John IX – Abbey Road Baptist Church, 7th January 2007 I’ve chosen this morning to preach on my favourite chapter
in the whole Bible. There are several reasons why I like this chapter so much, but perhaps the most important is this: it is so lifelike. The story is so well told, I can imagine myself there. The characters are brilliantly drawn, and they say exactly what I suppose people like that might have said in such a situation. In other words, the story is so believable. Not that other parts of the Bible are unbelievable, but just that this particular chapter rings true to life – it’s memorable, it’s funny, and it is full of the sorts of comings and goings of different characters that make it read just like the script of a play. Well, it’s quite a long chapter and there are lots of different points that I could pick up from a story like this and begin to unravel and explain and preach about. For example, there are some great doctrinal statements made by the Lord Jesus about himself – “The Son of Man” he calls himself. Some people will try to tell you that when Jesus said he was the Son of Man, he was trying to emphasise that he was just a man – in other
words he was trying to correct the false view that he was divine. Nonsense! Read the prophecy of Daniel in Daniel chapter 7 where the prophet sees a vision of “one like a Son of Man” coming with the clouds of heaven, presented before the Ancient of Days, “And to him was given dominion And glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations and languages Should serve him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which shall not pass away.” Why do you think that the man born blind wanted to know who this Son of Man was? Verse 36 actually tells us the answer, “so that I may believe in him”. Believe in him. You don’t need to believe in just any ordinary man. The Son of Man is a divine figure. Why do think it says in verse 38 that the man worshipped Jesus once he believed in him? Let’s get it fixed in our minds at the start of this New Year that Jesus is the divine Son of God – God from all
concerns. because the things that happen to us. He is the solid rock upon which our faith is built. Who knows when we shall have those things we are trusting in and depending on for our security taken from us. Jesus doesn’t actually tell us “the answer” to the question of suffering – he just tells us that it is part of God’s purpose. because it is not an answer of the sort we would like. I know we’ve got jobs to find or jobs to search for. this man or his parents. the incarnation of God himself. friends to meet. and when sin is done away with finally and fully in the new heaven and the new earth. hopes. is partly comforting. yesterday today and forever. and it can be a form of punishment. If people hadn’t sinned there would have been no suffering. But Jesus Christ is the same. who dies in an Iraqi car bomb or a Sudanese refugee camp or a South-East Asian Tsunami – deserves it. desires are for the year ahead. So when Jesus says God allows suffering to get his glory displayed.eternity. are not necessarily the consequences of our evil. He whom shepherds worshipped and Wise Men adored – was. new church buildings to fill up with people – all kinds of things that the year ahead holds for us. “What is the cause of this guy’s suffering?”… “Why is this happening?” Jesus’ response. even our own lives. prayers. we cannot tell what a day will bring. Not all our pain is divine punishment. and you will know peace in the storm of life. And it’s exactly that question of life’s storm – life’s suffering – that is another important one in this chapter. Jesus tells us. Now don’t misunderstand Jesus here. And yet Jesus’ answer is also troubling. “Who sinned. that he was born
blind?” In other words. This time last year pastor Iain did not expect to go through the trials he and his family faced in 2006. There is a sense in which we need this reassurance – that not everyone who loses a loved one. families to take care of. and is. entrust them to Jesus Christ. But really. bills to pay. he’s not
. Suffering is a consequence of sin. The person of Jesus Christ must be at the centre of our Christianity and at the centre of our lives this year. there won’t be any suffering there. thank God. None of us knows what is in store for us in 2007. Whatever your fears. and it’s put to Jesus by his own disciples right at the start.
