Topical Scripture: John 9:1-7
Readers’ Digest recently reported on the Wacky Warning Label Contest and some of the actual warning labels it recognized this year. In 4th place: a five-inch fishing lure with three steel hooks and the label warning that it is “harmful if swallowed.” Let’s hope fish can’t read the label. And the Grand Prize winner: a bottle of drain cleaner which contains this warning: “If you do not understand or cannot read all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product.” If I couldn’t read or understand the label, how would it help?
These examples aside, life really does need warning labels. Florida is still recovering from Hurricane Charley. The fledgling democracy in Iraq is still under constant barrage and terror attacks. The three-year anniversary of 9-11 is approaching. Our world has never been more fallen or flawed than it is today.
This morning we will discover the cure for injured souls. In our text Jesus claims, “I am the light of the world.” The “I” is emphatic. He is the light of the “world,” not just the church, or religion, or Sunday. Light for every room of our lives, no matter how dark.
Where are you in the dark today? What guilt from the past or fear of the future plagues you today? Are you worried about the new school year for yourself or your kids? Are you worried about the economy and the election? Is your marriage or body in pain? Do you know someone whose eyes need healing today? Here’s what to do.
Know that God knows your pain (v. 1)
Our story occurs on a Sabbath (v. 14). Jesus has returned to Judea, where he has been teaching in the temple courts (John 8:2). It is mid-October; the annual Feast of Tabernacles has just occurred.
Now Jesus notices a man who could not see him: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth” (John 9:1).
The Greek word translated “saw” here means to fix the gaze, to look earnestly. Jesus gave him more than a passing glance—he paid attention to his predicament.
And when he saw the man, he saw his need: he was “blind from birth.”
Simple observation could not have told him this. How would anyone know when the man’s blindness had begun?
It’s possible that the man told him, or that his reputation preceded him (cf. v. 8). But the syntax suggests to me that the instant Jesus saw the man he knew that his blindness was congenital. If he could heal this man’s blindness, he could certainly determine its source. And he knew this man had no medical options. He needed not a physician, but a miracle.
What Jesus knew of this man, he knows today of you: “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious concerning me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand” (Psalm 139:15-18). The Physician who saw this man and his need sees yours. The blind man could not see Jesus, as we cannot see him today. But the one who cannot see is visible to the One who can.
He sees you and your problems today: “…your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). Our prayers do not inform God of our needs; rather, they yield them to the only One who can solve them.
Pain is isolating. We think no one knows our problem. But the One we cannot see, can see us. Where you are, at this moment. He has stopped at your side today, whether you know it or not.
Bring your pain to your Father (vs. 2-7)
The disciples relate to the man not with compassion but curiosity: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (v. 2).
The rabbis taught the same: “There is no death without sin, and there is no suffering without iniquity” (Rabbi Ammi, Shab. 55a). The Pharisees said to the man, “You were steeped in sin at birth” (v. 34).
Hindus believe that present suffering is punishment for previous wrongs. Buddhists teach that all suffering is due to wrong desire. Muslims believe that the pain we experience is part of Allah’s will for our lives.
Christians know that much of life’s pain is the result of our own misused free will. We’ve seen marriages end because of adultery, drug users contract AIDS, alcoholics die of cirrhosis of the liver.
And so it is easy to think that all suffering is our fault and God’s punishment.
But Jesus disagrees: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (v. 3). A better translation is, “this happened with the result that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
Some suffering is the result of sin. If that’s the case for you, God is waiting to forgive every sin you’ll confess, and give you his healing and hope (1 John 1:8-10).
But much of the world’s grief and pain is not the result of anyone’s sin or failure. Remember Job’s plight; think of the 9-11 victims; remember Jesus’ innocent crucifixion. To attribute all suffering to sin often increases the suffering of the innocent.
So bring your hurting eyes to your Father, however they were blinded. Do not allow your grief or guilt to keep you from him. We need a doctor most when our pain is at its worst. We don’t wait to bathe until we’re clean. We don’t avoid the kitchen until our hunger passes. Come to God with your pain today.
