- Jesus comes to the persecuted with encouragement (35): This poor man had been ‘thrown out’ (excommunicated) because, unlike his cowardly parents, he dared to stand up for Jesus. Jesus came to him and spoke to him. As I read this passage earlier today, I was forcibly reminded of my solemn responsibility and great privilege to remember in prayer all who have been thrown out; those who suffer oppression for their Christian faith (Hebrews 13:3). Jesus will come to them again and again in many ways, including in the prayers of His people.
- Jesus comes to the seeker with revelation (35-38): It is fascinating to witness, throughout this ninth chapter, the gradual opening of the man’s eyes to the truth of who Jesus is – right up to the point of worship. The blind man came to Jesus because Jesus came to him in the first place (1). He was a seeker because Jesus sought him.The initiative was with Christ, and whatever the Lord commences He sees through to culmination; He leads that process across the finish line. (Philippians 1:6). ”Suddenly the picture comes into complete focus for him, and he believes – one of many individuals, throughout John’s story, who make the final step which John wants every reader of his book to make (20.31).” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’, p.145.
- Jesus comes to the religious leaders with rebuke (39 – 41): Knowledge equals privilege, and accountability comes with it. There is an irony in these words because in one sense the Pharisees were not blind. They had the Old Testament and they taught it to others. They had spiritual knowledge. They had God’s Book. But they refused to let it lead them to Jesus (5:37-40). Tom Wright says that the Pharisees are ”sticking to their principles at the cost of the evidence…Not only are they wrong, but they have constructed a system in which they will never see that they are wrong. It is one thing to be genuinely mistaken, and to be open to new evidence, new arguments, new insights. It is another to create a closed world, like a sealed room, into which no light, no fresh air, can come from outside. That condition, in fact, is not far removed from that which Paul describes in the first chapter of Romans (1.32). There are some people who not only do the wrong thing but adjust their vision of the moral universe so that they can label evil as ‘good’ and good as ‘evil’. Once that has happened, such people have effectively struck a deal not only with evil but with death itself. They have turned away from the life-giving God and locked themselves into a way of thinking and living which systematically excludes him – and, with him, the prospect and possibility of rescue” (p.146).
The blind man’s parents passed the ball to him. Once he found it at his feet, he did not lack ideas for what to do with it. He showed considerable pluck, and took the clerics on – even toying with them it seems (27). They had no good arguments against his healing or against his words, so they did what people often do in such circumstances. They picked up mud and threw it. I pray that faced with hostile people, I will not hide, but stand up for Jesus, and offer my testimony. They may wipe their secularised boots all over it, but let them hear it.
Within this passage you can read the famous statement of (25): ”One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” This is the story of every Christian. Through the telling of this story we too are gradually being brought to see Jesus, who is ”the light” (5; see also 1:4,5). He is opening our blind eyes.
PRAYER: Lord, I know I can all too easily play the coward. So please give me the courage I will always need to stand up for you.
Religious people can become so concerned about the meticulous observance of their self – made rules that they don’t care about people. Instead of rejoicing over a remarkable healing of a man with congenital blindness, the Pharisees pursed their lips, shook their heads, and got very angry with Jesus for doing this miracle on the Sabbath. With Jesus, there was a pattern of such happenings (see e.g. Chapter 5).He would not allow His compassion to be tied up by their rules. Jesus knew that at the heart of the Sabbath there lies God’s heart for saving people. He was clear in His thinking that it was a day for doing good to others. But religion stinks!
The healed man’s parents make a fascinating case study. They were not as supportive of their son as you might expect them to be. To be excommunicated from the synagogue would mean not only loss of status within the Jewish community but loss of many other privileges. They were probably fearful for their livelihoods, and even their lives. There is a cost involved in discipleship. Jesus urged people to count that cost before embarking on a course to follow Him. This pair took out their ready reckoners and decided it just wasn’t worth it. They couldn’t afford it. They were hardly lovingly supportive of their son. They pushed him to the front where he could take the flak and not them. Christianity costs!
Revelation is often progressive. It takes time. By the end of the chapter, this wonderfully healed man will come to a fuller understanding of who Christ is (35-38). But even here he is on his way (17b). It’s a beginning. His spiritual eyes are gradually opened.Let’s be patient. Give people time. Above all, give God time. ”When surrounded by fear and anger, the only way through is to glimpse whatever we can see of Jesus, and to follow him out of the dark and into the light.” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’, p.139. Jesus enlightens!
