Here’s my sermon from this past Sunday. You can check out the audio here.
Knowing the Light Who Shines in Our Hearts | John 9:1-41, pt. 2 | 12.09.18
Last week, I told the story of Jake Gonzales, a former Karis member many of you here know. If you missed it, I talked about how this healthy young man in his early 20s ended up in the ICU. One minute he’s moving to L.A. to help plant a church. The next, he’s in heart failure and nearly dead.
I shared how the Lord has a purpose for our pain. He also gives us hope in the midst of those trials. We saw that in John 9, verses 1 through 41. We’ve seen that in Jake’s life. The Lord ended up providing a new heart for our friend. And now He is using our brother for His glory. Jake is still teaching us - and many others - how best to love, serve, and honor folks like him, people with disabilities.
But a few years before, Jake received a different kind of heart transplant. He was a student here on the Mizzou campus. He was addicted to painkillers. He was trapped in sin and selfishness. God sent someone who shared the good news of Jesus with Jake. And His life was changed. God yanked out his heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh. Jake had been blind. Now he could see. And that’s how our brother came to be a part of our lives.
That’s also what we see happen with this blind man Jesus meets here in John 9. Today, we’ll spend a second week in this passage. But we’ll take it from another angle. Yes, Jesus makes a blind man see. And that miracle points ahead to the final day. To that time when suffering will be no more and our bodies will be made whole.
But this is also one of the seven “signs” of the gospel of John. These are miracles Jesus does that point to His glory. They call us to believe in response. But they also point below the surface to something deeper. Here, Jesus isn’t just dealing with suffering. He’s giving us a picture of salvation.
And we see this: the light of the world shines into the darkness of our hearts, bringing power and joy.
The Power of Jesus
The first thing we see here is the power of Jesus. We see Jesus give this blind man sight. Now that’s some power. Again, the sign points to something. Here it gives us a picture of our sin and of our salvation.
Take first our sin. Verse 1 says Jesus passes by and sees a “man blind from birth.” You know, that’s all of us. Yes, we may be able to see with our eyes here. But we’re unable to see with our hearts. That’s our state apart from Christ. Every one of us. Listen to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4 with me.
2Cor. 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
We’re blind. We’re in darkness. We can’t see Jesus. We can’t see His glory. As Ephesians 2 puts it, we’re “dead in our trespasses and sins.” We’re “following the prince of the power of the air.” We can’t see God. Now the blind man here illustrates this - where we all are apart from grace.
But so do the Pharisees, right? They’re blind to the glory of Jesus. They can’t see who Jesus is. They don’t want to see. Not at all. The light of His glory hurts their eyes!
They can’t see. They’re blind. Blind to His identity. They say He’s not from God. They don’t know where He’s come from. They call Him a sinner in this passage. They can’t recognize Him for who He is.
They’re also blind to His works. They deny Christ has done this good deed. They try to conjure up bad deeds they think Jesus has done. He doesn’t keep the Sabbath. He doesn’t keep the laws of Moses.
There all of this glory is right in front of their eyes, and they just can’t see. They just won’t see. They’re focused on their works - their record. That obstructs their view. They’re focused on their identity - their reputation. Their image is completely in the way. They’re filled with pride. Therefore, they can’t see Christ. This is all of us. We’re blind. Our hearts are dark.
But here’s the difference between physical and spiritual blindness. Listen to Paul Tripp:
“Because spiritual blindness carries with it one component that makes it all the more dangerous and hard to deal with. Unlike physical blindness, where you know you are blind, spiritually blind people are blind to their blindness. They are blind, but they think they see quite well. Spiritual blindness happens at the intersection of the deceptiveness of sin and the delusion of self-knowledge…
Sin renders us blind too. Sin makes us all too self-assured and self-reliant too. Sin causes us to see ourselves as okay when we’re not okay. Sin causes us to resist correction and to be offended and defensive when we are confronted. Sin makes us activate our inner lawyers and rush to our defense when it would be better for us to listen, consider, and be willing to confess.” (Paul Tripp)
This is what we see in the Pharisees in this passage. They keep asking this formerly blind man the same questions over and over until the guy snaps. Who is this guy? What did He do to you? We’re the same way. We’re under the power of sin. And we can’t get out.
Imagine a prisoner of war. He’s been trapped behind enemy lines for so long. He’s so sick and cold and hungry, he doesn’t even remember where he is or how he got there. The walls are a yard thick. Guards with guns are stationed everywhere. He’s not even looking to get out. But if he tried, he’d be so outnumbered, and he’d be too weak. He wouldn’t stand a chance. What’s his only hope? Rescue from the outside. And only by a power so strong that it can overwhelm the power holding him inside.
