The Lord calls us to share our unique story of grace.
Vision correction is really about the healing of the blind man by Jesus, the man who was born blind. It’s one of the unique chapters in the Bible, John 9. Certainly in the gospels, the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John talk about and give us an account of the life and ministry of Jesus. John, though, characterizes the ministry of Jesus in a very unique way. He emphasizes the love of God, the son of God. Each gospel has its own unique emphasis. The point in John 9, is we have something that’s actually not that common. We have an entire chapter devoted to one man’s story. In this case, it’s an extensive chapter that’s focusing on the healing of a man born blind. We don’t even know his name, but we get a lot of insight into who he was. His character emerges out of the page.
His character speaks to us. There are a lot of aspects that invite us to use our imagination. This is what I’ve been wanting us to do. I want us to keep doing it as we engage in the experience of this man. I want us to try to see, sense, and feel what was going on. Some of you may recall that we focused on the early part of that account. Let me just reset the first 12 verses and then we’ll pick up. In the handout, you’ll see that there’s a number of other verses. We’ll get into them. You can follow the handout, or use your Bibles or the Bible app.
It says that as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was born blind. The Bible makes it clear what follows next is that Jesus stopped and looked at him. He may have seen this man before. It seems to have been a spot where the man born blind would beg. Perhaps they had passed him earlier, but Jesus stops. He says, as was passing by, he saw a man born blind and the disciples noticed Jesus looking at him. They ask a question. Lord, why is this man blind? Did he sin or did his parents sin that he was born like this? Jesus says, neither of those things, neither did he sin nor his parents. Then He utters a statement, but that the son of God, that God may be glorified, that the works of God may be made known, may be displayed. Jesus says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day for the night is coming when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Thinking about what He’s about to do; He’s talking about the man born blind. He’s about to heal him when He makes that statement.
We must do the works of Him who sent me while it is day for the night is coming when no man can work. He’s talking about the cross. He says, “as long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” I am the light of the world. The Bible says that He gets down, spits on the ground, takes the dirt, and starts to make mud. Jesus anoints the eyes. I imagine the blind man saying, “What are you doing?” Jesus says, “Let me do this. If you do this, let me put this on your eyes. You’ll be healed.” He puts it on his eyes and tells him, “now go to the pool of Siloam,” which means sent and wash. The scripture says the blind man went, washed, and could see. He was made well. Then the scripture continues and says he went and his neighbors and the people said, “Hey, are you the blind beggar that used to beg? What happened to you? Is that you?” Some said, “Yeah. That is him.” Someone else said, “No, it’s not. It’s just somebody who looks like him.” The blind man said, “It is me,” and they said, “What happened to you?” He said, “Well, there was this man named Jesus. He got down and made some mud out of the dirt. He put it on my eyes and told me to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. He said I would be made well. I did and now I can see.”
“Well, where is He? What does he look like?” “I don’t know. I’ve never seen Him. I just know who He was,” and then it says, “Well, when did this happen?” This is an amazing thing that’s happened here. It is extraordinary. It’s not just what happened, it’s how it happened. We need to take you to go talk to the authorities and explain your story to them. I think the Pharisees would be very interested in what happened. They would like to know about it. That’s the first 13 chapters of John. It says this, that as they brought the man who had formerly been blind to the Pharisees, they asked him how he had been healed. It was a Sabbath day when Jesus had made the mud and opened his eyes. Explain to us what happened. The blind man was supposed to tell a story in what was a very intimidating environment. I think we need to remember that. These are very powerful people. They’re the highest officials. They’re the temple authorities. They’re very learned. This is an intimidating group. They bring him in. He’s not accustomed to this kind of an environment; he’s brought in there probably reluctantly by a group of people who wanted him to tell his story because it had theological ramifications. It was connected to a larger issue that he wasn’t even aware of. He’s brought into it. He got in there and they said, “Now we need you to tell us what happened.”
