on the Pharisees? The next verse tells us! 22. His parents said this becuase they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews (leaders) had already agreed, that if anyone should confess Him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
This is the second prong on their approach. . .excommunication
There were two kinds of excommunication. There was a temporary excommunication for the sake of discipline that might last a month or more.
But then there was the permanent excommunication where the individual was banished from the synagogue for life. This was a powerful weapon.
Why? Becuase the synagogue was the controller of everything in the life of the Jew - social, civic, athletic, political, and of courwse religous.
Later on in John we read "Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but becuase of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue...
To be cut off from the synagogue would be to be cut off from life. And the ultimate terror was that you were considered not only shut out from the synagogue but from God.
What a wonderful word of encouragement to the tiny communities of Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman empire. They were being cast out of the synagogues, ostracized by their fellow Jews as traitors. . .it still happens today.
I had the priviledge of knowing and hearing Dr. Jacob Gartenhaus, a converted Jew who spend his life trying to win his people to the true Messiah. His biography is entitled "Traitor" and one incident I remembered from his own testimony told of how as a young man he trusted Christ as his savior. Immediately he cried, "I have found the Messiah," he immediately shared it with two other Jews...within a nimutes surrounded by a crowd of Jews in New York who began to beat him. Beaten twice and stoned 87 years
It can be a frightening thing to be rejected, scorned unwanted.
Doesn't seem to be intimidating this beggar into changing his story...so The Pharisees try their final time - notice verse 24.
24. So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give glory to God" (a legal phrase that meant, "Tell the truth), we know that this man is a sinner. (He couldn't have done this to you!) 25. He therefore answered, "Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.
The Pharisees really just wanted to disqualify Jesus. They avoided the truth in their quest for a loophole. Occasionally we will meet people who only want to argue and debate the merits and claims of Jesus without ever deciding to follow him. They mask their rejection under a thin cover of inquiry. It's easier to keep the argument on intellectual grounds than to face spritual and moral need.
Did you miss that powerful testimony - 9:25 - "I don't know much and I don't understand what all the argument is about; all I know is, this morning I couldn't see, and this afternoon I can." No council of Pharisees, however powerful, can change that!
What a great encouragement would be to all of us about our own testimony. There you are, standing before a philosphy professor, a fellow scientist, a religous skeptic - the argument they cannot answer is your testimony - "I was blind, but now I see!"
26. They said therefore to him, "What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?" 27. He answered them, "I told you already, and you did not listen; why do you wnat to hear it again? (Now notice his penetrating, question) "You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?" In other words, he asks them "Do you want to be able to see too?"
Trith is, they were predjudiced already against Jesus, and as a result, they couldn't accept Him, and they couldn't rejoice over this blind beggar who can now see!
Tony Compolo told the story of a man who took his advice - it backfired on him - at any rate, Campolo was challenging him to love his wife in language she could understand. He later retold the story of what happened. He said, "I usually leave the factory sweating and dirty at the end of the day, but I decided that, if I really wanted to dos something special for my wife, I would clean up befroe i saw her that afternoon. So I showered and shaved in the factory locker room and I even had brought a fresh change of clothes. On the way hom, I stopped at a florist and bought some flowers for her. I usually come in the back door of the house, grab a snack from the frig and go watch T.V. until supper. But, becuase I wanted to do something special, I went to the front door, rang the doorbell and waited for my wife to answer the door. When she opened the door, I held out the flowers and siad, "I love you!" She looked at the flowers, then at me, and then burst into tears. She said, "I've had a terrible day. Billy broke his leg and I had to take him to the hopsital. I no sooner got him home from the hospital than the phone rang. It was your mother. She's coming to visit for two weeks. I tried to do the wash, and the washing machine broke. There's water all over the basement floor. And now...and now you come home drunk!"
Like this woman, the Pharisees have a cause for celebration - but they had already jumped to the wrong conclusion!
Think about it - here's a beggar everyone knew - he's been blind from sight - now he can see and what do they say - "Did he do that to you on the Sabbath?" Forget the miracle - let's focus on the minutia of Rabbinical law.
The last phrase of verse 34 says it all - And they put him out. He was placed under the ban - excommunicated from the synagogue.
I love what happens next. . .9:35. Jesus heard that they had put him out; and finding him, He said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man? 36. He answered and said, "And who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?" 37. Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you." 38. And he said, "Lord, I believe" And he worshiped Him.
A beggar - dressed in rags - hurt, rejected by those who should have thrown a week long celebration - his parents, for fear of their reputation, abandon him in court...Jesus goes and finds him and embraces him.
Imagine being told you can't worship in the Synagogue, and God makes Himself available for a personal worship service that I am sure carried that man through the difficult ostracizing days ahead.
David wrote, "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will hold me up." Ps. 27:10
G. Campbell Morgan was one of the most well known Bible teachers of his generation around the turn of the century. In 1888 he, along with 150 other young men sought entrance into the Wesleyan ministry. He had passed his written, theological examination, but still faced the test of giving a trial sermon in front of a panel. When the results were released, Morgan's name was among the men who were refused. He sent a telegram to his father that read one word, "Rejected." Then he sat down and wrote in his journal, "It is very dark, everything seems so still..." His father replied as quickly as he could and the following telegram read, "Rejected on earth, accepted in heaven."
Here's a man:
-rejected, by man, but accepted by God.
-exommunicated from the house of worship, finding true worship
He could see physically and spiritually - the Pharisees chose to remain blind - they could see physically but not spiritually.
To see or not to see - that really is the question - what's your answer today!
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