THE STORY — IT’S ALL ABOUT SHARING
by Pastor Mike Fortune
April 19, 2008
The story is all about sharing ...
- Our Time [John 9:13-16; Mark 8:22-26]
- And Our Testimony [John 9:17-27; 12:42-43; 16:2]
- To Bring Glory to God [John 9:28-34; Revelation 15:3-4; Joshua 7:19; Isaiah 66:23; Revelation 12:10-11]
13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been [born] blind. 14Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man's eyes was a Sabbath. 15Therefore 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." 16Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided.
17Finally 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." 18The Jews 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. 21But 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." 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. 23That was why his parents said, "He is of age; ask him."
24A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. "Give glory to God," they said. "We know this man is a sinner." 25He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" 26Then they asked him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" 27He 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?"
28Then they hurled insults at him and said, "You are this fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where he comes from." 30The man answered, "Now that is remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." 34To this they replied, "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!" And they threw him out.”
Verse 13 says they brought to the Pharisees the man who had been [born] blind. They did that because that’s what happens when you break the rules. You get sent to the principal’s office. And if you’re really bad, they drag you there themselves. I’m not speaking from personal experiences here now, it just sounds that way! Seriously! But this sort of thing had to have happened quite a bit. Because it was hard to remember all 613 rules they made to keep the Sabbath holy.
One of them said kneading bread was forbidden. Another said men were permitted to pour water on bran in preparation as feed for animals, but they were not permitted to mix it. Here in our passage today, Jesus goes out of his way to break both those rules and a couple more too. He could have healed the blind man the way he did in Mark 8:22-26. You can read that later if you want, but basically in that case, Jesus takes a blind man by the hand and leads him outside the village. Then, instead of kneading and mixing saliva with mud, I’m not making this up, he spits on the mans eyes. Isn’t that disgusting?
Now it’s true the ancients believed that saliva contained healing properties. And the blind men in Mark 8 and the other in John 9 knew that. So they probably weren’t as offended as we would be. But Jesus doesn’t use saliva in these cases because of its supposed healing properties. He does so on purpose because He knew doing so would break four rules about the Sabbath all at once. We already talked about the kneading and mixing which was forbidden. But anointing or placing the mud on the eyes was also forbidden. Any anointing, especially the unusual kind Jesus is doing in Mark 8 and John 9, was forbidden on the Sabbath. And the last thing is if you were going to do any of that stuff, you weren’t supposed to do it in chronic cases. In cases where people have been that way for a long time. Because if they’ve been that way for a while, another 24 hours isn’t going to kill them. That’s the rationale. But it wasn’t Jesus’. Mercy never waits.
In John 5 we already read how Jesus went out of his way on the Sabbath to heal a chronically paralyzed man that had been that way for nearly an entire generation. And here in our passage today, Jesus is doing it again. Which makes a pattern.
You guys know when the Bible was written that they didn’t use chapters and verses right? And they didn’t have highlights and punctuation either. If you were writing in Hebrew, often you didn’t even have vowels! So when the Bible writers wanted to highlight something, when they wanted to underline something, and make sure the reader realized the significance of what they were saying, you know what they did? They repeated themselves. Often in very beautiful ways. Sometimes through chiastic structures. Which was a way of organizing a book of Scripture in parallel themes where the most important point is often in the middle not the end of the story or book.
But whenever they wanted to make something clear, whatever the mnemonic device or literary style they were using, one thing all styles and devices shared in common was repetition. And this is what I see John doing in our Gospel today. Which leads us to point number one. The story is all about sharing our time.
Why did Jesus do more miracles on Sabbath than any other day? I think he did so to teach us to share our time. Sabbath is not a day for inactivity. Where we stay home and do what we want. It’s true God rested from all his work when He created Sabbath. So resting in the finished work of Creation and Redemption is a great thing to do on Sabbath. And we’re getting better at explaining that. But to be honest, that’s not the part we struggle with. We struggle with the other part. The part where Jesus breaks all the rules about keeping it. The part where Jesus goes out of his way to make the Sabbath miraculous for people far from God. The part where Jesus executes premeditated plans to actively serve and heal mankind on Sabbath. We’re not so sure those are okay things to do. Because we think that ruins the specialness of it. But you know what? I think actively serving and creating a day children look forward to sharing is what makes it special! So this summer of service, we’re gonna be grilling and singing and playing every Sabbath in the park in July. Gonna get the ladder ball out again. To see if I can beat Donna this year. Gonna give away a bunch of lemonade. And we’re gonna get there a little earlier so we don’t have to wait to do the set up after we get out of church.
Wouldn’t it be great if we were known as the church that loves to serve people on Saturdays? We don’t just go to church to worship. We spend the entire day serving. Making it a day of miracles for people far from God. I’d invite my friends to go to a church like that. And I guess all I’m saying is, until recently, I hadn’t seen that pattern revealed as clearly in Scripture as it is. Have you?
No doubt, Sabbath kept right is a delight. It should be the day we look forward to. Not because we get to ignore the kids and take a nap. But because we get to share that special time with God and the family of God. Whether everybody in it already know they’re precious to Him or not!!! But if we do that, everybody won’t like it. Verse 16 says, “Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” What they should’ve said was: “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath the way we do.” But even then they’d be wrong. Because the Sabbath is primarily about sharing time and building relationships not keeping rules. Which is why I hate sundown calendars. And I could say more about that, but have to get to the next point. Which is: The story is also about sharing our testimony.
