Bold or Bashful
“At Upper Arlington High School in the Columbus, Ohio, suburb, students (and some teachers, before they were told not to) are wearing bright yellow ‘I agree with Justin’ T-shirts. They agree with Justin Rule, one of the school's very outspoken Christians, about his faith. ‘I have a problem with the focus being on Justin,’ one senior tells The Columbus Dispatch, but others say it's a creative witnessing tool. ‘If it had ‘Jesus’ in it, people would have had a bigger problem with it,’ says another student. ‘This is just a more subtle way of exploring his beliefs.’”
Linda Gehrs, assistant editor, PreachingToday.com; Ruth E. Sternberg, "T-Shirts Back Student Who Expresses Belief," Columbus [Ohio] Dispatch (5-26-00)
How can I pray for you?
I used to do it frequently, but have not done it in a while
When we would eat out, I would tell the waiter or waitress that we were going to pray for our meal and then ask them if there was anything we could pray for them about
We would get diverse responses
Some of them would give us a general response, like world peace, or stop hunger
Others would give us more specific responses, like the health of a loved one, financial struggles, or big decisions that were needing to make
It was one way for us to be bold for Jesus, while having a meal
Sometimes it opened up additional conversations about the things of God
There have been times in my life when I’ve sensed the Lord leading me to go and share the Gospel with someone, but I’ve been too afraid to follow through
I’ve allowed the fear of man to take precedence over the fear of God or the reverence of God
My guess is that we can all relate to the fear of man stopping us from sharing the Gospel with someone else
God may have prompted us to share the Gospel with a person at work, in our family, or in our neighborhood, but we were too afraid of what they would think or how they would react to follow through with that prompting
I’m certain that we can all think of time when we fearlessly shared the Gospel with another person
It took stepping out of our comfort zone, but the reward of being obedient to God’s prompting is unmatched
In John 9:13-23 we are going to see two kinds of witnesses. The amazing thing is that they are related to each other. From these two witnesses we will have to determine what kind of witness we will be. Our big idea is a question today . . .
BIG IDEA – What kind of witness will you be?
GOD (John 9:13-23)
Fearless Witness (vv. 13-17)
Getting help (v. 13)
We have to go back to verse 8 to determine who the “they” are in verse 13
It’s the blind man’s neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging
They were divided about whether or not the man who could now see was the same man
So, these neighbors and acquaintances, who were not accustom to miraculous signs, knew who they could turn to
The religious authorities of their day were the Pharisees
Certainly they would know what to make of this whole situation
The neighbors and friends take the formerly blind man to see the Pharisees, so that everything could be sorted out
Side note (v. 14)
John gives us a side note here that was not mentioned earlier
The day that Jesus healed the blind man was on the Sabbath
Why was that so important?
There were man-made Sabbath laws that helped the Jews keep the fourth commandment – “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.” (Deuteronomy 5:12)
There were potentially three Sabbath laws that Jesus had broken by healing the blind man on the Sabbath
“Healing itself was forbidden, except for cases where life itself was in danger.” [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 367] (the man had been blind since birth, so it wasn’t a life or death situation)
“Moreover, amongst the prohibited categories of work was kneading (Mishnah Shabbath 7:2), and making mud from spittle and dirt might well have struck the leaders as falling under that prohibition.” [Carson, 367]
“And finally, there was a division of opinion amongst authorities as to whether or not anointing the eyes was legal on a Sabbath (B. Abodah Zarah 28b).” [Carson, 367]
This side note is important and should not be glossed over too quickly
It is an important note, because it does two things:
First, it sets the stage for the Pharisees reaction to the miracle
Second, it shows us that the Pharisees are still caught up in the breaking of Sabbath law (legalism) instead of the needs of individuals and what’s best for them
Next we see the perspective of the Pharisees as they’re introduced to the blind man and his neighbors and friends
Pharisees perspective (vv. 15-16)
What’s not stated in John’s Gospel, but is implied in the context, is that the neighbors and friends probably told the Pharisees that the man standing before them was formerly blind from birth, but could now see
So, the Pharisees ask the obvious question, “How did to receive your sight?”
