Healing of a Man Born Blind | John 9:1-41
Brian Hedges | November 11, 2018
Helen Keller was born on June 27th, 1880, in northwest Alabama. She was a normal, healthy girl when she was born, she could see and she could hear; but when she was 19 months old she contracted a fever (it was probably scarlet fever or meningitis). She survived, but it left her both blind and deaf. She was cut off from the world around her.
For the next six years, no one really knew how to help her. That all changed when she was six years old, and a woman named Anne Sullivan came into her life. She was first of all known simply as “Teacher,” but Helen’s life would never be the same after this experience.
In Helen Keller’s autobiography, The Story of My Life, she describes what changed. She says, “Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in, and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began; only, I was without compass or sounding line and had no way of knowing how near the harbor was. ‘Light! Give me light!’ was the wordless cry of my soul, and the light of love shone on me in that very hour.
“I felt approaching footsteps, I stretched out my hand, as I supposed, to my mother. Someone took it, and I was caught up and held close in the arms of her who had come to reveal all things to me, and more than all things else, to love me.” That woman was Anne Sullivan, and Helen Keller’s life was changed.
If you’ve never read the story of Helen Keller, you should, or you should watch one of the wonderful films, called The Miracle Worker, that have been made about her life.
I think the experience that Helen Keller describes there is something similar to the experience of the man that we’re going to read about this morning in John chapter 9. We’ve been working our way through the gospel of John, and, as many of you know, the gospel of John is marked by a number of signs – miracles that Jesus performed in his earthly ministry. These miracles were literal miracles, they were physical miracles where he actually healed people, helped people, changed people; but they are also signs. They were acted-out parables that were pointing to deeper spiritual realities, and that’s certainly the case in the sign recorded in John chapter 9, the sixth sign found in this gospel.
I want to begin by reading this chapter to us, and then I want us to look at three things that we can learn from this story. So, John chapter 9, beginning in verse 1. You can read along on the screen or in your own copy of God’s word.
“As he 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.’”
This is God’s word.
So, this is an amazing story. It’s a story that we’re at least familiar with some of the language because John Newton used the language, “I once was blind, but now I see,” in his famous hymn “Amazing Grace.” It’s one of these great signs that are recorded in the gospel of John, and I think it’s a story that teaches us a lot about several different things, and I want to point out three of them this morning.
I. A Truth about Suffering
The first one is this: the story teaches us a truth about suffering. It teaches us a truth about suffering, and you can see it in how the whole conversation is raised in verses 1 through 3, where Jesus is walking by with his disciples and hears this blind beggar on the side of the road, and the disciples ask him this question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
They’re asking about the problem of suffering. They’re saying, “Why is this man blind? Whose sin was it?” Of course, there’s an underlying assumption that anyone who’s suffering, it must be because of sin.
This raises a question, doesn’t it, the question about suffering. It raises what C.S. Lewis called The Problem of Pain, and it is a huge problem for many of us. In fact, I think for everyone, by the time they get to the end of their lives, they come face to face with this problem of suffering. I think I lived the first 30 or 35 years of my life without thinking a whole lot about it. I think I did theoretically, but I remember one point in my life where I felt like my family had been greatly spared much suffering. Then, as many of you know, my mom, at a very young age, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and we’ve seen now steady decline for the past 12 years of so, so that now she doesn’t know who I am or really anyone else, is pretty much an invalid, and has lost all of her faculties of communication. All of a sudden, suffering became personal in our family, and it’s become personal in other ways as well.
Certainly, when I think of my friends, I think of people that I know, I think of people in our own church, I know that suffering is a very personal thing. I have a friend who’s also a pastor whose wife had a stillborn child. I know of another couple who had a little boy with severe birth defects that required multiple surgeries within the first two years of his life. I know of another couple who struggled with infertility for years, then became pregnant with twins, but then one of them was born dead, or died shortly after birth. All of us could multiply those kinds of stories.
Some of you have lost a child or you’ve lost a spouse or you’ve lost a parent at a very early age, at an inopportune time. Some of you are facing chronic suffering or terminal illness even right now. We’re all wrestling with this question, aren’t we: why do people suffer in the world? It is, perhaps, the greatest question of all, the question, why? Why did Helen Keller lose her sight and hearing? Why are some children born with spina bifida or other birth defects? Is it because of someone’s personal sin, either the parents’ sin or their own?
