Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Perhaps some of you have heard the humorous tale of the time that Tiger Woods and Stevie Wonder first met? Tiger Woods is one of the best golfers in the world and Stevie Wonder is a musician who is blind. And when they met, Stevie Wonder told Tiger that he played golf as well. Well, as you can imagine, Tiger was very surprised to hear this, given that Stevie was blind. So he asked him how he played golf when he could not see? And Stevie replied that he had is caddy go up ahead and make noises and he just hit the ball towards the noise. Simple! Stevie then suggested that he and Tiger play together some time and Tiger agreed. He then said to Tiger, how about we spice it up a little and play for $1000 – winner takes all? Well, Tiger couldn’t believe what he was hearing but he thought it would be rude to say no, so he agreed. And then Stevie said, “Awesome. And you can pick the night when we play.”
Now of course, that is a joke; it didn’t really happen. But it does illustrate the fact that those who are blind live in permanent darkness. Can you imagine not being able to see? And of course, while some go blind at some point in life, this man was born blind; darkness was all he had ever known.
Well, the healing of the man born blind is the sixth miracle sign of the Lord Jesus that John records in his Gospel. But what we are going to see, if you will pardon the pun, is that this healing is about more than just a physical blindness.
Way back at the beginning of the Gospel, John described Jesus as “the light of men.” And in ch. 8, we have heard Jesus say, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” And in our earlier reading from 2 Cor. 4, unbelievers were described as those who have blinded minds that do not see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” And that is why The Healing of a Man Born Blind is actually a powerful picture of salvation. This healing will again prove that Jesus is the Saviour and that salvation is coming out of spiritual darkness into the light.
And it is timely that we consider this passage because NZ society is becoming a place of increasing spiritual darkness. The God of the Bible is being actively removed from legislation, education, and even some churches! But there is power in the gospel to bring light where there was only darkness, therefore we must share the gospel with others.
- So let’s see the four reasons why this healing of a man born blind is actually a powerful picture of salvation. And it is so, firstly, because the healing of the man born blind illustrates our great need.
- At the end of ch. 8, Jesus was escaping from the crowd at the temple who were trying to stone Him. But as another demonstration of His selflessness, as He is escaping, He passes by a blind man and notices Him. In those times, you see, blind people survived by begging. Because they were blind, they were not allowed into the temple itself, so they would beg just outside the temple by the temple gates. And they did this because there were lots of people entering and exiting the temple, and they had money for offerings, and they were people who took the Law of God seriously, and they were there because they were conscious of their own sins. So all of that made the Temple gates the perfect place to beg!
- And we learn that this man was blind from birth. It will become plain later in the chapter that this man and his circumstances were well known to everyone there. So Jesus and the disciples approach the blind man. But before we consider the question of the disciples in v2, we must consider the spiritual significance of this blind man.
- Way back in ch. 7, before Jesus had even come to Jerusalem for the Feast, we were told that “The Jews were looking for Him at the Feast, saying, ‘Where is He?’” And when He finally arrived, they listened eagerly to all He said. So they sought Jesus and engaged Jesus and listened to But they have completely rejected Him.
- But now we have this blind man who cannot see Jesus; who is not seeking Jesus; who is not looking to engage Jesus in conversation and debate. Do you see the contrast? It is Jesus who sees Him and heals Him.
- So this miracle is a picture of God’s sovereignty in salvation. The blind man is the perfect illustration of humanity’s spiritual darkness and lost-ness; he is utterly helpless; he is completely at the mercy of somebody who will notice Him and choose to help him. And in this, he is just like the unbeliever. Unbelievers are lost and dead in their sins; they are spiritually blind; they are not looking for Christ. Salvation begins when God comes to an unbeliever in compassion and grace, and gives them spiritual sight.
- And if you are a believer, this is how it happened with you. Some of you will know the exact moment that you received spiritual sight; others may not; perhaps you were very young. But at some point, God, in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, took away your spiritual blindness and gave you spiritual sight.
- Well, as they approach the man born blind, the disciples ask Jesus if the man was born blind because of his own sin or because of the sin of his parents?
- As I was reading about blindness, I learned that in Bible times and even fairly recently, 90% of those born blind are so because sexually transmitted disease has affected the baby in the womb or during birth. And sexually transmitted diseases come from sexual immorality, like prostitution or adultery. So this physiological reality of the time may have been a part of the disciples’ thinking.
- But you will also be familiar with the part of the Second Commandment that says that God “visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.”
- So physiologically or theologically, the disciples wondered if the parents’ sin was to blame for this man’s blindness.
- But you may remember also that when Job was suffering, his ‘friends’ were convinced that his suffering must be linked to some sin he had personally committed. Their thinking was that suffering is God’s punishment for our sins.
