Today we are 15 weeks into our conversation on the book of John. John is walking us towards his objective:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
With John’s objective in mind, think of a great class you have had in your life--a class that challenged and shaped you; one that you enjoyed; maybe even one that changed the trajectory of your life. For me, and I would guess for you, that class was not one where you just sat back and passively observed.
Challenging, shaping, trajectory-changing “classes” are not passive, but will ask a lot of you: study, research, reading, listening, processing, writing, memorizing, and applying. The Bible is written to have this level of engagement, and our goal in Sunday conversations is to spur on that level of engagement.
John is pleading for it.
So far as we have walked through this letter we have focused on several themes that John has been building to help us walk towards the objective. One has been the Y in the road of people getting it and not getting it.
(The “IT” is radically complex… so don’t see this simplistic explanation of the Y in the road as a moment to minimize the complexity of John’s objective!)
We’ve seen people seeing Jesus as the Messiah and people not seeing Jesus as the Messiah; people walking in the light and people not walking in the light; people believing, following, listening to Jesus and people not believing, hating and even wanting to kill Jesus.
There are crossroads of following, of believing. And the crossroads are a process not a moment of perfection or completion. John is not just trying to convince; he is walking us in that process.
These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
There is beauty, complexity and value in process. Think about how John would be different if it was just about telling...
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
Verse six would be something like this:
"You need to believe in Jesus. You’d better not question Him. I don’t care if you don’t even know what that means; just do it. You need to do what is expected of you. Just do it. Just believe."
Think of the difference between being able to make your own decisions and being forced into something. Think about the impact that can make.
For you, what is the difference between being told to make a major life change and processing and choosing to make a major life change? What’s different in the emotions or effectiveness?
The “danger” of process is that people can make the wrong decision. (I am being sarcastic.)
“I don’t want people to make the wrong decision, so I will just tell them what to do or believe or think or feel. That will eliminate the danger. Why give people the chance to struggle, when I already have all the answers? I am doing this all because I care.”
Now I am going to make a leap. I am going to assume that in our first dialogue question you processed how choosing and processing belief is an important process as opposed to being just told. But there is the fear that someone will make the wrong decision.
This all takes faith--faith in people, in what is right, in process; faith that grace exists. It is challenging!
I have been thinking about how different Jesus’ interactions would have been if He was on mission to force people to make the right choice.
John has been building the picture of the messy process. There was Nicodemus, a religious authority, who didn’t get it (John 3), but then Samaritans who were outsiders that were marginalized, hated and seen as subhuman, got it (John 4). A royal official who desperately wanted to see his son live was able to see it (John 4) but people who just wanted to see something remarkable so they would have reason to follow Jesus, didn’t see a thing (John 4). The man who was crippled at the pool of Bethesda, who didn’t even know who Jesus was, got it (John 5), but the religious authorities who were looking for the Messiah, became upset and blinded by the fact that the formerly crippled man was carrying his matt on the Sabbath (John 5).
What if Jesus didn’t live out grace? What if Jesus didn’t allow for the wrong decision? What if Jesus didn’t have room for people to process?
Things would be different!
Think about this moment in Luke 9:
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:51-54)
If He was all about the right answers, then the Samaritans here were clearly not getting it. He could have told James and John, “Sure. Call down fire. They deserve it.”
Instead he rebukes John and James. And this concept is all over Scripture.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" (Matthew 5:43-47)
John is exposing, through repetition, the Y in the road of following Jesus and not following Jesus. Today we will see it exposed again in one of my favorite Gospel stories.
As we get a peek into this narrative from an external perspective with retrospect insight it can be easy to look down on people that “don’t get” the obvious.
What are your internal feelings and responses to people that are completely oblivious to how wrong they are?
What are your internal feelings and responses to moments you have realized how completely oblivious you were about being wrong?
Today we look at a story where Jesus, again, does heal a person. But this is not just a story about Jesus healing a person. In fact, the majority of this story is about what happens after Jesus has healed the man.
The reality is that this is a story about the Y in the road, and not just about Jesus doing some cool healing.
So far we’ve had conversation about the difference between being told and choosing, and about others--and ourselves--being oblivious. Keep these in mind as we walk into this story.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
[Seven verses into this chapter and the man is healed. I can feel John saying, yeah yeah, he was healed, mud, sure, but hang on. Healing has happened, but the story is about to begin.]
His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. He 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.”
“Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said.
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore 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.”
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
Then 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.”
They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
“We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But 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.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He 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?”
Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." (John 9:1-41)
We need to process this story. Yes, a man was healed, but the last three-quarters of the story is about getting it and not getting it.
What were some of the differences between this man who was healed and the religious authorities? How did they see and perceive Jesus differently? What was causing them to go down different roads?
Today we are going to end by processing a little ways down the Y in the road.
Think again about this story and this narrative. There are a couple of perspectives (of many) we could read from. We could read and see that the point was the healing. Or we could read and see that the healing was pointing to something. So if the latter is the way we ought to read, what is this moment of healing in the story pointing to? What greater reality?
Why is it so easy for us to live in the world of “getting what you deserve?” You worked really hard for something. You deserve good things. You did that really bad thing. You deserve punishment.
It may be true that we “deserve” certain things. But think about Jesus and His perfection. What did He deserve? If there was anyone ever who deserved good things based on what they did it was Jesus. He literally never deserved punishment for anything done bad on account of his never sinning.
Yet He gave up all of his rights, all of what He deserved, to go through the process of resurrection and our reconciliation to Him.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)
This is powerful.
And we might say, “Yeah well that was Jesus, I can’t live like that. I can’t take on the nature of a servant. You get what you deserve.”
But just the verse before this, Paul says this:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:5)
In your relationships with one another. When someone has done you wrong. Not considering your “goodness”, or the fact that you’re “not as bad as them,” or as something to be used to your advantage. But taking the position of serving. Loving your enemy. Praying for the one who hurts you.
How upside-down is that?
Again, think about the human-ness of Jesus. He chose to be a servant. In His full humanity, He chose to lay down rights and serve even those who hurt and eventually killed Him.
What are some upside-down or backwards things you see in day to day life? In relationships, both deep and not so deep? In faith?
How do you handle upside-down or backwards things in faith? How would you expect the religious authorities to respond to this question / message? How do you respond?
Take It Deeper Questions:
- Read John 9:13-41.
- When have you had an authority figure pull you aside to talk? How did it go? What did you feel before, during, and after?
- Who has been the toughest or what type of person is the toughest to explain faith to? Why?
- What feelings have you felt or do you feel when interacting with religious leaders?
- How are you challenged, encouraged, focused and/or confused by this text?
Bible Reading Plan:
- Exodus 30
- Exodus 31
- Exodus 32
- John 13
- John 14
- John 15