Blind man’s response
The blind man tells the Pharisees exactly what he told his neighbors and friends
John doesn’t record Jesus’ name or the name of the pool where the man washed, in this part of the text, because it was already stated in verse 11 and the original readers and us would naturally understand that “He” refers to Jesus and that the man washed in the pool of Siloam
John simply shortens the description of the events as they are relayed to the Pharisees
“He put mud on my eyes . . . and I washed, and now I see.”
This description obviously stirs up the Pharisees and causes division among them
Division among the Pharisees
The focus of the Pharisees is on breaking the Sabbath law, not on the miracle that Jesus performed
They were missing the bigger picture – Jesus was the Messiah and He was among them, right in front of them
“A customs officer observes a truck pulling up at the border. Suspicious, he orders the driver out and searches the vehicle. He pulls off the panels, bumpers, and wheel cases but finds not a single scrap of contraband, whereupon, still suspicious but at a loss to know where else to search, he waves the driver through. The next week, the same driver arrives. Again the official searches, and again finds nothing illicit. Over the years, the official tries full-body searches, X-rays, and sonar, anything he can think of, and each week the same man drives up, but no mysterious cargo ever appears, and each time, reluctantly, the customs man waves the driver on.
Finally, after many years, the officer is about to retire. The driver pulls up. ‘I know you're a smuggler,’ the customs officer says. ‘Don't bother denying it. But [darned] if I can figure out what you've been smuggling all these years. I'm leaving now. I swear to you I can do you no harm. Won't you please tell me what you've been smuggling?’
‘Trucks,’ the driver says.”
Todd Gitlin, Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms our Lives (Henry Holt and Company, 2007), pp. 3-4
The division comes because they are focusing on the wrong thing
One group says that Jesus cannot be from God, because He isn’t keeping the Sabbath and the man-made laws they had established to keep the Sabbath holy
The other group is struggling with how a sinner can do miraculous signs, since obviously, miraculous signs come from God
They have already made up their minds about Jesus – He is not from God and not the Messiah – so they have to prove their beliefs to be true by discounting and marginalizing who Jesus is and what He can do
We can be guilty of doing the same thing
When we hear about someone being healed, but we marginalize and discount the healing, and God, in the process
We remain skeptical of the healing, just waiting for the symptoms to come back, to prove our belief that God doesn’t really heal today
It proves that our theology of God, being omnipotent (all-powerful), is anything but a sound theological doctrine in our minds
I know I had those kinds of feelings for a while with my shoulder (it didn’t hurt anymore, but when would it start hurting again; I was on the verge of having injections to alleviate the pain; it’s been over 13 years since God healed my shoulder; I don’t have those thoughts and feelings anymore)
Perhaps you’ve had those same thoughts and feelings
God is omnipotent!
God still heals today!
We have to trust Him while He manifests the healing in our lives, because the healing may not manifest itself immediately
Don’t doubt, just believe
My Next Step Today Is To: Trust that God is omnipotent (all-powerful) and can heal me.
Because they can’t agree, the Pharisees turn back to the formerly blind man for his opinion
Blind man’s witness (v. 17)
The Pharisees want to know what the blind man has to say about Jesus
His response shows a fearlessness of the Pharisees and man
He tells the Pharisees that Jesus is a prophet
The blind man did not call Jesus the Christ or Messiah, which will be key during the questioning of his parents in verse 18-23
“‘Prophet’ may well have been the highest position that the man knew to ascribe to Jesus (Morris 1995: 432).” [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 287]
“Some of the Old Testament prophets, such as Moses, Elijah, and Elisha, did perform miracles. The Jewish people would look on their prophets as men of God who could do wonderful things by the power of God. But the religious leaders did not want to see Jesus given that kind of high designation.” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Volume 1, 325]
This formerly blind man was not afraid of what the Pharisees would think of him, because he knew what had happened to him
There was no question in his mind that Jesus was sent from God and had God’s power to do the miraculous
He was a bold, fearless witness for Jesus
PRINCIPLE #1 – God’s desire for His people is that they boldly proclaim Jesus as divine.
