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Sep 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 11, 2010

John 9:24-34

INTRO: Have you ever listened to one side of a phone conversation and tried to guess what it was about?

If I told you that I answered a question by saying, “Getting ready,” do you think you would be able to guess the question?
– probably not, but if I added “I was getting ready to go to work,” you might come a little closer
– if I made the complete statement, “I was getting ready to go to word when I heard Barbara say, ‘Is this real?!’” and you connected it with today’s date, then you would likely deduce the question I was answering:

Where were you on 9-11-01 when you heard about the attack on the World Trade Center?

Biblical research is mostly about asking questions–and good research depends on asking the right questions

– one important and helpful question to ask is “What is question this text answers?”
– searching for the answer drives you deeper into text to gather information

The question that is answered in this passage is:
What is next stage of the blind man’s enlightenment and how did he arrive at it?

Verse 24, Religious Bullies

Describing the tortures used by the KGB to extort confessions from innocent people, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn explained that prior to 1937 “the chief method was a revolver on the desk.” He wrote, “The frightening revolver lies there and sometimes it is aimed at you, and the interrogator doesn’t tire himself out thinking up what you are guilty of, but shouts, ‘Come on, talk! You know what about!'”

The court of the Pharisees also had their means of threatening and intimidating, for they “had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue” (v. 22)

“Give glory to God” was also meant to intimidate
– it may sound like they are saying, “Praise God,” but it has a different meaning in the courtroom

  • A Hebrew idiom found several times in the OT
  • Perhaps the most relevant example is from Joshua 7:19
    – a soldier was guilty of disobeying the ban against taking plunder from Jericho
    – the culprit was discovered and confronted
  • “Give glory to God” means, “make confession,” “Tell the truth before God and his community”
  • Their psychological manipulation
    – they adopt a pious role – as if representatives of God
    – establish their authority (it is not only Jesus who is on trial, but anyone who sides with him)

The whole interview is designed to intimidate him into a confession

“We know,” as if it had been established as fact
– Jesus met the criteria of “Sabbath-breaker” and they had given their ruling against him
– now they want the blind man to say it

“This man”—again, they do not refer to Jesus by name
– also, this is where they are stuck – to them he is still only a man
– they remain unenlightened, while the blind man has begun to “see”

One of the things that ties us together in this community of ours is contemplative spirituality
– there are believers who don’t get it and some of them react by criticizing what they don’t understand
Emily Herman in Creative Prayer addresses the way that sometimes enlightened people are persecuted by the unenlightened
– friends and family can’t understand the thing that’s happened to us and therefore lash out at us. She says, “This spells pain, but it is a wholesome pain. It wakes us out of our selfish preoccupation with our experience and forces us to take [others] into our thought.”
There is value in being criticized by others she says because:

  • it puts our experience to the test
  • our response proves the validity of the experience (“fruit”)
  • we are not motivated to fight back, but we work harder at being what God has called us to become

Verse 25, Heroic Response

This is the moment of truth for the blind man – he either:
– folds, like his parents did or
– he owns Jesus and takes the consequences

vv. 24-25, “know . . . do not know . . . know”
vv. 29-31, “know . . . do not know . . . do not know . . . know”

Here is one of the most beautiful testimonies for Jesus in the NT
He doesn’t get into an argument whether Jesus is a sinner
“I am not an expert in those matters. What I am an expert in is my own experience. This one thing I know for certain! I was blind, but now I see”

Even though he doesn’t know Jesus yet, he has given a powerful testimonial to him

Verses 26-27, He Reverses the Roles

“Why?” – he becomes the interrogator
– why go over this ground that we’ve already covered?

The question is important, because it reveals that they are not asking in order to get at the truth or to be enlightened
– they were wanting him to change his story or
– they wanted to pick up on a detail they had missed before to prove Jesus’ guilt

“You do not want . . .?”
– it’s an accurate reading to hear sarcasm in his voice
– but it also emphasizes the fact that becoming disciples of Jesus was precisely not their goal

Verses 28-34, Closing Arguments

“Revile” – their speech became abusive
– “you are his disciple” – he did not deny it

This may not be important, but the story begins with Jesus and his disciples
– somehow this formerly blind man has become one of them
– enlightened to Jesus, he is now enlightened to himself–“disciple” now defines him (who and what he is)
They inadvertently led him to this discovery

By posing as Moses’ disciples, they create an artificial tension between Moses and Jesus
Earlier Jesus had told Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (Jn. 3:14)
– there is no conflict between Moses and Jesus, for Jesus is the fulfillment of what God began with Moses

The mystery of where Jesus was from has been an ongoing issue in John’s gospel
– and, like most everything else in John, there is a literal meaning and a spiritual possibility

  • Literal: the argument over Galilee, 7: 27, 42, 52 (same court)
  • Spiritual: the more important truth is that Jesus has:
    – “descended from heaven” 3:13
    – come from God, 7:29
    – is from above, 8:23
  • That Jesus is from God is the enlightened answer to the controversy

In giving the man’s last speech, John takes us inside his mind and his rational process

  1. He first eliminates the possibility that Jesus could be a sinner
  2. He next establishes that Jesus did something unique
  3. He concludes that Jesus must be from God
    – some had denied this possibility (v. 16)

Look at his progress!
– from knowing nothing at the beginning to his certainty of the truth regarding Jesus at the end
– he is confident and courageous
How did this happen? The relentless attempt of the court to find Jesus guilty drove him to it
– they kept pushing him further and further into the mystery of Jesus
– all he had to go on was his experience, so he kept going back to it, analyzing it
– finally, he reached bedrock: “one thing I do know”

This is contemplative spirituality
– it brings us back to issues that need sorting out
– it brings to our attention things we might otherwise choose to ignore
– this can be a source of psychological healing and progress, but the goal is to take us deeper into God and further out to others

Their reaction:

  1. They deliver their judgment against him, “You were born entirely in sins”
    Remember? This is where the story began (v. 2)
    – their judgment runs contrary to the facts
  2. They “put him out”
    – he first appeared on the margin of society and now he has been pushed back to the margin
    – only now, it is not because he can’t see, but because he can

CONC: I think we can make the most out of this by asking ourselves:

What is the next stage of my enlightenment?
How will I get there?

You probably don’t know answer to the first question
– the answer to second is: By whatever is going on in your life right now
– we’ve seen that enlightenment doesn’t require any special abilities or education
It only takes a willingness to receive the touch of Jesus, to be true to that experience, to listen to the truth as it unfolds, and to allow Jesus to make us his disciples

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