Can you imagine how embarrassed the Pharisees were when they were interrogating this uneducated illiterate blind man? We know he was those things because he was born blind and braille had been invented yet. Right? So how do you explain the articulate answers he gave? Can it be anything but the Holy Spirit that gave him the right words to say?
I don’t know about you, but when I’m in a heated argument, [I’ll let that settle in a for a second. Yes, pastors get angry. And sometimes say things they regret. Which hopefully they apologize for and make right], but when I’m in one of those, I can think of all kinds of things to say afterward. But in the heat of the moment, while you’re trying to process the unfair accusations being leveled against you and the rationale behind them, you hardly know what to say first. But not this uneducated illiterate blind guy. His testimony gets more powerful and direct each time he gives it.
Notice with me, in verse 11, he calls Jesus just a man. “The man they call Jesus made some mud...he says.” Then, by the time the reader reads verse 17, you’ll see he thinks Jesus is not just a man anymore, but a prophet. Then, after the 2 nd summons before the Pharisees, in verse 27, he says he is one of Jesus’ disciples. “He answered, dripping in sarcasm, ‘I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become one of his disciples too?”
Which sounds an awful lot to me like he had already decided to become one. Doesn’t it? He said, “Do you want to become one too?” But Jesus is so much more than just a good man. Who goes out of his way to make Sabbath a delight for people far from God. He’s not just a prophet who shows and tells us what our Heavenly Father is like. He’s not just someone worth sincerely following the rest of your life. He is the Son of God. Who so loved the world that He was sent to the world! I like how Jesus was sent. And then He sends the blind man to the pool of Siloam which verse 7 says means sent. No doubt, Jesus was on a mission and even uneducated illiterate blind men could see that! Because verse 33 says, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
But the Pharisees disagree. At first, they concede in their question of verse 15 that he was blind but now could see. But then they grow in their blindness seeming uncertain and divided in verses 16 and 17. Then, as the debate heats up, they become less and less objective asking the same question three different ways hoping to trap the man into saying the wrong thing in verse 27. Which leads them to totally rejecting Jesus and in verse 28 insulting the man who had been healed by Jesus eventually excommunicating him from the synagogue.
Which was really intense because being excluded from the synagogue for 30 days meant you were also excluded from your family and friends. You were basically dead to them. Seriously. It was no joke. They ignored you for 30 days. And these parents like the people in John 12:42 and 16:2 didn’t want that. So they threw him under the bus. And in response to the Pharisees questioning of them said, ask him yourself! He’s 13. Do you see how the blind man’s testimony allowed him to see while the Pharisees testimony made them more blind? No wonder Jesus said in John 9:5, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Point number one. This story is all about sharing our time. Every day but especially on the Lord’s. But it’s also all about sharing our testimony. Which grows as we grow in our understanding of Jesus. The light of the world. Who alone is worthy of our praise. Skip ahead to verse 38. “Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe’ and he worshiped him.” Which is the same thing Revelation 15 says. You’ve heard me quote verse 4 many times. But let’s back up and catch all the lyrics to this praise song starting in verse 3. “They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: ‘Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
That phrase “Bring glory to your name” is an interesting one. There is a similar phrase used in John 9:24. There it says, “A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. ‘Give glory to God’ they said.’” Both phrases mean “Tell the truth.” Which in that case meant agree with us about what we say is true. Tell us that Jesus is a sinner. That he did not heal you. And is not worthy of our praise. In Joshua 7:19, this contextual understanding is confirmed. It reads, “Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it fro me.’”
This, you see, was a known formula of confession. Giving glory to God meant telling the truth about yourself before God. Which is a great definition of confession. And while the blind man was willing to say that about himself, He was not about to say that about Jesus! And Revelation of Jesus Christ is saying the same thing over and over. People in heaven will forever be confessing their unworthiness of the story being about them giving all the credit to God who alone is holy and worthy. We know this will take place forever because after Revelation 15:4, my Bible has a footnote sending the reader back to Isaiah 66:23 where the phrase “All nations will come and worship before you” originates. So let’s go there and read that in conclusion. Isaiah 66:23 says, “ From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before Me’ says the Lord.”
The story has always been about sharing our time. Every day and especially on the Lord’s. Now and throughout eternity. But it also has always been about sharing our testimony as well. Earlier I told you about chiastic structures. It comes from the Greek letter “chi” that looks like an “X” or a cross. What I didn’t tell you is Revelation is written in a chiastic structure. And according to the commentator I read, the center of that chiastic structure in the book of Revelation is found in Chapter 12 verses 10-11. Which reads, “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Of everything that book talks about, these middle sentences is what John wanted us to remember most.
This story is all about sharing our time. Point number one. And our testimonies. Point number two. To bring glory to God. Point number three. This is what Ginny Owens, the blind piano player from Nashville, is doing in the story of her life. And this is what that blind man was doing in the story of his. And this is what I hear God’s story asking us to do as well.