A Faith to See

A Study of John 9:4

John 9 deals with blindness, both physical blindness and spiritual blindness. As we read the chapter, we are reminded of that famous quote of John Heywood, who in 1546 said this:

There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know.

Also as we read this chapter, we realize that the true blind people were the disciples, who made this atrocious assumption of the physically blind man:

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (9:1)

That incredibly arrogant assumption was based solely on the bad teaching they had received at the feet of their religious teachers, who further distinguished themselves by saying this after the formerly physically blind man was healed by Jesus:

“You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” (9:34)

They also had this to say about the One who accomplished the miracle:

“This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” (9:16)

Of these men, Jesus was known to have said:

You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. (Matthew 23:24)

All this blindness! And the worst form of it was spiritual blindness. In John 9:4, we read a kind of summary of Jesus’ reason for coming into the world, which, as becomes clear from the incidents recorded in this chapter, we see it to cure this spiritual blindness.

As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

1. Setting the scene

Jesus was tired when He spoke those words. Recorded for us in chapter 8 is some of the strongest language ever used by Jesus to describe the religious leaders of His day. It was a heated argument that lead to this:

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:42-47)

The climax of this discussion came when our Lord claimed that He had existed before Abraham was. He even used the unpronounceable name of Yahweh of Himself:

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (8:58)

That statement sent His critics into a wild frenzy, and they picked up some stones, intending to stone Him as a blasphemer. But, Jesus was able to “slip away.”

But how did Jesus simply “slip away” in broad daylight, out in the open? What these religious people failed to see what that there was at work in Him a power that made it impossible for them to do Jesus harm, at least until His appointed hour.

And upon leaving the Temple, Jesus saw a blind man, who we are told had been blind from birth. The ancient world was a hard place for those who could not see. They lived out their years begging for food; there was no welfare system in place to help them. These blind people were utterly dependent on the goodness of others. So this man would have been a fixture as he sat and begged. On this Sabbath, Jesus leisurely healed this poor man and sent him on his way.

2. How God’s works are done

Jesus had just performed one of “the works of him who sent” Him. That phrase is used several times in John’s Gospel, and to see how it is used elsewhere will help understand what they are.

· “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (4:34). Doing the work (or the will) of God was like food to Jesus’ soul.

· “For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.” (5:20) The works of God progress in an ascending scale so that they cause those who witness them to be amazed.

· “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.” (5:36) There were a set number of these works for Jesus to perform while on Earth.

· But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. (10:38) The works were signs or evidence of Jesus’ mission.

· Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. (14:10) The works were done by the Father, through Jesus.

· “If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.” (15:24) His works were unique in all the world.

· “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (17:4) His assigned work was definitely completed by the time He left.

Jesus did all the work He was supposed to have done. But how did He do it? How was He able to complete the task in the face of doubt and violent opposition?

(a) He was at rest in God.

No matter where Jesus was when He did the work of God, He possessed an “inner peace.” This becomes evident in the following examples:

· Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” (Matthew 8:23-25) And He did! Jesus calmed the waves and the wind. But He was calm first.

· All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. (Luke 4:29-30) After that, Jesus went and taught the people.

· Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. (John 11:38-39) They did, and Jesus’ friend Lazarus, who had been dead for days, came out, alive. Moved with grief did not stop Jesus from doing His work

Jesus had tumultuous ministry. For three years, Jesus experienced the highs and lows of human emotion. In the early days of His work, He had followers who hung on every word, though they understood little. Near the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus was like a fugitive, evading the religious teachers, performing His work with the threat of bodily harm. Yet through the highs and the lows, Jesus’ heart was at peace.

