9 : Believing is Seeing : The Testimony
When I was a small boy I spent a lot of time in the shed at the bottom of our garden. My father had made it from planks of wood. It had a corrugated roof and two small windows. I spent hours and hours in that shed, day dreaming, making things out of old pieces of scrap wood, using my father's carpentry tools, rummaging through the draws for nails and screws. There was always a lot of sawdust on the floor and when the sun shone it pierced the shed through knot holes all over the walls, like someone had fired a shot gun at it.
The beams of light picked out the floating dust in the air and made the sparkle like gold dust. When I tried to see where the beam came from and look up into the light everything went white and I couldn't see anything, but when I put my eye to the knot hole I could see in the opposite direction, everything in the garden was bathed in light. In John 8:12 Jesus said "I am the Light of the World, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness." In the story we had read this morning, Jesus went on to prove it was true. A visual demonstration in more ways than one. Jesus did something that had never ever happened before in all of history. He made a person who'd been born blind able to see again. And through that miracle he wants to teach us something very wonderful. This morning I want us to retrace three steps this man took. Before, during and after he encountered Jesus Christ. Four steps forward into the light.
Four steps to knowing God personally. At the same time we will see how in the same encounter with Jesus, other people took several steps backward into spiritual darkness.
1. Before: What this man was like before he met Christ (John 9:1-5)
We don't know much about this person except that he was blind, poor and a sinner. Because he was blind he was a beggar, dependent on the charity of others. He was also certainly a sinner. He was not necessarily blind because he was a sinner. A common belief in Jewish culture was that calamity or suffering was the result of some great sin. We live in a fallen world where good behaviour is not always rewarded and bad behaviour not always punished. Therefore, innocent people sometimes suffer. If God took suffering away whenever we asked, we would follow him for the wrong reason and not out of love and devotion. Regardless of the reasons for our suffering, Jesus has the power to help us deal with it. When you suffer from a disease, tragedy, or disability, try not to ask, "Why did this happen to me?" or "What did I do wrong?" Instead, ask God to give you strength for the trial and a clearer perspective on what is happening. What he was like before. A blind and poor sinner. And that is what we are without Christ.
2. During: How he encountered Christ (John 9:6-34)
Jesus rubbed some wet mud onto the blind man's eyes and told him to go and wash. What did the man do? He did as he was told and went home seeing! As the crowds debated whether it was him or not, he must of jumped up and down trying to be heard.... "I am me!... its me!" "Then who did this to you?" they asked. How did he reply? Notice the four steps he takes in his understanding of Jesus.
2.1 "The MAN Jesus did this."
That was his first step into the light. Recognising the reality of Jesus. The historical person. He began to trust in Jesus. That first step is not a blind leap of faith but a sure and certain step into the light when we take Jesus seriously. Jesus the real person, a fact of history. But notice some of the people wouldn't believe it was the same man. There is no joy shared, no praise to God for this miracle, just DOUBT, suspicion and prejudice. The people couldn't make up their minds so they took him to the religious leaders. They too were full of intimidating questions. "Is this your son?" "yes", "was he born blind?" "yes", Here the man took his second step into the light.
2.2 "He is a PROPHET" (9:17), the man asserted.
He recognised Jesus to be inspired in his words and actions. Someone special sent from God to speak on His behalf. That was his second step into the light. What did the man do next? He wasn't intimidated by their questions. Instead he grew more confident. He gave his testimony. His story of what God had done in his life. The Jewish Sabbath, Saturday, was the weekly holy day of rest. The Pharisees had made a long list of specific do's and don'ts regarding the Sabbath. Kneading the clay and healing the man were considered work and therefore were forbidden. Jesus may have purposely made the clay in order to emphasise that it is right to care for others' needs even if it involves working on a day of rest. The Pharisees' scepticism was based not on insufficient evidence, but on jealousy of Jesus' popularity and his influence on the people. The Pharisees were denying the evidence before there very eyes. DENIAL. They were no longer interested in the facts, only with incriminating Jesus.
