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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:Since he cures blindness, trust and worship Jesus
Text:John 9 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Grace
 
Preached:2020
Added:2020-07-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 100

Hymn 3:5 (after the law)

Hymn 19

Psalm 18:1,2,9

Psalm 29

Scripture reading: Isaiah 42:1-9

Text: John 9

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

There once was a blind sailor.  He lived back in the 1700s.  This blind sailor worked on slave-trading ships which worked their way down the coast of west Africa.  Like many sailors of that time, he was a rough sort.  He blasphemed God’s name constantly.  He was known as a profane, salty sailor.  He’d been born to a godly mother, but she died when he was six.  His father was an unbelieving sailor, so it was just natural to follow in the family line.  When he was about 22 years old, God began working in his life.  The Holy Spirit worked faith in his heart, he repented from his sins, and turned to Jesus Christ.  For a time, he remained a sailor, but he was no longer blind, no longer spiritually blind.  He’d experienced God’s grace in his life, amazing grace. 

That brought him to write the hymn many of us know and love, “Amazing Grace.”  John Newton wrote that from his heart, out of his own experience of God’s grace towards him.  I’m sure you know the first verse,

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me,

I was once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind but now I see.

As you read through John 9, it’s really hard not to think of that hymn and that last line, “was blind but now I see.”  You read verse 25 and hear the healed man say, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” – and you can’t help but think of John Newton’s Amazing Grace.   

That movement from blindness to seeing is the experience of every Christian.  No, it’s not always the case you can nail down the moment when it happened.  It may have happened when you were quite young, and thus you’re not even conscious of when it happened.  For others, it can be a memorable time of which you’re quite aware.  But every true Christian has somehow been brought from blindness to sight.  Everyone who’s not a true Christian needs to be brought from blindness to sight.

John 9 is all about the movement from blindness to seeing.  It’s about how Jesus does it and how we should relate to him in view of that.  It’s a remarkable story about how a man born blind is healed in more ways than one.  This morning I’m not going to going into all the details of every single verse in this chapter.  Instead, what we’re going to do is take a big picture approach.  We’ll zoom out and focus on the main message of the entire chapter.  We’ll learn about the great problem that’s described here and the one who addresses this problem. 

So the thrust of the passage and our theme is:  Since he cures blindness, trust and worship Jesus. 

We’ll consider:

  1. Why there’s blindness
  2. Who blindness afflicts
  3. How blindness is cured by Jesus

Back in John 8, Jesus was at the temple in Jerusalem.  In today’s passage, he’s still in Jerusalem.  He’s walking through the streets with his disciples and they spot a blind man.  He’s been blind his whole life.  In those days, that meant you were basically unable to do any meaningful work.  There was only one thing you could do and that was sit by the side of the road begging, hoping people would have pity on you and give you a few spare coins.  From the reaction of his neighbours in verse 8, it would appear he was well-known on the street.  Everybody saw this blind beggar every day, probably in the same spot. 

Now as the disciples spot this blind beggar, they get it into their heads to ask Jesus about why he’s blind.  They make an assumption.  He must be blind because someone sinned.  There must be a direct connection between sin and sickness.  In their minds, there are two options:  it was either him or his parents.  Now you might think, if he was born blind, how could he have sinned to make that happen?  Here you’ve got to get inside the Jewish head.  In those days, Jewish people believed that a child in its mother’s womb could sin.  A child in utero could actively commit sins, acts of rebellion against God.  Then when the child was born, he’d be blind as a punishment for the sin he committed in the uterus.  So, is that what happened here? 

If we look at verse 34, the Pharisees work with the same assumption.  They talk about the man having been born in utter sin.  He was born blind, so obviously there was some sin committed in the background.  That idea was strongly entrenched in Jewish thinking of this time. 

But for the disciples of Jesus there’s another option.  Maybe it was his parents who sinned.  Maybe the sin was committed before conception or maybe afterwards.  Maybe during – maybe he was conceived out of wedlock.  Whatever the case may have been, maybe his parents committed some sin and then God punished them for that sin by giving them a blind baby.

So notice the thinking here that makes a direct connection between sin and sickness.  The reasoning is simple:  if there’s some sickness, some medical condition, whether blindness or whatever else, it must be directly because there was some sin committed against God. 

