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Aug 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 28, 2010

John 9:13-17

INTRO: I spent the past two days with my niece, driving back and forth to Commerce

As we made our way home through the crowded LA freeways Friday evening, my niece, who attended private Christian schools all the way throught the twelfth grade, began to tell me about some of her friends. Having left the shelter of their private schools, their exposure to the many new and different ideas, perspectives, and educated opinions has thrown them into confusion regarding their own beliefs, and many have given up the faith.

There’s a predictable, religious knee-jerk reaction to this problem:
– “Their parents should have sent them to a Christian college!”
– Yes, and then what? They should go from college to work in a church or religious organization?
Some believers think we should avoid exposure to conflicting opinions our entire life
– they would have us pull our hands and feet inside the protective wall of a religious subculture

A better solution would be to begin exposing our children to the world at an early age – let them wrestle with the issues (especially while we still have some influence over their thinking process and values)
But it would be helpful for us to also teach them how to discuss these things

  • with curiosity and a desire to learn
  • with an open heart and mind (to the person as well their thoughts and opinions)
  • with an appreciation for the great variety of human persons
  • with personal knowledge and logic
  • without feeling threatened or getting angry

It turns out that debate not only increases discovery and enhances a person’s education, but it also plays an important role in enlightenment
– and it is not merely the encounter with something different
– even the tension and the activity of struggling and wrestling are useful for moving to the next stage

I received an email a couple weeks ago from a woman who told me that this study in John 9 was making sense to her. She said, “This morning I wrote down that enlightenment comes to me by wrestling with and then surrendering to Him.”
 – so true! In my response to her, I mentioned Jacob’s enlightenment at “dawn” after wrestling all night with God
 – conflict and struggle are normal experiences on the way to enlightenment

In this scene, the “formerly blind” man is pulled into a better understanding of Jesus

They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind. v. 13

Why did they do this?

  • Perhaps they were disturbed by his healing – and all he could give them was sketchy information
  • His healing had caused quite a stir and was beginning to create a commotion

So they took the whole thing to the experts

The Pharisees aren’t really treated fairly in the gospels
– theologically they stood closer to Jesus than the Sadducees
The reason they are painted in exagerated colors is because of the role they play in creating conflict
– that is how the plot of a story is usually moved forward
– and , since they opposed Jesus, they were characterized as the “bad guys”

The way John uses them in this gospel is to symbolize religion reduced to rules

Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. v. 14

As the blind mand headed into his first interview with the Pharisees, John lets us know it was a Sabbath

Jesus had already been in trouble for healing on the Sabbath and his defense of his actions almost got him stoned:
“My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” 5:17

Israel’s history reveals why they were so uptight about the Sabbath (e.g., Nu. 15:30-36; 2 Chron. 36:20-21; Jer. 17:19-27)
– but the problem is, when your practice becomes that rigid, it loses its personal significance and spiritual energy

We need to take a lesson from the Pharisees, who in Jesus’ time were the equivalent of today’s “fundamentalists”
– the more time you spend in church (and in the church culture), the more institutionalized your faith becomes

Then the Pharisees also were asking again how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see. v. 15

This verse is important, because in it this passage begins to echo Jesus’ talk with Nicodemus (Jn. 3:1-15)

Nicodemus was also a Pharisee and he shared their same concerns as the Pharisees who interviewed the blind man
– and like Nicodemus, their central question is “How?”
– Nicodemus had asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old?” and “How can these things be?”
Jesus did not have a simple answer for him
– like the wind, which you can hear but not see where it comes from or where it goes, so is the person born of the Spirit
– you cannot say how the Spirit produces this new life, you can only see that he has
– the answer isn’t available to us – only the experience is available

So “how” is the wrong question
– then what question should we be asking?
– what question would you want to ask Jesus?

The chapter began with Jesus telling the disciples, in effect, “You’re asking wrong question” (v. 3)
– his blindness was not about sin, but an opportunity to display works of God
– so the question to ask is, What is my opportunity? What opportunity lies within this situation? This present moment?

In this interview, the man’s answer isn’t very helpful (notice that he’s shortened his version  of it from v. 11)

They were looking for information – not because they wanted to learn something about healing
– but to determine whether any rules had been broken
– they were looking for insight – but insight is not enlightenment

Jesus’ observation of Nicodemus and his colleagues is very relevant here (read Jn. 3:10-15)
– if we don’t believe, if we don’t trust Jesus, we won’t move forward into enlightenment
– like the Pharisees, we are locked-out

Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath. But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them. v. 16

This first interview ends with a “hung jury”

Notice how they refer to Jesus: not by name, but “this man”
– this is a way of creating distance from him, of depersonalizing him
– if he is found guilty of violating law, they do not want to be associated with him, nor do they want to have any qualms about punishing him

Throughout the story, the Pharisees reveal a tendency to rush to judgment

  • the conclusion drawn by the first group is a direct contradiction of what Nicodemus had said earlier
    – at that time, they knew he had come from God because no one could “do these signs” apart from God
  • the conclusion of the second group doesn’t so far as to side with Jesus
    – but they raise the same issue as Nicodemus, a sinner could not “do such signs”

There is still debate regarding who Jesus was then and who he is now
– a debate regarding the “historical Jesus” versus the “Christ of faith”
A literal debate took place between N. T. Wright and Marcus Borg
– Wright argued that Jesus was pretty much the person he is portrayed as in the gospels
– Borg argued that Jesus was a Jewish mystic and a Christian messiah

“And there was a division among them” – Jesus is beginning to have this effect on those who listen to him (Jn. 7:43)
– he either evokes belief or rejection, love or hate
– you either get it or your don’t

So they said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?” And he said, “He is a prophet.” v. 17

They bring the question of Jesus back to the man who was healed

“You are the one who had the experience. What do you say?”
– and out of nowhere comes this bold statement of faith, “He is a prophet” (same conclusion as Samaritan woman, Jn. 4:19)

This is precisely one of his moments of enlightenment
– I do not think he knew this before the interview, but he knows it now

The blind man needed to think about Jesus in these categories that were raised by the Pharisees

  • from God or not from God
  • sinner or not a sinner

I doubt that he had even thought of Jesus in these terms before the interview
– but once these categories were in front of him, it made sense
– Jesus was not an ordinary man, or ordinary rabbi – or in any way ordinary!

CONC: I like the fact that Jesus wasn’t there while the interview was taking place
– but they could not escape his influence
– he had been there, and that’s why they were having this debate

He had been there and now they had to make up their mind about him, and not everyone was going to walk away having come to the same conclusion about him

If you’ve had an encounter with Jesus Christ, then the more that questions are raised about him, the more you realize he is not “just a man”

That means:

  • he has more to give us than a new religion
  • he is more than an example, teacher, or rule-giver
  • he can touch us with the truth and power of God
  • he can produce a change in us
  • he can speak healing and transformation into our lives

We each need to bring this truth into our own situation, our own questions, fears, struggles, sadness, or whatever it is that confronts or overwhelms us right now

When you reach a decision about who Jesus is:

  • sit in silence with him
  • place before him all of these issues – without judging, analyzing, or worrying about them
  • let him speak prophetically to each issue–that is to say, listen to the wisdom that emerges during this prayerful time of waiting on him

That is one of the ways that our current stage of enlightenment can lead to the next

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