It’s interesting that the answer of Scripture, broadly and generally speaking, is of course that suffering is the result of sin. Suffering entered into the world because sin entered into the world, so, broadly, generally speaking, that’s true. It’s true that we live in a fallen world. It’s true that suffering is the result of sin.
But oftentimes that truth gets twisted or gets misapplied in a very particular kind of way, and that seems to be what’s going on here. There’s an assumption with the disciples that either this man sinned or his parents sinned, so they ask Jesus, “Which is it?” Did this man sin, so that he was born blind (presumably, either here’s a child who had sinned in the womb or perhaps that God had foreseen that this man in his life would commit some terrible sin, and so God would strike him with blindness)? It seems that even the Pharisees considered this a man who was born in sin. They say, later in the passage when they’re examining him, “You were born in utter sin.” Probably they blamed the blindness on his sin, they’ve stamped him with some kind of stigma because of his condition, assuming that there is some moral defect or moral failure behind him.
I’ve been helped, in particular, by Tim Keller. Many of you know who Tim Keller is, a great pastor and thinker, Christian writer. Tim Keller says that there are basically two approaches that people make in thinking about suffering and its relationship to sin in the world.
One of those is what you might call the “anger track,” where you’re blaming someone else. You think about the numbers of people who have all kinds of psychological or emotional or personal problems, and they blame their parents, they blame their upbringing, they blame society. Maybe they blame God himself, or perhaps they blame other groups of people, so an entire other group of people is responsible for their suffering. It leads to anger, to bitterness, to this deep angst and bitterness towards God or towards other people because of the problems that are in my life. That would be blaming the parents, as the disciples were asking in this passage.
The other track is what Keller calls the “guilt track,” which is to blame oneself. This is the idea that suffering happens quid pro quo. “I suffer so much because I’ve sinned so much. If I commit x number of sins, God will mete x number of afflictions in my life.” And, contrary to that, “If I live a good life, then I won’t suffer much at all.”
Keller goes on to show that Jesus’s answer, and indeed the answer of the Bible, is much more nuanced than those two options. It’s much more complex than that. The relationship to sinful behavior and suffering is much more complicated than that, and one reason we know that is because an entire book of the Bible was given to us to show it, the book of Job. So here’s a man who’s righteous; he’s the most righteous man on the face of the earth, the Scripture tells us, and yet he suffers in all kinds of incredible ways.
Now, he’s somewhat angry because of his suffering, but his friends are blaming him for his suffering, and they’re saying, “There must be some hidden sin, Job,” right? “There must be some hidden sin in your life that’s behind all this suffering, when that’s not actually the case.
When God finally comes on the scene at the end of the book, he rebukes both Job and the friends; Job because of his anger, and his friends because of their blaming Job and accusing him unjustly.
The answer of Scripture is that suffering is a result of sin in general, but that we can’t trace (generally speaking) — we can’t trace particular sufferings to particular sins, especially not in the lives of other people, and that when we start to do that we go wrong.
I think this can really help us when we think about our own lives. Just apply this to yourself, especially if you’re a Christian this morning. What is it that you’re facing this morning? What is it that you’re going through? It might be a trial related to your health, a trial related to your family, your children, maybe the aging of your parents. It may be some suffering that seems absolutely senseless to you. How will you respond to that? Don’t take the anger track, where you’re blaming someone else; but don’t load yourself up with guilt about it, either. Here’s the truth of the matter: all of us receive less suffering than we actually deserve. If we got what we deserved we’d be in hell right now. But the gospel also tells us that if we’re in Christ there’s no condemnation. God’s already punished our sins in Jesus!
That means that whatever you’re suffering as a Christian this morning is not God’s punishment for your sins; it’s, rather, something that God is using in a mysterious way for your good. So you don’t have to live in anger, you don’t have to live in guilt. We are invited, instead, to live in trust and to live in confidence.
Jesus’s answer to the disciples in this passage, when they ask that question, is, “It was not that this man sinned or his parent…” Now, of course, theologically speaking, it would have been true that both this man and his parents were sinners, because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But Jesus says the suffering is not directly related to their sin; rather, the purpose in this suffering is that the works of God might be displayed in him.
