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Daily Readings from the Life of Christ
By John MacArthur
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2010 John MacArthur
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The Purpose Of One Man's Blindness
"It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him." —John 9:3
There is not always a direct connection between suffering and personal sin, as Jesus' statement to the apostles asserts. At another time Christ instructed that neither those Galileans killed by Pilate nor those who died as the tower of Siloam fell (Luke 13:1–5) suffered because they were worse sinners than others, as His listeners had arrogantly assumed. Instead, our Lord pointed to those events as a warning that all sinners face death, and when it arrives they will perish unless they repent and trust Him.
Like Job, the real reason the blind man suffered his affliction was "so that the works of God might be displayed in him." In his commentary on John's gospel, F. F. Bruce gives this insight:
This does not mean that God deliberately caused the [man] to be born blind in order that, after many years, his glory should be displayed in the removal of the blindness; to think so would again be an aspersion on the character of God. It does mean that God overruled the disaster of the [man's] blindness so that, when [he] grew to manhood, he might, by recovering his sight, see the glory of God in the face of Christ, and others, seeing this work of God, might turn to the true Light.
In looking for reasons and answers to your suffering, where does your mind usually run? Are most of your conclusions biblical, or are they shaped more by your feelings and others' opinions? How could you foresee God receiving glory from the situations you're facing right now?
"We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world." —John 9:4–5
Jesus' top priority was clearly to "work the works of Him who sent Me." Whereas the apostles wanted to look back and analyze why and how the man was born blind, the Lord looked ahead and eagerly desired to place God's power on display for the man's benefit. (Jesus' use of "we" includes the apostles and all Spirit- empowered believers in the divine mission.)
The phrase "as long as it is day" implies further urgency regarding ministry. It refers to the few months Jesus had left with the apostles on earth. After that the darkness of His departure (cf. John 12:35) would overtake them and they'd be unable to minister again until Pentecost.
During His earthly ministry, our Lord was most certainly "the Light of the world." And after His death He did not stop being that Light, because the apostles by His power continued His ministry (Matt. 28:18–20).
Christ's instructions to the apostles apply to all believers. They should serve God with a sense of urgency, "making the most of [their] time, because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:16). The Puritan Richard Baxter wrote, "I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men."
What keeps you from sensing an urgency to live with deep conviction for Christ? What keeps you from making His priorities the same ones that drive your own daily schedule? Which of these hindrances to full surrender could stand to be completely eliminated from your life?
Jesus' Power Over Blindness
When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" ... So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. —John 9:6–7
Jesus had previously used His saliva to heal a deaf and mute man (Mark 7:33) and a blind man (8:23); but here is the only time He made clay with His saliva. Ancient interpreters have said making clay symbolizes Christ's creating a new, functioning pair of eyes to replace the blind ones (cf. Gen. 2:7). But Leon Morris wisely comments, "Jesus performed His miracles with a sovereign hand and He cannot be limited by rules of procedure. He cured how He willed."
As well as representing water sent into the pool from the Gihon spring, "Siloam" symbolized the blessings God sent to Israel. Here it is the Father's ultimate blessing to the nation: Jesus Christ, God's Sent One (Mark 9:37; Luke 4:18; John 12:44–45, 49).
The blind man obediently heeded Jesus' command and washed in the pool, which gave him sight. His response represents the obedience of true saving faith (Rom. 16:26; Heb. 5:9), which the man would soon demonstrate. This healing is also a living parable, showing Christ's ministry as the Light shining into a spiritually dark world (see John 1:5).
Have you put limits on God's activity, expecting Him to work only in certain ways? What do you run the risk of missing when you try to erect fences and boundaries around God's plans for your life? How do you keep a careful, biblical mind-set without leaking over into rigid legalism?
Perplexity over the Larger Meaning
Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, "Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?" ... So they were saying to him, "How then were your eyes opened?" —John 9:8, 10
The blind man's healing caused sensation and much confusion for the people. Some had to ask if it was really that man, whereas others were certain it was. But other skeptical people found it easier to believe in mistaken identity than in a miraculous healing.