- And again, if you look back at Leviticus and Deuteronomy, there are long lists there of the punishments that God told the people of Israel would surely come if they committed this sin or that sin.
- So, for these sorts of reasons, the disciples asked Jesus their question: Was this man born blind because of his own sin or because of the sin of his parents? And it is a question that is still asked by many today; perhaps you yourself have even asked this question – what have I done to deserve this illness or injury or disability or hardship? Why did Christchurch have those earthquakes? How can God let my dear family member get cancer when he or she is the kindest person I know? Have you ever heard that question asked or asked it yourself?
- Well, Jesus provides a very specific answer, which we shall look at shortly, but the longer answer to their question could easily be a sermon in itself. So today you get the shorter answer J
- In OT times, Israel was ruled directly by God. The parts of Deuteronomy where God listed the specific punishments that would result from specific sins were a part of the civil law of Israel. They do not apply to us today, except for general principles.
- And in terms of Job, we know that his suffering was not the result of some sin he had committed; it was because God had given Satan permission to bring trouble into Job’s life.
- Read Luke 13 sometime and you will read about two major disasters that resulted in multiple deaths. The people thought that these disasters were God’s punishment for sins, but Jesus said that was not the case.
- And the part of Exodus where it says that God visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children of the third and fourth generation? That is not a threat that every sin of Dad will be repeated by the next three generations or that the next three or four generations will automatically be punished for every sin of their parents. Ezekiel 18:20 is very clear about this: “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The … wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” The words in Exodus come after the first and second commandments, which have to do with idolatry and the wrong worship of God. They are a warning that the collective sins of a generation of fathers and leaders can take such deep root that it takes 3-4 generations for them to be rooted out and reversed. We see an OT example of this in the Book of Judges: Again and again, we read that the people of Israel worshipped the Baals and Asherahs, so the Lord gave them over to the Midianites or Amonites who oppressed them for 40 years. Then the people cried out to the Lord or He raised up Ehud or Gideon or Samson to deliver them, etc. So because a generation of fathers and leaders worshipped idols, their children and grand-children also worshipped idols. And this principle applies today also. For example, many of those who started the RCNZ back in the 50’s left family back in the Netherlands. And I have heard many of them lament what has happened in the families they left behind. Back then, 60 odd years ago, they were all church-goers. But now, 2-3 generations later, because those churches embraced false doctrine and false worship, few if any of the children know Christ and they live together instead of marrying or are in same-sex relationships. So broadly speaking, those words in Exodus are a collective statement about the sins of the fathers and leaders of a generation. But since we are talking about God’s grace toward sinners today, let’s not forget how the Second Commandment finishes: “But showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
- So, with all this in view, it is true that all illness and suffering is a result of sin infecting all of creation. God created the world good. It is sin that introduced decay and disease and death into creation. And it can be the case that a particular sin brings particular consequences, such as when a drunk driver crashes his car, for example, or when sexual promiscuity brings STD. But the idea of the disciples that all illness or hardship is a punishment of God for a particular sin is simply not what the Bible teaches.
- So the healing of the man born blind illustrates our great need – outside of Christ, we are spiritually blind; we are hopelessly lost in our sin and guilt.
- And that is why, in the second place, the healing of the man born blind reveals our great Saviour. And here we are looking at vv6-7 and the healing itself.
- Now, it is very easy to get bogged down with the method Jesus used to heal this man. We are told that He spat on the ground and made mud with His saliva, and then anointed the man’s eyes and told Him to go and wash, which He did and was able to see. And there is all sorts of wild speculation about the meaning of the mud and the saliva. But let’s just consider three implications of this healing:
- Firstly, it reveals Jesus’ power. We know that sometimes He healed with a word, but here with mud and saliva. Sometimes He was close to a person when He healed them, other times while He was in another city. Sometimes He performed the healing miracle, other times a person was healed just by touching His clothes. The point is that Jesus has the power to heal! John only tells us about seven great miracle signs of Jesus. And of the seven, just three are healings. But Matthew says this about Jesus, “He went throughout all Galilee … healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” For the three years of His public ministry, Jesus made the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and the dead live! Earlier we read from Isaiah 42 where God promised to send His servant who would “open the eyes that are blind…” And there are many similar prophecies in Isaiah. Jesus is that promised One! Jesus is God come to earth. Jesus has the power to restore the fallen creation! And one day, when He comes again, He will rid this earth of every trace of sin and suffering! So this healing reveals Jesus’ power.
- But secondly, this healing also provoked the Jewish leaders. We will return to this again but if you look at vv14-15, you will see that this healing took place on the Sabbath day. And the Jewish leaders had made up a rule that making mud on the Sabbath was work and therefore illegal. So Jesus healed this way, in part, to engage the Jewish leaders.
- But thirdly, this healing required an obedient response from the blind man.
