“Then he said, ‘Lord, I believe!’ And he worshiped Him.” John 9:38
Unable to overcome the former blind man’s logic and the evidence of a miracle, the Pharisees “answered and said to him, ‘You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?’ And they cast him out.” (John9:34).They were saying that this man’s blindness was due to specific sins in his life to shame him into silence and discredit his testimony. He could not teach them because he was a sinner and they were righteous. This is the fifth symptom of spiritual blindness – DISTORT THE TRUTH ABOUT THEMSELVES (John 9:34) – they perceived themselves to be superior to this former blind man and to Jesus for that matter. These educated religious leaders were unwilling to learn from a beggar. They continued in their stubborn rejection of Christ despite the overwhelming reasons to believe in Him.
“They cast him out” of the synagogue to silence him and limit his influence of others. This also served as a warning to others who are tempted to confess that Jesus is from God. This is probably the best thing that could have happened to the former blind man because now he would not have to listen to the works-salvation message of the Pharisees. He was now more prepared for his next encounter with Jesus. God can use the rejection of others to make non-Christians more open to hearing the gospel.
Perhaps you have experienced rejection from your spiritual leaders or religious community because of your interest in Jesus Christ. You have interacted with Christians and they have shown you love instead of hatred. In fact, they have shown you more love than the people of your own religion. And this increases your interest in Jesus.
The Bible then tells us that “Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him…” (John 9:35a). Hearing of his excommunication, Jesus sought the former blind man out. Jesus did the seeking since the man had not yet seen Jesus.
Whatever opposition you have experienced for confessing Christ publicly, please know that this is not the last word. Jesus was aware of the former blind’s man’s excommunication, and He sought Him out. Jesus is also aware of your situation, and He seeks you out to reveal more of Himself to you. Your religious community or family may reject you for speaking the truth about Jesus, but Jesus will never reject you when you diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6b).
Now, for the first time, the former blind man could look at the One who restored his sight. Jesus is very direct with the man. “He said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of God?’ ” (John 9:35b). This is the purpose for John’s gospel. John recorded these miracles of Jesus so you “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31). This personal response is necessary for receiving the gift of eternal life.
Many people today believe that Jesus exists and died for them on the Cross and even rose from the dead, but they are not trusting in Him alone for this free gift. They are still depending on their own religious efforts to get them to heaven.
The former blind man “answered and said, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?’ ” (John 9:36). The beggar is willing and ready to believe, but he is ignorant. He wants the Son of God to be identified so he may believe in Him. Jesus identifies Himself as the Messiah-God when He says, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” (John 9:37). The words “seen Him” must have meant a lot to the man who up until that day, had never seen anything.
As soon as the man knew the identity of the Son of God he immediately responds in faith. “Then he said, ‘Lord, I believe!’ And he worshiped Him.” (John 9:38). Jesus used the physical healing of this blind man to prepare him for his spiritual healing. Jesus had once again mixed His own divine DNA (His Word) with humanity (the former blind man) so that an even greater healing could take place. Out of gratitude for his physical healing, the man believed in Christ as the Messiah-God, which meant he now had eternal life (John 20:31)! This is the climax for the man in a process that has been taking place throughout the whole chapter. His insight into the Person of Jesus has been growing:
“The man who is called Jesus” (John 9:11).
“I do not know” (John 9:12).
“He is a prophet” (John 9:17).
“Whether He is a sinner, I do not know” (John 9:25).
The Man who has “disciples” (John 9:27).
“He has opened my eyes” (John 9:30).
“If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:33).
“Lord, I believe” (John 9:38a).
“He worshiped Him” (John 9:38b).
The man has been moving from darkness to the Light. After believing in Jesus, “he worshiped Him.” The word translated “worshiped” (proskunéō) is a compound Greek word meaning “towards (pros) to kiss (kunéō),” which refers “to kissing the ground as you prostrate yourself before a superior, to fall down on your knees to adore someone of superior rank.”The former blind man was honoring Jesus as God by worshiping Him (cf. John 5:23).
There is only one Person in the universe who is worthy of worship (Exodus 20:3-5), and Jesus did not stop this man from worshiping Him. If Jesus is not God, why would He permit the man to worship Him? God told Moses on Mount Sinai, “You shall have no other gods before Me… You shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” (Exodus 20:3, 5). The healed man was bowing down before Jesus to worship Him. When Jesus accepted the man’s worship, He was making a statement that He was God! This confirms what the apostle John said in John 1:1, “And the Word was God.” If Jesus was not God, then He was endorsing idolatry.
The former blind man could no longer worship God in the synagogue, but now he could worship God to His face. And Jesus will never “cast out” of His family those who come to Him in faith (John 6:37). This is the fourth way to overcome spiritual blindness. DEPEND ON CHRIST ALONE FOR ETERNAL LIFE (John 9:35-38). Only Jesus can meet our deepest spiritual needs.
When we believe in Him, He gives us everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:16; 10:28-29) and places us in His family forever (John 1:12; 6:37)! We now have brothers and sisters in Christ from all around the world! And we can begin to see Jesus in a more intimate way as we worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). Christ is our only source of life and acceptance. Let’s enjoy Him!
Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, I praise You for seeking me out when I experienced exclusion from my former religious community. Thank You for revealing my own sinfulness to me at that time so I could see my need for You and Your gift of everlasting life. Thank You for accepting me into Your family the moment I believed in You for eternal life. Thank You for the new brothers and sisters I gained from all around the world at that moment of faith. What a privilege I now have to approach You in worship! The more I focus on You, the more the cares and concerns of this world fade away. Your light dispels the darkness in my own heart and gives me a hope that never ends. With You at the center of my life, I have joy beyond my own understanding! You are more than enough for me!!! Please use me to share Your light with those who are in darkness so they, too, may obtain everlasting hope and life in You. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.
“Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” John 9:32-33
In this article we will discover another symptom and solution concerning spiritual blindness. Since the religious leaders could get nowhere with the healed man’s parents, they decide to talk to the former blind man a second time. “So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, ‘Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.’ ”(John 9:24). In the Pharisees’ minds, since the Law forbid working on the Sabbath and Jesus healed on the Sabbath, Jesus was a sinner. They tell the former blind man to “Give God the glory by telling the truth about Jesus – He is a sinner. Jesus just put clay on your eyes and told you to wash. God is the One who healed you,” they were saying. These religious leaders were trying to pressure everyone to be biased against Jesus by already determining (“we know”) that Jesus was “a sinner.”
According to those who are spiritually blind, to give God glory a person must call Jesus a sinner! How strange indeed is the thinking of the spiritually blind. The former blind man “answered and said, ‘Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.’ ” (John 9:25). The healed man chose not to speculate about Jesus’ sinfulness. Rather than listen to the theological errors of the Pharisees, he focused on the truth. He knew that he had been blind but now he can see. No theological argument could change that. Regardless of a believer’s understanding of the nature of Christ’s Person, he or she can always testify to the way Jesus has changed his or her life.
Sometimes the best way to present the gospel to a non-Christian is through a personal testimony. Arguments for the existence of God and Christian apologetics have their place, but few arguments are as powerful as a personal testimony which describes how God’s grace has transformed one’s life.
“Then they said to him again, ‘What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?’ ” (John 9:26). The Pharisees asked the man to repeat his story again hoping to find a contradiction.Four times in this conversation the religious leaders asked the man how he gained his sight (cf. John 9:10, 15, 19, 26). Spiritually blind people are usually more concerned about the way a miracle was performed than they are about the person who performed the miracle.
“He answered them, ‘I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?’ ” (John 9:27). The relentless questioning of these religious experts exhausted the man’s patience. Realizing they were not wanting to know the truth but to acquire information to use against Jesus, the former blind man sarcastically asks if their request meant that they had a change of heart. Did they want to become His disciples like he had become? This man was not intimidated by these religious leaders because his testimony was based upon the truth.
The Pharisees realized the man saw through their ploy to unjustly condemn Jesus, so they verbally abused (“reviled”) him. “Then they reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples.’ ” (John 9:28). The Pharisees were so proud to think that they were right. Ironically, Jesus was more of a disciple of Moses than these Pharisees were. But the Pharisees could not believe Jesus was from God because in their estimation, Jesus broke God’s Law (actually their laws) when He healed the man on the Sabbath.