Our Teacher Jesus shoots this reasoning right down in verse 3.  He tells his disciples – and anyone else who’d think this way – they need to think again.  In the case of the blind beggar, Jesus says, there was no direct connection between sin and the blindness.  Instead, it was “that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  God arranged this.  God is behind it.  Even though blindness is brokenness, God has a plan in it.  God has a plan to bring something good from it.  God is going to show his glory in it through his Son Jesus Christ.  Ultimately, this blindness is there because it’s going to magnify the glory of God.  It’s all part of his plan.             

The physical blindness that’s here in chapter 9 is a picture of spiritual blindness.  Everyone is born spiritually blind, unable to see God, unable to see and comprehend vital spiritual truths.  Why is there this blindness?

In a general sense, spiritual blindness is like physical blindness.  They have something in common.  They’re both the result of sin in a broad sense.  There’s physical sickness and brokenness in this world because Adam and Eve fell into sin.  People are sometimes born physically blind because sin was introduced into the world at the beginning.  But all people are also born spiritually blind for the same reason, because sin was introduced into the world at the beginning.  There’s spiritual blindness among human beings, because Adam and Eve fell into sin, and their fall impacted all their descendants.

But God still has a plan in that.  The works of God will be displayed in all who are born blind.  Sometimes it’s his work of judgment.  God will show himself to be a just and holy Judge.  But at other times, it’s his work of mercy and salvation.  God will show himself to be a gracious Saviour.  Blindness always has a purpose.  Spiritual blindness has the purpose of showing the works of God. 

It did that for John Newton.  John Newton was converted to the Christian faith.  He became a preacher of the gospel.  He served two churches in England, one for 16 years, and another for 27.  The works of God were displayed in him who had formerly been blind.  John Newton loved to tell of the Saviour’s wonderful salvation for him and others.  He loved to tell of Jesus in his sermons, but also in his hymns.  His blindness and the healing from his blindness served to display the glory of God in Jesus Christ.  If we’ve experienced the same healing, if we’ve been blind but now we see, it’s so that the works of God might be displayed in us.  So that God would receive the glory, the praise.  It’s so that we might tell others so that they too would trust and worship Jesus Christ.

So why is there blindness?  Its origin is because of sin in a general sense.  But then the purpose of blindness is to display the works of God. 

Moving on to our next point, we want to look at who blindness afflicts.  Obviously, we have a man born blind in chapter 9.  But the Gospel of John always has these ironic elements.  So we have blind people who see, and people who think they’re seeing who are actually blind.  That’s what we call irony and there’s plenty of it in chapter 9. 

So when we talk about who’s blind in this chapter, we’re going beyond the obvious, going beyond the blind beggar at the beginning.   Let’s start with the disciples.  Even though they’re committed to following Jesus, they’re afflicted with some blindness.  They can’t see that blindness is not necessarily because of some sin committed by the person afflicted.

Some of the neighbours of the man are afflicted with a sort of blindness.  They’ve seen him by the side of the road day in and day out for years.  Now some of them suddenly can’t recognize him.  They’re blind to his identity – in a way reflecting the blindness of many to the identity of the one who healed him.

The healed man’s parents are afflicted with a sort of blindness.  Or at least, they want to give the impression that they can’t see.  The Pharisees had decided that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Christ (the Messiah) would be excommunicated.  So the parents don’t want to be seen as seeing anything positive about Jesus.  So they state a couple of facts about their son, but for the rest they’re so driven by fear of exclusion that they say they don’t see who Jesus is.  You could say they’re blinded by the fear of man.

Then you get the Pharisees and their blindness.  They’re blinded by their unbelief.  That’s clear from the last couple of verses of the chapter.  They claim to be the ones who see.  They’re self-righteous and prideful.  They claim to have a clear vision of who Jesus really is – that he’s a Sabbath-breaker and sinner who can’t possibly have come from God.  But Jesus says, the reality is they’re blind and they’re guilty for it too.  We read from Isaiah 42.  They can’t see that Isaiah 42 and other passages from the Old Testament spoke of how the Messiah would come opening the eyes of the blind.  They can’t see it, because they don’t want to see it.  They hate Jesus.  They want him dead.  Their blindness is willful and sinful – it’s the blindness of wicked unbelief. 