PRAYER: Lord God, I pray that no threat or fear will ever make me disloyal to you.
The purpose of a believer’s life is to be a ‘display cabinet’ for the work of God (3; cf. Matthew 5:14-16, 1 Peter 2:12, Psalm 18:28a).The work of God is transformative (8,9). Under the touch of Jesus Christ, some people change so much that they are barely recognisable as the same person. This is to His glory.
Like Jesus, we only have a brief life span in which to illuminate the world with heavenly light; to reflect the glory of Jesus – like the moon lit up with the rays of the sun (4, 5). We don’t have equal amounts of ‘sand’ in the egg timers of our lives, but this sand is running through. It is right to want to make your days and hours and minutes count. ”Only one life. ‘Twill soon be passed. And only what’s done for Jesus will last.”
Jesus’ work is creative. There is no evidence of a canned or pre-packaged approach with Him (6, 7 and 11). Jesus healed many people of a variety of conditions, but He didn’t have one way only of working. He did what He saw the Father doing. He kept in step with Him. That resulted in an enormous creativity of approach. Be prepared!Jesus may work in ways that take you totally by surprise.
It’s interesting that Jesus told the blind man to go and wash in the ”Pool of Siloam” (7) – a word which means ”Sent”. One of the themes in John’s gospel concerns the fact that Jesus was sent into the world by the Father, and the cure for spiritual blindness lies in His God-given mission.
PRAYER: Thank you Lord that you want to make my life a display case for your glory. May it be.
This story contains one of the most remarkable statements Jesus ever made (58). He took to Himself the most sacred name of God: ”I am”. His opponents knew exactly what He was claiming (59) and wanted to mete out the punishment appropriate to a blasphemer. I read a book once which spoke about the ”ego-centricity” of Christ’s claims. He spoke often about Himself, and called people to Himself – said they could find their true satisfaction in Him; that their eternal destiny depended on their response to Him. Yet it is obvious that He was a humble Man. How do these two things fit together? The truth is that if Jesus is God there is no problem at all in Him speaking this way. It would be quite natural.
In this passage we again see how Jesus conducted Himself in a hostile world, and He models qualities and characteristics that should be true of us.
At its core, Jesus’ life was about honouring the Father (49b, 50 and 54). We each need to settle this issue of glory. For who’s glory are we living? Recently, I heard a commentary on an Olympic race. I think it came from London 2012. As the athlete crossed the line for gold a huge cheer went up. It really was loud and wildly enthusiastic. But I noticed that after a moment or two it subsided. I thought, ”It’s like that in life isn’t it? Whatever praise/honour may come your way, it doesn’t last very long. And what people think about you isn’t really important. The only verdict on your life that counts is God’s. He’s your ”judge” (50). Human applause lasts for but a moment, but God’s judgment is eternal.” Ultimately, it is wisest to live for ”an audience of one.”
Sometimes, living to honour God will mean contradicting (48/49a) what a lying world says (55). You will find that you are on a collision course with it. (This is not always the case of course. There will be times when you let it be said and just submit your case to God. You don’t attempt to refute it at all.There is ”a time to be silent and a time to speak” Ecclesiastes 3:7b. We each must seek to be led by the Spirit in our responses.)
Honouring God, though, will always involve ‘keeping’ His Word (51, 52 and 55); keeping Christ’s Word. This means not only knowing it, but also doing it.
It was with reference to Jesus’ claim in (51) that ”the Jews” brought up the matter of Abraham (52, 53). They wondered, was He saying that He was greater than Abraham, who died? That He was greater than the prophets, who died? Clearly He was, and He is worthy, not just of our admiration and respect, but also of our worship.
David Pawson said that on one occasion he was invited to speak to a group of clergymen, and he was introduced as ”a preacher who STILL believes in the devil.”
Are you surprised that the world is full of hatred, violence, killing, murder and mayhem?
Are you shocked that the world is filled with lies?
We find it hard to trust the press. It’s not that everything we read is false, but we know that everyone has an angle. As we stand at the batting crease of life, so much information is bowled at us with a hair-raising amount of spin. We are pulled all over the place trying to deal with it. We are mesmerised by it.