They continued, “We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.” (John 9:29).Christ’s critics knew that God spoke to Moses and sent him, but they did not know by whom Jesus was sent. They boasted in what they knew about Moses just like many people today will boast about what they know to attempt to put themselves in a superior position to those who know Jesus. For example, when I was in college, an unbelieving religion professor said, “We all know, of course, that Jesus never claimed to be God.” By adding that little phrase, “of course,” he was insinuating, “Anyone with half a brain would know that what I am saying is true.” As a young believer at that time, I felt too intimidated to question his opinions in class.
The Pharisees would not follow Christ because they did not know His origin. Their ignorance of His origin was not due to a lack of information about Jesus because He had already revealed enough for them to know this (cf. John 5-8). Their ignorance of Christ’s origin was due to a willful rejection of Christ. Such is the case with non-Christians today. Their ignorance is not due to a lack of evidence concerning the identity of Jesus Christ. It is due to their willful rejection of Him.
The former blind man teaches these proud religious leaders, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes!” (John 9:30). Although his parents were afraid to speak the truth to the Pharisees, this man boldly challenges their illogical thinking! It is like he is saying, “Your ignorance of Jesus’ origin is more of a miracle than my cure! You are the experts and you do not know where my Healer is from?!” Their disbelief was incredible to him in light of the evidence!
This is the fourth symptom of spiritual blindness – DELIBERATELY REJECT CHRIST DESPITE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE ABOUT HIS IDENTITY (John 9:24-30). It is amazing how blind people can be to the truth about Jesus Christ. This is a heart issue not an intellectual issue. This incredible miracle should have overwhelmingly convinced the Jewish leaders of Christ’s identity, yet they denied this truth.
Even today unbelievers remain skeptical of the truth of Jesus Christ until the Holy Spirit causes them to see their need for Jesus. Until God removes the spiritual veil that blinds them to the truth about Jesus, they will not embrace Christ even though the evidence overwhelmingly points to Him as a supernatural Person!
The former blind man continues to teach the Pharisees by giving them a lesson on logic. “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” (John 9:31). When the healed man says, “We know,” he is referring to himself, the Pharisees, and the community. “We know that God does not hear sinners. He hears the righteous! If God does not hear sinners, then how could Jesus perform this miracle if He were a sinner?!”His logical argument in this verse can be summarized in this way:
1. Only God could heal congenital blindness.
2. Jesus healed congenital blindness.
3. Jesus must be from God.
Then the former blind man said, “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” (John 9:32-33). The healing of a man born blind was never heard of. “Jesus could not have healed me, a healing unparalleled in history, unless He were from God. How else do you explain such supernatural activity, if it is not from God?” It is also amazing that this former blind man was able to see things so clearly in contrast to the Pharisees who were so prejudiced against Jesus. While there was no record in history up to that time of a person blind from birth being healed, the Old Testament did prophesy that the Messiah-God would heal the blind (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:7).
This is the third way to overcome spiritual blindness – DISCERN THE TRUTH FROM ERROR (John 9:31-33). Instead of yielding to the error of the Pharisees, the beggar used reason and logic to hold fast to the truth and concluded that Jesus was from God.
What about you? Does your family or religious community question what Jesus has done in your life because they refuse to embrace the truth about Christ? Do their emotions or traditions guide their decisions about Jesus instead of logic, reason, and truth? Please know that their skeptical response to what Jesus has done in your life does not make it any less true. Truth is not truth because people vote on it. Truth is truth based on what God has revealed.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus repeatedly claims to have been sent by God the Father to reveal the Father to us. John stated, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18). Jesus tells Philip, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9). God’s revelation of Himself to us centers in the Person of Jesus Christ, which we have in the written eyewitness testimony of the apostles. True spiritual knowledge of God is founded on knowing Jesus Christ, whom the Father sent to reveal Himself to us. Anything else is mere speculation.
Many years ago the head of a rescue mission in London accepted the challenge to debate a well-known skeptic, but with this condition: he would bring with him one hundred people who would tell how believing in Jesus changed their lives. He invited his opponent to counter with witnesses to the benefits of unbelief. On the appointed day the believer came with his one hundred witnesses, but the skeptic never showed up. (Our Daily Bread, 1999).
Your testimony about how Jesus has changed your life is one of the most powerful testimonies to those who are dying in their sins. Do not let the bullies and lies of this world keep you from sharing it. Christ is counting on you and the unsaved world needs you.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, knowing You and making You known go together. The more I know You, the more I long for people to know You. Whether they be my intellectual superiors or not, I must share what You have done in my life because apart from You, they cannot know God the Father. They cannot have everlasting life. And they cannot be set free from the darkness that keeps them in bondage to sin. In Your name. Amen.
“His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’ ” John 9:22-23
As we continue to look at the man born blind whom Jesus healed (John 9:1-12), we will discover a third symptom of spiritual blindness. After the parents of this healed man testified that this was their son who was born blind (John 9:20), they would not tell the Pharisees how their blind son gained his sight. They said, “But by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.” (John 9:21). They said nothing about how or by whom he received his sight because they were afraid of being excommunicated from the synagogue. They evade this issue by saying their son was an adult capable of answering for himself.
“22 His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’ ” (John 9:22-23). The parents say nothing of Jesus. If these parents allowed their son to beg, then it was unthinkable for them to confess Christ before the Pharisees. Because no one could conduct business with a person who was excommunicated from the synagogue.
The Jews had three types of excommunication:
1. The Nezifah (“reproof”), the mildest formwas applied “when someone had insulted a prominent or learned person. It lasted seven days and the offender could not appear before the one he displeased. He had to retire to his house, speak little, refrain from business and pleasure, and manifest his remorse.”1
2. TheNiddui (“separation), was imposed when “the offender was first publicly warned three times at the regular service in the synagogue. During the period of discipline … (30 days according to the Jerusalem Talmud) no one except the members of his immediate household were permitted to associate with the offender, or sit within four cubits of him, or eat in his company. He had to observe all the laws that pertained to a mourner and could not be counted among the numbernecessary for the performance of a public religious function.”2
3. The Barem (“ban”), “was the most rigorous form of excommunication. This extended for an indefinite period during which no one was permitted to teach the offender, work for him, or benefit him in any way. It meant exclusion from the religious community and intercourse with Jewish society.”3
Whatever form of excommunication was enforced then, the threat was serious enough to keep the parents quiet about the identity of their son’s Healer. This is the third symptom of spiritual blindness – DESIRE THE APPROVAL OF OTHERS AT THE EXPENSE OF THE TRUTH (John 9:21-23). The parents of the former blind man withheld the truth about Jesus as the Christ (Messiah) because they did not want to be excommunicated from the synagogue and lose the opportunity to do business with others. In other words, they wanted the approval of the religious leaders but not the approval of God.
How many people have avoided the truth to please others? Maybe you come from a strong religious background and if you embraced the truth about Jesus Christ, you would suffer persecution from your family and religious community. Believing in a generic God is safe, but confessing Jesus Christ as the Messiah-God will bring opposition ranging from ridicule and mockery, to possible torture and death.
The sad part of this is people can end up in hell because they sought to preserve their own lives and livelihood like the parents of the man born blind instead of seeking the truth about Jesus Christ. Let’s put this in perspective. Would you rather avoid temporary sufferings on earth by rejecting Jesus Christ and then experience eternal punishment and torment in the lake of fire after you die or would you rather endure temporary sufferings on earth now by believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life to possess eternal bliss and joy in heaven with Jesus after you die? Is your comfort now more important than your comfort in eternity? Many people will be separated from God forever in the lake of fire because they sought the approval of people instead of seeking the truth about Jesus Christ. What will you choose?
The Bible says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). Heaven and hell are in the balance my friends. If you do not believe or trust in Christ alone as your only hope of heaven simply to avoid suffering on earth now, you will regret this forever as you suffer torment in the lake of fire. On the other hand, if you will transfer all your trust onto Jesus Christ, Who died for your sins and rose from the dead, for His gift of everlasting life now, you will enjoy Jesus’ presence forever in a perfect and problem-free place called heaven.
