Hi everyone, this is James Bishop from River City Church. I hope that God is speaking to all of you, with his love and passion, and that it changes you forever. River City is in the middle of lent, seeking God, asking him to reveal our sin, working through repentance. In light of that, I’d like to talk about John 9. If you’d like to, pause this, read John 9, and then start this up again.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
“Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
“We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”
Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
The man was born blind – God often refers to our condition (in sin) as blindness. Being born “blind” this man knew no other reality, or that there was sight in God. It’s significant too, no person who was born with their malady, had ever been healed till Jesus healed this man. In a way, Christ was saying through this healing, “I’m here to do what’s never been done. I’m here to give sight, to restore vision.”
Jesus made clay from the ground. There was another time that God reached down and got his hands dirty. In the beginning, God made man from the dust of the earth – in this familiar moment, it’s like God is making that statement again: “I am restoring man as I created him from the beginning.” And isn’t that why Christ came to earth?
This blind man knew of the man Jesus. But he didn’t know Jesus personally. His encounter with Christ after his healing brought a whole new clarity on who his savior was, and solidified his salvation in Christ. Lent is that same encounter: every year re-meeting Christ as if it were the first time, knowing him in a whole new way – remembering who we used to be and what God has taken us from.
When the blind man was brought to the Pharisees and told them his story, what was their biggest issue with Christ? That he healed on the Sabbath. I have my doubts that they even really cared about him healing on the Sabbath – personally my guess is that he was encroaching on their territory and they were using that as an excuse to condemn Christ. Jesus even points out in another passage that Pharisees, on the Sabbath, when their donkey was in danger in a ditch, would pull it out of the ditch on the Sabbath to save its life.
Why had Christ come to earth. Why was “God in the flesh” here? Why had the eternal God, creator of everything humbled himself to become like his creation? Love for His Father and love for us. His goal was reconciliation through personal sacrifice. That sacrifice would create change in us. It would cause a deep repentance from the power of the Holy Spirit, who could now not just be over us, but in us. Change. In the simplest of terms, Christ came to bring change.
Change is usually uncomfortable, and very often it’s scary – really scary. The Pharisees thought they had it. They thought they had this whole “salvation through works” thing figured out. They had mastered the law and were on their way to eternity. They knew who and what the savior would be, and Jesus didn’t fit the mold. He was “changing” everything. The Pharisees weren’t okay with it.
The Bible says often that anger was how the Pharisees responded to Christ. If you know anything about psychology, anger is a secondary emotion – it’s not the first emotion felt – it’s a defense measure of the mind to protect whatever is being threatened. I believe that the Pharisees’ first emotion was fear. Fear that he was who he said he was, fear that he would rip the world they had built, from them.
Fear, as far as I can tell, drove them to seek Jesus’ death. It would not allow them to believe him, because to believe him, would be to give up EVERYTHING that they had been raised to live for. Everything they had built. Everything they had gained and stood to lose if what Jesus preached, what he represented was true.
Maybe fear wasn’t their motivation. Maybe it was greed. Or perhaps something else. But let’s look at it this way, If Christ were to come to me and say that everything I hope and believe is backwards, everything I’ve devoted myself to is wrong, and the reasons I’ve done it are impure, then he backed those statements up with the most miraculous signs I’ve ever seen, I would be afraid – afraid that He was right. And if it meant enough to me, if I was proud enough, I would defend it with… anger.
What I’ve just described is pretty much how I’ve responded to God most of my life. In this season of lent, for me, fear is something God is really tackling. John 9 stuck out to me so much, because there’s so little of the story we actually know, the nuances of the people involved. The blind man had a family, we know that. Did he go home after a day’s begging? Did he sleep on the streets? Did the Pharisees he spoke to start out being so thick and unyielding, or did life slowly creep into their faith and harden it, making it almost impossible for Christ’s love to break through?
When I was 25, I was single, working for a church, and deadly afraid that I would never find a wife. The Lord had spoken to me several times throughout the years, but I would go a year or more between him talking to me about it. I was getting to a place where it felt like I was going crazy because this area of my life was so uncertain. I wasn’t raised with a healthy family, and I’ve never met my dad, so building a Godly family of my own was at the top of my list of to-do’s.
Then, one day, I was sitting at my desk and I felt the Lord impress on me, “soon”. I kept hearing this over and over. Finally, I wrote it on my hand and began to pray over it. For three days I did this, not knowing exactly what God was saying. At the end of the three days, a lady from the church I was attending said that she felt God wanted her to pray for me – I agreed to let her. What she prayed blew me away. She said to me that the Lord saw my waiting, and that he would bring my wife to me “soon”. She kept saying that, “soon”. As she continued to pray I looked down at the faded ink on my hand and began to cry.
One month later I was going back and forth with the Lord, asking him if there was someone he’d like me to pursue. Normally, he wouldn’t say anything. This time however, he said, “What about Ashley Linssen?” (hint: her last name is now Bishop) I said to myself, well, glad I picked someone out of thin air – I better let that one rest unless God does something with it. The next morning the young adult pastor takes me to breakfast and says, “How about Ashley Linssen?” He was trying to get me to ask her out! I couldn’t believe it.
We’ve now been married for 5 years, we have three beautiful children and God kept his promise. I tell you this because I knew years before, exactly how God was going to do things, I knew the type of person my wife was going to be, and what it was going to be like. If I had held onto my faint image of what I had I never would have been able to receive the real thing. I had to let go.
1 John 4 says,
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.
Like the Pharisees, I miss it. I don’t see the love of God, I see something else. They didn’t see the Christ, they saw something else. They wouldn’t let go of their image of God to have the living God that was right before them. I don’t want to settle. I don’t want to pass up Christ for something that faintly resembles him. I want him.
How about you? What in your life have you held onto that Christ is calling you to let go of? What do you fear that Christ is turning on its head? I love Isaiah 41…
Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
I pray that you would be so blind that God can heal you, and not a pharisee that is blind but won’t admit it. I pray that God would teach us to love and to let go of fear. I pray that this lent God would show himself to you in a whole new way.