We need to take that to heart. If you’re suffering right now in your life, don’t try to find some direct link to a particular sin. Of course repent of sin; if there’s sin in your life, repent. God’s chastening can lead us to repentance, and should; but don’t think of it as punishment. God’s not meting out specific punishment because of your sins or your infractions of the rules. And don’t blame someone else. Rather, trust that the suffering in your life comes into your life because you live in a fallen world, and none of us are exempt from suffering, and because God, in his good sovereignty, chooses to use these things to do us good, so that he might be glorified. This story, I think, teaches us that, the truth about suffering that we need to grasp.’
II. A Picture of Sin
Here’s the second thing. The story also shows us a picture of sin. Okay, so the miracles are signs. When Jesus does a miracle, it’s a real miracle, this is history; we’re not anti-supernaturals here, we actually do believe in miracles in our church, and we certainly believe in the miracles of the Bible, we don’t want to strip the Bible of the miraculous, we don’t want to explain that away. We believe that Jesus actually did perform these signs, these wonders, these miracles. But they were more than mere miracles; they were pointing to something. They were pointing out something about Jesus and they were pointing out something about what he came to do.
That’s especially true here, and you can see it in two different places. You can see it in verses 3 through 5, where Jesus says that it’s not because this man sinned or his parents, but it’s “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.” So Jesus says the purpose of this is for God’s works to be displayed. “I’m going to work, I’m going to do something here.”
And then in verses 39 through 41 Jesus actually uses the whole event to teach a spiritual truth. So I think it shows us the connection. So in verses 39 through 41 Jesus says, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” The Pharisees respond to that, “Are we also blind?” Jesus in verse 41 says, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”
It’s pretty clear here, the connection between blindness, the physical blindness of which this man is healed, and the spiritual blindness that Jesus is speaking of. So the healing is an illustration of salvation, and it shows us a picture of sin.
So let’s just think about that for a minute; let’s unpack it. Think about this man for a minute. What characterized his life?
(1) Well, first of all, he was blind. So he was lacking a faculty, he was lacking the faculty of sight. He couldn’t see. That is descriptive, in Scripture, of our condition before coming to Christ. The apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4, says that “if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” So, the reason, Paul says, some people don’t believe is because they’re blind.
And that was your condition before you believed. You were blind. There was a point where Christianity didn’t make sense, the gospel really didn’t make sense, Jesus was not very attractive, God did not seem beautiful to you. It certainly didn’t seem personal. You heard the same sermons, perhaps, if you were raised in the church, or you were exposed to the same truth, and it just didn’t take. Why? Because you were blind. That is our condition before new birth.
(2) This man was blind, and he was blind from birth. So this is a congenital blindness. In the same way, you and I are born with a spiritual problem. We are born with a spiritual blindness. We are born in sin, we’re born in darkness. That is our native atmosphere. We don’t see spiritual reality because of our blindness.
(3) Not only that, but this man was a beggar, which means he had no money for physicians, and he had nothing that he could offer Jesus in order for Jesus to heal him. In the same way, we’re beggars. We’re unable to help ourselves, we can’t purchase, we can’t merit, we can’t barter, we can’t trade for the gift of salvation. Instead, we need a work from outside of us to give us sight.
You might think of the human condition as something like this. The human condition in sin is one that needs both something external to it and something internal. There’s both an objective need and a subjective need.
You might think of it as a blind man who’s in a darkened room. In order for him to see, he needs light, he needs illumination, external. If he had sight but there’s no light, he still wouldn’t see, because the room would be dark. So there has to be external illumination, there has to be light. Christ is the one who provides that light. Over and over again the gospel of John speaks of Jesus in terms of light. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4-5). Or, as we’ve already seen in chapter 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Jesus brings revelation. He brings light, he brings truth, he shows spiritual reality, he discloses to us who God is. Jesus does all of this, and we need that. We have to see Jesus, we have to see truth.
But in order to see that you need something else; you need something internal, you need something subjective. You can hear the gospel and it not make sense. You could see something about Jesus in the text or on a screen or hear it from a preacher, but unless something happens internally, in your heart, then you still don’t see. We need what that New England Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards described as a “divine and supernatural light immediately imparted to the soul,” where God, in an act of creative power, shines into our very hearts and gives us the faculty of sight, he opens our eyes. He opens the eyes of our hearts, so that suddenly we see spiritual reality, we see our sin, we see our need, we see the futility of the world, we see the glory of God, we see the holiness of God, we see our state before this holy God; and we see the way of salvation in Jesus Christ. All of that comes by a divine act of grace.
