Well, good morning to you all, it's wonderful to be back with you in Scrabo again, and thank you for that introduction. We're turning to John chapter 9 this morning - I was given the passage John 9 verses 1-12, but I want to read the whole chapter please. I know it seems quite long, 41 verses, but it's not really long because it's all encompassed within this story of the first 12 verses. The title is: 'Sin, Suffering And The Saviour', John 9 verse 1.
"Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?'. Jesus answered, 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 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'. 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. 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. Therefore the neighbours and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, 'Is not this he who sat and begged?'. Some said, 'This is he'. Others said, 'He is like him'. He said, 'I am he'. Therefore they said to him, 'How were your eyes opened?'". Let me just pause there for a moment, because I did mean to say to you before I began reading: I want you to note, please, the questions that are being asked in this portion of Scripture. We've already had many, so try and note them as we go through from here on in.
Verse 11: "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'. Then they said to him, 'Where is He?' He said, 'I do not know'. They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees. Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 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'. 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?' And there was a division among them. They said to the blind man again, 'What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?' He said, 'He is a prophet'. 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. And they asked them, saying, 'Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?'. His parents answered them and said, 'We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 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'. His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He", that is, Jesus, "was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, 'He is of age; ask him'. 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'. He 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'. Then they said to him again, 'What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?'. 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?'. Then they reviled him and said, 'You are His disciple, but we are Moses' disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from'. The man answered and said to them, 'Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. 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'. They answered and said to him, 'You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?'. And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, 'Do you believe in the Son of God?'. He answered and said, 'Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?'. And Jesus said to him, 'You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you'. Then he said, 'Lord, I believe!'. And he worshiped Him. And Jesus said, 'For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind'. Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, 'Are we blind also?'. Jesus said to them, 'If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, 'We see'. Therefore your sin remains'".
Let us pray for a moment - and I would ask you, please, if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, that you pray with me that the Lord would speak and open the eyes of some people in this place this morning, who have come in blind to the reality of the Lord Jesus and their need of Him. Father, we thank You for Your word, we thank You for Your Son. We thank You that He is the Light of the World, and Lord, we pray that people who are walking in darkness, even in this place just now, may have the light of life through the revelation of the gospel in Jesus Christ. Lord, we pray, we need the outpouring of Your Holy Spirit - we can do nothing without Him, and so we ask now in Jesus' name that He may come, convince of sin, and righteousness, and judgement to come, and witness Christ to the minds and hearts of those who have not yet believed. Lord, meet with us in a very special way, and even speak to Your own children, in Jesus' name we ask it, Amen.
One of the first questions that we ask as children is a question that we are trained to ask right throughout our education. Actually, it is a question that we find ourselves naturally and habitually asking throughout adulthood, right to the day of our deaths. This question is a simple one word question that sums up the greatest of human dilemmas, the most insoluble of philosophical problems, and the most intractable of theological quandaries. It is the age-old question: why? Now, as intelligent beings - and I know I'm taking a lot for granted here this morning in Scrabo Hall! - we are obsessed with causes, we have to know the reason why. Whether in the realm of science, technology, politics or religion, we want to know why and how things happen.
However, I would say and guess that the most common place that this question 'Why?' is heard is in the midst of suffering: 'Why me? Why this?'. I'm sure most of us, if not all of us, here this morning have faced pain, and have either sobbed or screamed: 'Why, Lord?'. We want to know and understand the causes of our suffering, or the causes of the suffering of those we love. Now John 9 gives us a whole new perspective on this issue of suffering. I believe, particularly this morning in this place, through this passage of Scripture, that the Holy Spirit wants to change our focus away from the causes of suffering to the cure for suffering. Look at verse 2: 'His disciples asked Jesus, saying, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this blind man or his parents, that he was born blind?''. The disciples were obsessed with the causes of this man's blindness.
It appears that the Jews understood that there would have to be sin in a man's life, or in his parent's life, to be born blind. It appears to be a well-established idea in this culture that, perhaps even before you were born, you could be punished for a sin that God knew you were going to commit. I know it's weird thinking, but that's obviously the conception that they had. But the bottom line is this, to put it very simply for you: in their minds, suffering always had to be as a result of sin. So if you have suffering in your life, they were saying: 'You have sinned'. It was a form of 'karma', if you like. You were getting payback for something you had done, or something that your parents had done before you.
