John 9:1-41 Part I
Introduction: how can I see?
I don’t know if you remember those 3-D posters that were popular some time ago. They were just paper with a pattern on it – but if you squinted and looked at it in a certain way you saw – well to be honest I never found out what you saw, because I couldn’t do it. People told me you saw a dinosaur or something. For me – it was never more than expensive wrapping paper. Some people could see it – some couldn’t. And it seemed a bit arbitrary who could and couldn’t.
I wonder if you ever felt like that about Christianity. Some people can see Jesus – they look at the Bible and they are convinced and believe. But others look at Jesus – but they don’t get it - they don’t believe.
Now why is that? Why do we – or don’t we believe? How does someone come to believe? Or not believe?
Well John 9 gives us some answers to those sorts of questions. We’re going to spend two weeks in this chapter and tonight we’re thinking – how do we come to believe in Jesus? Next week we’ll think about the opposite - why people don’t believe – for now – how do we come to believe?
Let’s start with what I’ve called the sign, the sign that Jesus is the light of the world.
The Sign: Jesus is the light of the world, 9v1-7
This isn’t the main point here, but it’s worth pausing on this. The disciples assume the reason we suffer is because we do things wrong – and God punishes us for that. So when they meet this man who was born blind – the question is – is he blind because of his parent’s sin – or his own sin?
However, Jesus says – v3 READ.
So Jesus is clear that your suffering is not caused by your particular wrong doing.
The Bible does link our sin and suffering but only in a general way. Suffering has come because humanity as a whole have rejected God. That has led to this world going wrong and suffering is part of that. But that is only a general connection – Jesus says here we don’t individually suffer in direct proportion to our individual sin. If you want to sum it up we can say suffering comes from sin in general – not from sin in particular.
Now let’s get back to the main flow here - why is this man born blind? Well v3-5 READ.
Now when Jesus says - I am the light of the world - he is making an enormous claim because in the Bible light and darkness are big metaphors - full of meaning.
Darkness is a picture of God’s anger or punishment. Being in darkness means being cut off from God – having him against you and suffering his judgement.
Light on the other hand means the opposite – light means – knowing God and living with God and enjoying God.
And the Bible & Jesus himself, are clear that because of how we have treated God – left to ourselves, we are in the dark – we face God’s punishment.
But through the Bible God promises an answer - he promises to send a rescuer to help us. And he describes this rescuer as – the light. At Christmas we’ll have a reading from Isaiah 9 ‘the people walking in darkness have seen a great light’. It’s a promise of one who will rescue us.
So when Jesus says – I am the light of the world – he’s saying – I’m that rescuer God promised. I’m the one who can take you from darkness and bring you to know God.
So it’s a huge claim. But he doesn’t just talk big, he then acts big as well. He backs up his claim with action.
It’s put very quickly – but this is an amazing miracle. He was born blind. Blind all his life. And with a simple mud recipe Jesus makes him see.
John calls miracles like these – signs – because they are signs, pointers, to who Jesus is.
It’s not hard to get the significance of this sign - he heals someone physically in the dark – to demonstrate he can rescue people in the dark with God. He brings someone into the light to show he’s the light of the world.
We’ll come back to that – lets now go onto what I’m going to call - the reality. We’ve looked at the sign – that Jesus is the light of the world. Next we get the reality of that sign – as Jesus brings this man into the light with God.
The Reality: Jesus can bring us into the light, 9v8-39
After this miracle we get a series of conversations with the blind man.
I’m sorry to call him the blind man – I realise he can now see – and so it’s rather perverse to call him blind. But you know who I mean.
I want us to see in these conversations how the blind man gradually comes to see who Jesus is. Let’s walk through it.
“The man they call Jesus”, v11
First of all the crowd say v10 – how were your eyes opened? V11 READ.
At this stage that’s what he thinks of Jesus – he is the man they call Jesus.