There’s a wonderful hymn that sometimes we sing that’s based off of a Puritan prayer. The Puritan prayer is called “Regeneration.” One of the verses of the hymn goes like this:
“I was blinded by my sin,
Had no ears to hear your voice,
Did not know your love within,
Had no taste for heaven’s joys.”
That’s where we were. Then what happened?
“Then your Spirit gave me life,
Opened up your word to me,
Through the gospel of your Son
Gave me endless hope and peace.”
Light came into the darkness, God opened our eyes.
III. The Way of Salvation
That illustrates for us the way of salvation. That’s the third thing I want us to consider for just a few minutes this morning, the way of salvation.
I want you to see two things here. I want you to see what Jesus does, and then I want you to see what the man does. So, Jesus’s work, and then the man’s experience. Both of those, I think, are important for us in thinking about salvation.
(1) So, what does Jesus do? Look at verses 6 and 7. “Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then e anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘God, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.”
Why did Jesus do it that way? It’s the only time that he healed in this particular way. Jesus healed many blind people. He could have done it with just a word; he could have just spoken and it would have been done. He could have done it gradually, like he did for the man in the gospel of Mark, you know, who first of all saw men like trees walking, and then only after the second touch, the second act, actually received his sight. Jesus did it this way for this man. Why did he do it?
Well, I think there are several reasons for it, and several lessons for us to learn. Jesus was deliberate in everything he did, and I think there’s something in particular about this event that shows us something about salvation. Just think about this for a few minutes.
(a) This was an offensive thing. There’s good evidence to think that Jewish people believed that any kind of bodily fluid would render someone unclean, certainly ... other bodily fluids would do that, and possibly they thought that about saliva as well. But here Jesus spits on the ground, makes mud, makes this paste, and smears it over the person’s eyes. Probably anybody would shrink from that, right?
But I think it’s showing us here that Jesus doesn’t contaminate; Jesus, in giving himself to us, cleanses us, but it’s an offensive thing to the natural mind. It’s an offensive thing to the unenlightened mind. The way of the cross, the way of salvation, it’s an offensive thing, isn’t it? Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I mean, it’s offensive to think that the way someone will be saved is not by doing anything, it’s not that they’re saved because their good works outweigh their bad or because they make up for all the good things they do. They’re saved by an act of substitution! They’re saved by an act of grace! They’re saved by grace and grace alone.
So, what that means is that you can have one person who’s much, much worse than someone else over here who’s respectable and moral and, relatively speaking, has lived a pretty good life. Here could be a murderer, and the murderer gets forgiven, the murderer gets saved, and here’s a philanthropist who’s never really harmed anyone in his life, but dies in unbelief and is not saved. That’s offensive to people. It’s offensive to people to think that the worst of sinners can be saved by grace and by grace alone, while someone who has much to commend him maybe would not be saved. The way of the cross is offensive, just as this act was offensive, probably, to these people.
It humbles man and it glorifies God. This was a humbling for this man to receive this, but it showed that the work was only of the power of Jesus. Spurgeon, in one of his sermons about this, said if Jesus had pulled out a vial of some liquid, you know, maybe anointing oil or something like that, and he had anointed the man’s eyes with oil, everybody would have said, “Give me the anointing oil,” right? The oil would have been the miraculous thing. But the way Jesus did it, the only person who could receive glory from it was Jesus himself.
(b) Not only was it offensive, it was intensely personal. This is an intimate act. Jesus spits, and he makes the mud, and then he smears it on the person’s eyes. It’s a very personal, intimate act. It’s intimate from Jesus, it’s intimate to the man.
Listen, salvation is always intensely personal. It’s always Christ’s blood and righteousness washing your sins, your particular sins. It is always the application of his Spirit, his healing touch, to your sins, your maladies, your sorrows and woes. It’s personal. It involves you personally realizing your need for grace, you personally acknowledging that you’re a sinner, that you’ve sinned in these particular ways. It’s not just the general confession, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner,” it’s, “Lord, be merciful to me, the sinner, because I have sinned in these particular ways.” It’s a personal thing, and until you’ve received salvation personally, until you’ve trusted Christ personally, until you’ve had the application to your eyes, there hasn’t really been salvation.
