Seeing 20/20

,

We can either receive the light or be blinded by it.

John(41) (Part of the Believe(39) series)
by Marc Webb(17) on December 29, 2019 (Sunday Morning(124))

Light(2), Spiritual Sight(2)

SEEING 20/20

I would like to start this morning by taking a survey. How many wear glasses or contact lenses? Who has been wearing glasses or contact lenses for at least 10 years? For 20 years? For 30 years? 40 years? 50 years? More? I have worn glasses since right before third grade. I have needed corrective lenses for the last 47 years.

When we talk about our eyesight or our vision, we might make the statement that we see 20/20. What does that mean? The term 20/20 is used to express normal visual clarity or sharpness of vision, which is measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/100 vision, it means that you must be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 100 feet.

So if you are wearing glasses or contact lenses this morning that probably means that your vision is not 20/20. The reason we get corrective lenses is in order to see 20/20. When we see 20/20 it does three things for us. First, it helps us to see clearly. Right now as I look out at you all I can’t see clearly at all. Everyone looks blurry because I am not wearing my glasses. Second, seeing 20/20 helps us to see correctly. That is why they are called corrective lenses because our vision is being corrected to 20/20. I remember one time Judy and I were driving through the Pine Grove Furnace area on the way to camp when I yelled for her to watch out for that animal on the side of the road. I didn’t have my glasses on at the time and couldn’t tell whether it was a deer or a dog or something else but I saw something move on the side of the road. As we got up to that area Judy said, you mean that branch sticking out of the woods? I said, “Yea, I thought it looked like an animal.” You see, without my glasses I wasn’t seeing correctly. I wasn’t seeing 20/20. Third, seeing 20/20 helps us to see completely. When we need corrective lenses it probably means we are near sighted or farsighted. A nearsighted person sees near objects clearly, while objects in the distance are blurred. A farsighted person sees faraway objects clearly, while objects that are near are blurred. You may also have problems with your peripheral vision which is what you see on the side when looking straight ahead. Without my glasses I can’t see what is to either side of me. I can’t see completely.

In our scripture this morning we are going to see Jesus give a man 20/20 vision. In fact he is going to physically heal a man who has been blind since birth. This man, after Jesus performs this miracle, or this sign, will be able to see clearly, correctly and completely. He will have 20/20 vision. There are more miracles of giving sight to the blind recorded of Jesus than healings in any other category. Other than Jesus there are remarkably few in scripture. There is no story of giving sight to the blind in the OT nor to the followers of Christ in the NT.

But of course, that is not all of the story, there is a spiritual side to this miracle as well. If you remember, our theme verse for John is John 20:31 which says, 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. In the OT, the giving of sight to the blind is associated with God himself. It is also a messianic activity. It is a divine function, that Jesus fulfils when he gives sight to the blind.

That was the purpose for the signs Jesus performed. It was so people would believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and have life in his name. Not only did Jesus give physical sight to this man so he could physically see clearly, correctly and completely, he gave spiritual sight to this man so he could spiritually see clearly, correctly and completely.

Everyone from Jesus’ time until now has seen the light whether in person back then or through the Holy Spirit today. Everyone has the opportunity to see clearly, correctly and completely spiritually. But of course, we know that not everyone who encountered Jesus then or encounters him today receives spiritual sight. Some people who see the light do not receive it but are blinded by the light. That brings us to our big idea that John wants us to understand this morning which is We can either receive the light or be blinded by it. The question this morning is have you received Jesus or do you continue to be blinded by him.

As each of us personally thinks about that question, let’s bow our heads and pray. Dear Heavenly Father, pour out your Holy Spirit on us this morning. Teach us, convict us, guide us in all truth, fill us and dwell in us as we look at your word this morning. Open our hearts and minds to what you want us to learn and share with those we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Someone once said to Helen Keller, “What a pity you have no sight.” She answered, “Yes, but what a pity that so many have sight but cannot see!” That is what our scripture this morning is about. We will encounter a man who has been blind from birth and cannot physically see. He has been living in “darkness” but miraculously is given “light.” Physical healing becomes a symbol of spiritual healing while physical blindness is replaced with spiritual blindness. The man who once lived in darkness now has light in both his eyes and his heart, while some of those around him have sound eyes but nevertheless live in spiritual darkness.

