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Sermon: John 9:1-41: Outcast

New Testament Reading: John 9:1–41

As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.

Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not 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, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” (John 9:1–41, ESV)

Introduction

I know that it is unusual for me to take a whole chapter in a single sermon. This chapter certainly could be broken up into small parts. It’s rich. There is much that could be said about each little part. But you probably noticed as we read the text that chapter 9 tells one story – the story of the healing of the man born blind.

I consider this story to be a refreshing interlude. Chapters 7 and 8 contain long, and rather intense, accounts of Jesus’ dialogue with those who opposed him. The Jews and Jesus go back and forth, back and forth. Jesus reveals himself ever more clearly. And as he does the Jews grow more and more hostile until they are ready to put him to death. In chapter 9 the back and forth between Jesus and the Jews gives way to this beautiful story.

The reason I have decided to deal with this story as a unit instead of breaking it up in to pieces, is because the story makes an important point. I believe that there is one main point to the story. It was a point that the original recipients of the gospel needed to hear in their day, and it is point that we desperately need to hear today.

The point is this: We ought to be willing to suffer exile for the sake of Christ. Put another way, we ought to be willing to be cast out if that is what it requires in order to follow Christ. For the original recipients of this gospel that meant being willing to be cast out of the synagogue. That involved suffering persecution of various kinds. For you and I that means being willing suffer as exiles when it comes to the opinions of friends and family, coworkers, or the broader society in which we live.

The Miracle

Let’s consider the miracle of verses 1-7 which sparks the controversy of verses 8-41.

Jesus and his disciples were leaving the temple area and they walked by a man who was blind from birth. Jesus noticed the man, and so did his disciples. His disciples then asked in verse 2, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

It was a common view in the days of Jesus that physical ailments were the direct result of some particular sin. The ailment of this man provoked an interesting question given that he was born blind. The question was, who’s sin led to this man’s blindness – his parents sin, or his own?

Notice that the disciples do not ask, are ailments like these the direct result of sin? Instead take the predominate view of the day and assume that they are and ask Jesus who’s sin caused this blindness?

This idea might sound absurd to you and I, but it was a common view in Jesus’ day. And actually there are many who still think in this way. They assume that physical suffering of any kind is the direct result of some sin, or some lack of faith, or the curse of God. Perhaps you’ve run into people who hold to a view like this.

But notice what Jesus says. He does not answer the disciples question, but addresses the false assumption behind the question.  Verse 3: “Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” In other words, this ailment is not the direct result of sin as you assume. It is not the direct result of a particular sin – neither his nor his parents – but is here so that God might be glorified through it.

While it is true that Jesus was speaking of this man’s situation in particular, some general observations should be made. One, it is clear that not all suffering can be viewed as the direct result of some particular sin. And two, it is clear that God is able and willing to use our suffering for his glory and our good.

We should take great in formulating our doctrine of suffering according to the truth of scripture. To lack a biblical understanding of suffering will make dealing with the trails of life very difficult indeed. It may be that you are suffering now. It may be that someone you love is suffering. I suppose it is good to ask the question, is their some sin that needs to be repented of. Perhaps the Lord is trying to get your attention with the suffering so that you might repent. But it is wrong to see yourself as cursed of God, if you are in Christ Jesus. Your suffering should refine you as you cling to Jesus. Your suffering should bring glory to God as you go on trusting him. But not all suffering is the direct result of some particular sin, as the disciples of Jesus assumed.

Jesus would bring glory to God through this man’s ailment in a most amazing way.

In verse 4 Jesus says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” I find that I am always tiered during the summer months. I think the reason is that the days are longer. There is more daylight. And more daylight means there is more time to get stuff done, and so I’m on the go for a longer period than in the winter months. Jesus’ word’s here in verse 4 indicate that he knew his days were numbered. He knew he would not live long. There was a sense of urgency that the work needed to be done before night set in.

We should live with this same sense of urgency concerning our work for Christ.

In verse 6 we are told of the miracle: “Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.”

Why did Jesus preform this miracle as he did? He could just healed the man with a word. Why did he spit on the ground and make mud? Why did he put the mud in man’s eyes? And why did he make the man go and wash in the pool of Siloam?