“He is a prophet”, v17
Then they take him to the Pharisees – they ask how he can see – he repeats the story. Now they aren’t happy because technically Jesus has worked on the Sabbath by making mud. But they can’t deny the miracle. They ask - v17 READ. He’s making progress.
The Pharisees doubt whether he was ever really blind – so they get his parents to check and v20 READ.
“This man is from God”, v33
But the Pharisees still aren’t happy so v26 – they ask again - what did he do?
Well at this point the blind man starts to get cheeky – v27 READ.
The Pharisees insist – v29 READ.
That makes the man come to this conclusion v30-33 READ.
Man – prophet – from God.
“Lord, I believe”, v38
Then we read v35-38 READ.
This is like someone standing in front our 3-D posters and saying – hold on – I can see a vague shape – it’s an animal, ah – it’s a dinosaur.
He goes from man, to prophet, to ‘from God’, to I believe, and worships.
In other words, he comes to see who Jesus is – spiritually he comes into the light.
Our question is – how does it happen? How does he come to see?
I think we can see two things going on. First of all, there is a,
Rational, logical, evidential argument
We saw these conversations get the evidence clear. They check his identity, confirm with his parents - this man was definitely born blind.
And it’s obvious he can definitely now see – no one is disputing that.
So the evidence is clear – this man was definitely blind – and now definitely sees.
And then from that – flows a logical argument. We see it most when the Pharisees say they don’t know where Jesus comes from…so the blind man replies – v30-33 READ.
You can hear the blind man thinking out loud? As the Pharisees keep saying Jesus is a nobody –that makes him think about it. Hold on – if he opened my eyes – he can’t be a nobody. Only the creator – God - can do this sort of thing – so he must be from God…
A while ago I was with my book group - some friends who aren’t Christians and we were talking about the novel “The Life of Pi”. Don’t know if you’ve come across it. In many ways it’s a good read. But – it also annoyed me – because it suggests that every religion is equally true, so choose the one you like the most.
Now that’s a big topic we’re not getting into – but what really annoyed me was that it didn’t allow for the fact that there might be evidence for a religion. That possibility just wasn’t entertained.
And so at one point, I said this – and then a little nervously said, “I’m a Christian because the evidence has convinced me it’s true.”
One bloke looked at me and frowned and said – ‘what evidence?’ And everyone laughed – at such a ridiculous idea.
But there is evidence. Like this healing. Now, it’s not absolute proof Jesus is God – but as the blind man reasons – it’s at least a sign that Jesus has the power of a creator – the power of God.
I know there are other questions to ask - is this a reliable account? Can we trust John to write the truth? That sort of thing. And that’s not for now. But there are answers to those questions – and it all builds up to evidence to believe.
Often people think becoming a Christian is a leap in the dark. Like my friends in my book group laughed at the idea of evidence. Sometimes faith is defined as believing something you know isn’t true. It’s blind faith.
For this man, it was very the opposite of that – he dwells on the evidence and is kind of compelled – to realise Jesus must be from God. For him it is logic and rational thought and evidence that brings him to believe.
However, there is a second comment we’ve got to make. How did this man come to believe? At one level it was rational evidence. At another level it was,
Miraculous, Jesus-given sight, 9v39
In v39 - Jesus gives us a comment on what has happened, READ.
That is Jesus’ explanation on what has happened to the blind man. It’s that he has come into the world to bring the blind to see.
So how did this man come to believe in Jesus – Jesus’ answer is – I brought him to see. Just like Jesus did the miracle of physically opening his eyes – he did the miracle of spiritually opening his eyes and bringing him to believe.
Now at this point you might want to say – but Nigel, you’ve just said it’s a rational process. Now you are saying it’s a miracle. How can it be both?
Well let me try and illustrate it. Do you remember having to go for an eye test at school? After you’ve had the letters getting smaller and smaller, you’re shown a card a bit like this - with a circle of red dots on it. But in the middle – is a number 5 in green dots.
And you are asked – what number do you see? Most people say – 5.
