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Mar 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 10, 2019 – Mark 8:16-26 and John 9:1-7


Intro: Let’s review important terms Jesus has used

– first, there is the living water
• he offered it to the Samaritan woman (Jn. 4:10)
• he also offered it to everyone in the temple (Jn. 7:37-38)
– next, Jesus said, I am the bread of life (Jn. 6:35)
– more recently he said, I am the light of the world
• and he promised to those who followed him the light of life (Jn. 8:12)

Notice how these same themes appear in Psalm 36
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light
(vv. 7-9)
This is not only metaphorical poetry
– it is mystical verse
– it describes seeing light within light

Last week we learned about a light, invisible to human eyes
– a light that shines in darkness as well as in light–e.g., Ps. 139:11-12
• God lights things up for us
• the various TV crime series programs have made much of forensic light
◦ with it, investigators can locate finger prints and traces of blood and other evidence not visible to normal sight
◦ God’s light enables us to see what is invisible
– that is the sort of light John brings to the Synoptic gospels
(Matthew, Mark and Luke)
• it reveals things that were hidden from the disciples
◦ but even when that light is shining, there’s another problem
◦ we can be blind to the spiritual light of Christ
• John wants us to be able to see in God’s light
◦ and he provides important instructions in this chapter

John chapter 9 begins with a blind man

Jesus healed him, but because it was the Sabbath, the healing created complications
– first there was a stir among the crowd in temple (vv. 8-12)
• then the man was interrogated by a council of Pharisees (vv. 13-17)
• next, his parents were brought in and interrogated (vv. 18-23)
• then the man was once again interrogated (vv. 24-34)
– we’ve seen that John does not include any of the parables found in the Synoptic gospels
• but at the same time, John saw certain events in the light of Jesus that for him were revelations of truth deeper than the words and actions
• for him, the story of the blind beggar became a real-life parable

There were only three times in the four gospels Jesus used spit to heal

Two of those instances were in Mark’s gospel–the third instance is here
– in Mark 7:33, Jesus used saliva to a man who was deaf and mute
• then in Mark 8:23, it was a blind man who was healed
• and spitting was not the only similarity unique to these two stories
◦ with both men, Jesus first separated them from the crowd (Mk. 7:33; 8:23)
◦ with both men, his touch was specific
he touched the first man’s ears and tongue (Mk. 7:33)
he spit in the eyes of the second man and laid his hands on him (Mk. 8:23)
◦ when healed, the first man spoke plainly and the second saw . . . clearly
– these two stories frame an episode that took place between Jesus and his disciples (Mk. 8:14-21)
• the deaf man came before this episode and the blind man came after
◦ what Jesus said to disciples in between these healing miracles was

Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?
• literal blindness and deafness are also metaphorical and spiritual

When, in John’s gospel, we come to this only other place where Jesus used spit
– and where he applied it directly to the man’s eyes,
• it would be difficult to not see a connection with these events from Mark’s gospel
◦ not with the historical details–person, place, or timing
• but the disabilities and their implied meaning
◦ also, the fact that Jesus heals these disabilities

There is one other interesting detail re: blind man in Mark
– Mark 8:23-25 is the only place where a healing took place in stages
– in John 9, the spiritual enlightenment of the blind man also occurred in stages
◦ he first referred to Jesus as the man called Jesus (v. 11)
◦ later he referred to him as a prophet (v. 17)
◦ then, he decided Jesus was from God, (v. 33)
◦ and finally he cam to believe in Jesus, the Son of Man (35-38)

The whole ruckus in this chapter began with a question

Jesus saw the blind man, and it seems the disciples followed his gaze
– perhaps they felt powerless to do anything for him
• they could not heal him, they could only speculate
◦ so they asked Jesus a question about guilt and blame

Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

• it’s easy to see how this could be a problem
◦ if the parents’ sin, then the punishment was unfair for him
◦ if he sinned, was it prior to birth – or retroactive?
– what they were doing was shooting in the dark
• the question reveals their own blindness
◦ that there had to be someone to blame
◦ and they were unable to determine where to place the blame
• this was also a blindness that was endemic to their culture
◦ they applied a rule of cause and effect to sin and suffering

I want to pause here to ask,
Whose voice from the Old Testament does Jesus’ voice most resemble?
– not Abraham–he was righteous and enjoyed material prosperity
• not Moses–he gave Israel two choices: obey and prosper or disobey and suffer
• not the voice of the sages in the Book of Proverbs
– here Job is the person whom Jesus sounds like the most
• Job had once lived and thrived in the blindness of his culture
◦ until everything fell apart for him
◦ that was his eye-opener
• he became a spokesperson for everyone who suffers
◦ for sure, sin has consequences
– but those are more like running a red light and getting ticket
– there’s no guess-work of guilt or blame like we see here
◦ the disciples needed to be less concerned about cause
◦ and more interested in cure

For the rest of this chapter, it seems that blindness is contagious

First, the crowd was not seeing so well
– “Isn’t his the blind beggar?” – “No, but he is like him” (v. 9)
• they couldn’t trust their eyes
– then there was the blindness of the Pharisees
• regarding Jesus they declared, This man is not from God (v. 16)
◦ everything pointed to a miracle and the uniqueness of Jesus
◦ yet they persist in their blindness
◦ throughout the interrogation, they were groping for answers
– the man’s parents were blind too
• “We don’t know how he got his sight”

The only one who is beginning to see the light of Jesus
– was the man who had been physically blind
• and he comes so far that he even sounds like Jesus (cf. v. 32-33 & Jn. 5:19 & 30)

After the ruckus, the blind man has a second encounter with Jesus

This to me is the beauty of Jesus
– he heard that the man he healed had been tossed out of the synagogue
• being blind, he had lived on outskirts of society
◦ now that he had the opportunity to join in, he was kicked to the curb
◦ that is what he got for his integrity – he could not deny his experience

Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see (v. 25)

• Jesus went looking for him, found him somewhere outside the temple
◦ Jesus wanted to complete his healing — his enlightenment

Some of the Pharisees overheard what Jesus had to say to the blind man
– they asked Jesus,

“Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains” (vv. 40-41)

• when or how did they say, “We see”?
◦ in verse 24 when they said, We know that this man is a sinner
◦ and in verse 28 when they said, We know that God has spoken to Moses
• that’s the danger of trusting too much in your religious dogma
◦ thinking you know, you reject evidence that is right in front of you

Conclusion: In Luke chapter 11, Jesus said,

Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light (vv. 34-36)

eye refers to sight and body refers to the whole person
• what we typically mean by “healthy” sight is clarity
◦ but Jesus was referring to where we direct our attention
◦ for example, the psalmist wrote,

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things (Ps. 119:37)

◦ that is, Direct my attention away from empty images and pursuits
• to what do I give the majority of my attention?
◦ what do I allow to enter my eyes, my mind, my heart, my body?
– the Pharisees remind us that blindness can be willful
• but we also learn here that sight can be improved
◦ I recently learned about vision exercises
◦ we need exercises to improve our spiritual sightedness

For the time being, we would do well to follow the advice of Abbot John Chapman, who wrote, “God is taking you in hand and teaching you. Be courageous. Let Him work. You can help by not interfering—that is, by not worrying or complaining, but trying to be peaceful and confident and content.”

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