So if we summarize it, the reality is that every single human being in this story is afflicted with some kind of blindness.  The only exception is Jesus.  The blind man is afflicted with his physical blindness from birth.  The disciples are afflicted with a theological blindness – a blindness that can’t see spiritual truths clearly.  Some of the neighbours are afflicted with the blindness that keeps them from believing their familiar neighbourhood blind beggar has been healed.  The parents afflict themselves with a blindness caused by the fear of man.  And the Pharisees have the blindness of sinful unbelief.  Everyone here has blindness of some sort. 

Brothers and sisters, that’s telling us the spiritual reality of our own situation.  Without God in our lives, without the Holy Spirit, without Christ, we are blind.  Our spiritual blindness is multifaceted.  Our spiritual blindness can take many shapes and forms.  But no matter the shape or form, spiritual blindness is always disastrous. 

Take the fear of man.  The parents didn’t want to say anything positive about Jesus, let alone confess him as the Christ.  They were petrified of being kicked out of the synagogue.  For them, being a part of the synagogue was more important than acknowledging Jesus, even just as the one who’d healed their son.  That fear of man had blinded them to the value of Jesus Christ, to the worth of acknowledging him, knowing him, and being his disciple.  That’s disastrous.  It’s disastrous because of what Jesus says in Matthew 10:32-33, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”  You have to see clearly that acknowledging or denying Jesus has consequences!  If you’re controlled by the fear of man, you’re blind to that.  That’s truly disastrous.

Have you ever let the fear of man blind you?  Has it ever blinded you to the extent that you didn’t acknowledge who Christ is when you should have?  Or to the extent that you didn’t want to be seen as being a Christian?  I know I’ve done that.  When I was 17 years old I had an English assignment due.  We were supposed to read a novel and write a report.  I’d left it to the last minute.  I looked through the list of books and saw George Orwell’s 1984.  I’d read that book in Grade 6, so I kind of knew the story-line.  But then I remembered that it’d been made into a movie.  I’d seen the movie on the shelf at my local video store.  So I thought:  I’ll just watch the movie, review the plot-line that way, and then write my report.  I can get it all done in two or three hours.  I went to the video store and bragged to the guy behind the counter about my plan.  He then asked me which school I went to.  I didn’t want to tell him that I went to a Christian school.  I was ashamed of that, so I told him I went to the local public school.  He said, “Oh, I went there too.  Who’s your English teacher?”  I lied again and made up some name.  He said, “Oh, I never heard of her before, is she new?”  I lied again and just tried my best to get out of there as quickly as I could.  I had the fear of man in me something strong.  I wanted to be seen as cool and edgy, even by this stranger.  I didn’t want to be seen as connected with a Christian school, or anything Christian.  That can happen when you’re young, but it can happen when you’re older too, that you get an opportunity to show who you are, but the fear of man seizes you and you either lie, fudge the truth, or just try to change the subject.  That’s the fear of man blinding you.  And it’s disastrous – it makes you feel guilty about it (which you should), but it’s also keeping you from sharing the good news with a world that’s lost in blindness.  Thankfully, the Bible tells us of God’s grace and forgiveness for people who are blinded by the fear of man and by other forms of blindness.            

That’s what we’ll see in our last point as we look at how blindness is cured by Jesus.  If you look carefully at verses 6-7, his method of healing the blind man was really quite simple.  He spit on the ground and made a kind of mud with his own saliva.  Why saliva?  To us, that sounds kind of gross.  But there was an idea in those days that saliva could have medicinal properties.  So it seems that Jesus was working with that idea.  He was saying, “I’m going to heal this man.”  That was the message he was sending with that action.  Then he took the mud and he smeared it on the man’s eyes.  He told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam.  John notes that the name of this pool means “Sent.”  Why?  Originally, the pool seems to have been called that because the water was “sent” from the Gihon Spring to the pool via a tunnel that had been excavated by King Hezekiah.  But now Jesus has been sent to heal via the pool, and the blind man is being sent to the pool.  So it has these layers of meaning.  The man is sent to the pool, he washes, and he sees. 