He’ll meet you where you are. Jesus “spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes” (v. 6), even though such work was forbidden on the Sabbath. But ancient doctors believed saliva could cure illness; the blind man knew this action to be accepted medical practice. To our knowledge, he had no previous information regarding Jesus’ healing powers. Had the Divine Physician not acted as a human doctor, it is likely that his patient would not have accepted his cure.
He touched the man, even though the theology of the day said such contact with a “sinner” would contaminate him. He will touch us wherever we hurt, even when no one else will.
Then he gave the man something to do: “‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing” (v. 7).
Jesus asked the man to trust him. Washing in the pool of Siloam was not part of any accepted medical practice, so it required obedient faith on the part of a blind man. Not to earn God’s help, but to receive it.
The man immediately “washed” his eyes—the word means that he bathed his eyes, not merely splashing or washing them. And he “came home seeing.”
Jesus healed his eyes, so he could heal his soul. He found the man later in the story and led him to saving faith: “the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him” (v. 38).
And he used the man to touch others.
The authorities were dumbfounded that a blind man has been healed, and by an itinerant Galilean who broke the Sabbath to do it. They called them man before their court and tried to get him to agree with them: “Give glory to God” (an ancient legal oath)…”We know this man is a sinner” (v. 24).
Now comes my favorite act of witnessing in the entire Bible: “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (v. 25). People may reject our theology, but they cannot dismiss our experience. Changed people change the world. No one can deny the fact: “I was blind but now I see!” Can you say the same?
Now Jesus stands ready to do the same with us. To heal us, and then to use us.
He knows your pain and is ready to help. He will meet you where you are, touch your hurt, and tell you what to do next. He will heal you on earth or in heaven. He will remove the pain or give you strength to endure it (perhaps an even greater miracle).
But you must be humbled and obedient enough to receive what he wants to give. If the man had chosen to heal himself, he could never have been healed by Jesus. A doctor can only help a patient who is willing to do what the doctor says. The self-sufficiency and consumerism of our culture are the worst enemies to the power of God in our lives. You can mark it down: the Lord will not do for us what we try to do for ourselves.
The only plight worse than being blind is being blind and not admitting it. Pretending we’re just fine. Running into walls and denying that we did. Pretending we’re fine when we’re not. Keeping up appearances at all costs.
The Bible is often misquoted to say “Pride goeth before a fall.” In fact, God’s word warns, “Pride goeth before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18). We are all blind unless our eyes have been healed by Jesus. We are all broken people unless we have been helped by him.
The first beatitude says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mathew 5:3); a better translation is, “Blessed are those who know how much they need God.” Are you that “blessed?” When last did you admit your brokenness to the Father, your blindness to his Son, your need to his Spirit? What pain should you trust to him this morning?
He will heal and help us, and he will use us, for God never wastes a hurt.
If Jesus has saved your soul, he wants to use you to save other souls. If he has comforted your grief, he wants you to comfort others in mourning. If he has strengthened you in trials, he wants you to strengthen others.
The One who called himself the “light of the world” also taught his disciples, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). We are to reflect his light as the moon reflects the sun. And so our mirror must be clean, and pointed at its Source.
We are instructed to “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (v. 16). We are wounded and need healing, or we are wounded healers—there’s no third option.
Thursday morning, Janet and I drove Ryan to Baylor University, then drove home. But “home” will never be quite the same again. His bedroom is cleaner than it has been for 18 years. Our food budget will be lowered significantly. And things will never be quite the same again.
The 18 years of his life have been the best 18 years of my life. Every morning for 18 years I have prayed for God to bless and protect our son; I’ve never missed a day. But I know he belonged to his heavenly Father before he was given to his earthly father and mother. We now must trust his future into his first Father’s hands. We must trust that the God we cannot see is the God who can see us, and him. The God who will walk at his side for the rest of his life. We must trust our son to his Son.
So many of you have helped us. You’ve walked this path and have called or written to help us walk it. Your encouragement has been a gift to our hearts, more than you may know.
It’s that way for us all of life. Each of us is either blind needing help to see, or sighted needing to help the blind. Which are you today?