because even the disciples could see… this guy was suffering before he could ever have sinned. Even so. but Jesus basically says God has chosen not to reveal exactly what it is. Some will tell you it’s just an illusion. suffering is something we as Christians are to bear with. Thank God we can cry and we can complain and we can come to
. Don’t believe that – it’s a lie. without have ever sinned once to deserve any of it.saying God is sadistically making us suffer for his own pleasure. because I think it’s important that we get them the right way round: the keys to Christian victory are overcoming evil and bearing patiently with suffering. But it is in trusting God that we
overcome evil and bear patiently with suffering – these are the keys to Christian victory. That’s what some other religions or cults try to do. Suffering and evil are real and right with us. It’s what scientific progress tries to do but it is inevitably doomed to failure because suffering and death are inescapable. we are to rejoice in it. We’re not to try and overcome suffering. even if (perhaps especially when) you and I don’t understand what’s going on. We’ll not experience the blessings of the Christian life as they are meant to be known by getting that back-tofront. Jesus told them. and that he did this all out of love for sinners. look at how they deal with suffering. Let me say those again. Never. But more than that. If you ever need proof that God is at work in someone’s life. to have faith in God – that God knows what he is doing – that God is working all things for good. that God himself in the person of Jesus suffered as much as anyone could possibly suffer. ever forget when you think about the question of suffering. because sometimes people can bear with suffering without being really converted by God. So-called “religions” that claim to answer the question of suffering and evil only deceive. and he tells us. we’d never reach out in love to the unloved and the unlovely around us. wealth and prosperity if you just believe. we’d never give to the poor. I don’t mean we mustn’t try to alleviate suffering – otherwise we’d have no doctors. or why it’s clear in some cases but a lot less clear-cut in others. Like the man who’s born blind. Now we need to be careful. or which can’t come to God with a heavy heart and the complaint of a troubled soul. because rejoicing in suffering is not (or need not be) an attitude which laughs when tears are appropriate. Others tell you God will free you from it and give you health. There is a causal connection between sin and suffering.
Well. because I know whom I have believed. It is with these keys in our hands that Jesus leads us through door after door in trust.him however we feel. Certainly. imprisonment. compared to all the wonderful things written about him in the Scriptures. able to say at the end of his life. you’d think I was mad. “Nevertheless. 1:12) That is how the Christian is to approach suffering. They have not spoken to him. after beatings. the vast majority of them do not know him personally. It leaves the Christian. People living in London – the vast majority of them – know next to nothing about Jesus Christ. It’s what secular humanism does. listened to his voice. and now finally facing the death sentence in a Roman dungeon. and making tolerance the highest virtue. and am convinced that he is able to guard that which I have entrusted to him for that day. Trust means taking Jesus at his word. We are emphatically not to try and bear patiently with sin. We are to put on the full armour of God in this battle (as Win’s Bible verse to me last week reminded me) and make no compromise with the
enemy who causes so much destruction in human lives. I think this is crucially important for us today because we live in a situation where testimony is needed. No! We are to fight sin and evil. persecutions. worshipped him. with its insistence that nobody is absolutely right about anything except the fact that nobody is absolutely right about anything.
. starting off by defining sin in our lives as just human weakness and then telling us to be self-affirming about everything we do. I want to focus for the rest of our time this morning on the testimony of the man who is miraculously healed by Jesus. on the other hand. obeyed him. as it left the apostle Paul. are quite different. Sin and evil. That’s what modern relativism does. If you were blind and I came up with the bright idea of mixing up mud and saliva and putting that in your eyes. Surely nothing could be calculated to make the problem worse! God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. I am not ashamed (I have no regrets). We are as Christians engaged in a battle with sin and evil that is both within us and without us. But suffering is not meant to defeat us.” (2 Tim.
they asked him all over again. and that is something I hope we’ll all keep in our minds as we go on into this New Year. in the light of eternity. that though I was blind. are they going to hear__? Not.” And so all the religious objections of the Pharisees about whether or not you should be allowed to heal on the Sabbath are trumped by this man’s simple testimony to what Jesus did for him. If the man had been a clever theologian. now I see. Jesus means religion and they have already decided that they want nothing to with that. I am afraid. If they are to hear. he could maybe have argued with the Pharisees that God would heal on the Sabbath as much as on any other day. Look at what he says. No-one is here to listen. but we have no reason to believe that he was particularly clever or educated. and the significance of Jesus Christ to eternity for all people. through preaching. Most people are not ready to listen. How. I hope I don’t need to spend much time this morning persuading you that sharing your Christian testimony is important.loved him. Let’s make our testimony to unbelievers simple. Even so. and for encouraging people to become his disciples. “He put mud on my eyes. and easy to understand. Now. and yet his words couldn’t be ignored.”