We really can’t know for sure. But notice some connections with the themes that have been introduced in John’s gospel up to this point. One, Jesus has been introduced as the light of the world. Here is a man living in darkness in physical sense, and Jesus gives him light as sign that he is able to do the same thing of the human soul. Two, we have been told that Jesus is the source of streams of living water. Here, Jesus uses his saliva to heal the man. He did not need to do this. I think this symbolizes what has been said earlier about him. And three, notice that Jesus tells the man to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. This is the pool out of which the Jews would have drawn water during the feast of pools to poor out on the alter. Jesus makes a connection with that symbolism once again. And notice that Jesus tells the man to go and wash. This is how it works with Jesus. He is our savior. He has attuned for our sin and calls us to himself. But we must respond in faith and repentance.

The miracle itself is significant. It symbolizes things that are true of Christ – light of the world, streams of living water. But it is the response to the miracle that becomes the focus of the text. 

The Neighbors 

Let us first consider the response of the neighbors and acquaintances of the man healed. Verses 8-13: “The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘It is he.’ Others said, ‘No, but he is like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ So they said to him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.’ They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’ They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.” (John 9:8–13, ESV)

I will not say much about this section except for that the miracle is here confirmed as valid and true. This man was well known. That he was born blind was well known. People were understandably skeptical at first, for who has ever heard of a man born blind being made to see? But in this course of time many people came to believe that a miracle had indeed taken place – that this was the blind man and now sees. The man himself testified agains and again saying, “I am the man.” They were so convinced that a miracle had taken place that they brought the man to the religious authorities.

The Pharisees

Verses 14 – 34 provide us with many details concerning the Pharisees investigation of theses thinking. Notice that they do not interact directly with Jesus, but with the healed man and those who might be able to shed light (pun intended) on the situation. I will not deal with verses 14-34 in detail, but notice a few things about the Pharisees:

One, it seems that they were hellbent on dismissing the validity of this miracle. They heard from the neighbors, they called the man, and then the mans parents, and then the man again, to testify concerning these things. Everyone’s testimony confirmed that an incredible had been preformed. The man stood before them seeing. That he was born blind was clear as day, and yet they would not believe it.

This is how it is with unregenerate man. It does not matter how much evidence you give them. Unless the Holy Spirit enlivens the soul, they will not believe.

Two, notice how the Pharisees find comfort in their legalism. As the evidence is presented concerning the working of a true miracle they feel threatened and retreat to the confines of their man made religion, and to the comfort of their self-righteousness.

Jesus was a sinner, they say. And no sinner can possibly do works like these. And why did they say that Jesus was a sinner? They claimed that he broke the Sabbath when he made the mud with his saliva. According to their man made rules (and notice that these are man made rules, and not the laws of the Bible) a person was not not allowed to knead bread of Sabbath. And this was essentialy what Jesus did. He made the mud in a way similar to the way that people knead bread when he mixed the earth with the liquid and worked them together. Jesus was a Sabbath breaker, according to their reasoning.

Wow. They ignored the miracle. They ignored the act of mercy. And the chose to dismiss Jesus in favor of their man made rules and regulations.

In truth, Jesus never broke the Sabbath – he kept it purely. For him it was a day of rest and worship, a day to gather with the saints, and a day to show compassion to those in need. He kept the Sabbath, but intentionally thrashed the man made customs that had been heaped upon the fourth commandment.

Three, notice how the Pharisees in their self righteousness considered others to be lower than themselves. Jesus was a sinner, in their opinion, but they were not because they “kept” the law (verse 16). In verse 34 they said to the man born blind and now healed they said: “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” This they said to him after he answered them well and refused to be moved concerning his opinion of Jesus. They looked down upon him. They believed that they were better than him. He was born in “utter sin” whereas they we free and pure.

Those who view themselves in this way will never see their need for Jesus. They are better than others – more spiritual, more wise, more pure. This self-righteous disposition will forever hinder someone from seeing their need for the Savior.

Four, notice how the Pharisees use their power to threaten those who disagree with them. The Pharisees spoke to the parents of the man healed and they were very careful with their words. And why were they careful? John tells us in verse 22: “His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.” And after the healed man stood for Christ notice what happened to him. The end of verse 34 reveals that “they cast him out.” This means that they cast him out of the synagogue. He was ostracized from the Jewish community – excommunicated, to speak in Christian terms.

I’d like you to recognize that at the theme running through this passage is the pressure that Jews were putting on those who considered following Jesus. The threatened to put people out if the followed Jesus.