Jesus is more than just another prophet who was commissioned by God to be His mouthpiece to the nations
Jesus is not just another god, He is God!
Jesus is divine!
Jesus is God with skin on, God becoming flesh and dwelling among us
This is what we are to boldly and fearlessly proclaim to a dying world
There is only one way to heaven and that’s through Jesus Christ
This takes us back to the Spiritual Life Journals that Pastor Marc introduced last week
If you weren’t here and didn’t receive one, there are extras in the foyer this morning
One of the commitments for unity in the journal is Unity In The Gospel
Matthew 28:19-20, Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
My Next Step Today Is To: Commit to sharing my faith with those who God puts before me.
My Next Step Today Is To: Commit to inviting others to join me in our fellowship at Idaville Church.
Both of those will require us to step outside our comfort zone and be a bold and fearless witness for Jesus Christ
What kind of witness will you be?
The formerly blind man was a fearless witness for Jesus Christ, but that can’t be said of his parents
Fearful Witness (vv. 18-23)
Skeptical Jews (vv. 18-19)
The Jews obviously didn’t like the blind man’s response, that Jesus was a prophet
They want to discredit his testimony about being healed from blindness
“They seem to suspect either that he had his sight all along while pretending to be blind, or that he is a stranger now falsely claiming to be a beggar who was known to be blind.” [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 552]
Perhaps they believe that in questioning the blind man’s parents they can poke holes in his testimony, especially if his parents tell them a different story that he did
This seems like a wise thing to do and what attorney’s attempt to do today – create reasonable doubt
All it takes in a court of law today, to acquit someone, is reasonable doubt
If the case is not airtight, then the person should not be charged
If you remember the case against O.J. Simpson many years ago there was a phrase that came out of that case – “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit!” (they were referring to a pair of gloves that supposedly belonged to Simpson, but when he “tried” them on they didn’t fit)
That created reasonable doubt
The Pharisees were trying to create reasonable doubt in the minds of the Jews, the neighbors, and the friends concerning the healing
If they could create reasonable doubt about Jesus and His healing power, then they could discount His claims about being from God
All of this would help their cause in eliminating Jesus from the picture and establishing themselves as the spiritual authorities
The parents are summoned and asked two or three questions depending on the translation
Is this your son?
The question tells us that the formerly blind man is there at the questioning of his parents
In our modern court system, they would most likely separate the man from his parents and not have them together during the questioning
Was he born blind?
Now the way they ask the question shows that they are skeptical about whether or not he was actually born blind
“Is this the one you say was born blind?”
They were not saying that he was born blind
They were not convinced that Jesus had actually healed the man from blindness
How was he healed from his blindness?
I think I would have asked one more question – “Does your son have a twin?”
We then see how his parents respond to the questions
Fearful parents (vv. 20-23)
They fearlessly answer the first one or two questions
The first two questions are not hard for them to answer
They know that the formerly blind man is their son – they’re not afraid to admit that
They know that he was born blind – they’re not afraid to admit that
They fearfully refuse to answer the last question
What we see from their answer to the third question is a better understanding of the what the Pharisees were really asking
The Pharisees wanted to know who had healed their son
They were trying to make a case against Jesus
They tell the Pharisees that they don’t know how their son received his sight or who did it
When something incredible happens to us we usually tell our family and closest friends, right away
My guess is that this formerly blind man had obviously told his parents
He had been living with them, because he was blind
They were too afraid to share that Jesus had made mud, put it on their son’s eyes, and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam
They instead, passed the buck, and told the Pharisees to ask their son, because he is old enough to speak for himself, to testify on his own behalf
John, the Gospel writer, gives us the reason why the parents do this
They were afraid of the Jews
The Jews had already made up their minds about Jesus, that He was not the Christ (the Messiah), He was not from God
They had communicated their belief to the community and had said that anyone who claimed that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue
This may not seem that serious to us in our modern culture
So, if I get put out of my church I’ll just go to another church
There was only one synagogue in each town
“Since the synagogue was the center not only of Jewish religious life but also communal life, expulsion from it represented a severe form of social ostracism.” [Köstenberger, 288]
They not only worshiped God there, but they fellowshipped there
The other Jews were like family to them
In the 1st Century, the temples to other gods had feasts all the time (it was the center of social life for those who were part of the temple)
When our family lived in states where we didn’t have family nearby, the members of our church became our family
We could really learn from our 1st Century brothers and sisters about not just religious life, but also communal life within the church
This isn’t part of the Spiritual Life Journal, but perhaps it should be
“I’m committed to developing the communal life of Idaville Church.”
