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One Thing I Know

John 9:1-41 NIV

1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

6Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7“Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

8His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

10“How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded.

11He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

12“Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.

13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided.

17Finally they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

18The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19“Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”

20“We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. 23That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

25He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

26Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

27He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

28Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

30The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

34To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

35Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

37Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

39Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

40Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”

41Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

A Different Perspective
The New York Times printed a story yesterday of a local Southern Baptist pastor who had run afoul of local zoning ordinances. It seems that the Rev. Jim Nimmons climbed up on the roof of the First Southern Baptist Church of Catherdral City, and painted the word ETERNITY in giant red block letters right there on the shingles. The town of Cathedral City, which does not actually have a cathedral in it, frowns on rooftop signs, so the pastor has been cited for an illegal sign. Pastor Nimmons has retained legal counsel, and the town of Cathedral City is set for a showdown over the ETERNITY sign. Their complaint is that the city does not allow commercial signs on rooftops. Pastor Nimmons counters that he isn’t selling anything, just trying to get folks to think about eternity and where they might spend it. And, the pastor went so far as to say that, while he didn’t have money to pay the fine, he wouldn’t mind going to jail over the issue. Or, even die for it.

Pastor Nimmons and the town of Cathedral City are looking at the same thing through completely different eyes. And that brings us to our scripture reading today, from John’s gospel the 9th chapter. Now, it’s a long reading, so I’m going to tell you the story and then we’ll read what I believe is the best line in the whole forty-one verses.

Jesus Heals A Man Born Blind
Jesus and his disciples are walking along one day and pass a blind man begging by the side of the road. This man has been blind since birth, and maybe they can tell that by the way his eyes are formed, or by the white opaque orbs where his pupils should be. We don’t know, but it’s obvious to the entire group that this man has been blind from birth, unlike blind Bartimaeus, whom Jesus heals, and who tells Jesus that he wants to see, again.

This blindness isn’t due to sickness, or injury. This blindness is genetic, uncorrectable and irreversible by any logical evaluation. So, the disciples ask Jesus, “Who sinned? This man or his parents that he was born blind?” Well, right there the disciples tell a lot about their theology, don’t they? Here’s what they are assuming:

  1. Birth defects are a sign of God’s punishment.
  2. God might punish an unborn child for the sins of his parents.
  3. God might punish an unborn child for his own future sin (how could he have sinned before birth?)
  4. The disciples see only two options — God is punishing either his sin or his parents.

Jesus corrects their wrong assumptions by giving them a third option:

This has happened so that the work of God could be exhibited in this man’s life.

Then, Jesus adds that he must work while it is day, for the night is coming when no one can work. And, he adds, as long as he is in the world, he is the light of the world. And, that light is about to shine in the darkness of a blind man’s life.

Without asking him if he wants to see, Jesus spits on the ground, makes some mud, and daubs it on the blind man’s eyes. Which I am sure was a surprise to the blind man. Do you think Jesus said, “Sit still, I’m going to put something on your eyes.” We don’t know, but I’m sure Jesus gave him some warning. After the mud, Jesus tells him to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. How’s he going to get there? Does he know where the Pool of Siloam is? Does he have a friend lead him there? We don’t know, but somehow he finds his way to the pool and washes.

Can you imagine the scene as the blind man kneels by the side of the pool of Siloam? He gropes into the air in front of him, feeling for the surface of the water, hearing the splash it makes as others are gathered there. His hand finds the water and he lifts a palmful to his face. Splashing it on his mud-caked eyes, the blind man wipes his hand across his face, only to have the strange sensation that something is different. An experience he has never had, a brightness he has never seen spreads across his face.

He sees the water in front of him, rippling from where his hand has just disturbed it. He sees the shadow outline of something there in the water. It’s him. It’s his own reflection, his features now become clear, distinct, he sees himself for the first time ever.

Thinking this must surely be a dream or a spell or something, he raises his head and looks around. The sounds from others gathered at the pool come to him, but this time the sounds are matched by lips that are moving, feet shuffling down the dusty street, water splashing from overfull water jars carried by young women. And, then it dawns on him. He can see. He takes in the scene of those going about their business nonchalantly, like nothing has changed. But, for him, everything has changed. He can see. He can see people, water jars, clothing, palm trees, dusty streets, stone buildings, little children, vegetables being carried by a woman wearing a very colorful — what color is that? — cloak, followed by two small children with dark, curly hair. He can see sunshine and shadow, dark and light, colors, shades, things moving, things standing still. He can see.

With great restraint, John says, “So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” Came home seeing. Amazing. A miracle. And, how did he come home? Seeing, plus also shouting is my guess. “I can see. I can see you, are you Moishe?” he must have asked his friend. I’m sure when he came home seeing, he also came home shouting.

But, few believed him.

  • “Is this the blind man?” they asked.
  • “No, just looks like him,” others replied.
  • “It’s me, it is me,” he tried to convince them.

Now, people are starting to get scared. “f this is the blind man, then something miraculous has occurred. We can’t explain it. Let’ get him to the Pharisees, they’ll tell us what to make of this,” they must have said to one another. So, they bundle the formerly blind man off to the Pharisees who start asking questions:

  • “What happened to you?”
  • I can see.
  • “Who did this to you?”
  • This man called Jesus.
  • “When did he do this?”
  • Last night.
  • “That was the Sabbath. This Jesus is a sinner because he violated the Sabbath.”
  • “Yes, but how can a sinner open a blind man’s eyes.”
  • “I’m not sure he was blind, let’s find his parents.”

So, the parents are brought to the Pharisees, and the whole game of twenty questions starts all over. His parents have heard that anyone who follows Jesus gets thrown out of the synagogue, so they don’t want much to do with this whole conversation. You would think they would be thrilled that their son who was born blind can see. But, maybe they’ve been shunned their whole lives, at least since the birth of their son, because they have a blind child. A punishment from God for some unknown sin. They aren’t risking it, so they say, “Our son is old enough, he can speak for himself.” Thanks, mom and dad!

So, back to the blind man the Pharisees go. Now this is the part I want us to read.

24A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

25He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

26Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

27He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

28Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

30The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

34To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

Can you imagine that? The Pharisees have it all figured out. Sinners can’t do miracles. Jesus is a sinner because he broke the Sabbath. End of discussion. Get out! Oh, you’re a sinner, too. Get out!

Which leaves the testimony of the formerly blind man hanging heavy in the air — One thing I know. I was blind, but now I see! And that is more important than knowing theology. That’s more important than knowing the law. That’s more important than knowing even Scripture. Knowing what God has done for you.

That is the point of this story. You may think that your knowledge or your expertise or your own piety is all there is to know about God. But the only knowledge of God that really matters is what God has done in your life.

Jesus said, “…this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” This man’s blindness becomes the backdrop so that the work of God could be displayed in his life.

After they kick him out, Jesus goes to look for the formerly blind man himself. And, when he finds him, he reveals himself to the man who was born physically blind, but he remains hidden from those who are spiritually blind.

How Are Our Eyes?
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

If all we see today as we sit in this room is correct doctrine, then we are blind, too. If all we see today as we sit in this sanctuary, is a God who always does only what we expect, then we are blind, too. If all we see today is a God so small that we know his every move, then we are as blind as the Pharisees. If all we see today is a God who is distant from us, then we have not seen God.

Our testimony must be a personal testimony. Our transformation must be complete and total. Our vision must be new and fresh. Our God must be bigger than our own imagination, or we too are blind. With the blind man, we must say, One thing I know. I was blind, but now I see!