This morning we are going to be studying John chapter 9 verses 1-12. In verses 1 & 2 we see the problem that occurs in today’s passage. This is what God’s word says, “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.” 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

The phrase “as he went along” seems to connect this chapter with the chapter before it so we suppose that Jesus is still in Jerusalem probably at some point between the Feast of the Tabernacles and the Feast of Dedication. As Jesus and his disciples are walking along it says he saw a man blind from birth. We notice two different reactions to the man. The first is Jesus’ reaction. He saw the problem that the man had which was he had been blind from birth. In Jesus’ day blindness was a common occurrence and was a real problem in that society. There were few cures for eye diseases and the unsanitary conditions especially in the water increased the risk of blindness considerably.

The second was the disciples’ reaction to the man. Holman in his commentary says, “The disciples wrapped in OT legalism concluded either he sinned or his parents sinned. For Jesus’ disciples it was an opportunity for a theological discussion. They had no compassion for the man. He was just a curiosity to them.”

We see an important principle here: that Jesus is fully aware of our needs and situation. Jesus truly saw the man and his disciples did not. How often do we ignore the needs of others because of the busyness of life? How often do we ignore opportunities to help because of the tendency to judge first? Our initial reaction is often rejection rather than restoration. Too often we see people as detached subjects to study rather than individual souls to save. We need to ask God to give us eyes to see the people around us and ask him where and how he wants us to engage with them. Which brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to ask God to give us his eyes to see those around us that we need to engage with.

The disciples used this opportunity to ask Jesus an age old question that the Jews had wrestled with for a while. They asked Jesus if this man was blind because of his sin or his parent’s sin.

The disciples, like most Palestinian Jews believed that sin and suffering were intimately connected. In a sense that is correct. We would probably not die if we had not sinned. And without the guilt of sin we would not have any suffering. But the disciples believed that this specific individual because he was suffering from blindness must have committed some specific individual sin. Either he sinned in the womb or his parents sinned in some way that implicated him. They would have believed that if a pregnant woman, for instance, worshipped in a pagan temple her unborn fetus was regarded as participating in the pagan ritual and had by her consequence sinned.

We can see this in popular religion today in that people see a connection between personal suffering and sin. Hindus and Buddhists would call it karma. The definition of karma is the result of a person's actions as well as the actions themselves. It is a term about the cycle of cause and effect. According to the theory of Karma, what happens to a person, happens because they caused it with their actions.

As Christians we know that is not the way God works. We see especially in the story of Job that specific illnesses or experiences of suffering of an individual are not a direct consequence of a specific sin of that person.

Next, in verses 3-5, we see the purpose for the man’s blindness. Follow along as I read from God’s Word. 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Notice, Jesus was asked about the cause of the man’s blindness, but he answers in terms of its purpose. Brown in his commentary says, Jesus did not fix blame but offered grace and rejected the alternatives of the disciples. Jesus did not try to explain to his disciples the connection between sin and suffering. He says that this man’s affliction would be an opportunity to show what God can do. There are two senses in which that is true. One, for John the miracles were always a sign of the glory and the power of God. Two, this man’s affliction would allow God the opportunity to heal him. ​​ It also enables the sufferer to show what God can do in and through him. If trouble and disaster come upon an unbeliever they might just fall apart, but when it comes upon a follower of Jesus it can bring out the strength, beauty and endurance in a person’s heart when they trust on God and rely on him. We can also take our struggles and afflictions and use them to help someone else who may be going through the same thing we went through and be able to bring comfort and peace to them.