The man himself tried to eliminate the people's confusion by briefly summarizing that Jesus placed saliva-moistened clay on his eyes, told him to wash at Siloam, after which he received his sight. This prompted the people to wonder where such an amazing miracle worker was; however, the man could not tell them, being unable to recognize Him (see vv. 11–12).
Our Lord's healing of this blind man wonderfully illustrates the salvation process. The man born blind would not have received sight (Rom. 8:7) had Jesus not reached out to him. And in salvation, God's Spirit must reach out and draw spiritually blind sinners to redemption (John 6:44, 65). Just as the man was healed only when he obeyed Jesus' order to wash at Siloam, so also God saves sinners only when they sincerely embrace the truth of the gospel (Rom. 1:5; cf. 2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).
Who in your life continues to show many of the telltale signs of spiritual blindness, unable to see truth when it's staring them in the face? Commit to praying steadfastly for them throughout this coming year, asking God to open their eyes of faith so they can see what they've been missing.
Unbelief Is Inconsistent
Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, "This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath." But others were saying, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And there was a division among them. —John 9:16
The Pharisees' statement, "This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath," reveals their biased approach to the situation. They thought Jesus had broken the Sabbath, not because He had violated scriptural regulations but because He had ignored their extrabiblical legalisms.
Why did Jesus deliberately irritate the Jewish leaders by violating their Sabbath rules? Primarily He did so because of His divine authority as Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5). Second, He wanted to show how unnecessary and burdensome such man-centered regulations were on the people. All the legalistic, trivial rules had perverted God's design for a weekly day of rest and gratitude to God. By contrast, Jesus noted, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).
It seemed obvious to the sabbatarian Pharisees that Jesus could not be Messiah if He did not strictly keep their kind of Sabbath (cf. Deut. 13:1–5). Other Jews, however, were not as easily convinced, countering the first group's logic with reasoning of their own: since Jesus opened blind eyes as only God can do, He must be from God. But there was still a division among the Jews (cf. John 7:40–43), revealing unbelief's faithless inconsistency.
How can you tell when a staunch stance for righteousness is more about controlling other people than defending God's Word? What are some of our other reasons and rationales for holding arbitrary standards over others' heads, equating compliance with our rules as Christian character?
Unbelief Is Stubborn
The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, and questioned them. —John 9:17–19a
There was no doubt that Jesus had miraculously healed the blind man—he was the physical proof standing before the Pharisees. But they stubbornly refused to accept the evidence and purposely remained unconvinced of the truth. The Jews thus were like that "perverse generation, sons in whom is no faithfulness" (Deut. 32:20).
That the stubborn Pharisees would ask the man again what he thought of Jesus reveals their continued confusion and unbelieving scorn toward the beggar. The man's confident identification of Jesus, "He is a prophet," proves he believed the reality that the spiritually blind Pharisees refused to: Christ was sent from God.
The Jews essentially wanted the man to join them in their unbelief of Jesus' claims. They urged him to disingenuously "Give glory to God" (John 9:24) but not to Jesus, who was in fact God's Son and Himself worthy of glory. Such an incomplete confession would equal agreement with the Jewish leaders' obstinate conviction that Jesus was a sinner and not empowered by God (cf. 8:52), but such an attitude merely showed the stubbornness of unbelief.
How often are you accused of stubbornness—if not in unbelief, perhaps in other areas of life? Even if you don't see a stubborn streak in yourself, what of value could you likely learn from this rebuke?
Unbelief Is Irrational
They reviled him and said, "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 is from." —John 9:28–29
The healed man was undoubtedly frustrated by the Pharisees' irrational bias and repeated interrogation of him. Thus he "answered them, 'I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again?'" (v. 27). Realizing their animosity toward Jesus, the formerly blind man sardonically asked the Jews if their repetitive questions concerning our Lord meant that they wanted to learn more and therefore also "become His disciples."