If you are a believer in Jesus, it is possible to have a reluctance to express that faith publicly for fear of persecution. For example, many of the ruling Pharisees had saving faith but were afraid to express that faith to others because they loved the approval of people more than God’s approval: “42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42-43).
Does this sound familiar to you? We do not want to speak up for Christ because we are afraid of what people will think or do to us. When we refuse to openly tell others about Jesus’ saving grace, we are no longer walking in the light. We are hiding in the darkness because we are ashamed of the precious cleansing blood of Jesus Christ (I John 1:7; 2:22-23; 4:15). When we turn away from God to please people, we are telling God, “I don’t want Your praise, Father. I don’t need it!” In other words, we are out of fellowship with God (I John 4:15).
It is important to understand that confessing Christ before others is not a condition for receiving eternal life. Only believing in Jesus is necessary for salvation from hell (John 3:14-16, 36; 5:24; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). God can see our faith in Christ alone apart from any good works or outward manifestation (Romans 3:21-4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7). But confessing Christ before others is necessary to grow in our Christian lives.
Romans 10:9-10 is referring to believing in your heart “unto righteousness” which is justification before God (Romans 3:21-5:9a) and confessing with your mouth for salvation from the present-day wrath of God (Rom. 1:16-32; 5:9-10) which is sanctification or growing in the Christian life (Rom. 5:9b-8:39). Failure to confess Christ before others now, will result in the loss of eternal rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ, particularly, the loss of ruling with Christ in the world to come (Matthew 10:32-42; 2 Corinthians 5:8-11; 2 Timothy 2:12).
Let’s make every day count for eternity. As a Christian, live for the audience of One, Jesus Christ, and He will make your life eternally worthwhile (Colossians 3:23-24; Revelation 22:12).
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for reminding me that my choices now will determine what my eternity will be like. The most important decision anyone can make is what they will do with You, Lord Jesus. Will they believe in You for Your gift of everlasting life and enjoy eternity with You in heaven or will they choose not to believe in You and suffer torment forever separated from You in the lake of fire!?! I beg of You, my Lord and my God, to remove the blinders from those who are more concerned about their comfort on earth than about their comfort for eternity. Help them to believe that You, Jesus, are the Christ, the Son of God, that believing they may have eternal life in Your name alone. For those of us who believe in You, Jesus, please enable us to live for Your approval and not the approval of people. In Your everlasting name I pray. Amen.
1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 177-178.
“Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished.” Proverbs 16:5
This verse really hit home with me today. God detests or loathes (“abomination”) those who are “proud in heart.” Pride is what led Lucifer or Satan, the most beautiful and intelligent of all God’s angels, to rebel against God and establish a rival kingdom (cf. Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:11-19). If that is not enough reason to avoid pride, then know that no proud person will “go unpunished” even “though they join forces.” This last phrase literally means “though they are hand to hand.”
An example of this unified effort of proud people is seen in the making of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. When the people of the world tried to preserve their unity and make a name for themselves by building a magnificent tower whose “top is in the heavens” lest they “be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:1-4), the Lord came down and “scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth” by confusing their “language” which held them together (Genesis 11:9). God had instructed the people to “fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28; 9:1), but they rebelled against God’s will and placed their security in a large city and tower. God confused their language to force them to do what they were unwilling to do – “fill the earth.”
This spirit of Babel can be seen in the early church in Jerusalem. When the early church in Jerusalem refused to obey Jesus’ command to spread the gospel beyond Jerusalem (Acts 1:8; 2:1-6:7), the Lord allowed persecution to scatter them “throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 6:8-8:4).
The Lord Jesus has commanded all Christians to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone” (Mark 16:15) and to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19). When believers place their security in large gatherings of Christians instead of in the Lord Jesus Christ and refuse to go to the lost, He may bring difficulties into their lives to persuade them to obey His command to go to the lost people of a different culture or nation.
It is much better to obey the Lord than to act independently of Him. God is not against large churches. But He is against the proud who refuse to obey His commands. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”(James 4:6). When pride fills our hearts, we are declaring war against God.But please understand this: No one has ever won a fight against God and no one ever will.
Just ask the kings of Egypt (Exodus 1-14) and Babylon (Daniel 4-5). They were proud men who thought they had built their kingdoms on earth and no one could destroy them. They viewed the God of the Bible as a powerless deity or as a figment of one’s imagination. Each of them learned the truth of Proverbs 16:5 the hard way. “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished.”
Those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ can also be filled with pride. When James wrote his letter to Jewish believers, he also warned them of the pitfalls of pride. James’ readers were engaged in fighting with one another because they proudly gave in to their selfish desires much like the world (James 4:1-3). James warned them and said that their friendship with the world was “enmity with God. Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4). If we commit adultery with the world, God is not going to sit back and do nothing. His “Spirit Who dwells in us us yearns jealously” for God’s bride (James 4:5). He does not want to share His bride with anyone, especially this world.
So what does a jealous God do with His children when they proudly commit adultery with the world? He “resists the proud” (James 4:6a). God opposes His children who proudly attach themselves to this world. Why? Because such pride imitates the king of pride – the Devil who exalted himself above God (Isaiah 14:12-14). The only solution is for believers to “humble” themselves before the Lord to experience an outpouring of His “grace” (James 4:6b).
How do we humble ourselves? First, we must “submit to God” (James 4:7a). We do this by recognizing our own weaknesses and stop fighting with God. We then yield to God as our ultimate and final authority. Second, we “resist the devil” (James 4:7b) by speaking Scripture to him just as Jesus did in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-10), and then the devil “will flee from you” (James 4:7c) as he fled from Jesus (Matthew 4:11). Third, we “draw near to God and He will draw near to” us (James 4:8a). We do this through repentance – “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8b). We live in a world that calls wrong right and right wrong. Those are expressions of pride.
James says to “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10). When we sin against God we are to agree with Him that it is sin. The world downplays sin and rejects personal responsibility. But Christians are to do the opposite. We must take sin seriously as God does and stop blaming others for our sinful choices. I like what one author writes, “God’s elevator to the top always starts with a trip down.” Humility leads to exaltation. Pride leads to humiliation.
If you are like me, however, the daily news reports make it seem like the proud and the wicked are growing in numbers and unity, with little or no punishment for their behaviors. It seems that right is wrong and wrong is right. Truth is no longer important. But listen: God is not done yet. He remains faithful to His Word.And He says that those who are proud in heart are an “abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5).
This verse does not say when the punishment of the proud will take place. But the Bible tells us it could occur in this life (Nehemiah 9:9-11; Ezekiel 18:4-32; Acts 5:1-11; Romans 1:18-32; 13:1-7; James 1:14-15) or in the life to come (Malachi 4:1; Romans 2:1-11). One thing is for sure, the proud will not go unpunished. Those who proudly refuse to believe or trust in Christ alone for their salvation will experience eternal punishment in the lake of fire (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Revelation 20:15; 21:8). God will see to that. Our responsibility is to keep our eyes on “Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25).
“They said to the blind man again, ‘What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’ ” John 9:17
In our study of the man born blind, we are learning how to overcome spiritual blindness. Last time we discovered the first symptom of spiritual blindness is to deny your own sinfulness by focusing on man-made traditions (John 9:13-16a). The first solution is to digest the facts about Jesus (John 9:16b-17). Today we learn the second way to overcome spiritual blindness is to DEVELOP A GREATER UNDERSTANDING OF JESUS’ IDENTITY (John 9:17).
The blind man’s neighbors question him further to help resolve the dispute among the Pharisees. “They said to the blind man again, ‘What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’ ” (John 9:17). They would not normally question an illiterate beggar but because he did know what happened they want to know what the former blind man concluded about Jesus. He boldly said, “He is a prophet.” Apparently, his gratitude for Jesus’ healing was greater than any fear he had toward the Pharisees. This is more than what he said earlier when he referred to his healer as “a Man called Jesus” (John 9:11). The former blind man places Jesus in the highest position he knew – that of a “prophet.” Christ performed an extraordinary miracle like that of a prophet of God. Like some of the Pharisees, the former blind man honestly assessed the facts about Christ and concluded that He was much more than a sinner. Jesus was an agent of God empowered by God.