The blind man tells his story to the Pharisees. Some of the Pharisees said, this man, Jesus, cannot be from God. He does not keep the Sabbath. How can a man who is a sinner? One group of them said there’s no way He’s from God because He’s violating the Sabbath. The others said, but wait for a second, how could He not be from God if He’s able to heal somebody like this. How could a sinner do such signs? It says, there was such a division. There was this huge fight that broke out in the middle of this. You get this group of people to start arguing with each other about legitimacy. In other words, instead of rejoicing over the miracle, they were debating whether the power that Jesus used to heal was good or bad. Was He from God or was it something far more nefarious? Evil in the substance of power that was evil that was used here. The room was divided. It was intense. Some of us might say that it is just utterly incredible that people could get into an argument about how somebody was healed and missed the larger point that he was healed. That would be viewing it strictly from our cultural context and we would be missing something. Every time we judge something, history exclusively, for example, out of our present cultural context, we miss something.
In this case, we must understand that the Pharisees were fully committed. They were a group of religious men who were fully committed. They had many followers, but they were very committed to the law of the scripture. The sacredness of the Sabbath was not even open to debate with them. It was one of the 10 great commandments that God gave to Israel. When they were a people in bondage in Egypt, God had delivered them under the leadership of Moses with a mighty miracle hand, they had no identity. They had no sense of anything that you would call confidence as a people. It says that God gave them in the middle of that place, where they were. He gave them His words. He gave them His law from the mountain of Sinai.
At the center of that law, the center of the words of God was what we call the 10 commandments. Those 10 commandments gave them identity. It gave them a kind of a sense of purpose as a people. It was something that they treasured, valued, and connected to everything that meant something to them. In one of those commands, the fourth was you need to keep the Sabbath holy. To keep it holy meant don’t do any work, rest on the Sabbath. Honor God by not working one day a week, recreate yourself because you are not to live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. You are more than a beast of burden. You are created in the very image of God. It was a powerful truth. They had held on to it. They had held it by Jesus’ day.
There was no question. Everybody believed to honor the Sabbath was correct. The real question was, what exactly constitutes work? This was being debated by many different schools of the rabbis, Pharisees, and even the Sadducees. Different groups of religious teachers were debating this point. We all agree you’re not supposed to work, but what constitutes work? They had different perspectives. You could do this. You could do that. Some things, this, some things that. One of the primary ways of thinking at the time of Jesus was you should not be doing medical practice and healing. That would be considered a doctor going to work. It’d be inappropriate. Maybe there was another group that would say, well, some rare exceptions. They had a reason for it.
For the most part, there was an agreement that you were not supposed to work on the Sabbath. So to have Jesus come in and do this, was a problem. They had strong feelings. It was a big deal. Some felt that Jesus had violated the law of Moses and therefore said He cannot be from God. There is no way He can be someone from God while He violates the very center of what God has given us as a people. How can He be from God? Others said, no, how could He not be from God. How could He be a sinner by which they meant lawbreaker or bad person? How could He be that and do this good? That was the debate that was going on. In all fairness, Jesus, it must be admitted, had shown little respect for the hyper-sensitive interpretation of the Sabbath.
You could almost make the case that He intentionally went out of His way sometimes to do things to heal people on the Sabbath. You could suggest that his way of healing, which was unlike any other that He had ever done, was intentionally designed. For one thing, when He says, “I am the light of the world” and he heals the man born blind from his birth, that is a connection to everything he has come to do. To address the complete or lost condition of the human race by giving His own self, the light would come into the darkness and bring light in life. That’s the essence of it. He has the blind man do physical things. You get the impression that Jesus knows what He is doing. Now that’s the atmosphere.
It’s tense. Big arguments have been going on. The blind man, probably who was brought in initially to tell a story, is probably sitting on the sideline thinking, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here. These guys are going at it, they’re intense, passionate, angry, and getting in each other’s faces.” There’s a dominant group. A dominant group of them do not believe that Jesus is who He says He is. They do not believe He’s from God, because you don’t break the Sabbath, you don’t violate the laws of Moses. Whatever He is, He isn’t from God. There’s another group that was smaller. They were more ambivalent. He might be. He might not be. There was a minority who said, He has to be from God. They’re all going at it. The blind man is there. He’s the one who’s been healed. He’s thinking, “wow, no one really cares that I can actually see right now. It’s like checking that his healing was a sideshow afterthought.” The real thing had to do with Jesus and the Sabbath. That’s what they were debating.