This was no little thing. The Jewish community was a tight knit community in Jesus’ day. Being put out of the synagogue (or congregation) was a serious thing. It meant loosing important relationships. It meant suffering economic hardship. It meant losing your good reputation.

The Jews who lived in Jesus’ day were already threatening in this way – but the people to whom John was writing in, let’s say, 85 A.D. were struggling even more so with these threats as the divide between the Jews and the, so called, Christians had widened significantly. One of the things that hindered Jews from confessing Jesus as the Christ was the fear of being put out.

Why did John write his gospel? So that his readers might believe in Jesus as the Christ. And what is one of the main things that hold’s people back from confessing Jesus as Lord? Is it not the fear of being put out. The Jews who witnessed the healing of the blind man were afraid of being put out. The parents of the man who was healed were afraid of being put out. The man who was healed was undoubtably struggling with the fear of being put out. The people to who John was writing in 85 A.D. were afraid of being put out. And do you want to know something? We find ourselves holding back in our confessing of Christ because we are afraid of being… put out.

You say, how are we afraid of being put out? There is no synagogue for us to be cast out of. No, but perhaps you have been reading the news over that past week and have noticed that our society is moving at a rapid pace away from Christian values. Or perhaps you have noticed how being Christian has become much less popular in our society over the past 15 to 20 years. Or perhaps you have noticed how, even within the Christian community, believing the Bible and confessing it’s truths has become an unpopular thing.

I see it. I feel it. If the church is to survive – if Christianity is to survive – in this new, anti-Christian culture, she had better learn to live in a countercultural way. She had better be willing to be cast out for the sake of Christ.

The Man’s Parents

Notice the way that the man’s parents interact with the authorities. They are unwilling to stand for Jesus. They answer the questions of the Pharisees concerning their son – Yes, he is our son, they say, and, yes he was born blind and now he sees – but they were unwilling to give an opinion concerning Jesus. Why? John tells us that “his parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.”

They would not stand for Jesus because they feared the Jews. And so it is with many today. They will not stand with Jesus because they fear the opinions of man.

 The Man Who Was Healed 

But notice the way that the man who was healed responds to the questions of the Pharisees.

He first of all stated the facts. Verse 15: “So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, ‘He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.’”

He then confessed to believe that Jesus was a Prophet. Verse 17: “So they said again to the blind man, ‘What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’”

And after being ridiculed and threatened by the Pharisees, what does the man say? He does not back down, but Identifies with Jesus in a most bold way, saying in verse 30, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not 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, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” He confesses that Jesus is from God. And for that he is cast out.

Jesus

Thankfully the story does not end there. Look at verse 35: “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’”

Notice that Jesus took the initiative to seek the rejected man out. Jesus drew near to him in his suffering. What message do you think that John is trying to communicate to his audience as he tells of these things? Is he not reminding us in most beautiful way that we are not alone when we are despised and rejected by men, but that he walks with us?

And having found the man, what does he say? He says, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Remember that Jesus’ interaction with the man has been limited up to this point. The man does not now much about Jesus. He knows enough to confidently assert, “he is a prophet”, and “he is from God”, but he does not possess a full understanding of the Christ. This should remind us that coming to true faith in Christ is often a progressive thing. We come to him as we learn more and more about him.

Jesus said to the man, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” And the man replied to Jesus in verse 36 saying, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” (John 9:36, ESV) He responded to Jesus with respect. He acknowledged that he did not understand what Jesus was talking about. And he was willing to listen. Jesus replied, in verse 37 “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”

Notice the play on  words, “you have seen him”, Jesus says. Remember that the man was blind, and now he sees. And the man’s response reveals that, not only did he see Jesus with his physical eyes which were once blind, but with the eyes of his heart which were once blind as well. He responds, saying, “‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.” (John 9:38, ESV)

Perhaps Psalm 27:10-11, was written for this man: “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in. Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.”

Jesus concludes with this saying in verse 39: “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.’”

The meaning is this. Those who admit their need – those who admit that they are blind and in need of light from above – will receive it. Those who in their pride insist that they have no need – that they can see in and of themselves – will remain in their blindness. They guild will remain.

Application 

Will you acknowledge your blindness apart from Christ? Will you acknowledge your need?

Will you identify with Christ in this world, even is you are pushed to the margins and considered a fool?

Do you know that Christ walks with those who are his and that you are never alone?

Revelation 1:12-16: “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.”

What is communicated in this vision? Christ walks in the midst of his church even to this day!

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