(c) This is also an act of new creation. Many of the church fathers, when they studied this passage, they connected it to Genesis 2:7, where we read that “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground,” and here Jesus spits into the dirt, and out of the dust of the ground makes this paste to put on this man’s eyes, so as to create the faculty of sight. It’s an act of new creation. Again, it’s displaying the power, the supernatural power, of Jesus Christ.
(2) But what about the man himself? What does Jesus require of the man, and what is this man’s experience? I want you to see three things here.
(a) The first thing we see is believing submission. In verse 7, after Jesus does this, it says (at the end of verse 7), “So he went and washed and came back seeing.” This is literally blind obedience. He’s still blind, but he does what Jesus says.
Can you imagine what must have been going through his mind? I mean, he’s been blind all his life. He’s never seen a ray of light, he’s never seen a color, he’s never seen a person’s face. It’s not something that he had and then he’s lost; he’s never had it at all. No doubt they tried many things. He’s probably seen physicians, he’s probably tried many things over the years. Nobody’s ever been able to help him. And here’s this man, Jesus, who does this ridiculous thing, mud over his eyes, and says, “Now go wash in this particular pool.”
He has to be thinking, “Will this really work?” But maybe hope is starting to well up in his heart. “Maybe, just maybe.” What is he thinking those steps from the temple or Jerusalem, or wherever he is, to this pool? But he does it. He does it. He obeys Jesus. He does what Jesus says, trusting that Jesus’s word is going to work.
Now, he did exactly what Jesus said. He could have washed somewhere else, but he goes to this particular pool and he does it at this particular time. He doesn’t just go wash at the nearest pool; he does what Jesus says. So there is obedience here; there’s submission.
(b) And then, the second thing we see here is costly confession. So, when we read through this passage you might have noticed that there are three interrogation scenes, where the Pharisees call - they’re trying to figure out, “What’s going on here? How is this man who was born blind, how is it that he’s now seeing?” They first of all think it’s not the man. “It has to be somebody else!” So they even bring the parents in, right? These three interrogation scenes.
When they finally bring the man back the second time, verses 24 through 34, you can see the ridicule that they begin to heap on him, the scorn, and they excommunicate him. They cast him out. He gets kicked out of church, right? It’s a synagogue, but it’s like he’s getting kicked out of church. He’s getting kicked out of his community because of his confession of Jesus.
Listen. When Jesus Christ does a work of salvation and grace in your life, it’s always going to cost something. It will cost something. You won’t get kicked out of our church, I promise you that, but you might lose relationship with a family member, you might lose part of your community, you might lose opportunity in the world, you might lose the esteem of someone. Obedience to Christ will be costly. Confessing Christ will be costly, and it was for this man.
But it’s greatly compensated.
(c) Look at the third thing here. There is a growing perception of who Jesus is. It’s really interesting; as you read through the passage, there are four statements the man makes about Jesus. In verse 11 he just says, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’” “The man called Jesus.”
When they ask him, “Who is this man? Tell us more about Jesus,” in verse 17 he says, “He’s a prophet.” So now it’s more than just “the man called Jesus,” “he’s a prophet.” Here’s someone who’s sent from God. In verse 33 he defends it. “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
But then, finally, when he meets Jesus at the end of the chapter, Jesus says, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” and he says, “Lord, who is he, that I may believe?” and Jesus says, “You’re speaking to him.”
Look at the man’s confession in verse 38. He says, “Lord, I believe,” and then he falls down and he worships Jesus. There’s a growing perception. Jesus is growing more clear to him.
Do you remember Lucy in - is it Prince Caspian, one of the Narnia novels? — when she encounters Aslan, she says, “Aslan, you’re bigger.” And it’s not so much that Aslan is bigger, it’s that Lucy’s perception is changing, and Aslan is growing as her perception grows.
Well, that’s how it is in the Christian life. Listen: is Jesus more precious to you now than when you first believed? Do you see more of his beauty now, more of his glory now? Do you love him more now than when you first became a Christian? That’s normal Christian growth. That’s what healthy, spiritual progress looks like, a growing perception of Christ. I’m understanding more of who he is, I’m loving him more, I’m worshipping him more. If that’s not happening, you need to go back to fundamentals and remember who Jesus is and what he’s done and ask for the work of his Spirit in restoring spiritual sight to your life.
