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Sep 21 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 18, 2010

Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”
Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.”
And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.
John 9:35-38

INTRO: In 2007 a documentary was released on Google Video that has caused quite a commotion

Zeitgeist, which has been soundly criticized by scholars, represents a new era in the way conspiracy theories can be dispersed through electronic social networks

The documentary is divided into three parts: The first claims to expose Christianity’s mythical origins
– according to the producer, a group of people invented Jesus out of the myths of other ancient religions
– there truth in the claim that parallels and similarities can be drawn between Christianity and the stories of religions that existed before it
This next scene in John 9 will give us one explanation for those parallels and explanations

In observing the blind man’s enlightenment, we have come to the last door to be unlocked

Verse 35, Jesus asks a question

“Jesus heard” – he heard that the man had paid a price for his faithful witness to Jesus
– faith that doesn’t cost anything is probably not worth anything

“found him” – Jesus went looking for him
– Why? Jesus wanted to ask him a question (it must be an important question)
– “do you believe” – had his experience brought him to faith?

“Son of Man” – this term works like a secret code in John’s gospel – it both reveals and conceals
– it reveals Jesus to the one who has eyes to see
– it conceals Jesus from the ones who having eyes, cannot see
Since this is the climax of the story, believing in the Son of Man is seen to be the goal of enlightenment

Verse 36, before he can answer, the man asks Jesus a question

This is the central question of the chapter, Who is Son of Man? (cf., 12:34)
– it is another way of asking, who is Jesus?
– the man is prepared to believe in this person, but he needs to know him
Faith requires an object

Receiving his sight was easy—he didn’t have to do anything
– he didn’t have to commit to anything
– but if he puts his faith in the Son of Man, it will demand something of him – his whole life

Believing in a person is different from belief in a doctrine
– remember, this conversation is taking place outside the synagogue
– this “belief” is not tied to institution or its dogma

Verse 37, Jesus answers his question

Jesus does not answer with a definitive or theological statement such as, “The Son of Man is the christological fulfillment of apocalyptic revelation, the Incarnation and Pleroma of God, the Eternal Logos and ultimate expiation of sin through his substitutionary death”
– he doesn’t give him a theology, but he presents himself to the man
– and he presents himself within the man’s immediate experience, “The one who is talking with you”

“Seen” – translates a different Greek word that what is used for “to see” earlier in the chapter
– the word used previously simply refers to the ability to look at things
– the word used here refers to what a person gains from staring at or studying something (perception)
The man is now perceiving who the Son of Man is – he is being enlightened to the person of Jesus Christ

Verse 38, The man answers Jesus’ question

His answer is affirmative, but not just, “Yes” or “I do”
– but he puts it in the form of a full confession

“Worshiped Him” – Jesus had not asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man and will you worship Him?”
– the man volunteers his worship, he demonstrates his belief (he acts on it)

Briefly, worship is:

  • interaction – between a person and God (“the response of the creature to the Eternal,” Evelyn Underhill)
  • movement – the language of worship is that of motion, such as descending, kneeling, etc. (especially in OT)
    – the various gestures had specific significance within their culture
  • inner movement – the spirit of the person is in motion
    – even though the movement is in one direction, it is impelled and drawn
    – it moves away from and is drawn to
    – it is “the pilgrimage from self to God” (Emily Herman)

The light of Jesus throws light on other things

Once Jesus revealed himself to the man, immediately he recognizes him as the One who healed him
– in other words, the personal revelation of Jesus threw light back on their previous encounter
– now he not only knows who is in front of him, but who it was before that touched and healed him

In Listening to the Heartbeat of God, J. Philip Newell says, “A sixth century Celtic bard claimed that Christ had always been the Celts teacher, but they had not known him by name.”
– it was after missionaries introduced Jesus to them that the light came on

Being enlightened to Jesus throws light on previous experiences we have had with him
– the Savior we had been looking for all along had been with us all along – we just didn’t know it was Jesus
Newell explains that the Jews had the Old Testament, in which Jesus was revealed in types and shadows (He. 8:5; 9:9; 23; 10:1)
– but for the Celts “Old Testament,” so to speak, was their nature religion
– was there no truth at all in their religion before Christian missionaries arrived? Had God left them completely in the dark, without any witness to himself? (As John W. Montgomery has said, there are many truths in all religions, for it’s difficult for a person to get everything wrong)

In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness. (Acts 14:16-17)

In Athens, Paul pointed to one of the Greek shrines, dedicated to an “unknown god” who he identified as his God
– he said that God ordered the world and nations in such a way that people would seek him and hopefully find him
– he added that God is not far from us, that “in Him we live and move and exist”
– Paul even quoted one of their own poets who said, “For we also are His children” (i.e., every human is a child of God (from where else would we have come?)

This is how it works:

  1. Christ is revealed in all cultures
  2. But it is only through knowing him that we can see him in the types and shadows of various myths
  3. Therefore, enlightenment begins with an encounter, an experience of Jesus
  4. Once we know him, we are able to recognize him as the One to which the types and shadows had pointed

The encounter is the starting point
– not education or apologetics (as important as they are)
– it is Jesus himself that is light and who throws light on everything else
After meeting Jesus, see are able to see what was before hidden from us (“mystery”–e.g., Ro. 16:25-27)

This is one answer to the (exaggerated) claims in Zeitgeist that Christianity borrows from ancient myths

C. S. Lewis wrote, “We must not be nervous about ‘parallels’ and ‘Pagan Christs’: they ought to be there—it would be a stumbling block if they weren’t. We must not, in false spirituality, withhold our imaginative welcome. If God chooses to be [myth-making]—and is not the sky itself a myth—shall we refuse to be [myth-feeling]? For this is the marriage of heaven and earth: Perfect Myth and Perfect Fact: claiming not only our love and our obedience, but also our wonder and delight, addressed to the savage, the child, and the poet in each one of us no less than to the moralist, the scholar, and the philosopher.” (See also Lords of the Earth by Don Richardson and Myth, Allegory, and Gospel, edited by John Warwick Montgomery)

CONC: This last door to enlightenment has to be unlocked by an encounter with Jesus

Why? Because we cannot put our faith (trust) in an abstraction

I received an email earlier today in which my friend wrote:

Even today – I am living into the blind man’s self authenticating truth statement, “This one thing I know, I was blind but now I see.” I see how I often betray myself and waver in weakness when challenged about my own experiences with Jesus and where I stand with Him at this particular juncture in my life.
It is interesting to come back to the stabilizing truth of who Jesus is in me . . . regardless of all the things I don’t know for sure or all the theological issues that polarize Protestants, of which I have no answers for or better yet, have come to no definitive conclusions about.
For example I was challenged yesterday by a man I deeply respect and love about my decision to be involved in an Anglican church – since they hold to infant baptism. The strangest thing is I am not altogether sure I care – I was baptized as an infant and when I was 24 made the decision to be baptized as an adult – to me God was in it all. And besides this, there is no one standing over me telling me I have to submit to certain criteria to be involved in this new church plant. So in my quiet place with Jesus I found my soul rising up spontaneously after some time saying the lines of the blind man…all I know about Jesus and myself is that I was once blind, but now I see (a little more clearly but certainly not completely).

Our ongoing enlightenment has to do with returning to Jesus again and again in trust
– we must continue choosing to trust him, because we keep discovering new anxieties, fears, and challenges
– and he keeps resolving them while soothing and encouraging our hearts
It is exactly as he said, we must remain in vital union with him to move forward in our spiritual enlightenment, “for apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5)

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