We have a question for you because they have come to a conclusion. Remember the blind man has been watching everything that’s been going on. He understands whatever answer he gives right now, he’s going to get a bunch of people mad at him. What’s your opinion of this man? Tell us what you think. I’m sure part of him is thinking, “oh my goodness.” He’s been listening to them talk. He might have said, “I’m not trained or anything, but if you ask me what my opinion is, I would have to say that He’s a prophet.” By which he meant He’s from God. “I would say He’s a prophet from God.” That was not the answer the majority of the room wanted to hear. Many of them had even come to the conclusion, “I don’t even know if you actually were blind.”
The Pharisees wanted to talk to the blind man’s parents. You stay here. We’re going to get your parents. Verse 18 says, “the Jewish leaders still refuse to believe the man.” Everybody in the room is Jewish. They still refuse to believe the man had been blind and could now see. So they called his parents. Their first move is to undermine the legitimacy of the healing, the second one is to deny it even happened. They summon the parents. Now his mother and father must’ve been utterly terrified at their predicament. I’ll tell you why in a moment. This was not just, “oh, can you verify this as your son?” No. This had other implications.
They understood that they were going to have to face the temple authorities. The Pharisees in particular. They were armed, this group of religious and social leaders, with a weapon. That weapon is something we call ex-communication. Jesus had told His disciples that the time would come when they would be cast out of synagogues because of their loyalty to Him. He said that in John 16. We also know that many leaders believed in Jesus, but were afraid to say so. John 12 says, “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities, they believed in Him. But for fear of the Pharisees, they did not confess it so that they would not be put out of the synagogue.”
It’s not as if they were talking about just getting run out of the church. This is very different. There were two kinds of being put out of the synagogue. There were two kinds of ex-communication. One was what we call a more modest version, a less severe one. It was a temporary putting out or casting out where it could last for a month or some specific timeframe. There was another one. It was called the ban. In Hebrew, the herem. The cursed by which a man or a woman was banished for life. It was called a community death penalty. Essentially, to be cut off from your people. Stigmatized, ostracized before God and community was scary. I think it’s really hard for us to appreciate this in our culture. I don’t think there’s anything that we have that quite compares to it.
You’re not just being put out of the church. No, this was your place. This was your community. People lived, were born, lived, and died in the same place. They had family and friendship networks. It was a community. It was all built around what you shared as a people with God. These were your people. If you were put out, if that were to happen to you, you were cut off. Your world ended. You were essentially a walking pariah in your own place. To be put out, to be given that was like a death blow. People were afraid and the word was out. You better watch how you talk about Jesus, because you could get put out. It was intense. Clearly, it’s on the mind of the parents when they made their way there.
They’ve called for us. They want to talk to you. About what? They want to talk to you about your son and Jesus. You can feel their trepidation and caution. Watch the exchange and what happens. In verse 19, they asked them, “Well, answer some questions for us.” I imagine the man formerly blind is over here. We assume you need to verify some things for us. Can you do it? First, is this your son? Second, was he born blind? Also, if he was, you need to explain to us how he can now see. How would you answer these questions? His parents replied, “Okay. First, he is our son. We know he is our son. We can also tell you that he was born blind. He came out of the womb blind. He’s never seen a thing in his life till now. We know this is our son that he was born blind, but as for how it happened, we don’t know how it happened. We don’t know how he can see. We don’t know who healed him.” You should ask him. He’s old enough. You really don’t need us. He’s old enough to speak. You’re old enough to speak for yourself right now. He’s definitely our son and of age. Look at what it says next 22.
His parents said this because they were afraid of the leaders who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. That’s why they said he’s old enough. Why don’t you ask him what happened? We really don’t know anything. So they said fine. Hey, get back over here. I want to talk to you some more. It says, for the second time they bring the man who had been born blind. Now watch, they have come to a consensus as a group. The debate is over. Jesus is not of God in their mind. They say we want to ask you a question again. In fact, right now, you need to give glory to God because that man is a sinner. You need to give glory to God and reject this man who was a sinner because we know He is one. He has violated the Sabbath. They put him in a whole category with the worst of people at this point. The unrighteous, prostitutes, publicans, tax collectors, vassals of Rome, thieves, all of them together, and now Jesus was thrown in there as well. They say we know this man is a sinner. You give glory to God and pull away from this man.