Many non-Christians need more than one exposure to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The number of times they need to hear the gospel is often proportional to their starting point. For example, a Roman Catholic may only need to hear the gospel once because Catholicism already believes that Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose from the dead. But they do not understand that all a person must do to receive everlasting life is to believe in Jesus alone. They have been taught they must also do good works to get to heaven.
On the other hand, a Muslim may need to hear the gospel several times and in different ways because they have been taught that Jesus is merely a prophet who did not die on a cross nor rise from the dead. They also believe the Bible is corrupt and cannot be trusted, so they may need to investigate the historical evidence of Christianity before they are ready to believe in Jesus alone as their only hope of heaven. Both Christians and Muslims believe God is one, but the Muslim will need to decide is He Allah or Jesus? You cannot believe what you do not know.
We see throughout John chapter 9 that the man born blind continues to grow in his knowledge about Jesus. We must be patient with non-Christians and help them progress in their thinking until they see Christ as the Giver of eternal life (John 9:35-38; cf. 4:10-26; 20:31).
The second symptom of spiritual blindness isto DISBELIEVE THE FACTS ABOUT JESUS (John 9:18-20). When the bind man said Jesus was a prophet (John 9:17), the Pharisees were unwilling to accept this praise of Christ, so they tried to obtain evidence to deny that the miracle even happened. John writes, “But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight.” (John 9:18). The spiritually blind Pharisees refused to believe that the man had been blind and was now cured until they spoke with the man’s parents.
If this man had been blind and could now see, then a miracle had taken place and they would not be able to deny that Jesus was from God. To deny this miracle, they summon the former blind man’s parents. “And they asked them, saying, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ ” (John 9:19). Either this man was blind and now he sees or they assert that this man cannot be their blind son because this man can see. If he is the man born blind, the Pharisees want to know “How then does he now see?”
The Pharisees do not believe the identity of the man until the parents tell them. “His parents answered them and said, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind.’ ” (John 9:20). Sometimes we may need to hear the truth from more than one person. Jesus will be more than glad to provide us with additional witnesses to the truth about Him.
When I was a young believer in a “Christian” college, I had a New Testament professor who tried to deny the miracles of Jesus Christ by offering rationalistic explanations. For example, when the Bible says Jesus miraculously fed thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two sardine-sized fish (John 6:1-13), my professor said when the young lad donated his meal for Jesus to use, the rest of the people pulled out their lunches so that after everyone was done eating, there were many baskets full of leftovers. When the Bible said Jesus walked on water (John 6:15-21), my professor said Christ walked on a sandbar just underneath the water so that it “appeared” as though He was walking on water. In both accounts where the Bible clearly describes a supernatural miracle by Jesus, my professor disbelieved the biblical data to deny the supernatural power of Jesus Christ. Why do people do this? Perhaps it is because they don’t want to be accountable to God and accept His assessment of their sinful lives. If Jesus is God, then they must humbly admit their sinfulness and then believe or trust in Christ alone to save them.
What about you? Do you refuse to believe Jesus is God simply because someone told you He is not God? It may have been a professor or imam or monk or priest or parent or peer. But is that sufficient grounds for rejecting the Person Who claimed to be the Eternal I AM? Have you taken time to investigate the historical evidence about Jesus Christ before you come to a decision about His identity? If not, why? What keeps you from discovering more about Jesus?
The man born blind did not know all the facts about the One Who restored his sight, but what he did know was he was once blind, but now he sees. What about you? What do you know about Jesus Christ? What do you need from Him to believe He is Who He said He was – the Messiah, the Son of God, Who gives everlasting life to all who believe in Him (John 4:25-26; 9:35-38; 11:25-27; 20:31)? Jesus will gladly meet you where you are at to reveal Himself to you.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, before I believed You are the Christ, the Son of God, Who gives everlasting life to all who believe in You, I thought You were a good moral teacher who lived a life worth imitating. Gradually, however, You revealed more and more of Yourself to me through the Bible, my circumstances, and other people so I could no longer conclude You were simply a good moral teacher. Your words and Your works led me to one conclusion – You are the Messiah-God, and You alone could save me from my sins forever and give me everlasting life the moment I believed in You. No one else compares to You. Precious Lord, there are millions of people who do not know or believe the truth about You yet. They were born spiritually blind and they remain that way because they refuse to believe the facts about You. Their hearts are blinded by the father of lies. I pray in Your name that God the Holy Spirit will persuade them to believe in You as the Christ, the Son of God, that believing they may have life in Your name alone. There may be some in the world who have made this decision to believe in You, but because of their fear of family or their religious community, they have kept that decision a secret. Lord, You know who those people are and You can be their Provider, Teacher, and their Guide. Please bless, teach, and provide for them so they can become all You created them to be. In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.
“Therefore some of the Pharisees said, ‘This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?’ ” John 9:16
A woman named Rose Crawford had been blind for 50 years. “I just can’t believe it!” she gasped as the doctor lifted the bandages from her eyes after her recovery from delicate surgery in an Ontario hospital. She wept for joy when for the first time in her life a dazzling and beautiful world of form and color greeted eyes that now were able to see. The amazing thing about the story, however, is that twenty years of her blindness had been unnecessary. She didn’t know that surgical techniques had been developed, and that an operation could have restored her vision at the age of thirty. The doctor said, “She just figured there was nothing that could be done about her condition. Much of her life could have been different.”1
Why did she continue to assume that her situation was hopeless? Had no one told her about the wonderful advances in eye surgery? Then I thought of the plight of those unreached by the gospel. How many will go on living in spiritual blindness unless we bring them to the Savior? Millions will never know anything but spiritual darkness because no one has shared with them the Light that has come into the world.
All people are born spiritually blind to Jesus Christ because the devil has blinded them to their need for Christ (2 Corinthians 4:3-6). The next few days we will see how spiritual blindness expresses itself and how one can overcome spiritual blindness. We will look at the symptoms of spiritual blindness and the solutions to spiritual blindness.
In John 9:1-12, when Jesus, as “the Light of the world,” gave physical sight to the man born blind, it caused many mixed reactions. “They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees.” (John 9:13).“They” refers to the blind man’s neighbors – those who were close to him (cf. John 9:8). The neighbors of the blind man brought him to the religious experts, “the Pharisees,” hoping they could explain what happened. The problem with this decision to go to the Pharisees is that these men were spiritually blind.
“Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.” (John 9:14). John points out that Jesus healed the blind man on the “Sabbath,” a troublesome issue to those who are spiritually blind. “Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, ‘He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.’ ” (John 9:15). The Pharisees again asked the man born blind “how” Jesus had healed him to discredit Christ’s healing grace.
When the man born blind told them the facts, some of the Pharisees concluded “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” (John 9:16a). They concluded that Jesus “is not from God” because He did not keep the Sabbath according to their understanding of keeping the Sabbath. In other words, Jesus did not live up to their spiritual standards. The Pharisees strictly followed Jewish traditions about the Law, not just the Law Itself. Jewish tradition developed a long list of things that could not be done on the Sabbath in an attempt to keep the Law’s command not to work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11).
The first symptom of spiritual blindness is to DENY YOUR OWN SINFULNESS BY FOCUSING ON MAN-MADE TRADITIONS (John 9:13-16a). The Pharisees concluded that Jesus could not be from God because He did not obey their man-made Sabbath laws which forbid mixing saliva with clay. That was considered work. Their adherence to legalistic traditions blinded them to the miracle of the blind man’s healing. But Jesus focused on meeting this man’s “real” need rather than focus on keeping their rules and formulas.