To the Pharisees, the man's courageous response was insolent, and they angrily and piously answered him by retreating to the safety of their alleged loyalty to Moses. After all, they asserted, "God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from." The healed man's next rejoinder completely exposed the Pharisees' lack of faith: "Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes." Christ did what only God's power would enable someone to do—He healed the man's congenital blindness and created eyes with vision—yet the Jewish leaders professed ignorance of His origin. Such irrational rejection of the obvious evidence has occurred ever since sinners have heard the gospel and still clung to their unbelief.
One of the grandest qualities of Christian virtue is being able to admit when you're wrong. Are there areas of life that you continue to defend, even when you know you're standing on shaky ground? What shape could your surrender from that position take?
Unbelief Is Insolent
They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?" So they put him out. —John 9:34
They couldn't refute the healed man's logic about Jesus and His healing and, furious that he would lecture to them, therefore the Pharisees insolently piled personal abuse on him. They attacked him disdainfully and sarcastically implied that as one born blind, he or his parents must have committed some horrendous sin. Ironically, now through their insolent words they finally admitted that the man who received sight had indeed been born blind. But this admission did not prevent them from excommunicating him from the synagogue.
We learn from this account, as from other places in the Gospels, that when hardened doubters investigate Jesus' miracles or other supernatural biblical events, they reach only one conclusion. Unless the Holy Spirit opens their eyes, they deny the truth no matter what the evidence. Here the man healed of blindness was living proof of our Lord's divine power, yet the Pharisees tried to deny the undeniable and refute the irrefutable. As Paul later wrote to the Corinthians, "A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Cor. 2:14; cf. John 6:44).
What are some of the most common sources for a person's doubts and hardnesses? Is there much to be gained by getting to know someone well who persists in unbelief, seeing if you can detect the sources of their confusion and blindness? How have you seen a hard heart opened?
Spiritual Sight Comes from God
Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" —John 9:35
Just as the Lord Jesus did in bestowing physical sight to the blind beggar, He seized the initiative in opening the man's spiritual eyes. Rejected by the religious leaders, the man was sought out by the Savior.
If God did not sovereignly reach out to sinners, no one would be saved. Paul summarizes such total inability: "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one" (Rom. 3:10–12; cf. John 6:44, 65; 15:16). Even as the physically blind cannot restore their own sight, neither can the spiritually dead be reborn by their own strength (cf. John 1:12–13; 6:37).
When Jesus found the man, He asked the question "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" using the personal pronoun "you" to stress the man's need to respond. Our Lord confronted the healed man with his crucial need to trust the Messiah as his personal Lord and Savior. And the answer he wants everyone to give is a sincere and unqualified "Yes," which entails repenting of sin, accepting God's forgiveness, and resting by faith in His everlasting redemption.
How attuned are you to the spiritual needs in those you encounter on a regular basis? What are some of the things you would likely pick up if you were predisposed to listening for hunger and thirst in the hearts of your friends, your family members, even total strangers?
Spiritual Sight Responds in Faith
He answered, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?" —John 9:36
The healed man already considered the Lord as sent from God, and he had experienced directly His healing power. Now he implicitly trusted Jesus to lead him to the One in whom he was to place his faith. This clearly illustrates that salvation, though divinely initiated, never occurs apart from a faith response.
Early in His ministry Christ had declared that lost sinners must "repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). The best known gospel verse promises us "that whoever believes in [Jesus] shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16; cf. 1:12; 5:24; 6:40). In His Bread of Life discourse, our Lord affirmed, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life" (6:47; cf. Acts 10:43). When the jailor at Philippi asked Paul and Silas, "'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household'" (Acts 16:30–31).
What happened at Antioch applies to the healed man: "When the Gentiles heard [see Isa. 49:6], they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). God sovereignly chooses those who will be awakened, empowered, and enabled to respond in faith (cf. Eph. 2:8–9).
Excerpted from Daily Readings from the Life of Christ by John MacArthur. Copyright © 2010 John MacArthur. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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