So the questions begin to fly again. It had turned into a show trial, the facts of this miracle were now quite irrelevant. But not to this man. He couldn't believe his eyes. This former blind beggar, used to being pushed around and moved on, turns the tables on them. He was amazed at how illogical they were becoming. How unwilling they were to face the truth. He had already trusted the man Jesus. He had testified that Jesus was a prophet. Now he goes one step further.
2.3 "Surely such a man was FROM GOD", he confessed (9:33)
The man had made his third step. He believed in Jesus. He began to see that it was not he but they who were really blind. Self inflicted. His testimony was based on two vital things.
His faith was based on knowledge - "One thing I know" 9:25
His faith was rooted in Experience - "I was blind but now I see." 9:25
Knowledge and Experience - both are needed for an authentic faith. A difficult combination to argue with and the basis of our testimony. The man did not yet know how or why he was healed. But he knew who had done it because his life was miraculously changed. That is the power of a testimony. That is why he wasn't afraid to tell the truth. You don't need to know all the answers either, in order to share Christ with others. It is important to tell them how he has changed your life. Then trust that God will use your words to help others believe in him too.
There are many people who live and work around you who need to hear a similar testimony about how God is working in your life. They might not respond very well to a challenge or an argument but a personal account of someone coming to faith may impact them powerfully. The man's new faith was severely tested by some of the religious leaders. Persecution may come when you follow Jesus. You may lose friends; you may even lose your life. But no one can ever take away the eternal life that Jesus gives you. But believing Jesus was a real human being, even believing Jesus was a prophet from God was not enough. This man needed to take one more step. Read 9:35-38. The man put all four pieces of the jigsaw together and realised who Jesus really was.
2.4 He received
Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour. 'LORD I believe' (9:38).
He calls Jesus LORD. In this face to face encounter the healed looks upon his healer for the first time. What did he do? He fell to His knees in WORSHIP. Proof of His faith in Jesus. Are you surprised? Jesus accepted worship due to God alone because that is who He is, God and man in the same person. The Son of God. The invitation to the man born blind had been accepted. But there was also an invitation to those in danger of becoming blind. Read 9:39-41. What did Jesus mean? Light from the sun enables us to see. But the sun must be treated with respect. Just enough brings life and energy, too much and it brings cancer and decay. Sunlight may look harmless but it can also be very dangerous. With ozone depletion we are increasingly aware of the dangers of staying in the sun too long. This summer we have had warnings about staying in the sun too long. Someone foolish enough to look at the sun through a telescope will go blind instantly, permanently. But Jesus tells us there are worse things than physical blindness. People who look at the Son of God and refuse to accept his claims, ignore his credentials, spurn the evidence, become progressively blind to reality, blind to the truth.
Dio Chrysostom was a Christian of the first century. This is how he described his critics. "Like men with sore eyes; they find the light painful, while the darkness, which permits them to see nothing, is restful and agreeable." We have glimpsed this man before he met Christ - a blind beggar. We have seen how he met Christ. The third part of every testimony is what happens after we meet with Christ. We don't know what happened to this man. We don't even know his name, but his testimony has been retold for two thousand years. You have a testimony also and in your service sheet are some guidelines to help you write out your testimony. I invite you to have a go and then ask David or I to help you shape it up. Then you will be ready to explain why you are a Christian when anyone asks you for the reason for the hope within you. We have seen that the longer this man experienced his new life through Christ, the more confident he became in the one who had healed him.
The same is true of us. It is often only when our faith is tested that we grow in confidence. Light always separates. Jesus had taken the initiative, intervened, meeting this person at his point of need. He invited a response of faith. This man took those four steps forward into the light. But the Pharisees turned their backs on Jesus and walked away from the light. What about you? Through this story Jesus speaks into your situation and mine. He knows you better than you do yourself. Your needs, hopes and fears, your future. The longer you walk with him, the better you will understand who he is and the more light he will shed on your path. Story of King George VI Christmas speech. Jesus brings the light of his understanding and the warmth of his presence into our cold, dark world. He came that we might know, personally know, God as our Heavenly Father, through Jesus the Son. To have a close encounter of the lasting, life changing kind. Four steps to spiritual sight, four steps to spiritual blindness.It all depends on what we make of Jesus. And oh yes, believing is indeed seeing.