Now, is that true? Well, let me say that, of course, personal sin does have consequences - there's no doubt about that - and parental sin can cause the effect of suffering in children. Now we don't have to think too long about that, for instance the consequences of our example as parents and grandparents to our children has massive effects. I heard someone say recently: what we do in measure as parents, our children will do to excess. Therefore we must be very careful of the example that we give to young people, for what we do in measure, and allow in measure, they will do to excess - our example is of supreme importance. Also think of the suffering that can be caused directly to children by the behaviour of adults and parents, we don't have time to explore this but we only have to think of broken marriages, estranged and absent parents, and the effect that that has on the rearing and the formation of the personalities and the lives of young people. Not to mention how we can affect children as parents and grandparents by generational sins - and I do believe in this. There can be spiritual effects upon children of up and coming generations, of things that parents and grandparents have done in the past - particularly if they are dabbling in realms of darkness, there can be spiritual curses that come upon our children and our grandchildren - Moses said, to the third and fourth generation.
So what this passage is not saying is that there are no consequences for our sins toward children, the wages of sin still is death, and the way of the transgressor is hard. Our own sins have an awful venomous bite in them - there's not just a judgement for sin on judgement day, there is a judgement in sin. Yes, there is the buzz and the pleasure that is momentary, but then there is the bite and the poison. The lesson of this passage of Scripture, as the disciples ask: 'Who sinned, this man or his parents?', is that we cannot know the reason for suffering - none of us can know. We can know that sin brings suffering, but none of us can speak accurately, or can speak with surety over someone's suffering being a consequence of their personal sin. We can't always know why people suffer, and unless God reveals it to us personally about ourselves, we must beware of making judgements over the suffering of others - because there is often great mystery in this issue of suffering.
So Jesus brings an all new perspective, and Jesus redirects His disciples, and us as well, away from the cause of this man's blindness to see the positive cure. Look at verse 3: 'Jesus answered, 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 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''. He redirects them away from the cause of the blindness to the cure: 'I'm the answer!'.
Later the Pharisees, we read this, questioned the man who was healed - this passage is full of questions. This time they weren't obsessed with the blindness, because they took that for granted, that he must be a bad man or his parents must be bad parents, but they were obsessed with the cause of the healing. Now they really wanted to know how he was healed so that they could accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath. In verse 24 through to verse 27 we see this. But when they question this man about how he was healed, in verse 25 the man retorts - this is his reply - 'Whether He', that is, Jesus, 'is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see'. In other words, to put it in my phraseology, what the man is saying is: 'I don't know much about the cause of how this Man healed my blindness, but all I know is: I have experienced the cure!'.
In verse 27 he gets rather frustrated with these religious men, as often we can with religious folk. 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?'. He's becoming a bit sarcastic, because they're missing the cure! They are so taken up, infatuated by the causes of this man's blindness, that they are missing the point: Jesus is the cure, He had healed this man, yet they would not analyse Him.
Now I want to ask you this morning a question I believe the Holy Spirit has put on my heart to ask you: are you here today, and you are a person who has to know everything before you will become a Christian? I believe I'm speaking to someone here. Maybe you have been at gatherings like this frequently, maybe you come regularly to Scrabo Hall on a Sunday morning, and you're quite intrigued and interested by what you hear, and this good news of the Gospel has a measure of attraction to you - but you don't know enough. But your problem is not that you don't know enough, your problem is that you don't know everything, and until you know everything you will not become a Christian. Well, I want to say to you, from God I believe: you will never become a Christian, because you will never know everything. If that's what you're waiting for, it ain't going to come, because only God knows everything!
Suffering, in a strange way, helps us here, because suffering - when it comes into our life, or the lives of those whom we love - it's a drastic way of waking us up to the awareness that we can't know everything, and that we cannot control everything, and that we cannot determine the outcome of everything. You see, what suffering does is, it puts us in touch with our own mortality, and it ought to cause us to seek the Almighty. It was C.S. Lewis who said in his book, 'The Problem of Pain', some of you know this quote well: 'God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world'.
You see, ultimately, what suffering ought to do is cause us to look outside ourselves for help, to look to God. You see, this is why suffering, at times, is allowed into our lives. The Lord didn't give a specific reason or sin why this man was born blind, on his account or his parents, but this is what He does say in verse 3: 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him'. He's saying: 'This man's suffering is a great opportunity for God to reveal Himself'. You have the same in John 11, where Mary and Martha lost their brother, Lazarus. He died, and in fact Jesus delayed in coming to heal Lazarus. He wouldn't go to heal him, He held back so that he would die. They wanted an explanation, and they said to Him: 'If You had been here, our brother would not have died'. Jesus said: 'This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified through it'. You see, man's extremity can be God's opportunity. If you're here this morning, and you're suffering, I sympathise with you - and don't misunderstand me, I'm not belittling or undermining anything that you're going through here today in your life - but what I am saying to you is: has it caused you to look up? Has it caused you to seek God? Has it caused you to understand that this is an opportunity for God to reveal Himself to you and glorify Himself?
