Sunday, April 3, 2011

"The Light of the World" - A Most Interesting Sight

Here is a copy of the sermon message I am giving this morning at Cornerstone Community Church. Hope you enjoy.

So in the message last week Pastor Craig touched on this idea about Jesus as the “Light of the World.” Now in today’s study we are going to see how Jesus brought a kind of light into a blind man’s life, which will reflect the similar claim Jesus made in the previous chapter. You heard a few different scriptures describing what might have been understood by the Pharisees and those listening when Jesus proclaimed in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”[i] I want you to keep this scripture in mind for later on when we come to the text for this morning. It should help tie this all together.
            The idea of light it certainly something we take for granted in our modern society. Today we can flip a switch and lights just pop on. We don’t have to light a candle or start a fire to light our path in the darkness, we have flashlights and even our cell phones to shine a light on the way. If you’re a little scared of the dark, never fear, we have a night-light specifically designed to let your mate sleep while providing you with enough light to quell your fears. We even invented lights that pop on and off by us clapping (I realize I just dated myself by doing this). Worried about nighttime travel, well we invented headlights for your vehicles.
           Though today we experience these modern conveniences in most of the western world, there are many parts of the world that are still without light. What does this mean practically for them? First, there is no getting up throughout the night and turning on a light switch to go to the bathroom. There is no working late at night or reading in bed, when the sun goes down the work stops. Think about how this would affect productivity on the corporate level if work ceased at sun down and didn’t resume until daylight. The same would be true of Palestine at the time of Jesus. Light was an essential part of the formula for life. When Jesus commanded the listeners in the Sermon on the Mount to be “Salt and Light” (cf. Matthew 5:13-16) He used those metaphors because they were absolutely essential to life 2,000 years ago. Without salt food lacks its flavor, and without light, all work and life would cease. Plants die off with out adequate light to help in the process of photosynthesis, which produces oxygen and we humans rely on this oxygen given by plants to survive. Bottom line “Light” was and is essential.
The Lights Come On:
            Now that we touched briefly on the importance of light, we can turn our attention to the story of this morning. We pick up the Gospel of John in the 9th chapter. Jesus is walking along and He and his disciples come across a man who has been blind since birth.
            I thought this morning it would be good for us to experience what it might have been like to be in this blind man’s shoes and have Jesus approach us. Now I tried an experiment like this in 7th grade where the teacher asked us to blindfold ourselves and walk around the house and just plain live like we normally would for three hours. Now I didn’t follow the teachers instructions fully and I basically wimped out after 30 minutes when I stubbed my toe on my dresser but what I experienced in that 30 minutes gave me an appreciation for those who are blind. That’s what we’re looking for this morning a chance to experience this man’s blindness. I am going to ask for the light’s to be dimmed in a moment and when I do, close your eyes and imagine for a moment that you’re this young man, blind since birth, being approached by Jesus here. Go along with the narrative and try to experience this amazing miracle of Jesus.


            As Jesus approaches you, you can hear His disciples ask a question: “Rabbi (teacher), who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2) Maybe you think to yourself, “hey I am no sinner, I’m just a poor blind beggar.” You then here the Rabbi Jesus respond. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned…but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life…while I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:3-5) As he finishes saying these things you hear Him standing right over you. He spits on the ground in front of you and he mixes the dirt with his saliva and makes a glob of mud. Then he spreads it over your eyes, feel Christ do this, and maybe you might even wipe your hands over your eyes right now to simulate this. Then this teacher says to you, “Go…wash in the pool of Siloam” (John 9:7) and as you approach the pool you kneel down and begin to wash your face and clear your eyes.

            As the water clears away the mud and you open your eyes, to your amazement you can see! For the first time in your life you can see the light reflecting off the water, the shadow that is cast from the sun shining on a building. You have been given your sight. I hope that exercise gave you a little glimpse into the man who we are looking at this morning who was healed and given a most interesting sight!

The Progressive Revelation:
            Now this blind man was healed and that certainly is a major theme of this chapter but even more so, the major them follows a progressive revelation of Jesus to this man.

            As we have seen here the teacher approaches the blind man and the disciples wondered if some sin caused his blindness, which may seem like a strange question to ask. But, you have to understand the culture of the time; birth defects were not seen as a genetic issue or some deficiency in the DNA chain of the child. Birth defects were seen as sin from the prior generations. It was the same view most people took of left-handed people. They were considered misfits. Now we can clearly see millennia later that this is a ridiculous premise, I know some pretty amazing left-handed people and they certainly are not misfits, but back then when they didn’t know what to ascribe to certain ailments, it was either sin or a demon.
            Jesus quickly dispels this myth from the disciples as He states that neither the man nor his parents were the cause of his blindness. Jesus proclaims that it was so that God’s work might be done in his life.