That’s what we also see in this chapter, right? Not just our sin, our blindness. Our salvation. A greater power that will set us free.
See second, then, our salvation. We talked about this last week - maybe why Jesus does it this way - but Jesus spits on the ground and anoints the man’s eyes with that mud. He tells the man to “go, wash in the pool of Siloam,” in verse 7.
The guy does what he’s told, and he comes back seeing. Notice again the translation of that place called “Siloam.” It means “sent.” Jesus is the one sent from God. He comes in that manger and dies on that cross and rises from the tomb. Yes, to resurrect our bodies one day. But also to give our souls new life again.
And that’s what this miracle again points to. You’ve maybe heard salvation illustrated this way. Imagine you’re out in Stephens Lake. You’ve having trouble keeping afloat. You begin to drown, and Jesus throws out a life buoy. He yells at you, “Grab ahold!” You reach up, see that ring there, and you grab on. You hold tight. He pulls you to safety.
That’s the wrong image. Here’s the biblical one. You’ve sunk to the bottom of the lake. Water has filled your lungs. Your heart has stopped beating. You’re dead. You can’t grab on to any rope. You need Jesus to dive down, drag you on the shore, and speak words of life over you. Not even resuscitation. You need total resurrection. You see, the guy here doesn’t need glasses. He needs new eyes. And we need new hearts. Just like Jake. We need a heart transplant.
Look over again with me at 2 Corinthians 4. And hear what the Lord does in our salvation. Verse 6: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” He’s shone in our hearts! His love has illuminated the darkness. By His grace. He has let us see!
Or, as Ephesians has put it, He has made us alive in Christ. Look at chapter 2 with me again.
Eph. 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
Eph. 2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
Eph. 2:6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Eph. 2:7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
That’s what the Lord does for us, Karis. So mind-blowing and ultra-beautiful. Soon we’ll get to John 11. You may have heard what happens there. Christ’s friend Lazarus dies. Now Jesus could have kept him from dying in the first place. He could have healed him. Spared him from the whole ordeal. But the Lord waits. And He shows up after Lazarus has been in the tomb for several days. And He stands outside the tomb, and he yells out, “Lazarus, come out.” And that’s what the man does. He walks out. He’s raised from death to life. That’s what God does for us in salvation.
Now you might say: well, Kevin, don’t you have to believe? Of course! Is it God’s work or ours? Is it both? But here’s the real question: what comes first? See the man here believes down in verse 38. He worships. But not until Jesus does His work in Him. He touches His eyes. But more than that He heals His heart.
Yes, we see the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” But only after He shines into our hearts. There Paul is using creation language, right? He’s going back to the beginning. Just as the Lord created light out of darkness, back in the very beginning, He does it now in us. We become new creations! Now that’s amazing grace!
Last week, we talked about God’s sovereignty over everything - including suffering. Today, we’re looking at God’s sovereignty - His rule - over even our salvation. He’s in control - completely - even over that. Ultimately, it’s His work. He alone is the Savior. He opens our hearts. He raises us up from the dead. And He alone gets the glory.
Ask the Lord to help you see. Own the fact that you may be blind. That’s what the Bible says is true of all of us. We’re all captives to sin. So don’t dig in your heels like these Pharisees. Hear these words from Jesus in verses 39-41.
John 9:39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
John 9:40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?”
John 9:41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
Jesus elsewhere says judgment isn’t why He came. He came to save. But that’s certainly an effect of His coming. The soft would get softer. The hard would get harder.
We also all seek after salvation. And we try to save ourselves - like the Pharisees here. We point to our record. Our hearts are full of pride. Let’s not end up judged, as they were. Jesus came to save us from that.
Let’s reach up our hands in faith. See who He is. God in the flesh. Redeemer of the world. See what He’s done. Dying on the cross for our sin. Raised to life on our behalf. Trust Him.
If you’re here, and who don’t know who Jesus is - if you don’t know what to think about Him at all - it may be the Lord has you here today to see for the first time. You can see His shape. But you can’t make out His face. You can’t see His glory. Call out to Him today. There is so much power in the Lord Jesus Christ. Power to rescue you. Resurrect you.
And if you already know and trust in Jesus, I want to encourage you to rejoice in what He’s done. That He has given you eyes to see. And that leads to my next point.
The Joy of Jesus
Second, see the joy of Jesus here. That is, the joy Jesus brings in us. We see it in this man who’s granted sight.
Today, maybe when you get home, pull out your phone and Youtube the following: “people who hear for the first time.” Or “people who see for the first time.” This week, I saw a video shared repeatedly of someone seeing color for the first time. Watch those. They are so moving. And what happens when people hear or see? They’re overjoyed. They cry tears of joy. Don’t they?