. “One thing I do know. and I see. first in verse 11: “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me. So I went and washed and received my sight. and it’s so simple – and yet the opponents of Jesus can’t get around it – precisely because of its simplicity. and in verse 25 he says. and if we are to fulfil our responsibility to the Great Commission. ‘Go to Siloam and wash’. we have – or we ought to have – the strongest motivations for making Jesus known. then.” And he says it again – the same testimony in different words in verse 15. if by that you mean Iain Batty standing up here on a Sunday morning giving a sermon. it will be our words of testimony by which they hear about Jesus. To many people. In the light of judgment. and I washed. I love the way the man in this story
keeps on repeating the same testimony.
We know that this man is a sinner.” “We know that the Church has killed more people than it has ever helped. Look again at verse 24 and see how the Pharisees call on the man to testify again with an oath. There’s no use telling someone you’ve been washed in the blood of the lamb if they can’t understand what you are talking about.” If you know how to answer. do what any faithful pastor might do.” And there’s no need. and your testimony is worth sharing with
. that though I was blind. and they say something like… “We know that human beings are all descended from
apes.” “One thing I do know.” And the man replies. like the pastor. with things they’ve picked up from newspapers or seen on the TV or something like that – even worse maybe it’s something they’ve read in the DaVinci Code. People think Christians are weird enough already without you making it worse! There’s no need to have all the answers either. that though I used to feel guilty. either. Don’t ask us. I do not know. don’t worry! “Whether Moses wrote Genesis or not. That’s why I like the way the man’s parents in this story – though their motives are wrong of course. “Give glory to God. that though I used to fear death. good! But if you don’t. “professional” Christians to do.Brilliant! So simple! There’s no need to use religious jargon.” “We know Moses didn’t really write Genesis. “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. now I can face it as a Christian. to pass responsibility for giving testimony on to other people. ask him! Your testimony is valid.” You see. don’t they. One thing I do know. now I see. There’s no point in going on about how David’s branch applied the balm of Gilead to your soul. people do tend to come to us. my guilt and shame have been taken away. that though my life before had no meaning. One thing I do know. if the person you’re talking to doesn’t have a clue what you’re referring to. We’re often terribly bad at falling for the idea that talking about Jesus is only for a few. and allow their son to speak for himself.” “One thing I do know. now it does.
first of all. and love with faith from God the
. let’s trust God that he can and will do this through us. Not free from sin. work with and play with. but in love for Him expressed in obedience. The amazing thing is the way that a true and simple testimony of an ordinary Christian can bring people to Jesus. If only we had something obvious happen to us. Is our testimony actually worth sharing? It’s not really the fear of being put out of the synagogue. knowing that our present suffering is not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. whatever that is. but bearing patiently with it in the hope of heaven. Well. In this New Year. It’s more the doubts we have that what has happened to us is really a miracle at all. and learning to overcome it as we trust in God. And the wonderful thing is that as we pray. And things that only faith in Jesus Christ can give.
Blessing is from Ephesians 6:23 Peace to you all. those we live with. These are things that the world doesn’t know and the world doesn’t do. Those who heard about what Jesus did for the man born blind. even those who saw the miracle with their own eyes – didn’t immediately fall at the feet of Jesus and worship him. God’s Holy Spirit will go with us and ahead of us and create a desire for these things in the hearts of those we meet. But these are things that the world needs. Anyone who
is in Christ is a New Creation. not just in numbers. or the social circle we are in. They didn’t believe. that everyone could see and be amazed at. because no-one could dispute with us. And I suppose that’s the final thing that stops us. and that we will see his Church grow. Having a Damascus Road type testimony is no guarantee that people will respond favourably to it. but fighting it. And then. then we’d be happy to share boldly. Not free from suffering. Think again about what I said earlier about the keys to Christian victory.others. even rejoicing in it. other people could and would dispute with you. Their hearts were stubborn. isn’t it. like being healed of blindness. we must see how Jesus truly does do miracles in our lives.
now and for evermore. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. Amen
. be upon you.Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Son and Holy Spirit. And the blessing of God Almighty. and remain with you. Father.