“Being put out of the synagogue meant one lost his ability to pray to God or to be blessed by God. It meant that his family was to treat him as though he were dead and that his business would be absolutely off-limits to all Jews. Thus, to be put out of the synagogue was a serious matter.” [Courson, Jon Courson’ Application Commentary, New Testament, 516]
PRINCIPLE #2 – Fear of man can keep us from boldly proclaiming Jesus as Lord (divine).
That’s exactly what the blind man’s parents did – they gave in to their fear of man and refused to boldly witness for Jesus
“The parents would not have been the first, or the last, who have trimmed the sails of their conviction to the passing breeze.” [Milne, The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of John, 140]
Proverbs 29:25, Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.
Isaiah 51:7, 12-13, “Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have my law in your hearts: Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults . . . I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass, that you forget the Lord your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction?”
What kind of witness will I be?
The blind man’s parents were not willing to sacrifice everything to be a bold witness for Jesus
Their son was willing to sacrifice everything
That may not be saying much, because he didn’t really have anything to begin with
Yet, we see in our modern culture that the fastest growing part of Christianity is among those who are poor and desolate
They know what need is and they only have Jesus to turn to
The blind man had been transformed both physically and spiritually by the power of Jesus Christ
That true transformation made all the difference
He knew that Jesus would keep him safe and comfort him
He knew that God would provide for him even if he was put out of the synagogue
My Next Step Today Is To: Be willing to sacrifice everything to be a bold witness for Jesus Christ.
What kind of witness will you be?
Bold and fearless?
Bashful and fearful?
You have to ask that question of yourself
Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything He has commanded us (Matt. 28:19-20a)
His promise for our obedience is that He will be with us always, to the very end of the age (Matt. 28:20b)
“As an under-graduate, theologian/author D.A. Carson co-led an evangelistic Bible study. He confessed that whenever he felt out of his depths, he would take skeptics and doubters to a bold witness on campus named Dave. On one such occasion, a young man who was brought to Dave said, ‘I came from a family that doesn't believe in a literal resurrection and all that stuff. That's a bit much for us. But we're a fine family—a good, church-going family. We love each other, care for each other, and we do good in the community. We're a stable family. So what have you got that we don't have?’
Dave looked at the young man and said, ‘Watch me. Move in with me. I have an extra bed. Just follow me around. You see how I behave, what's important to me, what I do with my time, the way I talk. You watch me, and at the end of three months you tell me there's no difference.’
The young man didn't take Dave up on that offer, but he did keep coming back to watch how Dave lived his Christian life. Eventually the young man came to Christ and went on to become a medical missionary. Carson concluded what he learned from Dave's challenge:
A Christian is saying in effect: ‘I'm one poor beggar telling another poor beggar where there's bread. I drank deeply from the wellsprings of grace. God knows I need more of it. If you watch me you'll see some glimmerings of the Savior, and ultimately you'll want to fasten on him. Watch me.’”
Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky; source: Based on D.A. Carson's sermon titled "Biblical Authority: The Exclusive Authority of Scripture for Faith and Practice" (2008)