Those who are spiritually blind do not want to admit their own sinfulness and need for a Savior. So, they focus on the performance of others because it will make them look good and help them avoid their own sense of guilt and shame. By focusing on the performance of others, they can avoid the performance of Jesus Christ when He died for their sins on the Cross (I Corinthians 15:3-4). This preoccupation with man-made traditions enables them to avoid the scrutiny of the Cross which reveals the only way to obtain acceptance before a holy God. Today, following religious traditions keeps many people from understanding the simplicity and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What is the solution to this aspect of spiritual blindness? Look in the next part of verse 16. “Others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.’ ” (John 9:16b). Others among the Pharisees knew that a sinner could not perform such a miraculous sign. Only someone from God could conduct such a supernatural healing. Perhaps Nicodemus was among this group of learners (cf. 3:2). The first solution to spiritual blindness, then, is to DIGEST THE FACTS ABOUT JESUS (John 9:16b-17). These observers realized that an ordinary person (“a sinner”) was not capable of performing such a creation miracle as this. This man was born blind and needed God to intervene to create the physical sight that he had never possessed. Only God can create something out of nothing.
To overcome spiritual blindness, an individual must honestly assess the facts about Jesus Christ. His life and miracles point to His origin as being from God. Only God could give physical sight to a man born blind. People who are dishonest with the facts about Jesus are seeking to avoid concluding that He is God. For if Jesus is not God, then they do not need to admit their sin against Him and believe or trust in Him alone for their salvation.
The blind man’s neighbors question him further to help resolve the dispute among the Pharisees. “They said to the blind man again, ‘What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’ ” (John 9:17). They would not normally question an illiterate beggar but because he did know what happened they want to know what the former blind man concluded about Jesus. He boldly said, “He is a prophet.” Apparently, his gratitude for Jesus’ healing was greater than any fear he had toward the Pharisees. This is more than what he said earlier when he referred to his healer as “a Man called Jesus” (John 9:11). His understanding of Jesus is growing. Eventually the man born blind would believe that Jesus was “the Son of God” (John 9:35-38).
Some of you reading this article may be spiritually blind and you do not even know it. Perhaps you have been focusing on the performance of others who do not measure up to your religious standards. You are quick to say they are sinners or infidels because they do not dress, pray, eat, or worship like you do, and you conclude that they are unclean or evil. Have you ever considered why you do this? Is it possible that by focusing on the religious performance of others you are able to avoid your own shortcomings and sinfulness? And more importantly, you are able to avoid what Jesus Christ did on the Cross?
For you see, if you were to focus on what Jesus Christ did for you on the Cross, you would be confronted with your own sinfulness. The Bible tells us that the gospel by which we are saved is “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” (I Corinthians 15:3). Jesus did not die because He did something wrong. He died in our place as our Substitute for our sins “according to the Scriptures.” The prophet Isaiah prophesied this hundreds of years before the Romans invented crucifixion when he wrote, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5).
Why did Jesus die on a Cross? The Bible tell us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). All of us deserve to die or be separated from God forever. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23a). The penalty for our sin is death or separation from God. Jesus took what was causing us to die – our sin – and He died in our place on a Cross so we could live.
Let me explain with an illustration I was taught by evangelist Larry Moyer who founded EvanTell, a wonderful evangelistic ministry dedicated to keeping the gospel clear and simple (see www.evantell.org). Suppose you are in a hospital dying of cancer. I come to you and say, “Let’s take the cancer cells from your body and put them into my body.” If that were possible, what would happen to me? Yes, I would die. But what would happen to you? Yes, you would live. I would die in your place.
The Bible is telling us that Jesus Christ took what was causing us to die – our sin – and placed it on Himself and died in our place so we could live. Three days later, Jesus came back to life to prove that sin and death had been defeated and that Christ’s claims to be God were true. In order for us to live eternally, we must simply believe or trust in Jesus alone Who died in our place and rose from the dead, to give us everlasting life. Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15).
Instead of focusing on the religious performance of others to avoid your own sinfulness or to avoid the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross for you, take a moment before God in prayer to admit your need for Him.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I come to you right now admitting that I have been running from You by focusing on the shortcomings of others. I was afraid to admit my own sinfulness to You for fear that You would punish me. For years I believed that You were merely a prophet and a good moral teacher. I hated You and Your followers. But now I am realizing that Your miracles and teachings point to You as Someone Who is far more than a prophet or teacher. You are God in human flesh because only God could do and say the things You did. As much as I know how, Lord Jesus, I believe You took my punishment for my sins when You died on the Cross and rose from the dead. I am now believing or trusting in You alone (not my religion, my prayers, or my good life), to forgive all my sins and give me everlasting life. Thank You Jesus for the forgiveness and everlasting life I now have. Thank You for hearing my prayer. In Your name. Amen.
“When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.” John 9:6
A third reason why God allows pain and suffering is TO DISCLOSE HIS PITY OR COMPASSION (John 9:6-12). After Jesus reaffirmed His identity as the Light of the world (John 9:5), we read, “When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.“ (John 9:6). As He did with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:6b, 8), Jesus stooped down to the dirt. But instead of writing in it, “He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva.” Why did Jesus heal the blind man in this way? Why didn’t He just say the word like He did with the lame man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:8-9) or with Lazarus at his grave (John 11:43-44)?
Saliva was a well-known Jewish remedy for eye trouble. Clay was the same substance from which man was created (Genesis 2:7). “Thus the word of God (i.e., spit from Jesus’s mouth) mixed with humanity (i.e., dirt from which man was created) provided the basis for the miracle. By using His saliva, Jesus was imparting divine DNA to the human defect in order to bring about a supernatural transformation of his humanity. This was to serve as a physical illustration of the supernatural spiritual transformation Jesus came to bring (see Isa 35:4-5).” (Dr. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, p. 1782).
This was a creation miracle since this man’s blindness was congenital. Jesus used the clay as a tool to develop the blind man’s faith. The touch of a friendly hand would be reassuring to this man who had known darkness all his life. While the disciples showed insensitivity toward the blind man when they asked Jesus within earshot “Who sinned?” Jesus showed great compassion or pity toward this blind man by providing a gentle and soothing touch.
When Jesus healed the blind man on the Sabbath with clay He had made, He broke two man-made laws of the Jewish people. Making clay and healing were both forbidden by the Pharisees on the Sabbath. This would cause more tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders.
“And He said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.” (John 9:7). After anointing the blind man’s eyes, Jesus instructs him to go wash at the pool of Siloam. The man’s healing required an act of faith on his part. “The pool of Siloam” was originally built by King Hezekiah to provide a reservoir for water flowing through the Siloam tunnel from the Gihon Spring (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:2-4). Rabbinic teaching associated this free-flowing fountain with God’s fountain during the Messianic kingdom. John informs his readers that the word “Siloam” is translated “sent.” The blind man was “sent” by the One “sent” by the Father.
Jesus did not promise he would be healed. He just told him to go wash. Christ did not give a speech about accepting your lot in life or taking the medicine that God has given you. Jesus was especially sensitive to the groans of suffering people. He cared more about His relationships with hurting people than He did about the rules and regulations of the religious establishment. The Bible says, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18). The prophet Isaiah reminds us concerning the Messiah, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” (Isaiah 42:3). The Messiah would not deal harshly with those who are already hurting nor would He extinguish what little hope a broken heart possessed. He uses His supernatural power to heal, not to punish. Jesus spent much of His ministry fighting disease and despair, not asking “Why?” or condemning with “Who sinned?”
When you hear about another’s misfortune, how do you react? Like the disciples – questioning and condemning? Or like Jesus with compassion to treat the problem?
John tells us that the blind man “went and washed and came back seeing.” His obedience to Christ’s command to wash in the “Sent” Pool enabled him to experience supernatural healing and gain his sight physically. This is a beautiful picture of salvation. When a spiritually blind person obeys the command to believe in the Son of God (I John 3:23), he or she is WASHED by the One “sent” by God, the Holy Spirit, who washes us clean with the waters of regeneration so we can SEE spiritually (John 7:37-39; Titus 3:5).
There is also an important lesson here for Christians. The blind man’s obedience to Christ enabled him to experience the blessing of physical sight. Likewise, OBEDIENCE to Christ is necessary for believers to see Jesus more FULLY.Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” The pursuit of holiness is the prerequisite for seeing the Lord. Without holiness, no one can see God now or in the future.
