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Sep 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 4, 2010

The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, and questioned them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?”

His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself. John 9:18-21

INTRO: What is implied in the statement, “He who has ears, let him hear”? (see Mt. 13:9)

[Thank you, Reflexion crew for some good answers Saturday night. For example, “Some people will hear and some won’t,” “We must be receptive to hear,” and “Some will hear and not get it.”]

The implication Jesus makes, is that even though we have ears, we may not be listening (or listening attentively or in the right way), and therefore miss something we were meant to hear

Some people simply do not have eyes to see or ears to hear
– this is revealed in their inability to appreciate spiritual work or goals and effects (“fruit”)

I met with a minister a few weeks ago who has to answer to a district supervisor. The minister was laboring under a burden of frustration because his supervisor was constantly pressuring him to improve his statistics. “More people should be attending” he was told, and, “You should be bringing in more money.”
I asked the minister, “Can you see your supervisor’s spiritual motivation?” He immediately answered, “No.” He must have seen how surprised I was at his quick response, because he went on to say, “I don’t even need to take time to think about it. I cannot discern a spiritual motive behind any of the decisions my supervisor makes.”

If an advertising company is hired to sell people on a church, what will they say?
– being unable to quantify God’s work in a person’s life, they will likely publish numbers–attendance, budget, annual baptisms, etc.
– this is how “results” and “success” are measured in the corporate world–number of units produced, sold, delivered, etc.
But if the ministry of a church is driven by statistics, it loses its spiritual focus
– on the other hand, to act on spiritual motivation and pursue spiritual goals, one must be enlightened to the Spirit of God and the things of the Spirit

I received a good reminder regarding enlightenment this morning while reading in Hebrews 11

  • Rudimentary faith is where our faith begins and it is coupled with “the beginning” (v. 3)
    – it is “by faith we understand” that what is visible was made out of that which is invisible
    – this is consistent with both our understanding of physics and contemplative spirituality
  • Mature faith appears later on in the example of Moses who presevered like someone “who could see Him who is invisible” (v. 27)
    – a whole other reality is opened to the eyes of faith

Enlightenment is having eyes that see

This passage is the turning point of story


  • Because now people have to make a decision
    – last week, in verse 16, there was “a division among them”
    – Jesus’ actions have created a divide and people are forced to take sides
  • Now there is a cost for those who decide to go with Jesus
    – what is not obvious at first is that there is  a greater cost for those who decide against Jesus
    – they are choosing darkness over light, ignorance over knowledge, and fear over faith

The apparent concern of the court: to establish the credibility of the witness

His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had alr4eady agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”  John 9:22-23

The transition into this scene was triggered by unbelief; the court “did not believe it . . . that he had been blind”
– but the scene does not resolve in belief like we would expect–the court won’t allow it
– instead, it dissolves into fear

The three questions the court put to the parents:
1. Is this your son?
2. You say that he was born blind? (in the form of a question)
3. How does he now see?

The parents’ three answers
1. We know this is our son
2. He was born blind
3. We do not know how he sees or who opened his eyes

“Knowing” and “not knowing” are key themes in this chapter and relate to “seeing” and “blind” (enlightened and unenlightened)

  • The parents knew basic facts regarding their son
    – but they knew nothing about his transformation
  • It was wrong-thinking on their part, to assume they could escape responsibility by claiming ignorance
    – it is foolish to try to travel a dangerous road with the lights out

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. (Jn. 3:19)

The court was trying to accumulate evidence and information
– this illustrates an important lesson about acquiring knowledge: it doesn’t necessarily bring a person to truth or enlightenment
Simone Weil illustrates this with the example of a boy who doesn’t know the name of the capital of Brazil. In the next moment he learns what it is, “but he is no closer to truth.” She goes on, “There are certain cases in which the acquisition of knowledge causes one to approach truth, there are other cases in which it doesn’t.”
We could say, in some instances learning something new leads to enlightenment and in other instances it doesn’t. “How to distinguish between the two cases?” Weil asks

