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Sep 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 26, 2010

And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that thsose who see may become blind.” Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” John 9:39-41

INTRO: A few years ago, there was an exhibit of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings in Los Angeles

Imagine a person walking out of the gallery saying, “I don’t get it. What’s with all the swirls and wavy lines? His paintings just don’t look real.”
– at this point in history, such statements say more about the viewer than the artist

A touchstone is a black hard stone on which a precious metal will leave a mark when dragged across it
– from ancient times, the touchstone was used for identifying (and testing the purity of) gold and silver
– today the term refers to something that is used as a standard used for testing and evaluating other things

Jesus becomes a spiritual touchstone when he says, “For judgment I came into this world”
krima – “sift” and cognate of krino and krisis–from which our English word “crisis” is derived (a decisive or defining moment)
– and here the story takes a sudden turn, because until now, they had been judges and Jesus the accused

These last verses of the story do three things:

  1. Reveal the message of the chapter – explain everything
  2. Reveal where the Pharisees stood
  3. Provide us a criteria to discover where we stand

Think of this passage as grid, map, or game board that John drew
– he wants us to be able to locate ourselves on it

Jesus’ Mission Statement – Pt. 1
(don’t make too much of this, because he had several several mission statements—e.g., Lk. 4:18; Jn. 10:10; etc.)

Giving sight to the blind man served to establish his credentials
– we know by now that Jesus is talking about spiritual sight – enlightenment

But to what are we enlightened? What does Jesus want us to see?
“Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3)
– “see” is not the same word used in this chapter, but one that means to “perceive” or “be aware”

In John, Jesus rarely talks about the kingdom (compared to Matthew, Mark and Luke, for whom it is a central theme)
– only with Nicodemus and Pilate

Briefly, the kingdom Jesus disclosed

  • is a supernatural reality that is exclusively God’s–that is to say, it is not the realm of the occult nor is it inhabited by evil spirits
  • God’s Spirit is the dynamic life of that supernatural reality
  • is such that it comforms completely and totally to God’s will (Mt. 6:10)
  • is present and can be accessed now
    “But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Lk. 11:20)

The blind man is a symbol of humankind: we were all born blind
– we did not come into this world equipped with the capacity to see the kingdom of God (1 Co. 2:9, 14)
– that is why we “must be born again”–and if you remember, that is what was symbolized in Jesus forming the clay in his hands to apply to the blind man; he was creating the new person, one who is enabled to see

So enlightenment is not knowledge or an improvement, enhancement, or increase of our visual powers
– rather, something enters our awareness through a different door

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (Jn. 14:16-17)

What is the significance of “seeing” the kingdom in this way?
– on the one hand, we have a cluster of every kind of pleasure of life in this world
– on the other hand, we have a glimpse of the kingdom, a moment’s awareness
The experience of the kingdom totally eclipses the other cluster of pleasures
– it is that we become ascetics and practice a radical self-denial by the force of our will
– the experience of the kingdom is of a different order than those pleasures—it belongs to another category
There’s no way to compare
– we do not cease to enjoy life’s pleasures, but we recognize their limitations–e.g., “no satisfaction”
– whereas, in even the briefest contact with the kingdom we taste perfect contentment

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Mt. 13:44)
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Co. 4:17-18)

  • This is why Jesus came
  • This is what he wants us to “see”
  • This is the experience he wants us to have

Part 2 of Jesus’ Mission Statement (“those who see may become blind”)

Why would Jesus want to blind those who see?
– because they only think they see, but not in way he desires
[To the church of Laodicea] “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” (Re. 3:17)

Earlier the Pharisees said, “we know that this man is a sinner”
– they “saw” through the lens of their doctrine, which warped their vision
Helmut Thielicke told a story of a time after the second World War when food scarce. He came into the kitche one day to find his two small sons licking photographs of food in their mother’s cookbook
– there are Christians whose experience of God is limited to their doctrines–they are licking photographs
– dogmatism is one of the leading causes of spiritual blindness–it tends to close the mind rather than open it (dogmatism a closed door)

The New Testament is clear: you can be a Christian and still be unenlightened (e.g., 1 Co. 3:1-3; He. 5:12-13)

Jesus would want to blind them in order to give them true sight
– to say “I don’t know” means that there is at least the potential that a person can be taught

The Pharisees locate themselves on the game board

They don’t want to be associated with spiritually blind
– when they sent soldiers to take Jesus into custody, but who came back empty handed, “The Pharisees then answered them, ‘You have not also been led astray, have you? No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he? But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed.” (Jn. 7:47-49)

But it is precisely their claim to see that makes them at fault
– notice how Jesus brings this whole issue back to sin (cf. vv. 1-2)
– we need to link their, “we see” with, “we know” (vv. 24 & 29)
We can forgive a person who bumps into us because he can’t see
– but it’s different if a person sees us and deliberately cuts in line right in front of us

Paul is the perfect example of a Pharisee who had to be blinded and led by the hand to receive the true vision from God

CONC: It amazes me that today we use lasers to remove cataracts

Years ago, the first thing I learned about lasers was that if you looked directly into the beam it would blind you
Jesus is the Light of the world who either gives you the gift of sight or else blinds you

Where does all of this leave us now?

If we want to receive sight from Jesus, I see two options:

  1. Contemplative prayer
    a. Focused attention on the unseen
    b. Developing mindfulness and awareness
    c. Eventually we’ll catch a glimpse of the kingdom
    But not every Christ is ready to begin the contemplative journey, so . . .
  2. Throw yourself into love
    a. There are two major theological statements made regarding God in 1 John: “God is Light” and “God is Love” (1:5; 4:8 & 16)
    b. These two truths are interrelated–in fact, enlightenment and love come close to being same thing

“The one who loves his brother abides in the Light” (1 Jn. 2:10)
“No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us” (1 Jn. 4:12)

My hope and desire is that we develop in both of these important dimensions

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