            I did not read this verse before but now is a good time to go over it. In verse 4 Jesus said something that helps us understand the importance of light that we talked about earlier. He said, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” The people hearing Jesus that day would have understood what He meant about working in the dark. It was down right impossible to do any work then. Jesus of course meant this spiritually but when using metaphors its best to draw on things that people understand to get your ultimate point across.

            After one of my favorite parts in scripture where Jesus hocks a loogie and wipes mud on the blind man’s eyes he is commanded to wash in the pool of Siloam and he is healed.

            Following this miraculous event the man returns home and many neighbors who saw him were confused about who this might be. Some asked, “isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” (John 9:8), yet others said, “he only looks like him” (John 9:9) Now of course the man knew who he was, he was the same blind man that did sit and beg. But now he was changed forever. When he is asked who did this he replies with our first part of the progressive revelation this morning:
            “…The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” (John 9:11)

            Did you catch it? He said that the “man” they call Jesus told him to do these things. The first experience this man has of Jesus is that he indeed encountered a “man”. Now if you have been around Christianity for some length of time you likely have heard something similar to the idea from this man about whom Jesus really was. To the Christian, while on earth, Christ was both fully God and fully man. In theological circles this doctrine is called the “Hypostatic Union”. It is derived from the Greek word [h]upostatsis  and it used to describe this union between the divinity and humanity of Christ. It basically says that, in Christ there are two natures; each retains its own properties (human and divine), yet they are both united in one subsistence and in one single person. So what this man first experienced of Christ was his fully human properties. To the blind man at this point, Jesus was not God incarnate but a man who healed him.

            Now after this the blind man states that he does not know where to find Jesus. Well, in steps the good ole Pharisees to ruin a happy moment. The people take this blind man to the Pharisees who would have been most interested in this story especially because of what day it occurred on. The next few verses clue us in to what the Pharisees were up to,
            “Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. ‘He put mud on my eyes,’ the man replied, ‘and I washed, and now I see.’ Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man (in reference to Jesus) is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’ But others asked, ‘How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?’ So they were divided.” (John 9:14-16 emphasis added)

            The Pharisees in typical fashion looked to condemn a good act such as a healing as breaking the Jewish law and custom of not working on the Sabbath day. As you have heard before here, there were certain regulations in reference to the Sabbath and one of those was that no work was to be done on this day. God worked for six days in creation and rested and man was to do the same. Yet the Pharisees with their hundreds of laws forgot about the true purpose of God’s law, which was not wrapped up in a bunch of ordinances and don’ts, the true purpose of God’s law was to draw His people into a right relationship with Him. Something the Pharisees missed no doubt through their vanity and pride.

            The next verse gives us revelation step number two. When the Pharisees stopped arguing long enough to ask the man who had been healed his side of the story, his eyes became even more open than before, “Finally they turned again to the blind man, ‘What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’” (John 9:17) Nice of them to let him answer for himself on this one, “The man replied, ‘He is a prophet.’” (John 9:17) Ah-ha, step number two is that Jesus is not just a man, but Jesus; this teacher and miracle healer was a prophet. This is a great leap from being just a man. A prophet held pretty high esteem in the Jewish culture. Now this doesn’t mean it was always friendly esteem like that held towards Samuel, but the point is this man who was healed has gone from totally blind to believing the one who healed him was a prophet.

            Well as you can imagine the Pharisees didn’t think this was a satisfactory response and they thought it wise of themselves to consult the man’s parents. Surely the parents would verify that this man had actually been born with his eyesight and what he was saying was merely a delusion of grandeur. When the parents arrive they confirm that their son was in fact born blind, but they cower when they have the opportunity to tell of how Jesus had done this. Instead they default to their son to stand up and witness to his own miracle, after all, “He is of age; ask him.” (John 9:23) they say. They were afraid they would be banished from the synagogue because the Pharisees had already threatened anyone proclaiming Jesus as the Christ with this punishment. The parents conformed to the will of the Pharisees to save their own necks, but their son was quite different.

            When he is called back in front of the council the Pharisees declare that this man should give praise to God for what has happened. Certainly God was to praise for this but the Pharisees meant this as a slap in the face to Jesus and His work in this mans life. They called Jesus a sinner, which in their minds was the reason why He could not be the cause for this man’s healing. Yet, “The one who knew no sin” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21), was the cause of this healing. Remember from last week if you will, in verse 5 Jesus uses a Greek term to describe Himself. The Greek term is, ego eimi, or I AM, and it was the title Christ applied to Himself when He said, “I am the light of the world.” (John 9:5) Jesus is declaring of Himself the second part of the hypostatic union, His divinity! Unless God can sin, then the Pharisees have clearly mistaken this event and its miracle worker.
            As the Pharisees push this man for an answer, he responds with the only concrete proof he knows at the time about this miracle, “Whether He is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind and now I see.” (John 9:25) This should remind you of that great song that we sung earlier and that has been sung for centuries now, Amazing Grace, tells us this verse – “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.” This man wasn’t studied in the scriptures, he did not come to the synagogue to preach and proclaim his wisdom, he was a blind beggar. Yet what he understood about his experience was the best evidence of the amazing gift that had been given to him by a most interesting prophet.