We can conclude that the court, after it has heard the evidence, is no closer to truth
– that is because they were not interested in the truth, but in winning a conviction against Jesus
– they were like the people Paul described as “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”

It is fascinating, how John brings us to next stage of enlightenment

The main concern of this interview has to do with Jesus
– yet no one comes out and says so, in fact, they do not even mention his hame

Instead, it is as if there were a conspiracy to which they were all sworn
– a conspiracy of silence regarding Jesus
– a conspiracy of misdirection, because rather than talk about Jesus, they act as if the main concern was how the blind man was healed, but that only hints at the real issue

What gives them away is the parents’ fear
Everyone was afraid of Jesus

  • the Pharisees were afraid Jesus could be leading the people astray (7:12, 47)
    – but their fear was also based on less noble motives (11:46-48)
  • the people feared the cost of owning Jesus – “put out of the synagogue”
    – but their fear was also based on less noble motives (12:42-43)

What they all were dancing around is actually the next stage of enlightenment: “if anyone confessed Him to be the Christ
Notice that the parents hinted at the fact that confessing Jesus as Christ was the real issue
– when they were asked how their son was healed, said they did not know how, but then they added something they had not been asked, “or who opened his eyes”
– they indicated that it was not a how that healed their son, but a Who
And who, but the Christ, could perform such a miracle?

The court was trying to get information on Jesus without mentioning his name
The parents were pointing toward Jesus without mentioning his name
– but we cannot skirt the issue of Jesus like this

  • We ask God to reveal himself to us
     – to lead us away from wrong ideas to the truth
     – to show us how we can come to know him
     – to teach us how we can walk with him
  • We ask for all of this, and he gives us Jesus
     – either we stop asking or we accept the One who he has given in answer to our prayers

A threat looms over this scene

It amazes me how people get when they are given a little power over others
– even when they’re supposed to be working for the good of others

I once asked one of my philosophy professors if he believed in God. He answered, “I find it hard to embrace organized religion. It is been has been the source of so much oppression through the centuries”
– I shudder at the oppressive force of some church elders, pastors, and committees
– they have left a long trail of shattered lives

An irony in the story:
– those who confessed Jesus would be excluded from the spiritual community
– but the in the spiritual community of the church it is just the opposite–those who confess him are included
The church is defined by presence of Christ in the community and the fact that they gather in “the name of Jesus” (Mt. 18:20)

Belonging to Jesus means that at one and the same time, we experience exclusion and inclusion
– we will find that we are rejected from some religious communities

For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. (He. 13:11-13)

CONC: John has shown us next stage of enlightenment, but without anyone reaching it!

  1. First Stage: enlightened to the fact that Jesus is a “man”
  2. Second Stage: enlightened to the fact that Jesus is a “prophet” (more than an ordinary man)
    – but beyond prophet there is someone who is even more significant, someone who is ultimate
  3. Third Stage: enlightened to the fact that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah)

But how are we enlightened to this truth?
– as we have seen already, merely knowing this information may not lead to enlightenment

Let’s return to what Simone Weil has to say, “How to distinguish between” the acquisition of knowledge that leads one to truth and that which doesn’t?
– she describes a man who hears of some woman he doesn’t know who was unfaithful to her husband, but this has nothing to do with the man, so he is unaffected by that information and “his relationship to truth” is not altered in the slightest by knowing it
– then he learns that his wife has been unfaithful to him, and Weil says “he is suddenly brought into brutal contact with a piece of truth.
She explains why this “latter example furnishes the key. The acquisition of knowledge causes us to approach truth when it is a question of knowledge about something we love, and not in any other case.”
– in other words, we have to have some kind of personal attachment or investment or relationship to the information we receive
– we can learn “Jesus is the Christ” in a children’s classroom on Sunday morning and not experience that fact as a stage in enlightenment

How can we experience the truth “Jesus is Christ” so that we are enlightened by it?
If we love the Jesus of whom the statement is made

He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. . . If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. (Jn. 14:21, 23)

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