In the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John, we read a remarkable story of a man born blind who was made to see by the miraculous healing power of Christ. It was the kind of miracle, like so many of them, that could not be kept a secret. Word spread far and wide of what Jesus had done to this young man. But the power players of the day rejected the news. And so we read that
the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age [that is, he’s at least 13 years old]. He will speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.)
So there’s a power move here, an intimidation factor at play. John continues,
Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He [the healed man] answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:18–25)
“Was blind, but now I see” — a famous line, worked into John Newton’s famous hymn “Amazing Grace.” John 9 is a key chapter in explaining God’s plan for physical disability. But it’s also a key chapter for understanding how we as Christians, changed by the grace of God, can testify of Christ before the world’s most powerful and educated people. Here’s Pastor John to explain.
Here we see the full-blown courage of a beggar — a mere beggar standing up to the most religious, most educated people of the land. And we see here full-blown blasphemy in response to that kind of courage.
Verse 24: “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” In other words, “Join us in blasphemy, or we’ll excommunicate you out of the synagogue.” That’s not like being excommunicated out of Bethlehem, because do you know what happens if we do discipline on an unrepentant person? They go join another church. In spite of any letter we might send, there are churches of all kinds, and people just move on.
That can’t happen here. When you get kicked out of a synagogue, you get kicked out of Judaism. This is life. This is like being in a Muslim-dominated context. You can’t be there as a Christian. It won’t work. This is huge. Don’t just hear, “We’ll kick you out.” Getting rid of you from the synagogue means you’re out of the community. This is huge, what this man was standing up against.
“A personal testimony trumps arguments when they’re bad arguments — and they’re all bad when they’re against Jesus.”
Verse 25 is his most famous sentence. People all over the world know this sentence, even if they don’t know the Bible: “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” I hope you feel something here. You don’t think of yourself as a theologian and you don’t think of yourself as a scientist, but you’ve got people coming against your faith with every manner of argument — historically, scientifically, experientially. They’re coming against you if you try to be a bold, regular witness.
And I want you to feel the power of this: a personal testimony trumps arguments when they’re bad arguments — and they’re all bad arguments when they’re against Jesus. Don’t be intimidated. This man was way less educated than everybody in all these rooms, and he’d been blind all of his life. And he just simply said with all boldness, “Look, you may know some things I don’t know, but I can see.”
Doctrines of Courage
One of the reasons I teach and preach on the doctrines of grace is because there are so many Christians who don’t know how they got saved, so that they don’t know they have a stunning testimony that they sheer believe. Your belief is a miracle; you didn’t choose it.
Of course, if you have a theology that says, “I did it,” then you’ve got no testimony to the power of God in your life. But at age 6 or 16 or 36, when you saw Jesus as needed and beautiful and sufficient, and you confessed, “I’m a sinner, I need you, I receive you,” a miracle happened. A miracle happened. That’s why these theological things matter.
You can stand up in front of the Senate and say, “I don’t know much about what you guys deal with here. I just know one thing: I was blind once, and now I see the glory of Christ as self-evidencing and compelling, and I will die for him. I’ll stake my life on the truth of what I’ve seen in Jesus.” That’s what you can say. That’s very powerful. It is here. It will come to a point where they can’t handle him anymore. That’s what he said. I hope you’re willing to say it. I hope you have enough understanding to say it, and if you don’t, I hope you study about how you got saved, so that you will know that if you’re saved, you can say it.
His courage becomes scorn. Verse 27: “Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Whoa, what are you doing, man? You’re going to get yourself killed. They’re very hostile, of course. Verses 28–29: “They reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’”
Now the controversy has revealed another deceit: They’re not disciples of Moses. They think they are. They’re not, because Jesus said in John 5:46, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” “You don’t know Moses, and you don’t know God. You talk about Moses. You read Moses. You talk about God. You read God’s word. And you don’t know God, because if you knew God and you knew Moses, you’d know me.”
Again, the controversy is revealing what’s really going on in the Jewish leaders’ hearts. Now we are seeing who’s really blind here. They take the first five books of their Bible, and they read them, and they don’t see anything. They’re blind. We’re watching a man whose sight is becoming clearer and clearer and clearer, and whose courage is becoming stronger and stronger, and we’re watching these Pharisees reveal more and more blindness. You don’t want to be a part of that.
Jesus in Pursuit
Jesus and the beggar have a conversation in verses 35–38, after the Jewish leaders cast the beggar out. What makes this conversation so amazingly significant is that Jesus sought him out and found him. Verse 34: “‘You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?’ And they cast him out.” Now, that’s really serious. To whom will he turn when he’s just been cast out of the community? To whom will he turn?
He doesn’t have to turn anywhere. Jesus turns to him. We’ve seen this before, haven’t we? Jesus found him. Jesus seeks him. It is no accident that the next chapter is about the Good Shepherd who gathers his sheep. It’s no accident. John knows what he’s doing. He found him. “That’s one of mine. Nobody else wants him right now. I want him.” That’s what I’m praying he’ll do to you in the next five minutes of this sermon. He is after you. He is going to find you. That’s why you’re here. That’s why you’re there.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:35–38)
“Do you confess Christ openly and defend him with your simple testimony, ‘I was blind, and now I see’?”
Then the beggar is gone out of this story. He never says another word. We never see him again. The last thing he does is worship Jesus. I pray that’s the last thing I do. Jesus does the works of God. Jesus is the glory of God. Jesus is to be worshiped. That’s the point of the story. The beggar is blind. He calls Jesus a man. Then he calls Jesus a prophet. Then he defends him at huge risk to his life. And then he worships him after he is found by Jesus.
‘Finally, I Saw’
Jesus came into the world to seek worshipers. That’s why he’s here. Do you confess him openly and defend him with your simple testimony? No big apologetic reasoning. Some of you are called to that, but most of you aren’t. You’re just called to be witnesses. If you see a car hit a person, you can be a witness. You don’t need any education at all.
“I saw” — 95 percent of Christians are saved that way. No big argument — just, “I saw. Finally, I saw. I was reading the Gospels, and I couldn’t resist this man anymore. He was real. He’s real. He’s true. He’s exactly what I need. He’s what the world needs. He’s real. This is not made up. I saw.”
I simply ask, Do you confess him openly and defend him with your simple testimony, “I was blind, and now I see”?