- How would you react if you were blind and you heard some bloke hoik on the ground and then you felt some goop being put on your eyes and then He told you to go to some distant pool and wash there? And maybe the blind man heard Jesus’ conversation with His disciples and the light of the world stuff, but that’s cryptic at best. It is more likely that He simply heard, Go and wash. But He did it!
- Maybe it reminds some of you of the time that General Naaman sought healing from leprosy? He found the prophet of the Lord and asked to be healed and the prophet told him to go and bathe in the Jordan River. Well, Naaman was highly offended! There were much nicer rivers back home in Syria. Why did he have to go the muddy Jordan? Why didn’t the prophet just speak or anoint him or something? But as he was about to give up and head back to Syria, his servants said to Him, Sir, do this thing; humble yourself and obey; what have you got to lose? So Naaman obeyed and he was healed.
- But we too must obey the command of Jesus today. And this has nothing to do with miracle healings, which were for Bible times. Today the Lord says to you, Do you want eternal life? Do you want to be a child of God? Do you want your sins forgiven? Well, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Your obedience response to the word of Jesus is to believe.
- So it is as Jesus reveals His power, and as He provokes the Jewish leaders, and through the obedient response of the blind man that we see the greatness of our Saviour – Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing in Him we may have life in His name! But thirdly, as we look back now at v3, the healing of the man born blind exposes God’s great Purpose. For Jesus’ answer to the question of the disciples was, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
- This man was born blind so that the miraculous power of God could be revealed in and through Jesus. Jesus had just claimed to be the light of the world. And now, to prove that He is the Promised Messiah, He heals this man who was born blind. For if Jesus can bring sight where there had been permanent blindness, He can bring light where there was spiritual darkness. In other words, He is God who has come to save His people from their sins. And the man who was born blind understood this. Look ahead to v32 where he is talking about Jesus with the Jewish leaders; he says, “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.” The man born blind understood that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, and he believed in Him for eternal life.
- And you must do the same, my friend. That is the response this miracle demands of you – believe that Jesus did heal this blind man and He did die on the cross and rise again for the forgiveness of your sins. Believe that He will come again to bring a new heavens and a new earth where there will be no more blindness or suffering or death.
- So the great purpose of this healing was to reveal Jesus as the Son of God and our Saviour. But fourthly and lastly, the healing of the man born blind reveals a great urgency. And this comes out in v4 where Jesus says, “We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”
- What Jesus was referring to here was His approaching death. What He was saying was that there was not much time left for Him to heal and teach the people for soon He would be arrested and crucified.
- But there are two words in this verse that are particularly noteworthy:
- The first is “We.” Jesus says, “We must work the works…”
- And this includes, in the first place, Himself and the disciples. In Mark 6 we read about a time that Jesus sent the twelve disciples away, in pairs, on a kind of preaching trip. We are told that “He gave them authority to over the unclean spirits.” So they went and called on the people to repent “and they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” So the disciples and Jesus worked the works of God.
- But this WE also includes all who are followers of Christ. 1 Peter 2:9 describes followers of Christ in this way: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” The man who was born blind had just been called out of physical and spiritual darkness into the marvelous light of relationship with Jesus Christ. So he now had the duty and privilege of proclaiming the excellencies. And we just read a few moments ago that he did exactly that in v32!
- And this is also how you and I, as followers of Christ, work the works of God. It is not given to us today to heal people in the name of Jesus; that was a gift for Bible times. What we are to do is to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus Christ; we are to tell people that if they confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead, they will be saved.
- And this leads us into the second word of this verse that is particularly noteworthy, and that word is “must.” Jesus said, “We MUST work the works…”
- Brothers and sisters, young people and boys and girls, the call of the Lord that comes to you is not that He would like to use you to accomplish His works if you’ve got some spare time and don’t have anything better to do. Serving the Lord is not only for ministers and elders and deacons and a few really gifted believers. It is a necessity for every follower of Christ. “We MUST work the works of [God].” If you are a follower of Christ, you have been included in the body of Christ – your congregation. And every part of the body is needed for the body to work well as a whole. You must be using your time and your talents to serve Christ as a part of your congregation. Are you serving, somewhere? Somehow?
- But this must is there also because we are surrounded by people who are lost in the spiritual darkness of unbelief. When he was twelve, Robert Louis Stevenson was looking out into the dark from his upstairs window, watching a man light the street lanterns. His governess came into the room and asked what he was doing. He replied, “I am watching a man cut holes in the darkness.” Isn’t that a beautiful image? Every human being who turns to Christ in faith is another hole cut out of the darkness. And it is our calling and privilege to tell people that Jesus is the light of the world. So tell your unbelieving family and friends and workmates and neighbours what Jesus has done for you. For this is how God delights to bring people into the light.
- The first is “We.” Jesus says, “We must work the works…”