Jesus said something similar in Matthew 5:8:“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Purity of heart is necessary to see or perceive God. If a Christian is not pursuing holiness, there is a sense in which he or she cannot see God (I John 3:6). But when a believer’s eyes are enlightened, he can see many different facets of God (cf. Ephesians 1:17-21; 3:17-19; Colossians 3:9-11). Since all Christians will be without sin when they stand in God’s presence (I John 3:2), they should pursue holiness here and now. As we already learned in John 2:23-25 (cf. John 14:21; 15:14), Jesus will reveal Himself in a more intimate way to believers who obey Him.
This miracle raised the question about the man’s identity. “8 Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, ‘Is not this he who sat and begged?’ 9 Some said, ‘This is he.’ Others said, ‘He is like him.’” (John 9:8-9a). But the former blind man said something that Jesus often said, “He said, ‘I am he.’ ” (John 9:9b). This healing of the blind man was another proof that Jesus was the Messiah-God. Those who knew this blind man best, his “neighbors,” were amazed at the remarkable change they saw in him. To see this man, whom they knew so well, walk with normal sight was so incredible they thought it must be a case of mistaken identity.
“Therefore they said to him, ‘How were your eyes opened?’ ” (John 9:10). To deny the miracle, certain ones raised the question of how this miracle took place. “He answered and said, ‘A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.’ ” (John 9:11). The man’s matter of fact report explains what happened. There is no exaggeration in his personal testimony. His reply indicates his faith – he accepted the miracle as fact. At this point he does not know who Jesus is – “A Man called Jesus.”“Then they said to him, ‘Where is He?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’ ” (John 9:12). Since he was blind at the time of the miracle, he had no idea where Jesus went. What is disturbing, however, is that no one celebrates with this formerly blind man regarding his restoration of sight. They can only ask, “Where is He?”
Jesus did not perform this miracle because of this man’s faith in Him to heal since the man did not know Jesus’ identity yet. This miracle was an incredible expression of God’s grace toward him. Supernatural healing does not take a special kind of FAITH. It requires the GRACE of God to intervene and heal.
Why is there pain and suffering in the world? We learn from Jesus’ encounter with a man born blind that God allows pain and suffering…
1. To demonstrate His power. He may not perform a dramatic miracle as with the man born blind. But He may transform our attitude or heal a broken relationship. He may lift burdens of guilt and legalism off our shoulders so we can serve Him.
2. To display His promise. God allows pain and suffering to display His promise of hope and eternal life through Jesus Christ. Christ can bring light to the spiritually blind. He offers the promise of eternal life to those without hope.
3. To disclose His pity or compassion. In the midst of much pain and suffering, Jesus’ reveals His gentle and healing touch in order to bring glory back to God. He is a gentle Savior with an abundance of grace for those in need of His healing touch.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are far more concerned about relationships with people than You are about keeping man-made rules and regulations. Thank You for pursuing me when I was spiritually blind and under the burden of religious rules and regulations. Thank You for using Your supernatural power to heal instead of to punish. I am very grateful that You gently touched me with Your Word when I was spiritually blind and without hope so I could see You for Who You truly are – the Christ, the Son of God – Who gives everlasting life to all who believe in Him! Forgive me for the many times I have been insensitive to others who are in need of Your life-giving touch. Help me to see other people as You do – as broken and blind sinners who need the gentle and loving touch of the Savior. In Your name I pray. Amen.
“I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:4-5
A second reason why God allows suffering and pain is TO DISPLAY HIS PROMISE (John 9:4-5). Jesus continued His response to His disciples’ question about whose sin caused the man to be born blind, his parents or his own. “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” (John 9:4). The words, “I must,” reveal the sense of urgency Jesus possesses to do His Father’s work while it is “day” – the time to do God’s work. When Jesus says, “the night is coming when no one can work,” He is acknowledging that the opportunity to work ends as night arrives. For Christ, this would refer to His death, but for believers it can refer to physical death or the sudden removal of the Church at any time (cf. I Thess. 4:13-18). In either case, the opportunity to do God’s “works” is limited by time. Since Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:9-11), God continues Jesus’ works through His body, the Church (John 14:12; 20:21; Acts 1:1ff; cf. Ephes. 1:22-23; 3:10).
Then Jesus says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:5).“As long as” Jesus is “in the world” He will manifest Himself as “the light of the world” by exposing sin and providing hope for healing and eternal life. As the Light of the world, Jesus would bring light to the one who had been in darkness from birth, both physically and spiritually.
God allows pain and suffering to display His promise of hope and eternal life through Jesus Christ. The world is full of examples of people with learning disabilities, broken relationships, illness, the fear of rejection, guilt, and shame that Jesus has turned into an opportunity to display His promise of hope and eternal life (John 1:4-5). Christ uses the limitations or afflictions of people to bring them to faith in Him.
One such person was a nineteen-year-old college student who aspired to be a professional football player. But after a knee injury during the fourth football game of his first year of college, he lost all hope of playing professional football. As he sank into a depression, he kept asking himself, “What is my purpose in life if I cannot play football? Why am I here?” A few months later, a professional football player named Archie Griffin came to his school to share a message of hope through Jesus Christ at an evening assembly. As this student listened to Archie talk about his personal relationship with Christ, God removed his spiritual blindness with the light of the gospel so that he believed in Jesus for everlasting life that evening. That student was yours truly. God used my football injury to prepare me to hear and believe Jesus’ promise of hope and everlasting life (John 3:16).
While serving the Lord in the Philippines for nearly six years, God enabled me to teach at a nearby provincial jail. One of the inmates who came to our weekly chapel service had a master’s degree in engineering. Since coming to faith in Christ, he is thankful for his incarceration because God used it to reveal the light of Jesus Christ to him. He told me he did not think he would have come to faith in Jesus if he had not been arrested. Even though he has more education than most Filipinos, his education could not give him spiritual sight. Only Jesus could do that and give him eternal life. Thank God for his arrest which provided the opportunity for him to learn this life-changing truth behind bars.
God uses pain and suffering to display His hope and promise of everlasting life to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. During this season of pandemic, social unrest, and political and economic hardship, God may be nudging you to draw near to Him. Are you overwhelmed with your circumstances and/or your pain? Come to Jesus Christ for everlasting relief.
Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, I am so glad You approached the man born blind even though he was considered unclean by the religious community. No doubt that blind man heard many insensitive comments about the reason for his blindness. But You, Lord, showed Him compassion and gently restored his sight physically and spiritually. You truly are the Light of the world who brought hope to a man who had been in spiritual and physical darkness since birth. As the Light of the world You continue to expose sin and offer hope and everlasting life through Your promises today. Thank You for seeking me out when I was spiritually blind and without hope. Thank You for the pain that began my search for something more. Thank You for extending Your grace and forgiveness to me when I was still Your enemy. And thank You for the precious gift of everlasting life I received the moment I believed in You. My Lord and my God, please shine the light of Your love and grace into the hearts of people that are shrouded in darkness so they may experience Your everlasting hope and life. In Your name I pray. Amen.
In recent days I have spoken with people whom I greatly respect as mentors and dedicated followers of Christ who mentioned to me that they are anticipating another Great Spiritual Awakening in America and around the world. The impetus? The mistreatment of children.
One of the darkest expressions of human depravity today is found in human trafficking. According to the definition of the United Nations, human trafficking means, “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons for the purpose of exploitation.”1 Victims of human trafficking are exploited through different types of human slavery such as sex work, forced labor, or organ removal and selling.