We also find it difficult to believe the politicians. This widespread cynicism is sad, and somewhat misleading, because there are, I’m sure, many good and honest people in public office. But we believe we have been lied to by our leaders again and again. We are convinced that General Election campaigns are full of hype and false promises just to gain the most votes.
So do you find it strange, then, that a good number of people in the world ”still” believe in the devil, who, Jesus said, ”was a murderer from the beginning.” Also, it is the case that he does not hold ”to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (44).
Now I believe many Christians have been successfully lied to by Satan. They’ve been sold a pup. He has fathered families of lying offspring in hearts and minds. He has sown his seeds of falsehood in many a Christian field, and they have grown up into ugly choking weeds.
I know this passage deals primarily with the children of the devil (44): unconverted people who could not understand Jesus (43), or love Him (42); who could not hear Him (47) and who did not believe Him (46). They, in fact, wanted to kill Him (44). They had been duped by the many lies of their ”father”.
But today I particularly have in my heart fellow believers who are living well below the level of their privileges; who are not enjoying all that ‘abundant’ life means, because they have swallowed at least some of Satan’s lies. I pray that they may come to know the truth which sets free, then ”hold” (31) to that teaching for the rest of their days.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, by the power of your Spirit, please break these dark Satanic chains entangling and crushing so many hearts. Shine your light so brightly and your truth will set free.
”…you have no room for my word” (37b).
When Jesus, the ‘Logos’ – the living ‘Word’ – was born in Bethlehem, there was no room for Him in the inn. Later on in life, as the Word spoke His word, He found there was still no room for it in many a heart.
How about you? Have you got room for His word today? Room for all the space it will require? Room for every aspect of that word? Making room for the word of Christ will almost certainly mean that some other things have to go. In with the new and out with the old!
Do you make room in your life daily for this word – not just to read it but also to apply it?
Somebody said something like this, ”We belong to a church that will permit us to not obey Christ’s word; but it will not allow us to say that’s what we’re doing.” We (for whatever the reasons) tolerate a lot of bad behaviour in church life without challenging or rebuking it.
There are people in churches today who profess strong religious affiliation (33, 39a, 41b), but who have little room, if any, for the word. The sermon must be no more than five minutes, and they certainly want the preacher to cook up something bland. They don’t want any red hot ‘vinderloo’ strength sermons. They may not be so extreme as to wantto kill the clergyman, but they will definitely oppose him, snap at his heels and run him out of town if at all possible. Many an evangelical preacher has suffered at the hands of unconverted congregants. When people are set against the gospel, and don’t want to know the Biblical Christ, they show their true colours. They reveal their spiritual parentage. They show just how much they resemble their ‘dad’.
Making room for Christ’s word will entail perseverance (31), ‘holding’ to that word through all kinds of circumstantial ‘weather’. Holding doesn’t mean merely having a theological standpoint. It involves practising your beliefs day by day. The truth believed and lived out through a lifetime will produce a life of genuine freedom. We are called to the obedience of sonship, in which we obey our Father because we love Him. It’s not because we have to but because we want to. In Dan White junior’s excellent book, ‘Subterranean’, he talks in one chapter about how the current education system extracts people from life situations where the knowledge they are learning should be worked out. It separates them from life in the ‘real world’. It takes them into the academy and away from the ‘coal face’. He says that the way people learn in the world has also affected teaching in the church. But ”What matters…what is dynamite is what is truly practiced” (p.36).
Making room for Christ’s word will result in purity (34; see also Psalm 119:9, 11). There is power in Christ’s word to set you free from sin. But do you want this liberation? Or have you got quite used to your life being enemy occupied territory? Have you accommodated yourself to the presence of invaders in your life who really ought not to be there?
Warren Wiersbe makes the point that Satan imposes slavery that seems like freedom (2 Peter 2:19) – and I will add that we can quite enjoy it.
”The swallow would not thank you to be freed to live on carrion, but only to mount again into the sunny air. Jesus frees us by the truth. The slavegirl will no longer serve in the house of her cruel oppressor, when she learns that the act of emancipation has passed and has no longer any claim upon her.” F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.466.
PRAYER: Lord, by your grace, I open my life to your word today. Let it shape all I am and do.