Can you imagine what happened with this man here in John 9? Verse 7 says, “He went and washed and came back seeing.” This man born blind. Imagine the tears. The joy. We see a couple of things happen here as a result.
We see first worship. We touched on this a few minutes ago. We see it at the end of this narrative. Read with me verses 35-38 again.
John 9:35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
John 9:36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
John 9:37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”
John 9:38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
Now there’s no doubt initially joy just in the healing. Nothing wrong with that. But gradually it shifts toward the healer. Right?
It’s easy to miss. But there is a progression in this story. In verse 11, the man calls Him Jesus. In verse 17, He labels Him a prophet. In verse 22, He’s called the Christ. In verse 33, the man says Jesus is “from God.” In verse 35, Jesus is called the “Son of Man” - in other words, the Messiah. In verse 38, He’s called the Lord.
Here’s what’s happening. As we move through this narrative, this man begins to recognize - and we do with him - who this man Jesus really is. And in this man’s heart and mind, Christ is more and more being lifted up. And as that happens, his knees are more and more going down. He’s bringing glory to Jesus. He’s finding joy in Him. He recognizes Him. And He exalts Him. Even more, He exults in Jesus.
Later in John, in John 15, verse 11, Jesus says these famous words: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” That’s what the Lord offers us in Jesus. Full joy. Forever joy. What Psalm 16:11 so beautiful describes: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
The Lord calls us to recognition. He calls us to exaltation. He wants us to see Him as who He is and worship. And it’s there that we’ll find joy. But there’s no joy in the path of the Pharisees. So sad to see them in this passage - scrambling to discredit Jesus, fighting to vindicate themselves. But that’s where most of us also live. It’s hard work to keep up our image. It’s not easy to defend our record.
You may not of thought of this, but we’re all worshipping. It’s not if, it’s what. That’s not just something religious people do. It’s all of us. We put our hope, our joy, in other things. But those things won’t really satisfy, friends. Not like Jesus will. Full, forever joy. He’s better than a family that all gets along. He’s better than a completed shopping list. He’s better than that new gadget under the tree. He’s better than having someone next to you by that tree. He’s better than everything. The Lord calls us here to see Jesus and worship. And there, and only there, we’ll find true and lasting joy.
Take second, though, witness. See what the joy of Jesus does through the life and lips of this man. Think of those people that hear for the first time - that first see color. What do you think’s going to happen? Out of joy, they’re going to tell everyone they see. Hear these words from Lesslie Newbigin. They’re so challenging.
“There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command. It has been customary to speak of ‘the missionary mandate.’ This way of putting the matter is certainly not without justification, and yet it seems to me that it misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel. If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact? The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving.” (Lesslie Newbigin)
Did you hear that? An explosion of joy! That’s what we see in this man here. That’s what the Lord wants to see in us. But let’s look at this man here. Notice his testimony. He comes right back after getting healed. His neighbors ask him what happened. He responds in verse 11 out of joy. He gets quizzed by the Pharisees, and in verses 15-17 he tells his story to them.
They then come back to the man - after they’ve spoken to his parents. The Pharisees try to get him to take it all back. They say, in verse 24, “Give glory to God,” which means, “‘Fess up dude. Admit your lie.” They say, “We know that this man is a sinner.” Our guy here responds, with boldness, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” What a response! And those are some pretty famous words now, huh?
The Pharisees keep asking him questions until he starts to lose his cool. He says, in verse 27, “I keep telling you this stuff over and over. “Do you also want to become his disciples?” Now that’s too much for the religious leaders to take. They go off some more. And, verse 34 says, “they cast him out.” They kick him out of the synagogue. And that leads to something pretty important we need to notice. Going alongside this man’s testimony is trouble.
There’s division we see here in this story. Some people love his testimony. They’re excited about what they’re hearing. Some people hate it. But this man chooses faith over fear. The joy is worth all the trouble to him. Right?
Now you may notice this is in contrast to his parents. They won’t answer the Pharisees’ questions here. Verse 22 tells us why. They choose fear over faith. But their son is filled with courage. Who this Jesus is and what He’s done for Him just explodes right out of the guy!
Now we’re all witnessing, too, aren’t we? The joy just comes out. Have you thought about this? We’re all witnessing to something. We’re all excited about something. And it’s definitely coming out. Maybe the new Netflix series you’re watching. Maybe it’s a new recipe you just tried out. Maybe it’s your favorite restaurant. No doubt you are sharing your joy. But the gospel is a way bigger deal. And it should result in a way bigger explosion.