According to The International Labour Organization, there are approximately 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally.2 The Fox News Investigative Unit also confirms this, saying, “Every year more than 40 million people are forced into the world of human trafficking across the globe and it’s someone’s son or daughter that is trapped in this modern-day slavery.” 3 Of these millions of victims, 25 percent are children, 75 percent are female, and 81 percent are trapped in some form of forced labor. 4
The 24.9 million people exploited for forced labor includes those caught in one of the most common forms of trafficking: sex trafficking. 5 Women and girls are overwhelmingly affected by exploitation of this sort, making up 99 percent of victims in the commercial sex industry. 6 Sex trafficking alone generates an estimated $99 million per year. 7
While human trafficking affects victims of all ages, children are especially vulnerable. About one out of seven endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2017 were likely child sex trafficking victims. 8 Of the 15.4 million forced into marriage worldwide, 37 percent are children. 9
Human trafficking is also a serious problem in the USA.According to the Fox News Investigative Unit, America is among one of the worst nations for human trafficking along with Mexico and the Philippines. 10 Geoff Rogers, co-founder of the United States Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT), said in an interview with Fox News, “We have a major issue here in the United States. The United States is the No. 1 consumer of sex worldwide. So we are driving the demand as a society…We do have men traveling the globe to go to places like Thailand and other places in East Asia to purchase sex with kids. But, in fact, the demand is so great that the supply has needed to be filled here in the United States.” Rogers also said that 50% to 60 % of these kids are coming out of the foster care industry in America. 11
According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report, over 300,000 of America’s young population is considered at risk for sexual exploitation. It’s also estimated that 199,000 incidents occur within the U.S. each year. 12
According to DeliverFund’s website, in the USA, every 2.5 hours a child is taken by traffickers; every trafficked child is purchased for sex 5.4 times a day; 7 years is the average lifespan of a child victim once taken. 13
One teenage sex trafficking survivor known as “C” says, “Five men came in and it went from a Friday night to a Sunday morning — constantly. There was no sleep or break or anything it was just constantly being attacked by these men, and they kept giving me drugs and giving me liquor. And they just kept me hopped up.” 14
Sex trafficking is also connected to politicians in the USA as the more recent Jeffrey Epstein case has shown. 15 I wonder how many political candidates will address the pandemic of child trafficking along with the COVID pandemic as the November Presidential elections draw near?!!! This is not likely if they are also connected to this shameful industry.
The global pandemic of COVID-19 is causing an increase in isolation and human vulnerabilities that traffickers are eager to exploit. 16 “With many people stuck at home, stressed, or bored, pornography use has increased – Pornhub’s traffic shot up nearly 20 percent in late March. Sites like OnlyFans, a subscription-based social media platform used heavily by sex workers, have increasingly drawn unemployed people desperate for cash. OnlyFans saw a 75 percent increase in signups in March and April. Glamour magazine reported that up to 10,000 creators were joining OnlyFans daily during the month of May.” 17
Pornography has become an entryway for purchasing people for sex.18 Amanda Eckhardt, the executive director of Restore NYC, a faith-based nonprofit that works with immigrant survivors of sex trafficking, says, “It’s important for the church to know that beyond the shutdown and pandemic, there will likely be a whole new cohort of people who will increase beyond traditional pornography viewing to purchasing sex, which will intersect with the trafficking of women and girls.”19
I do not want to leave out the fact that childsexual abuse is also a problem in churches. Countless children have been sexually exploited by Catholic priests, nuns, and members of religious orders around the world. 20 Even among evangelical churches, there are young people being exploited sexually by their church leaders. 21 Regardless of culture or religion, the sexual exploitation of children is a very dark reality.
Let’s not forget the horrific treatment of unborn children worldwide. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 73 million abortions took place each year around the world between 2015 and 2019. 22 Since the legalization of abortion on demand in the USA, over 50 million unborn children have been torn apart in their mother’s womb through abortion procedures. 23
WHAT IS GOD’S RESPONSE TO THE MISTREATMENT OF CHILDREN?
Young children are very valuable to Jesus. They have a special place of love and respect from Him. Jesus said, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10). Little children are very valuable to God as demonstrated by how close their guardian angels stand to the throne of God. Christ said, “It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:14). God the Father does not want any little child to perish forever in hell.
We also see Jesus’ concern for little children in Matthew 19:13-15:“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.” Jesus rebukes those who forbid little children from coming to Him. He says not to forbid little children from coming to Him because “the kingdom of heaven” is occupied by those who possess childlike faith in Jesus.
One of Jesus’ strongest statements against the mistreatment of children is seen in Matthew 18. “5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. 6 But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5-6). To welcome children and serve them is to welcome and serve Jesus (18:5). So if you want fellowship with Jesus, you must treat children and those who are childlike with tender love and care. Otherwise, Jesus warns of the great danger of causing them to stumble. He says it would be better to drown in the depth of the sea with a heavy stone hung around your neck than to cause a child to get tripped up (18:6). I can think of nothing worse that exploiting children sexually! Those who do so without getting right with God, must face the wrath of Jesus Christ!
In the Old Testament when God’s people sacrificed their children to pagan gods, the Lord’s wrath was kindled against them. “36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, 38 and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. 39 Thus they were defiled by their own works, and playedthe harlot by their own deeds. 40 Therefore the wrath of the Lord was kindled against His people, so that He abhorred His own inheritance.” (Psalm 103:36-40; cf. Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 16:3; 17:17). What we are seeing in the world today with children being sacrificed on the altars of sexual exploitation and abortion is equally abhorrent to the Lord and invites His wrath.
The God of the Bible is holy and cannot be around our sin (Psalm 5:4; 66:18; Isaiah 59:2;Romans 3:23; 6:23). He hates sin (Psalm 45:7; Proverbs 6:16; Zechariah 8:17), but He does not hate sinners. God loves sinners and wants to save them from sin’s penalty (eternal death) and give them everlasting life. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Christ died for us “while we were still sinners,” not saints. The idea that we must clean ourselves up and stop sinning before we come to Christ is not found in the Bible!
Jesus loved and died for all sinners including the pedophile, the child molester, sex traffickers, the abortionist, and the parents or grandparents who sell their children’s bodies to make money. No exceptions!!! God’s grace is greater and stronger than our sin through the blood of Jesus Christ! “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” (Romans 5:20). If Jesus’ blood can wash away the sin of all nations from all time in all of history (Hebrews 9:14; Revelation 1:5; 5:9; 12:11), certainly His blood can wash away the sin and shame of those who are caught up in human trafficking the moment they believe in Him for His gift of forgiveness and everlasting life (John 3:16; Acts 10:43; 16:31)!
WHAT IS OUR RESPONSE?
My prayer is that God will use the darkness of human trafficking to awaken the world for its need for the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ! All of us have sinned against God with our words, our thoughts, and our actions (Romans 3:23). All of us deserve to be separated from God forever because of our sins (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15). In the sight of a holy God, the people who spend more time in a church or a mosque or a temple are no better than those who spend more time in human trafficking. We all have sinned against God.
How will we respond to the mistreatment of children worldwide? Will we try to justify our participation in these very dark practices by saying “everyone is doing it” or “no one has to know as long as I can keep it a secret”? Are we so desperate for money that we are willing to sacrifice the innocence of our children or grandchildren on the altar of human trafficking?
We may think that this does not apply to us because we do not participate in such atrocities. But are we any better than those who practice such evil as we turn the other way and pretend that such wickedness does not exist or perhaps we assume someone else will fix it? The Bible says, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10). Sins of omission are just as evil in God’s sight as sins of commission.
The Bible says, “Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:4). Are we delivering “the poor and needy” children of this world from human trafficking when we turn the other way and pretend this does not involve us? When the Bible says, “8 Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die. 9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy” in Proverbs 31:8-9, are we obeying the Lord when we remain silent concerning the millions of children who are speechless and needy in the human trafficking industry? Oh may the Lord have mercy on all of us!!!
Human trafficking is one of the darkest expressions of our human sinfulness. Children are being robbed of their innocence through this very dark industry. Whether you are a victim of human trafficking or a consumer, you are probably silenced by your shame.
If you do not have Jesus Christ in your life, God invites you right now to come into the light of His love so He can set you free from your shame. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus did not say, “Come to a church or a mosque or a temple.” No. He said, “Come to Me.” Jesus is the One who can deliver us from the burden of our sin and shame.