You see, our experiences of suffering - whilst we cannot always know the reason - they ought to drive us to God, but do you know what sadly often is the case? Suffering drives people from God rather than to Him. So how we react to suffering is all-important. Maybe you're even a believer here today, and suffering in your life has caused you to sort of curl up like a hedgehog and put the prickles out even with God. You're retracting away from His presence, His communion; you really are resenting that He has allowed this into your life. Isn't it ironic that the same circumstances that can bring a man or a woman to faith in Christ, can actually drive another man or woman to atheism or to despair? Man's extremity, which is God's opportunity, can also be the devil's opportunity to drive people away from Christ - depending on where a person turns for help.
Let me ask you: where are you turning for help? In your suffering, in your test, in your pain, where have you been turning for help? Sir Henry Lauder, his only son was killed in the First World War, and he said to a friend: 'When a man comes to a thing like this there are just three ways out of it. There is drink, despair, and God - and by His grace, the last is for me', God. Man is born to trouble, Job says, as the sparks upward. It's going to come, and if it hasn't hit you yet, it's coming your way believe you me! The great issue is how we react, and where we turn. Do we turn to drink? Are you turning to drink? Are you turning to despair? Are you going to take the coward's way out, take your own life? Is there someone here today like that, or you've contemplated it? You might even have the plan all worked out! Or will you turn to God? The old Negro spiritual says: 'Where will I go? Where should I go seeking refuge for my soul?'.
Maybe you're saying from your mind and heart, if you're that person that has to know everything: 'But that requires me to take a leap in the dark. I need to know more' - causes again, isn't it? The cure is before you this morning, but you're being taken up with the causes. It is not a leap in the dark, on the contrary: to trust in Christ is a leap in the light, look at verse 5: 'As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world'. So whatever your darkness is, if you come to Christ He will dispel that darkness, for He is the light. Now, yes, there is a leap in coming to Christ, for that's what faith is - and this man had to exercise faith, which is simple obedience on nothing but trust. You look at verses 10 and 11, the Lord said to him to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. So this man had to exercise faith. Jesus spat on the ground, made clay, put it on his eyes, and told him to go and do something. Jesus tells you to repent of your sins, that means to change your attitude about sin, realising it's destroying you, it's going to damn your soul for all eternity; and being willing, by His power, to forsake it, and trust Christ alone for salvation. There is a leap to take, but it's not a leap in the dark, it's a leap into the light!
Whilst you may never know the causes to all your problems and all your sufferings, you can have a revelation of the cure - and surely that's more important? Is that not more important? I mean, when I have a headache, I don't need to know why I've got the headache as long as the paracetamol takes it away! Is that not the case? Yet so many are thrust into atheism or agnosticism because they don't know the causes to everything, and despair. If you allow your suffering to drive you away from God, that's where you will end: a cul-de-sac of despair and hopelessness! That's all that atheism can offer! Listen to the contemporary artist Francis Bacon, he believed that men and women are futile wretches. He said: 'Man now realises that he is an accident, that he is a completely futile being, that he has to play out the game without reason'. The French thinker, Jean-Paul Sartre, believed that 'because God does not exist', as far as he was concerned, 'life has no ultimate meaning and is absurd'. He concluded: 'Man is a useless passion'. The famous playwright, Samuel Beckett, conveyed this attitude to life in his play 'Breath'. It was one I would have loved to have been at: it lasts 30 seconds, there were no actors, no conversation, the whole script was just the sigh of human life from a baby's cry to a man's last breath before he dies - that was life, just a breath to him, a sigh, a moan. Ernest Hemingway believed, I quote: 'Life is a rough track from nowhere to nowhere', and on 2 July 1961 he put a shotgun to his head and took his own life.
Do you know what the biggest killer of young men in Ireland today is? Suicide, because of utter hopelessness and despair - and that is the fruit of atheism and unbelief, of agnosticism. You're maybe here today, and you have to know everything - I say to you: Christianity is not blind faith, it is intelligent faith, it is open eyed faith. Jesus said in John 8: 'You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free'. Paul said: 'I know whom I have believed' - he didn't say, 'I know everything', but he said, 'I know in whom I have believed'.
We may not know all the causes for suffering, but we can know all we need to know about the cure: the cure is Christ. I challenge you this morning, if you have never done it before, take this book and study the life and ministry, the words and claims of Jesus Christ - and I guarantee you that you will not be disappointed. Why don't you get obsessed about the cure, rather than the cause? Often we waste so much of our time and energies searching for answers and causes, when the cure is what we really need! The cure is clear as crystal: 'I am the light in the world'. All your curiosity, no matter how insatiable it has been up until this moment, can be satisfied in a split-second if you were to take that leap into the light and trust Jesus Christ as your Saviour.
Verse 6, see how this man was healed: 'Jesus spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva'. You see the eyes were being opened in the heart to who this Man was, that's what John wants us to see. This is an act of a Creator, the One who took clay from the ground and breathed in it and made the first man. This One who is walking among men as a Man, is the Creator of the universe, and He's taking clay again and He's covering a man's eyes that are blind from birth, and He's giving him sight. This Jesus is Saviour, and He is Creator, He is God - He's got the power, my friend, to turn your life all around!
