We started talking last Sunday about Jesus' healing of a blind man and how different people reacted to it. John 9:8-12 gives us the perspective of the people who had known the man for a long time:
The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
- John 9:8-12
What do you hear in their response? Does it sound like a celebration? Do people sound excited? It sounds more to me like an inquisition. Call in a Special Prosecutor. They couldn't believe it.
What keeps us from seeing? What kept them from seeing? Doubt. They couldn't believe it had happened because it had never happened before. No one in their experience who had been born blind had ever been healed. They let their experience determine the idea of what was possible. How could it be true?
Sometimes we live in the dark because we've convinced ourselves that the light is impossible. In other words, sometimes we struggle to see a new reality, a different reality, a new possibility beyond what we know, see, or experience. But then here comes Jesus. He heals a blind man. Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus gives us a new way of seeing. Is reconciliation possible in a family where relationships are strained? Jesus is the light of the world. Nothing is impossible with God. Are you concerned with a loved one who appears far away from God? Jesus is the light of the world. Nothing is impossible with God. Are you discouraged and dejected over something casting a dark shadow over your life? Jesus is the light of the world. Nothing is impossible with God. Let's say that together:
JESUS IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD…NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD.
Is it possible that the God who created everything could personally love and care for you? Is forgiveness possible? Freedom from guilt? Can you have a sense of purpose and meaning in life? All those things are possible. Jesus Christ is the light of the world.
Don't let your past blind you to the possibilities of what God can do in your life. All things are possible for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.
Here's what we learn from the crowd about overcoming doubt.
First, it's okay to ask questions. God wants us to ask questions. That's how we learn from His Word. We ask questions. We turn to the Bible for answers. That's how we grow. Questions are good.
But what was the crowd using questions for? They were using the questions to gossip. They repeated the assumption that he was a beggar. They were using questions to make demands. "How did this happen?" They were using questions to doubt. "Are you sure you're the blind man from our village?" They were using questions to stall. And let's be honest. Almost everyone here has used questions in one of these ways. We've all asked questions where we weren't looking for answers.
We overcome doubts by using questions in a new way. I think we've all used what sounded like a question but really wasn't a question. Like this one - "Why me, Lord?" What if God really answered? Would you really want an answer? We ask questions and then we don't listen for the answers. If you want to overcome your doubts, keep asking questions and then start listening for answers. You might be surprised. "Why me, Lord?"
"Why me, Lord?" He might respond with a word of correction, and tell you why. Not in a condemning way. Remember, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. You will never hear of word of eternal condemnation. But He might give you some clear reasons why something bad has come about in your life. It could be because you made a stupid decision. Or in a momentary lapse of reason you turned into an awful person. Or you gave in to temptation. Or perhaps God's going to keep the reason from you, but it's nothing you've done. When you ask the question, make sure you're ready for the answer.
The best way to overcome doubts is to ask questions and then wait for the answer.
Doubt is a blind spot in John 9. Another blind spot is manmade rules. That's where the religious leaders…the Pharisees…come in. John 9:13-17 tells us:
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
You know what I think about? This poor guy. All he wants to do is revel in the newfound gift of sight, and people are questioning his experience, his character, and now they're bringing him to the Pharisees. Yikes. They couldn't believe this incredible miracle story. So this consort of fools - people who knew the blind man - they bring him to the religious leaders.
Instead of praise and celebration, there's outrage. The Pharisees are offended. How dare Jesus heal this man on the Sabbath. Amazing how that's the first place they go to. Jesus broke the rules. In fact, Jesus broke the rules in three ways:
Jesus broke a rule when he spat on the ground. It would have been okay to spit on a rock and just leave it there. But when he spit on the ground, it made mud, and making mud is working on the Sabbath.
Jesus took the mud and put it in the man's eyes. He used it as a healing agent. That broke another rule.
The mud pack worked. The man was healed. That broke the rules because healing was a work.
Sometimes it seemed as if people were more cautious on the Sabbath than joyful.
"We've always done it that way." Have you ever heard that? That could have been the motto of the Pharisees. They'd lived by manmade rules for years. Rules were front and center to their lives. If they said Jesus was right, and celebrated the man's healing, they would have had to let go of their rules. They'd have to admit that all the rules they'd kept all their lives were worthless. In Philippians, the Apostle Paul said the rules were worth nothing to him now that he knew Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul called them garbage. But he didn't really say garbage. That's a polite translation. The word Paul used means human or animal excrement. But even that doesn't give the full force of the point Paul was making. He used a shocking word. I'll give you a hint. It was the Greek equivalent of a word that starts with "S" and rhymes with "HIT." Tell us how you really feel about the law, Paul!
What Jesus is dealing with is a whole lot of garbage from the Pharisees. A wise person has said, when you buy into a lie, you will do anything to protect that lie. The Pharisees couldn't admit to Jesus they were wrong. Are you ever like that? Are there things you live with because you can't admit you're wrong? Let's practice together:
I was wrong.
For your own spiritual and mental health, you are going to need to say those three magic words once-in-a-while. Even if it's once in a blue moon, we still need to say them.
The Pharisees couldn’t admit they had allowed their manmade rules to take over their lives. Religious rules became more important than people. Why settle for darkness simply because you can't admit you need some light? Jesus came to give us the light. He is the light of the world. I think one of the reasons all four gospels include so much about the Pharisees is they are typical of human nature. To one degree or another we are all more like the Pharisees than different from them. Stubbornness and manmade rules keep us from seeing.
The third thing that keeps us from seeing spiritually is fear. How do you face legitimate fear? We overcome spiritual blindness when we face our fears.
Next week - Mother's Day - we'll wrap up chapter 9 with ways to face our fears.