In the blind man’s life his hurting was the preparation for healing. We also see this in John 11:4. Jesus is talking about Lazarus when he said, “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s son.” We see that God can also bring glory through not healing as we see in the struggles of Paul. 2 Corinthians 12:7b-9 says, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. Holman says, “The focus is not on the comfort of the creature but in the rejoicing of the creator.”

We might look at this verse and think that God brought suffering to this man so that he might glorify himself in his healing. We understand on some level that God in his sovereignty can do as he pleases, but it seems a cruel fate in which God inflicts pain on people simply to glorify himself. But we know that our pain and suffering is because of original sin. God did not give this man blindness but God will show his love, mercy and compassion to this man and heal him which will bring glory to God as his works are displayed.

I like what Milne says. “There are times, when suffering is submitted to, that God’s work is displayed by a healing or by a courageous acceptance of the suffering. But in the end there is a dimension in suffering which defies all explanation. There is no universal answer for suffering. We can “make sense” of a dark world only by believing in the one who came to be the ‘light of the world’.”

Now some commentators don’t see a problem with the wording of the text because they see the clause, “so that the work of God”, as a purpose clause, that can be applied forward to verse 4 instead of back to the beginning of verse 3.

Burge would translate it this way: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned” said Jesus. “But so that the work of God might be displayed in his life, we must do the work of him who sent me while it is still day.” If we read it this way we see that Jesus must work so that God’s work may be displayed in this man’s life. God has not made the man blind in order to show his glory; rather, God has sent Jesus to do the works of healing in order to show his glory. Jesus’ work must not be interrupted because he is the light that illumines the day, and night is coming when he will be absent and such miracles at his hand will cease.

The phrase “as long as it is day” conveys a sense of urgency in performing the works of God while Jesus is still with them. Jesus says, “we must do the works” which means he and his followers must do God’s work while there is time to do it. His followers share with him the responsibility of doing this work. The “must” reminds us that this is not simply what is advisable or expedient. It is a compelling necessity. The works we must do, do not originate on this earth, they are heaven-sent. There is an urgency about them because the opportunity to do them will not always be present.

“Night is coming” can mean two things. One, it can be a reference to the darkness when Jesus goes to the cross and then ascends to heaven. Once night descends “no one can work” until the Holy Spirit comes on the Day of Pentecost and once again empowers the disciples to minister. The focus is on the darkness of the period when Jesus is first taken from his disciples. The work “we must do” refers to the period before Jesus is taken away by the cross and not afterwards.

But, I believe, we can apply this principle to ourselves today as well. We know that our time on this earth is limited and there will come a time when it is too late to do the works of God. God gave men the day for work and the night for rest. We are only given so much time on this earth and we must do what must be done in that time. We cannot put off til tomorrow the work that God has given us. Tomorrow may never come.

We see this in Matthew 24:45-51. This is what God’s word says, 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

We are called to do God’s work and not be lazy. The Master expects to find his servants busily applying themselves to the tasks he has given them. Night is coming and there are things that will not keep until after this life is ended. We must continually be doing what God has called us to do. What we do with the time given us effects our eternity.

Noble Puritan pastor Richard Baxter captured that sense of urgency when he wrote, “I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.” That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is to do the work that God has called us to and never stop.

John is telling his readers that the long-awaited Messiah is Jesus and his symbol-laden miracles prove it and his departure will bring down the “night” on those who refuse to open their eyes to the light. Those who see the light but refuse to receive the Light are blinded by it. Which reminds us of our big idea which is: we can either receive the light or be blinded by it.

Next, in verses 6-7 we see the power. Follow along as I read God’s Word. 6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

Jesus was a wise person. He took the customs and methods of his times and used them. This gained the confidence of the patient. Even today confidence in what your doctor is prescribing can help us to have faith in what they are doing to make us better. The use of spit seems strange and repulsive to us today but in the ancient world it was common. Spit especially of some distinguished person was said to contain certain curative qualities. Even today if we burn our finger we instinctively put our finger in our mouth.

But most commentators aren’t sure why Jesus used the mud and what it was to signify. Calvin suggests that the mud was designed to double the intensity of the blindness in order to magnify the cure; not unlike the water that was poured over Elijah’s altar on Mount Carmel.