Between Genesis and John no priest, no prophet, had ever given sight - no apostle even, up to this point, had ever given sight to blind eyes. Jesus did this healing as a mark that He was Messiah, He was God's Anointed One, He was the Saviour, He was the answer! This, in fact, is the most common miracle that Jesus ever did: 'The eyes of the blind shall be opened', to show that Jesus is unique! My friend, are your eyes opened today to who Jesus is? Oh, you're so caught up with the causes, and why this, why that, why the other, how, wherefore - but you've got to see that this is the indisputable fact of history and eternity: Jesus is the Son of God. He has all power, He has died for your sins, He has risen again, He is alive and present by His Holy Spirit, and He is the answer to all your quandary and questions. He is the revelation you need.
Whilst we cannot know everything about the causes of personal suffering, we can know something of the cure. Do you know something? We know something of how the cure was caused: the cure was caused through suffering! Isn't that a remarkably divine paradox? He suffered for sin, He suffered for the pain of humanity to purchase our cure. God made Him flesh, to suffer hunger, to suffer pain, to suffer thirst, and then to suffer crucifixion. God was in Christ on the cross reconciling the world to Himself, Isaiah said: 'Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the punishment for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed'.
God is not at a distance watching us, but this God who you are asking 'Why? Why? Why?', this God became flesh and felt our pain, and took our sin, and entered into our fallen world - and there was never a man suffered like Him. Do you ever think of the suffering of Christ? I don't have time to go into it, but He suffered rejection from day one. There was no room for Him in the Inn as a baby. He suffered the abuse of Herod, he tried to kill Him. He was bereaved of Joseph as His father, and effectively, at a very young age, was brought up in a single-parent family. He was slandered, aspersions cast upon His birth. He was mocked as an illegitimate. He lost His childhood, because He most likely had to assume the responsibility of being the head of the home, and going into the carpentry business as a young lad. He had to help in bringing up His brothers and His sisters who, later in His ministry, forsook Him and said He was mad. He never had His own family, He never had a wife, He never had a house to call His own. His disciples forsook Him at the cross. His friends betrayed Him. Soldiers ridiculed Him and physically abused Him. He was crucified, and even God forsook Him - and He cried out: 'My God, my God, why?'. He asked 'Why?', not because He didn't know - He knew it was to redeem us all from this mess.
Though the cause of your suffering today may not be clear, and may never be - I want you to know that the cure is the Suffering Saviour, a Saviour who knows and understands, and a Saviour who will meet you right where you are now. John Blanchard said that soon after the events of September 2001 he was asked the question: 'Where was God when religious fanatics killed more than 2,800 people?', and he replied 'Exactly where He was when religious fanatics killed His Son, Jesus Christ - in complete control of everything that happened'.
You might feel that your life and your suffering is careering out of control. I want to say to you today: it's not. You might not understand the causes, but I have presented to you the cure: Jesus is the answer. Let us pray.
Now let's all bow our heads and quieten our hearts, and please, believers, be praying for those in our midst who may not be Christians - and it's you I want to talk to. Has God spoken to your heart this morning? You say: 'David, really, I've had a revelation, that I've been looking in every nook and cranny and under every rock for answers, and I know now that I'm not going to get them all - but I know now that Jesus is the cure, He is the answer, He is the light, He is the One who suffered for my suffering and my sin. What do I do?'. Well, you just come to Him, you just come to Him. He has opened your eyes today like He did for this man, and He has revealed Himself as the Son of God. All you have to do is repent of your sin, and believe in Him. You can use these words to do it, from your heart, quietly, between you and the Lord: 'Lord, I'm a sinner', say it to Him now, 'Lord, I'm a sinner, and I repent of my sin and my wickedness, and my selfishness and my pride. I thank You for the Saviour who died for me, and I take Him as my Saviour. Save me now, in Jesus' name'.
If you've done that today, why not tell me at the door, or tell someone in the meeting you know. We want to encourage you, pray for you, give you some help. If you want to talk about the matter, why not talk to a friend or myself. I'll be available for you - but please, if God has revealed Himself to you in Jesus, don't leave today without the cure.
Father, we just pray that You will part us now with Your blessing - and that all of us, even Your people who, at times, if we're all honest, Lord, we ask questions - help us to see that if we take refuge in Christ, the cure, all our questions may not be answered specifically, but Lord, we'll have the answer to everything, and our soul will be satisfied in Him - even to not know our deepest questions, as long as we know in whom we have believed, and the truth has set us free. Set people free here today, Lord, through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Scrabo Hall in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the first recording in his 'Portions From John' series, entitled "Sin, Suffering And The Saviour" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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