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Blindness

Nov 4, 2018 | Witness – John’s Jesus Story | Part 10: Blindness

John 9 (NIV)Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

9 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. 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.” 10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.11 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.” 12 “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said.

The Pharisees Investigate the Healing

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 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.”

16 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. 17 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.”

18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 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.” 22 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. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24 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.” 25 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!”

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

27 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?”

28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

 

Spiritual Blindness

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” 38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” 40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” 41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains. 

Things to notice: Jesus performs this miracle in a very different way…He uses mud and spit. The man has to take action – to make his way, still blind, to the Pool of Siloam.

The Pharisees are still stuck on technicalities (the Sabbath). Why doesn’t this provable miracle change their mind? It’s called “confirmation bias.” We hold tightly to our beliefs, even in the face of facts. Most of the time, this is because changing our beliefs means we have to admit to being unintelligent (because we believed something that was false) or we run the risk of losing our place in our community. 

I don’t believe it. Prove it to me and I still won’t believe it.” Douglas Adams

 “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” John Kenneth Galbraith

https://jamesclear.com/why-facts-dont-change-minds

“We don’t always believe things because they are correct. Sometimes we believe things because they make us look good to the people we care about.”

Facts Don’t Change Our Minds. Friendship Does.

Convincing someone to change their mind is really the process of convincing them to change their tribe. If they abandon their beliefs, they run the risk of losing social ties. You can’t expect someone to change their mind if you take away their community too. You have to give them somewhere to go. Nobody wants their worldview torn apart if loneliness is the outcome. The way to change people’s minds is to become friends with them, to integrate them into your tribe, to bring them into your circle. Now, they can change their beliefs without the risk of being abandoned socially.

The British philosopher Alain de Botton suggests that we simply share meals with those who disagree with us.

“Sitting down at a table with a group of strangers has the incomparable and odd benefit of making it a little more difficult to hate them with impunity. Prejudice and ethnic strife feed off abstraction. However, the proximity required by a meal – something about handing dishes around, unfurling napkins at the same moment, even asking a stranger to pass the salt – disrupts our ability to cling to the belief that the outsiders who wear unusual clothes and speak in distinctive accents deserve to be sent home or assaulted. For all the large-scale political solutions which have been proposed to salve ethnic conflict, there are few more effective ways to promote tolerance between suspicious neighbours than to force them to eat supper together.”  

Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Things to think about:

  • If you don’t believe in Him, what would it take for you to change your view of Jesus? Would a miracle be enough?
  • How can you give others the grace and space to change their mind? How can you integrate someone into your tribe this week?

Red Tape

Throughout the centuries since Jesus, His followers have wrestled with how to talk to God. 

 

The early church prayed directly to God in Jesus’ name. They understood that Jesus had fulfilled the law, so there was no longer any veil between God and people. 

 

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split”

Matthew 27:50-51 NIV

http://bible.com/111/mat.27.50-51.niv

 

They recognized that an earthly priest was no longer needed because Jesus was now our high priest, and they could speak directly to God through Him.

 

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV

http://bible.com/111/heb.4.14-16.niv

 

Jesus had told them this was the new order of His kingdom. 

 

““But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Matthew 23:8-12 NIV

http://bible.com/111/mat.23.8-12.niv

 

Over the next two centuries, many followers of Jesus forgot that Jesus had said this and that the first believers lived by it. They created many layers of hierarchy and authority, telling people that to get to God, they had to come through the bureaucracy and red tape.

 

 

 

 

The Reformation rejected these additions to the good news Jesus taught and returned the focus to Jesus and His word.  We are part of a movement that completes these reforms, focusing on the full Gospel of Jesus and returning to the ancient roots of Christian worship.

 

Today we still have many followers of Jesus who believe that Jesus intended us to create layers of leadership and red tape between us and God. We love them, but we disagree with them. Jesus’ death and resurrection tore the veil between God and people and restored our original relationship – walking with God and talking to Him face to face.

 

“Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:12-18 NIV

http://bible.com/111/2co.3.12-18.niv

 

Questions: 

  • Why do you think people have added so many layers between us and God?
  • Do you speak to God to God directly or through filters?
  • What red tape have you allowed to separate you from God?
  • What red tape are you allowing that separates others from God?

Simon the Sorcerer

Acts 8 (NIV)

Simon the Sorcerer

9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
 
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
 
18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
 
20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
 
24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”
 
25 After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.
 
 
Simon becomes a believer and is baptized. But that doesn’t mean he has it all worked out. 
 
