Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
All his life, this man was blind. He lived off the scraps of others. He was a beggar. What was worse, the man was seen by the authorities as a sinner. He lived under the horrible consequences of wrong spiritual presumptions. He was shunned, despised, ignored. This was the life of a man living in a world filled with slaves to sin. And, there was no conceivable way to escape this existence. This would be his life until his death.
What filled the thoughts and prayers of the religious authorities as they passed this man every day? "Thank you Lord I am not like this man." "I am so glad you are a God who punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous." Whatever their thoughts, it was clear these synagogue rulers had no compassion or mercy toward the man at all. They probably thought it was merciful to let him stay in the town.
Then Jesus, the one sent from God, shows up. He heard Jesus proclaim that no one sinned to put him in this position. He felt a strange sensation on his eyes and was told to wash off at a certain pool. He does exactly what Jesus told him to do. And, this disregarded man who never saw a thing in his life, suddenly saw everything.
This is one of those occasions where we see the power and influence possessed by those who opposed Jesus, the Pharisees (religious leaders). The people of the man's neighbourhood brought the man to the Pharisees in order to confirm the miracle. The parents of the man were afraid to give Jesus, the man who had just given sight to the son, any recognisition including proclaim him as Messiah because of their fear of being excommunicated.
The religious leaders go to incredible lengths to confirm the story. They bring in the man's parents to confirm that he was born blind. They ask the man exact details of how the healing took place. Then a debate erupts about whether Jesus is from God. Was it enough that Jesus gave sight to a man who had never had sight in his life? No. Why? Because, again, Jesus had healed the man on the wrong day.
We are told by the Gospel writers that Jesus did many things apart from what was recorded. I believe Jesus healed people every day. Jesus healed people everyday including the Sabbath. But, we read about the Sabbath healings in particular because of the controversy it raised among the religious leaders. The controversy reveals the hearts of the religious leaders of Israel during the time of Jesus, why they wanted to kill Jesus and how they do not recognise their Father even with all the religious hoo-hah that proclaimed they did.
As a Protestant preacher who goes around a lot of different churches and as a member of a small church that I am hoping to become more connected to in 2011, I am keenly aware that people leave congregations for all kinds of stupid reasons. They leave their brothers and sisters because the wrong version of the Bible was read, someone quoted a Catholic from the pulpit, the wrong musical instruments were played, they only serve communion once a month, people dance around too much during worship, the meeting was too long, etc... There is only one criteria that should be used to determine whether a church is worth belonging to; do these people make disciples of Jesus Christ? That's it.
From the neighbours to his parents to the religious leaders, through all the confusion and arguing, there is one man who stands out as a beacon of clarity. The man who was blind but now can see knows exactly what happened and why it happened. He knows exactly where Jesus is from. From the moment this man washed his eyes, he became a witness of Jesus.
Jesus told his disciples just before his ascension, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth." That is all any followers of Jesus are required to be, his witness. We do not have to memorise a Roman Road, or rote explain the Peace Treaty. All any of us are asked by our Lord to do is talk about how Jesus has blessed our lives.
In the face of fierce opposition, before people who disregarded and condemned him his entire life, this witness of our Lord Jesus Christ gives one of the best sermons ever preached,
You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.
Truer words were never spoken by anyone. His reward? Rejection and excommunication. But, for followers of Jesus, this is never the end of their story...
Jesus never abandons anyone who has been abandoned for speaking the truth. Again we read Jesus asking the fundamental question, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
"Lord, I believe."
What do I want? Do I want the temporary trappings of a mortal's pursuit? Do I want the false reputation and the fleeting security? Do I want to go with those who would condemn the weak? Is that what I would say is a successful life?
Sadly, many do. "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains." I think they knew. In the face of such overwhelming evidence, they knew. It is addressed by John later, but the religious leaders knew all to well what Jesus as Messiah meant and they rejected for fear that they would lose their place. They had to put up as ridiculous arguments as possible, but in their hearts, I think they knew.
Do you believe in the Son of Man?