He physically sees.  But then there’s also his spiritual seeing.  Step by step, he comes to trust and worship for Jesus.  It starts with the opening of his eyes.  In verse 11, all he knows is that there was this man named Jesus who made mud and smeared his eyes.  In verse 17, he says what a lot of people have said about Jesus up to this point, that he’s a prophet.  In verse 27, while he’s assertively hitting back at the Pharisees, the man seems to acknowledge that he’s becoming a disciple of Jesus, even as they speak.  “Do you also want to become his disciples?”  The word ‘also’ suggests that he’s there, and that he views Jesus as his master.  He sees ever more clearly as the Pharisees keep trying to take the mickey out of him.  The harder they push, the clearer he sees.    So in verse 33, he says it, “If this man were not from God, not a worshipper of God who does his will, he could do nothing.”  There he says it: Jesus is from God.  He must be a worshipper of God who does his will.  His eyes are being opened, step by step. 

But the final move takes place when Christ comes looking for him again.  Notice how Christ again takes the initiative with him.  Jesus hears that he’s been excommunicated and so he looks for him.  Then he asks him a direct question.  Now you may notice that there’s a footnote in your ESV Bible in verse 35.  It says that some manuscripts have “Son of God” instead of “Son of Man.”  I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, but the truth is that most manuscripts have “Son of God.” I believe “Son of God” to be the better reading.  So Jesus’ question is:  “Do you believe in the Son of God?”  Now remember that the healed man has never actually seen Jesus.  He saw at the pool of Siloam, but not before that.  So he doesn’t recognize Jesus as he stands before him.  That’s why he asks, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?  Then Jesus tells him and his eyes are completely opened.  He confesses faith, “Lord, I believe.”  He trusts in Jesus and then falls down and worships him as God.  The healed man’s story ends in trust and worship for Jesus.  It ends in faith and adoration.

There’s this thing called the health and wealth “gospel” or prosperity “gospel.”  It’s not really the biblical gospel at all.  It’s a fraud, a fake gospel.  It teaches that if only you have faith, you can be healed of sicknesses; if you have enough faith, you can unlock the power of God to make you wealthy and happy.  Costi Hinn was involved in this movement for quite a number of years.  His uncle is Benny Hinn, a well-known figure in the movement.  Costi Hinn described how he first started doubting the prosperity gospel.  He says that it was just because he was reading John 5.  He read John 5 and he noticed that Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda before he confessed faith in Jesus, before he even knew who Jesus was.  The same thing happens here in John 9 with the man born blind.  His physical eyes were opened first, and then gradually the Lord also opened his spiritual eyes and he was brought to know Jesus, to trust Jesus, and to worship him.  But the healing wasn’t dependent on faith.  The healing was how God brought him to faith.      

So this passage destroys the lies of the prosperity gospel movement.  And it also shows us how the Lord takes the initiative in our salvation.  Just like with the blind man, he comes to us.  He opens the eyes of our hearts with his Holy Spirit.  The Lord gives us the gift of faith.  He cures our blindness, so that, in his power, we can and do trust him and worship him.

That’s why we call grace amazing.  It’s not only the gift of salvation itself, the gift of righteousness and pardon through Jesus, but it’s also the way in which that gift is brought to us.  Grace is amazing because of the way God opens our eyes so that we can see that we need Jesus Christ.  Grace is amazing because of how miraculously he makes us see that we’re blind.  Then he makes us see Jesus Christ, he works in our hearts so we say, “Lord, I believe,” and we worship him.  He did that for John Newton, and he’s done that for all believers.  If you see Jesus Christ revealed in the Bible and say, “Lord, I believe in you,” and you worship him, praise God for his sovereign grace in your life.  Continue to trust and worship the Saviour who cures blindness.  AMEN.                                                                

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

We acknowledge that without you in our lives all of us would be completely blind spiritually speaking.  And it’s because of the sin that lives in our hearts.  Sin blinds us, and we experience that so often, even after we know you.  We all experience different ways in which that happens.  Forgive us for all our sinful blindness, including the times when the fear of man has blinded us.  Please forgive us through Jesus our Saviour.  We thank you for healing our blindness so that we can clearly see Jesus Christ as the Saviour we need.  Help us with your Holy Spirit to keep trusting Jesus, and to always worship him as our Lord and Saviour.  Lord God, we praise you for your sovereign grace in opening the eyes of sinners.  We adore you for the way you bring people to yourself.  We pray that you would do that more and more.  We pray that you would open the eyes of people we love who don’t yet see you and know you, who are still blind.  Father, please open their eyes and make them see Christ and their need for him.   

      




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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