The old patterns are hard to break. We all have default settings. Simon’s was seeing spirituality as a transaction.
 
This makes sense. Sorcery is like that. Say this spell, get this result. 
 
God is not a genie or a magic potion. 
 
Simon isn’t the only one who has made the mistake of thinking the kingdom of Jesus is about money.
 
Simon listened to correction. He turned away from his mistaken path. He learned.
 
What we can learn from his story:
 
  • God gives us gifts. He doesn’t ask us to pay Him back.
  • We have to let the Spirit reset our defaults.
  • When we get it wrong, we can still make it right.
 
Questions:
  • Have you ever “gotten it wrong” by misunderstanding something about God, Jesus, or the Bible? 
  • What are your “default settings” – patterns of belief or behavior you have a hard time breaking?
  • Is it possible to change those defaults?
 
 

Facing the Music

“One of the people Paul chose to deliver the letters we know as Colossians and Ephesians was a man named Onesimus. Onesimus was originally from Colossae, and would have been known to the people there. But Paul was compelled to write a separate letter for him. This was because Onesimus had been the slave of a wealthy Colossian named Philemon, in whose home the church met. Onesimus had run away, probably robbing Philemon in the process. In Rome he had become a follower of Jesus. He’d been helping Paul in prison, but now Paul needed him to return to Colossae. Paul’s hope was that Philemon would not only forgive Onesimus, but welcome him as a brother and no longer a slave.
 
Paul’s brief letter to Philemon stresses the change in Onesimus’s life. His name meant useful in Greek, and Paul tells Philemon that while he had formerly been useless (a servant Philemon couldn’t count on), now he could be useful to both of them. Paul doesn’t put Philemon under any obligation. His appeal is on the basis of love, and he promises to honor the demands of justice by making restitution himself if necessary.
 
Most likely Paul’s appeal was successful, or this letter would not have been preserved. In the life of Onesimus we have a clear example of the kind of transformation that occurred in thousands of lives as the gospel message spread throughout the Roman Empire.” *
 
*youversion.com
 

Philemon (NIV)

1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
 
To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— 2 also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:
 
3 Grace and peace to you[a] from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
 

Thanksgiving and Prayer

4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6 I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
 

Paul’s Plea for Onesimus

8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
 
12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.
 
17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
 
22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.
 
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.
 
25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
 
 
The reaction of Onesimus to the message of Jesus is to return to reconcile his relationship with his former master. 
 
The reaction of Paul is to send Onesimus back, but appeal to Philemon for grace and forgiveness.
 
Paul is also working to overcome the social institution of slavery.
 
  • He is not asking Philemon to receive Onesimus back as a slave, but to welcome him as a brother.
  • John Piper: “…without explicitly prohibiting slavery, Paul has pointed the church away from slavery because it is an institution which is incompatible with the way the gospel works in people’s lives. Whether the slavery is economic, racial, sexual, mild, or brutal, Paul’s way of dealing with Philemon works to undermine the institution across its various manifestations. To walk “in step with the truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2:14) is to walk away from slavery.”

    http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-paul-worked-to-overcome-slavery

 
This is the power of the Gospel – it turns slaves into brothers. It cancels our debts. It gives us the courage to forgive and be forgiven.
 
Questions:
  • Can you identify with either Philemon or Onesimus? In what way?
  • Do you have a relationship that needs restoration? Do you need to forgive or be forgiven? 
  • Paul shows Philemon how slavery is incompatible with the message of Jesus. How can this Gospel (good news) change the way we view other norms in our society?

The Seekers

The Bereans had a different response to Paul’s teaching that the Thessalonians.

Acts 17 (NIV)

In Thessalonica

17 When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead.“This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.
 
5 But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” 8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. 9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.
 

In Berea

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
 
13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothystayed at Berea. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.
 
Things to note:
  • They received with eagerness.
  • They didn’t take Paul’s word for it. They studied. They asked questions. 
    • What were they studying? Paul was telling them Jesus was the Messiah and fulfilled the OT prophecies. 
    • They studied to check his claims.
  • As a result of their investigation, many believed. 
 
Things to learn:
  • It’s okay to have questions. 
    • Embrace seeking over certainty. Be open to truths you haven’t considered. 
  • Faith grows as we study and investigate the message we have heard. 
    Romans 10:17 (NIV)17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
  • Questions with study = noble character. Questions + no study = ignorance. 
    • In the case of the Thessalonian jews, it also led to jealousy. 
 
Questions:
  • How have you received the message of Jesus? With eagerness or ignorance?
  • Do you have questions? Have you investigated the message? Have you studied it?