But some people look and say - I can’t see a number. Just dots.
Because that is how it is if you’re colour blind. You can’t distinguish red from green.
The number is there – but they can’t see it.
Now imagine we could wave a wand and take away that person’s colour blindness. And they then said – it’s obvious, it’s 5.
Would we then say – well that’s irrational? What a lucky stab in the dark?
Not at all – in fact – we’d say the opposite - they can now see properly – and they can see what was there all the time.
And it’s the same with us and Jesus. The evidence for him is there – but we have a problem with our sight. We are Jesus-blind. As I said at the start Bible describes us in the dark - blind to God and Jesus.
And so we need him to work a miracle in us – to take away our Jesus-blindness. And so then we can look at him and say – oh it’s obvious – Jesus is God.
But the fact we need a miracle doesn’t make this illogical – or a blind guess. In fact it’s the opposite – this miracle brings us to see clearly. It brings us to think more clearly and logically than we ever have before. So as Jesus enables us – we can look at the evidence and say – of course – Jesus is the rescuer I need.
And that is the miracle Jesus has come to do. He says – I am the light of the world. I have come to bring the blind to see.
How do we come to believe? Two answers here - rational reflection on the evidence. But that only works as Jesus enables us to see what that all means and see who he is.
Let’s finish by thinking what this means for us in practice. I want to suggest two things.
First of all – if tonight we can see who Jesus is – if we believe in him – to some extent anyway. We should have a delighted, amazed, gratitude.
How do you think the blind man felt each morning when woke up and opened his eyes? Blind all your life – then you wake up and see your parent’s faces. Sees his home, friends – the sun, a bird, a tree. He must have been – wow – this is amazing. There is a whole world I was missing - now I can live.
Well if we can see Jesus – I think we should feel something of that. I know it feels different to the blind man – it’s not a physical thing - we might have grown up as Christians so feels like we’ve always seen Jesus and that sort of thing. But at some point, we were blind to Jesus. He meant nothing to us. Life was about us or whatever we choose to live for. But now – we see who he is – he’s our God and rescuer – and we can live now with him – life making sense with him at the centre. That’s amazing – we should have delight, amazed gratitude.
But as I say that we might be thinking – it often doesn’t feel like that. I’m not that amazed. Or to be honest – I struggle to believe in Jesus – if you like, I don’t see very well. Or maybe we simply don’t believe in Jesus so of course we don’t feel this.
Well for all of us – wherever we are on that spectrum - we need to both look at Jesus – and pray we see Jesus. They must go together.
We need to look at Jesus. Read the Bible, listen to talks from the Bible, be exposed to Jesus, think about him, learn, talk, use your mind, engage, think. We look.
But at the same time we must pray to see. Lord I’m blind – please open my eyes to Jesus, and who he is.
And it’s both. Both look at Jesus and pray we see Jesus.
It’s not – I’ll just look and investigate and think, and work Jesus out on my own. We’re blind. So on our own we won’t see him.
But equally we don’t just pray - open my eyes – and then do nothing. Expecting God to zap us into stronger belief. We have to look – Jesus has given us the Bible, given us signs pointing to him, so we can look at him, and learn and think and know.
We must do both – look at Jesus, pray to see Jesus.
If we’re not a Christian I know this is a big ask. I’m saying look at Jesus in the Bible and as you do that – pray God will open your eyes. That’s asking a lot. If you’re up for that - you can start your prayer – God, if you’re there – apparently I need your help to see – so would you do that.
If we do believe in Jesus to whatever degree - we do the same. Sundays, splinter group, on our own – we look at Jesus in the Bible, give ourselves to that. And as we look we pray – please open my eyes – that I would see how wonderful Jesus is, how gracious, how trustworthy, how patient, how serving, how powerful, how just and right and good. How valuable, how important, how worth it he is. Please help me truly see him.
How do we come to believe in Jesus? How do we grow in Jesus?
Look at Jesus – and pray to see Jesus.