Nor does Jesus say, “Come to Me and I will give you stress and shame.” Human trafficking will give you unbearable stress and shame whether you are a victim or a consumer. But not Jesus. He says, “Come to Me and I will give you rest.” You may be suffering in silence feeling horrible about what has been done to you as a victim of sex trafficking. Or, you may be coming apart on the inside with shame because you purchased children for sex. Please know that Jesus invites you to come to Him just as you are to receive the spiritual “rest” of His cleansing forgiveness and everlasting life. The “rest” Jesus offers here refers to a state of mind that exists when a non-Christian realizes he or she does not have to earn or work for their salvation. This refers to the positional rest of eternal life that is based on trusting in Christ’s accomplishment on the cross (John 3:14-16). Jesus finished the work of paying our sin debt in full when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus is alive today and He knows how deeply you are hurt or ashamed. He loves you infinitely and invites you to come to Him for rest.
If you have never understood and believed this before, and now you do, you can tell Jesus this through prayer.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I come to you deeply burdened by my sin and my shame. I have sunk deeply into darkness. Before today, I thought no one could ever love me or want a relationship with me. But I am realizing that You showed me how much You love me by dying in my place on a cross for all of my sins. Thank You, Jesus, for taking all my punishment when You died and rose from the dead. I am now trusting You, Jesus, alone to forgive all my sins and cleanse me of all my shame. Thank You for the forgiveness and complete cleansing I now have. Please help me to see myself as You do now – as a dearly loved child of God who will never be alone again. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
If you are a believer in Jesuswho is a survivor of sex trafficking, please know that Christ loves you infinitely for who you are. What was done to you was terribly wrong, but that does not mean you are wrong. Jesus wants to walk with you through your pain and shame so you can be free from the past. Since you were deeply injured through relationships, you will need to experience healing in the context of relationships with people who will love and care for you regardless of your past. Please see the “NEED HELP?” section for contact information of those who can help you.
If you are a believer in Jesus who enabled human trafficking or purchased children for sex, you also need to know that Jesus loves you very much and He wants to shine His love in the dark places of your soul. Yes, what you did was wrong, but you are not wrong in the sight of Jesus! You are still God’s beloved child who may have unresolved trauma that has led you to medicate your pain and shame with these dark practices. Jesus wants to heal you in the context of loving relationships. Please see the “NEED HELP?” section for contact information of those who can help you.
May all of us pray for the God of all grace to bring to light the darkness of human trafficking in the world so children and consumers will be rescued from the chains of shame through the grace and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ! Only Jesus can replace the enemy’s darkness with His marvelous light and hope!
If you are being trafficked or suspect that someone you know is being trafficked contact:
– The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST(843-5678) or CYBERTIPLINE.ORG.
– National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888
If you are a survivor of sex trafficking or a consumer thereof and would like healing, please contact one of the following Christian Counseling services:
“Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.’” John 9:3
When I was working as a security officer at a high school while church planting, I got to know my fellow officers quite well. One such officer was approaching sixty years of age and told me he once believed as I did about Jesus Christ and the Bible. But now he said he no longer believed in God. When I asked him why he stopped believing, he told me because he could not reconcile how a God of love could allow so much pain and suffering in the world. He believed that if God truly existed, He would not allow pain and suffering especially among people who seemed to be innocent.
Why does God allow pain and suffering in the world? That is, how can a God of love allow such things in His world as war, sickness, abortion, rape, disease, and other types of suffering and death, especially among those who are apparently innocent? For example, why does He allow dedicated Christians to be slaughtered by radical Muslims in the Middle East and in Africa? Why does He allow babies to be born with deformities? Or why does He allow unborn babies to be torn apart in the womb through abortion procedures? Why does He permit a madman to shoot and kill many people gathered outside at a concert? Why are thousands of innocent people killed each year from earthquakes and typhoons? Unbelievers claim, “Either He is not a God of love and is indifferent to human suffering, or else He is not a God of power and is therefore helpless to do anything about it.”
This is a difficult question for Christians to answer. Certainly, atheism or agnosticism are not the answers to this dilemma. However, in John 9, we will discover that Jesus was asked a similar question. After claiming to be the Light of the world and the eternal I AM in John 8, Jesus encountered a man who was blind from birth. “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.” (John 9:1). The words “as Jesus passed by” do not tell us the exact time frame or location for this miracle. It may have taken place as Christ left the temple (8:59) or somewhere else. This man’s blindness was congenital and was not expected to be healed. He had lived in darkness all his life. No doubt he experienced helplessness and hopelessness as a blind person.
From birth, however, all people are spiritually blind, hopeless, and helpless without God. All non-Christians lack the ability to see Jesus spiritually. The apostle Paul writes, “3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they do not believe in Christ. God must remove the veil from non-Christians so they can believe in Jesus. No amount of education or information is going to remove the spiritual blindness of the lost. God must be the One to give them spiritual sight.
Christ focuses on the blind man. His disciples probably would have gladly passed by the blind man, but Jesus would not. I imagine at this juncture, the disciples had no idea why Jesus focused on this man when there were thousands of beggars in the temple area.
“And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ” (John 9:2). The disciples ask a theological question, not a compassionate question. “Why does this man deserve blindness?” they ask. It was insensitive of the disciples to ask this question within earshot of the blind man. The Jews, like many people today, believed that all suffering was caused by specific sins. So, either this man sinned in his mother’s womb (Genesis 25:22; Ezekiel 18:4) or his parents sinned (Exodus 20:5; 34:7). Examples of children suffering for their parents’ sin today include babies born to a drug-addicted or alcoholic mother, or to a mother with AIDS. They can suffer from physical and mental impairment. Children whose parents are verbally, physically, or sexually abusive suffer deeply. The disciples wanted to look backward to find out “Why?”
Isn’t that what we want to do? We usually want to figure out the cause of our pain before we decide how to respond. Jesus redirects the disciples’ attention and ours. He points forward instead of backward. “Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.’ ” (John 9:3). Jesus says this man’s blindness is not due to his sin or his parents’ sin. Instead, Jesus answers a different question. He does not address the backward-looking questions of “Why?” He points to hope for the future. A human tragedy, like blindness, can be used to display the power of God at work. This man was born blind to demonstrate the power of Jesus. Why does God allow pain and suffering?
The first reason is TO DEMONSTRATE CHRIST’S POWER (John 9:1-3). Sometimes the work of God is manifest through a dramatic miracle, as with the man born blind. Sometimes it is not. Suffering always offers an opportunity for us to display God’s work. A sick person is not unspiritual, rather he is a vehicle through which Jesus can demonstrate His power. God’s work is a miracle to man, but normal work for God. It is unbiblical to assume that all suffering is the result of a specific sin. It is also wrong to conclude that all suffering is allowed by God so He can heal the person. This is the reason for this man’s suffering, but we cannot conclude this is the reason for all suffering. Notice that the disciples focus on the man’s blindness as an act of God’s displeasure, but Jesus sees the man’s blindness as an opportunity to display the power of God at work.
How do we respond to someone with an emotional or physical handicap? Are we condemning by asking, “Who sinned?” Or are we compassionate by asking, “How is God going to show His power at work in this situation?” The first question focuses on the problem. The second question focuses on the solution. Regardless of the cause of this blind man’s affliction, he was a picture of all people who are born spiritually blind and in need of a Savior.
In summary, God allows suffering and pain to demonstrate Christ’s power. He may not perform a dramatic miracle as with the man born blind. But He may transform our attitude or heal a broken relationship. He may lift the burden of guilt and legalism off our shoulders so we can serve Him freely without shame. Whatever the form of our pain and suffering may be, God wants to show us His loving power if we will let Him.
Prayer: Father God, many people are asking, “If You are a God of love, why are You allowing so much pain and suffering in the world today?” Your answer is clear. It is because You want to demonstrate the power of Jesus in the midst of peoples’ suffering. It may not be an instant fix as it was with the healing of the man born blind. It may involve a process of gradual healing and transformation whereby You walk with people through their pain. The suffering that we experience may be Your way of bringing us to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like the man born blind, all people are born spiritually blind and unable to see Jesus as the Savior of the world. They need You, Lord, to perform spiritual cataract surgery on their eyes so they can see Christ for Who He truly is – the Eternal I AM Who can wash away their sins and give them everlasting life the moment they believe in Him. They do not have to clean up their lives any more than the blind man had to clean up his. They simply must believe in Jesus, and He will do the rest. Thank You my Lord and my God, for the simplicity of the gospel. In Jesus’ name. Amen.