            Well as you can imagine this truly upset the Pharisees as he refused to repeat himself knowing now what the Pharisees were up to. This man’s vision was going far beyond his eyes now. He did not need to tell again how Christ had placed the mud on his eyes and healed him. He knew they knew this. When he refused they hurled insults at him, trying to break him and make him change his story. They railed against him, charging him that he was one of Jesus’ disciples, and proclaiming that they were Moses’ disciples. They said this to prove that Moses was real but that Jesus, who they had no clue where he came from (a clear denial of the Messianic Prophecies), wasn’t from God, for there was no proof of Jesus’ interaction with God. Yet the man responds with even more evidence of his eyes and mind now being open to the truth. “Now this is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:30-33)

            Now the Pharisees being the ever compassionate bunch that they were, upon hearing this, proclaimed the man as a sinner, and threw him out of their presence. Great strong defense there guys. That example wreaks of a closed mind. “I can’t tell you why your wrong nor can I admit your deserving to be validated for the truth you just spoke so I am going to just insult you and kick you out, because obviously you are not a reasonable man as we learned Pharisees are. We know the truth blind man, go be in your sinful ways.” Sadly, the Pharisees had forgotten the wise words of King Solomon when he wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) Because they closed off the revelation of God and trusted in their own ways and understanding, they missed their Messiah as He walked among them.
                  As grace usually works, God had a special reason for this man being cast out of from the presence of the Pharisees. Word spread of this injustice to Jesus. Christ sought this man out and found him. When He found him Jesus asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35) The man now growing every more curious about this familiar voice, sounding like the man, the prophet, who healed him, the man now said, “Who is he sir? …Tell me so that I may believe in him.” (John 9:36) Without hesitation the door was opened for Jesus to reveal Himself to this man fully. “You have now seen Him; in fact, He is the one speaking with you.” (John 9:37) BOOM! Now the man gets it! “Wow how could I have missed it”, he may have thought. The next statement is step number three in the progressive revelation of Jesus to this man. “Lord, I believe.” (John 9:38) The man who once was blind now can see a most interesting sight, Jesus the Light of the World was now shining right in front of him, lighting a path to salvation. As even further proof of this man’s eyes, mind, heart and soul being opened the salvation of the world, he takes the only proper posture before the presence of the great “I AM”, he bowed down and worshipped him, making himself lower than the one who saved him.
            So maybe this morning you can relate to this blind man who was healed. So what now? What do you do with this information about this most interesting sight? Let me suggest three things.

1.     First, if you are sitting here still doubting that something like this can happen to you in a particular area of you life, I would ask that you allow God to work His miraculous power in your life. Surrender the blindness, control issues or doubt you might have with finding a mate, changing a job or dealing with many other of life’s issues. Trust the Light of the World to give you sight and direction for your life. If you are unsure of how to do this, let one of our elders or Pastor Craig know; they would be happy to meet with you to discuss ways to surrender these areas in your life, pray with you and offer a number of resources to help you on this journey to new light. Surrender is tough but it can be the most rewarding experience in your journey to a deeper faith in Christ.

2.     Second, if you have been given sight in an area of blindness in your life, would you please look for opportunities to disciple those people in your life who need help? It is so important to share the grace of God with people and common struggles can become a common bond between you and the person you are trying to reach. Don’t sit back thinking that you don’t have what it takes to do this, God can use anyone to make a difference, look at shy, quiet Moses, or the old chicken himself Gideon. God can use you even when you think it’s impossible and remember that we were all called to, “Go, make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). This wasn’t merely a suggestion by Jesus it was a command to do so. Take a chance; see how God can move you to reach people.

3.     Lastly, if Jesus is just merely a man to you, what is holding you back from calling him a prophet or great teacher? If Jesus is more than a mere man to you and He is a prophet like our Muslim friends believe, what is stopping you from believing that He is the Son of God? And if you understand that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Great I AM, then what is hindering you from bowing down right here and right now to fully surrender, worship and follow him with all of your heart? It is my understanding that Jesus is the only way to the Father and salvation (cf. John 14:6) and though we can see Jesus as the man and the prophet, He left us no doubt to who He really was. As famous Christian author and apologist C.S. Lewis wrote,                                     "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. ... Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God."[ii]

            The band is going to come up and lead us in one last song, so as they come would you stand with me and look into your heart and ask yourself what you believe about Jesus, this most interesting sight. If you believe He is God, then would you take this time to dedicate your life and your will to His. Then after we pray, worship Him, as is fitting for the Creator and Sustainer of the universe! Let’s pray.

[i] All Scripture references are from the New International Version of the Holy Scriptures
[ii] Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity, London: Collins, 1952, p54-56.

No comments:

Post a Comment