Now here’s a guy. He’s got an issue right now. Doesn’t he? He has to remember how that day began. For him, his day began in darkness. He began in darkness. He had never seen light in his life. He never saw a tree russell in the wind, the colors that we all take for granted, a face, or the face of his own parents who were scared to death. Until this man named Jesus stooped, stopped, put clay on his eyes, and had him wash in the pool. This is the first time he had ever seen anything in his whole life. Now these powerful and intimidating men were telling him, you give glory to God and renounced the man who healed you. He says, “Whether he’s a sinner or not, I’m no expert at all. I can’t renounce that. I was blind, but now I can see because of Him.”
They said to him, okay, listen, let’s get back into this one more time. I want to talk about where He healed you, how he healed you. Tell us again exactly what He did to you. How he did it. We want to know. Go over it again. Be more precise this time. How did he specifically open your eyes? Let’s go back over the story again. By this point, you can feel his aspiration. He answered them, “look, I have told you already and you won’t listen to me. What do you want me to do? Do you want to hear it again? I don’t understand that. I’ve told you everything. I’ve been telling His story all day to everybody’s been asking me haven’t I. I’ve told you already. Everything I know I’ve already told you. Why do you want me to tell you again? I’m getting tired of telling it again. Do you want to be his disciple too?” He got a little sarcastic there. He unleashes a storm. It says when he said that, I’ve been telling you all day, what do you want to be His disciple too? The scripture says, they reviled him.
They let loose and cursed him. They verbally abused him. They went out to him. They say you can see it’s like they just trigger it. When he said after they finished laying into him, they said, “You are his disciple. We are the disciples of Moses. This man is not from God.” You could just feel the passion coming right out of that. We are the disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses. As for this man, we don’t even know where He comes from. His power is intense. Our leaders are with Moses. God gave him a law. That was true. But one greater than Moses was among them. They knew it not. It’s a beautiful moment. The man answers. Remember, they just went at him. He says, “that’s an amazing thing then that you don’t know where He comes from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. But if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, then God listens to him.” Clearly, when he was little, they put him through Sunday school. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, then God listens to him. Now I’m telling you never since the world began, has it ever been heard that anyone has opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing. What is wrong with you?
This is where we’re stopping because we’re going to cover it next week. What he says is that when he said that, they got so mad, they physically carried him and they threw him out. It’s an intense moment. We’re going to talk about that. As I was thinking about this exchange, I thought of a couple of things I want us to take with us into the next two weeks. One of the things I’m reminded of is for us to think about the limitations of human wisdom and intellect. Particularly when it relates to spiritual matters and the gift of childlike faith. The Pharisees and the Scribes were some of the most educated and intellectual men of their age and nation. They were not slipshod thinkers. They were serious. They were resolute. They were meticulous. They were highly intelligent. They were according to Jesus’ impression in every way, but they were utterly blind. He says you are spiritually blind.
It’s as if you’re unable to see the beautiful. Literally, there’s probably a few examples that capture how they had imprisoned themselves. They built their own prison, stepped into the prison, and locked the door. Their own rigid intelligence and inability to break out of what they thought they knew so clearly prevented them from seeing the beautiful and humble things that Jesus was bringing. The beautiful thing that was being done or to quote the man born blind, the amazing thing that has been done before your eyes, and they couldn’t see it. They were stuck in the prison they built for themselves around the Sabbath. As a reminder to me that there are some things despite all their wisdom, all their advantage, all their training, they were unable to appreciate the beautiful thing that Jesus was bringing.
May we never allow the blessings of life, the advantages of life, the power, whatever we acquire to hinder our faith. Blessed is the one who knows their need. Blessed is the one who knows how to plead. In their pleading, they will find their pride has made them blind by asking if the door is open wide. We can have so much and be so smart. We can literally cut ourselves off from God. It’s a reminder to me that we can have so many things to be proud of. If we don’t have the ability to believe in Jesus, we are actually very poor. We may have very little. If our heart is open to God, Jesus taught us that we have wealth beyond measure.
The other thing here is the power of our unique story of grace. What I’m talking about is our personal experience of His touch. The beggar’s power was his truth and his refusal to become an untruth. This is what he knew. He knew what had happened to him. Now they could tell them all they wanted. They could explain why Jesus wasn’t who He was. Why Jesus was bad and a lawbreaker. The one thing he knew was, I was blind, He touched me, and now I can see. That is my story. He knew no matter what they said, no matter how much they sought to diminish Jesus in his eyes, that it was Jesus who had opened his eyes.