After applying the mudpack to the man’s eyes Jesus told him to wash in the Pool of Siloam, which was a landmark of Jerusalem. The pool was the source of water in the Tabernacle ceremony that Pastor Stuart had talked about a three to four weeks ago. It was the only source of water in the city and had religious and ceremonial value. It was also the result of one of the greatest engineering feats of the ancient world. The water supply of Jerusalem was precarious especially in event of siege where the spring could be cut off completely. Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles determined to cut a tunnel through the rock from the spring to the city. The conduit is 583 yards long, only 2 feet wide in places and an average height of six foot. The engineers started cutting from both ends and met in the middle. The Pool of Siloam was where the conduit from the Virgin’s Fountain in the Kidron Valley came into the city. That is how the pool got its name, Siloam, which means “sent” because it was sent through the conduit into the city. Jesus who was the One “sent’ by God, “sent” the blind man to go wash in the place called “sent.”

So far the initiative has been entirely with Jesus but now the man (who has still not seen Jesus) obeys and washes, “and came home seeing.” The man’s response to Jesus’ command symbolizes the obedience that marks a genuine saving faith.

Perhaps the man needed to be involved in the healing process by some simple act of obedience to Jesus. We know that although the healing is as thorough as the blind man’s obedience, the healing power did not come from his obedience or from the pool, but from Jesus, the “sent one” himself.

By using the mud and having him go wash in the pool it gave the man something he had to do to be able to receive his sight. This reminds us of Naaman who was told by Elisha to wash in the Jordan to be healed from his leprosy. It reminds us of the importance of obedience. There is a close connection between obedience and experiencing the powerful work of God.

MacArthur, in his commentary, says, “The One who is the spiritual light of the world would also provide physical light for this man who had lived his entire life in darkness. The healing was a living parable, illustrating Jesus’ ministry as the Light shining in a spiritually darkened world. And Carson says, “Jesus having just declared that he is the light of the world now proceeds to illustrate the point by giving light to the man born blind. He is thereby obeying the one who sent him while many around him were shutting out the light. Which reminds us of our big idea: we can either receive the light or be blinded by it.

Next, in verses 8-12, we see the perplexity that comes from this sign that Jesus performed. This is what God’s Word says, 8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” 10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. 11 He replied, “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.” 12 “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said.

After the blind man is given his sight by Jesus he goes home “seeing.” In that day, a man blind from birth probably would not be able to support himself by getting a job or learning a trade, so he supported himself by begging. All his friends and neighbors knew this. They would have been so used to seeing him sitting by the city gates begging that when they saw him walking around with his sight they were perplexed and puzzled. Some found it easier to believe that the blind man had somehow disappeared, and the man before them was someone else entirely but still resembled him. They found it easier to believe in a case of mistaken identity than in a miraculous healing. But it’s all cut short by the insistent witness of the man that “I am the one.” He had difficulty in persuading people that he was really cured. But he stoutly maintained Jesus cured him.

Some must have been convinced that this was the same man so they asked him how he was now able to see. The only testimony the man can give is his summary of the facts of the case. He refers to the one who gave him light as “the man they call Jesus.” He had learned of his name from the talk of the time but had not yet seen him. His friend’s ask, “Where is this man?” not necessarily to check his story but in a natural desire to meet the man who had performed such an astonishing miracle. But the man didn’t know where Jesus was, and having never seen him, couldn’t have identified him in any case.

The ancient world had few answers for severe illnesses and disabilities which led many to look to magic and superstition. But here was a healer who did what he promised. A man well known as a beggar blind from birth could now see; this was unparalleled. The community investigates the man’s story. We have in abbreviated form debating that must have taken hours as they tried to verify the identity of the previously blind man and the identity of the healer. How did he do it? Can he do it to others? Where does his authority come from? Is this divine power?