Sometimes we’re even willing to suffer for those things. A candidate running for office. An issue on the ballot we’re excited about. A cause we believe in strongly. And I’m not saying those things can’t be important. They can. But the gospel is worth so much more. Who Jesus is and what He’s done is the most important thing in the world.
Telling our testimony is what Jesus calls us to do. Going through trouble is where we’re headed if we do. But all of that joy is worth it, friends. We see that in this man here in John 9. We see the joy of Jesus.
Power and Joy for Today
So we’ve seen the power of Jesus here. We’ve seen the joy of Jesus. As we close this morning, I want to leave you with two words of challenge for each.
Let’s begin with the power of Jesus. If you believe that it’s the Lord who makes the blind see, I want to first call you to prayer this morning. Prayer. Think of those people who don’t know Jesus. If you believe that it’s God who alone can raise them from the dead, ask Him to do it. Some say that - if we believe God’s in charge of salvation - it’ll make us pray less. I say it should make us pray more. That’s because He’s our only hope. Ask God to work in the hearts of your friends and family.
Back in the early days of Karis, we were meeting back in our home. A college student brought his mom to worship with him one day. She shared something she was thankful for that morning. A friend of hers had just become a Christian that week. And it’s someone she had prayed for for 41 years. 41 years.
Second, if we believe in the power of Jesus, that should encourage us toward patience. God can work. He will do it on His timeline. There’s no one who’s too far gone. There’s no one that can’t be reached. We should keep sharing and keep praying. With patience, friends.
Let’s take now the joy of Jesus. If you believe Jesus is who He says He is - if you believe He’s done what we see in Scripture - I want to encourage you - and me - first toward passion. Now you could say, “That’s easier said than done. How can I just choose to be passionate?” I get that. The answer, of course, is to pray. To ask the Lord to revive us. For Him to move our hearts to where they explode in joy for Him.
But there’s more to think about. Timothy Keller, in an article about prayer, shares this helpful observation. He compares it to those that prepared sacrifices in the Old Testament.
“A good image for seeking the fullness of the Spirit is the concept of ‘building a life altar.’ In the Old Testa- ment, an altar was built and a sacrifice placed on it, and then God sent his fire to burn up the sacrifice (e.g., 1 Kings 18). This is a great illustration of the dynamics of personal revival and spiritual renewal. Paul uses it when he tells us to make ourselves a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1–2). We cannot create spiritual renewal— we can only prepare the altar and the sacrifice. Only God can send the fire.” (Timothy Keller)
What’s His point? We get ourselves ready. Through getting in His word. Getting on our knees in prayer. Gathering with His people. Trying to root out any known sins. And we pray. In His strength, we try to ready the sacrifice. We ask the Lord to bring down fire from heaven.
Second, if we embrace the gospel and see it as the only lasting source of joy, let’s commit ourselves to perseverance. Let’s be determined to share the joy we have in Jesus with those around us. Let’s commit to not let any suffering get in the way of that.
Ultimately that only comes from God. Only He can work that perseverance in us. But He uses those around us. We need each other in our weakness. We need encouragement from one another in our pain. I need you to say, “Don’t give up. It’s worth it.” You need me to say, “Keep telling your story. Keep telling His.”
We’ve got an amazing opportunity in this new building, in this new neighborhood. But it would be so easy to get comfortable, to get lazy. And it’s our tendency to worry about what others think, to choose fear over faith. Karis, there’s so much joy in Jesus. Let’s share His love with each other - and with those around us - no matter what happens to us.
So because of His power, let’s commit ourselves to prayer and patience. Because of His joy, let’s long for passion. Let’s commit to perseverance. I want to close with one more challenge - maybe one more for those who don’t quite know what to make of Jesus today.
I want to challenge you to consider the possibilities. We’re here during Advent. We hear these Christmas carols. We see these images. Maybe you’re not sure what to think. But open yourself up to the possibility that it could all be true. I love these words from Sara Groves, in her song “It’s true.”
In your heart you know it's true
Though you hold no expectation
In the deepest part of you
There's an open hesitation
But it's true, kingdoms and crowns
A God who came down to find you
It's true angels on high
Sing through the night, Alleluia
Heard it told you, think it's odd
The whole thing fraught with complication
The play begins with Baby God
And all His blessed implications
But it's true, kingdoms and crowns
A God who came down to find you
It's true angels on high
Sing through the night, Alleluia
Maybe it is all true. Would you consider that possibility with me this morning? There’s power to change your life. There’s joy found in Jesus alone.
There’s a star shining. Look up. Reach out. The light of the world shines into the darkness of our hearts, bringing power and joy. He makes the blind to see. What amazing grace! Let’s pray.