(b) He was empowered by the Holy Spirit

In a way, we might say that Jesus had His Pentecost before Pentecost! Immediately after Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, He was filled with the Holy Spirit and He began His works. When Peter was preaching to Cornelius and his friends, he spoke of the condition on which Jesus went about doing His work:

…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. (Acts 10:38)

Have we claimed our share of the Holy Spirit? Jesus was baptized personally with the Holy Spirit, but when He ascended He made the Holy Spirit available to all the Church. The Holy Spirit is ours in Him. We do not need to study to receive Him. We do not need to be baptized in the Jordan River to receive Him. We do not need to join a church, keep a creed or behave a certain way to receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is ours in Jesus Christ! If we look at our works and compare them to the works of the believers in Acts and we notice a deficiency, perhaps we need to prayerfully consider whether or not we have appropriated the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

(c) He was willing to let God work through Him

The great preacher Peter said this during the greatest sermon ever preached:

Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. (Acts 2:22)

Jesus Himself gave God all the credit during His earthly ministry on several occasions, including John 14:10,

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

Many Christians are under the delusion that they should “work for the Lord” when in reality they need to let the Lord “work through them!” Of course, for that to happen, we must all learn to yield our wills to His. An impotent Church and worldly witness is evidence that many believers today have forgotten how to do this. Perhaps, if we as the Body of Christ, made a concerted effort to let God work through us, we would be able say with the Apostle:

I will not dare to speak anything of the things that Christ did not work through me, to obedience of nations, by word and deed. (Romans 15:18, literal)

3. The need for God’s works

In John 9, the recipient of God’s work was a blind beggar, who was blind from birth. That God in His providence should choose to heal this man is highly suggestive. We can learn:

· The physical state of this man perfectly describes the spiritual state of all people without Jesus Christ. We are all born spiritually blind and morally bankrupt. Not a single human being who has ever lived has been able to overcome his pathetic natural state on his own.

· The spiritual state of the religious leaders perfect describes those who exercise a form of spirituality without a relationship with Jesus Christ. They believed the blind man was blind because of some sin. The Church of Jesus Christ is full of blind guides today, who by way of clever words and convincing arguments, are leading a generation of lazy Christians down a path away from God, not leading to Him.

· The blind man was blind for a purpose. Jesus said that the man’s condition was not as a result of anybody’s sin, but rather: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (9:3) It is a difficult concept for modern man to grasp, but God is sovereign, and our lives are in His Hands. Suffering is permitted for reasons beyond our understanding. Those who may be experiencing suffering of any kind would do well to stop their praying and start listening to the word of the Lord: Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)

The need for God’s work to be manifested today is evident by the fact of human suffering and man’s need for a Savior. Physically impaired or not, every single human being is spiritually suffering and desperate for salvation, whether they are aware of that need or not. Only God can meet their soul’s need.

4. The subject of God’s works

The state of the blind beggar from his introduction to the end of the chapter is an amazing contrast. The blind man can now see clearly, both physically and spiritually. He has moved from merely begging for food to preaching Jesus, confounding the religious leaders and turning their own words against them!

A life was turned right-side-up because Jesus noticed him. What did Jesus notice?

· Beneath that dirty, unkempt, unpromising exterior, lay a noble character. Who knew that this man, blind from birth, begging for decades, could become an apologist for Jesus Christ?

· He allowed dormant faith to become alive. Faith was in this man’s heart, but Christ had to reach in and pull it to the surface. For this man, he had to obey the command to go and wash the mud out of his eyes. What good could that possibly do? But obey he did, and his eyes suddenly worked perfectly. God sees the latent power of faith in us, but sometimes He asks us to step out in faith so that the ember of belief may be fanned into a great flame.

· Jesus found the blind man when the blind man had nothing. He had no resources to speak of. His parents had disowned him and the religious people had cast him out. But Jesus found him. Jesus knew what it was like to be cast out, He knew what it felt like to be shunned by religious people. Sometimes, we need to be brought to the very end of our resources before God can work in us and through us.

Conclusion

We are all like the blind beggar of John 9. Born blind and poor, unable to help ourselves. It is only when we see ourselves as God sees us that we may receive all He has for us. Healing, yes, but more than that can be ours. God will work through us if we would just be obedient to Him and get out of His way. The greatest hindrance to God working in us is us.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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