The account of Jesus’ healing of the blind man beautifully illustrates the salvation process. Blinded by sin, lost sinners have no capacity to recognize the Savior or find him on their own. The blind man would not have been healed had Jesus not sought him and revealed himself to him. It is the same with our salvation. If God did not reach out to spiritually blind sinners like us, no one would be saved. And just as the blind man was healed only when he obeyed Jesus’ command and washed in the pool of Siloam, we are only saved when we humbly and obediently embrace the truth of the gospel. Which brings us to the third next step on the back of your communication card which is to receive the light of Jesus and be saved.

I started this sermon out by talking about physically seeing 20/20 and how with corrective lenses we can see clearly, correctly and completely. In our scripture this morning we saw Jesus heal the man’s physical blindness as well as his spiritually blindness which allowed him to spiritually see clearly, correctly and completely. Now I want to conclude with Seeing 2020. I am not talking about our physical sight but our future sight or our future vision. As you all know, on Wednesday of this week, we enter a new year in fact a new decade. We are starting the year 2020. And as we begin this New Year I wanted to challenge us to not only a personal spiritual 20/20 vision but a corporate spiritual 20/20 vision for the New Year 2020. When we accept Jesus as our Savior our spiritual lives are not supposed to stop there. We are called by God to continually grow as followers of Jesus Christ. In fact we are called by God to become more like his son every day. So in your bulletins I am sure you have seen the Spiritual Life Journal. It’s called, “Seeing 2020: Unity” and within its pages there are commitments to personal spiritual growth for this next year. I want to challenge each and every one of us to commit to these spiritual growth principles personally and corporately. If we make these commitments together, in the year 2020, we will see our relationship with Jesus and with each other more clearly, correctly and completely and we will become more unified as a body of believers here at Idaville Church.

There are six parts to this spiritual growth journal and six ways we can be unified as a body of believers. 1 Corinthians 1:10 says, I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. And Philippians 2:2 says, Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. You know what? We can be unified as a church. It is possible. Jesus calls us to be unified. The first way we can be unified is in Prayer. 1 John 5:14 says, This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. Prayer is important. We need to commit to praying daily for the needs of our families, our church family, our church and our community. We have all of our church’s prayer requests in one document out on the Information Station Wall. Please pick one up every Sunday and be praying for our church and our people.

The second way we can be unified is in the Word. Psalm 119:105 says Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. There are two commitments under Unity in the Word. One, is to read through the Bible during the year 2020. In the back of your journal there is a guide to read through the entire Bible this year. We can be doing this together. Two, is to memorize one verse a month during 2020. Again, you will find the verses for each month in your journal and we can be doing this together, as well.

The third way we can be unified is in Service. 1 Peter 4:10 says, Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. In the next couple of weeks we will be handing out spiritual gift surveys. If you don’t already know what your spiritual gifts are that survey will help you know them. We need to commit to serving God and others in our church and community throughout 2020. The fourth way we can be unified is in Giving. Proverbs 3:9 says, Honor God with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops. We should be willing to commit to regular tithing in support of our ministries and missions. There is also an opportunity in your journal to commit to our GROW Capital Campaign.

The fifth way we can be unified is in our Relationships. Psalm 133:1 says, How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live in unity! We need to commit to patience, forgiveness, and non-judgment toward others. The sixth way we can be unified is in the Gospel. 1 Peter 3:15 says, But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. We need to commit to sharing our faith with others and inviting others to join us in our fellowship at Idaville Church. We are called by God to the Great Commission. To Pursue, Grow and Multiply Disciples.

I hope you take this spiritual growth challenge and commit to doing the things in this journal. I pray that your prayer for Idaville Church is Unity. Which brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card which is to commit to growing spiritually and be unified with the body of believers here at Idaville Church.

As the ushers prepare to take up the Communication cards and the worship team comes forward, let’s pray: God, I pray that we would commit to growing spiritually today and commit to unity with you and with each other. I pray that your Spirit will inhabit us and continue to teach us and convict us as we live for you. Thank you for this time to study your word and fellowship with your people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.