There are few things more powerful than our personal experience of the healing touch of Jesus in our lives. There’s a power uniquely in declaring the gospel. Romans 1 says it is the power of God unto salvation. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. The message of Jesus, the good news. It is the power of God and salvation. There’s power in declaring it. His death, burial, and resurrection. There’s also power, a force in sharing how the gospel has changed us. How it has transformed and is transforming us. That’s our story of grace that is unique to us. No one can take it away. It’s yours, your own. No one can take it. No one can tell you that it isn’t true.
It is you and His touch and that’s all. There’s a larger story of Jesus. We’re all invited into it. Where many of us have chosen to step. It’s part of what our church is doing. We’re going to talk about the story of Jesus. We’re all part of that story. We share that story. It’s shared with people all over the world. It’s a story of the love of God. We talk about the sharing, but within the larger story of Jesus, when we give Him our lives and open up our hearts to Him, we become part of that. There’s also a very unique story of His grace that is only your story. It’s yours. I have mine. No one else’s. It’s your story of His touch in your life. For people that may not be impressive or someone, people try to talk you out of it. What are you going to get? No, but it’s my story. This is what He did in my life. I felt his touch in my life. I’ve had things opened up in my heart. I can’t deny my story. I anchor myself in my story. I know what I know. What I know is He’s touched me. It is working in my life.
The touch of His hand on her eyes, the change He has brought, we cannot deny or be argued out of or pushed away from “His kingdom come. His will be done.” His grace, His spirit breath upon our face and the words we hear, there is no more beautiful sound. Son, daughter, beloved one. You were lost. But now you’re found. They were trying to move them away from Jesus to persuade him to distance himself. But he wouldn’t deny, couldn’t deny what had happened to him. This will be the final thing I want to suggest. Not only do we have our own story, but I want us to see how sharing our story deepens our story. Faith grows more deeply as we share our stories with others. The more he shared his story, even though they had forced him to do it, the deeper it went into him.
The more his faith grows. The more he shared. I like to tell you again, but every time he told it, something grew in him. He started to grow, as this story grew, it deepened in him. There’s a powerful truth here. If we take it is ours. The more we share the story, our story, the story of His grace at work and in our lives, the touch of His grace, the more we share that story with others, the more it deepens inside of us. Think about it. That’s one of the reasons why this Easter is such a great opportunity. Because we get to share the story. It’s way below. Our purpose is way more than like to do some nice artistic cool thing. Or we can say, oh, we’ve got an ad over here. That’s all secondary stuff. The purpose is to be able to create an avenue to be able to talk about Jesus as our mission statement. To live out our faith in Jesus and invite others into life with Him. It’s about being able to share our stories. It’s about sharing the larger story of Jesus and then creating opportunities for us to share our story. For some of us, it might be before, or it might be afterward when we say, Hey, what’d you think about that? Let’s talk about it. We share our story of grace as my story. Do you know what that does? It’s wind in multiple directions.
One not only when we share the story of God’s grace at work in our lives. We put them in our act together. We probably have struggles, but we have something of a real touch in our lives. When I share that with you, not only does that person receive the blessing of what I’m giving them, the story of grace that I’m sharing. That is a blessing in and of itself. But the benefit is also mine because just as the blind man shared his story, that story deepened in him. It is when we give our story away, that it deepens inside of us. It’s a win, win, win, win. That’s why we’re supposed to be about the master’s business. That’s why you need to go ahead and reserve your tickets to the Easter presentation. Pray about who God wants us to share a story with. I want to share that story, Lord. I want to share my story of grace as we share our story about you. I want to be open. I want to be courageous. I want to invite others into it. “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see,” is part of my story.
Let’s pray. Lord, as we come to this time of closing and we have our song we close with, I ask that you would give us all a hunger, a yearning to want to honor you in our lives. To tell our stories, stories of grace at work in our lives, of a love that doesn’t quit of the transforming touch that you bring. You are still bringing through the pain, hurts, joys, and through all of life. Just like that blind man, born blind, our eyes were opened. We feel your touch in our lives. We want to share that with others. Help us to be courageous. Help us to tell the story. Help us to share the story. I ask that there be a lot of life that would flow as we celebrate the life you gave to give us life. You who are the light of the world shine through us. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.