I mentioned John Newton at the beginning, who wrote this wonderful hymn, “Amazing Grace.” We’re going to sing it in just a moment. John Newton is a man, if you know his story, he was a slaver, he was a slave trader, he was in the slave trade. He was buying and selling African people for money. God was merciful to him, God saved him, God changed him, and he never got over his salvation. He came to grow in his appreciation, his love for Jesus more and more, but always with a deep humility in his life.
John Newton left behind an amazing wealthy of both hymns and of letters. If you want to get nourished in your spiritual life, buy the Letters of John Newton and read them. I just want to read you an excerpt from a letter, as we draw to a close. He wrote this to a friend.
He said, “May you have an increasing knowledge of his person [Christ’s person], his character and offices, that beholding his glory in the gospel glass,” the gospel mirror, “you may be changed into his image, drink into his Spirit, and be more conformable to him. The highest desire I can form for myself or my friends is that he may live in us and we may live in him and for him and shine as lights in the dark world. To view him by faith as living, dying, rising, reigning, interceding, and governing for us will furnish us with such views, prospects, motives, and encouragements as will enable us to endure any cross, to overcome all opposition, to withstand temptation, and to ‘run in the way of [his] commandments with an enlarged heart.’”
What Newton is saying is that the more you see Jesus, the more clearly you perceive him, the more you grow in spiritual insight, the larger he becomes to you, the more it will affect you in all of the practical ways of your Christian life that you know you need to change. You’ll be able to suffer better, you’ll be able to endure and escape temptation better, you’ll be able to obey better. All of it flows from a larger vision of Jesus, from seeing him more clearly, a growing perception of him. So what we need is our eyes opened, the eyes of our hearts enlightened, as Paul prays in Ephesians chapter 1. We need a vision of the glory of Christ. We need a divine and supernatural light imparted to our souls so that we will see the light that Jesus is.
Has that happened to you this morning? If that’s never happened, I want to encourage you today to turn to Christ in faith and pray a simple prayer and just say, “Lord, open my eyes. I’m blind, I don’t see it.” You might even be skeptical, you might even be cynical, and you might even just be thinking, “I just don’t see it. I see these people singing, I know that some people are benefiting from this, but I don’t really get it.” Well, pray the cynic’s prayer, pray the skeptic’s prayer, and say, “Lord, if you’re there, open my eyes.” Ask Jesus to do something.
It may be that you’re a Christian this morning and you have seen it, but you’ve left your first love. When I ask this question, Is Jesus more precious to you now than he was when you first believed? there’s a piercing conviction in your heart and you realize you’ve drifted. If that’s the case, would you ask for renewal, would you ask for your eyes to be opened again, anew, afresh, a fresh vision of Christ. Ask him to come and open your eyes.
Let’s pray together.
Father, we thank you for the amazing grace of Jesus Christ that has saved us from our sins, that has opened our blind eyes so that we could see Jesus. This morning we acknowledge our need for fresh vision, for renewed vision, for our eyes to be opened continually, again and again. We pray that you would do that, that you would open the eyes of our hearts that we might see Jesus clearly, that we would perceive his beauty, his glory, his majesty, his love for us.
Lord, some of us are struggling right now in the midst of really difficult suffering, and the key for us in enduring suffering, and not even just enduring but actually thriving through these difficulties, is to perceive that there is divine goodness beneath us and all around us, that there is divine purpose in the trials that we face. Lord, I pray for that this morning for all who need it.
Lord, as we come to the table, the Lord’s table, this morning, I do pray that we would taste and see that you are good, that as we take the elements, the bread and the juice, we would, with the eyes of faith, with the senses of faith, see and lay hold of Jesus as our own personal Savior and Lord. Lord, we have personal sins, particular sins, our own maladies, we have our own problems, and the redemption we need, the salvation we need is personal, is for us. Would you assure us this morning at the table that Christ is indeed the bread of life, that Christ has indeed shed his blood for us, that his work is sufficient to cover and to cleanse and to wash us from our sins, and that we are accepted through faith in him? Draw near to us in these moments, be glorified in our hearts today, we pray in Jesus’s name, Amen.