Sermon on John 9:35-41, preached on Sunday, 3 Feb 2019.
Bible Readings: (OT) Habakkuk 1:1-2:5 / (NT) John 9:35-41
I. Born to see and believe only the visible
II. Called to see and believe the invisible God
III. Pressed constantly to not see the invisible
IV. The equation of seeing and believing
I’d like to begin with Habakkuk, OT prophet in the 7th century BC. The time he lived was a time of chaos in many ways. The southern kingdom, Judah, was at stake and social justice and morality had long disappeared, and people were suffering from it every day. No one cared for God’s name and His word, let alone His worship. Seeing these, Habakkuk complains and that’s the beginning of Hab. 1. Hear what he complains about as recorded in v. 3, “Why do You [God] make me see iniquity, and why do You idly look at wrong?” The gracious God answers to Habakkuk and says that He sees all things and runs all things according to His good and righteous plan. Having heard the Lord’s answer, he concludes his book of prophecy with a famous confession of faith, I believe all of you know these verses well – Hab. 3:17-19 reads, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail … yet, I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength ….”
In this book of Habakkuk, there’s an interesting point to pick up, that is, an obvious link between seeing and believing. Habakkuk complained and asked, ‘Why should I see all these evil? Why do You, God, not answer me?’ He doubts because he can’t see God or His hand working in the lives of God’s people. Yet, hearing God, Habakkuk can now see His plan and, seeing it, he confesses his faith in the Lord. This is an interesting point of Habakkuk – seeing led him to believing.
The same is taught in Jn. 9, our text passage, especially in vs. 37-38. See what these verses say: “Jesus said to him [whose eyes were opened and now sees], ‘You have seen Him [the Son of God], and it is He who is speaking to you.’ [The man] said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped [Jesus].” Moreover, Jesus talks about ‘seeing’ and ‘believing,’ and ‘believing’ and ‘being saved’ in v. 39: “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’” Do you see how ‘seeing’ is equated with ‘believing,’ then, with ‘salvation’? Seeing is believing, and anyone who sees believes and is saved! Of course, this vision or eyesight is not by man’s physical eyes, but by spiritual eyes.
I’d like to talk about ‘seeing and believing’ with four points – first, ‘all people are born to see and believe only the visible things’: second, ‘we’re called to see and believe God who is invisible’: third, ‘we’re pressed constantly from all directions to not see the invisible truth of Jesus’: and, last, ‘the equation of seeing and believing.’
I. BORN TO SEE AND BELIEVE THE VISIBLE
First of all, it is true that all human beings are born to see and believe what is only visible. If you remember last Sunday’s message from the first part of Jn. 9, you’d remember hearing of what this man of Jn. 9 represents. He was born blind and, by being born blind, he represents all human beings born blind to the truth. All human eyes can see is what is material, therefore, visible and tangible. No human being does ever believe what he/she does not see. David Hume is a renowned 18th century philosopher, historian and economist, one of the intellectuals of this world. He once said this: ‘A wise man proportions [or equates] his belief to the evidence.’ He means that a wise man is someone who believes what he sees or touches. What is unseen, untouchable or unmeasurable has no value to the mind of a natural human being.
As people believe only what they see, no two people share an equal belief because each one sees things differently from his fellow man. A kindy kid believes that the world is as big as his home, his kindy and the part of the town he travels with his parents. His belief is far too much different from that of a university professor or of a sailor. This is why Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s theory of ‘social contract’ has been well accepted by this world. His theory describes how a community or nation exists in relation to individual members. Unless individuals surrender some of their freedom or belief system, and submit it to the authority of their nation or community, there’s no way for maintaining a unified body of people. And their nation provides individuals the most common things for all, or at least the majority, such as protection, public service and so on. This is so because all men and women are born to see only what is visible to their eyes, and they believe what they see.
II. CALLED TO SEE AND BELIEVE THE INVISIBLE GOD
Although men are born blind, unable to see things that are spiritual, some are called to see things that are impossible to see with our natural physical eyes, and by seeing, to believe what we see. Like this man of Jn. 9 visited by Jesus and, although he didn’t ask Jesus to fix his eyes, the Lord Jesus opened his eyes, some are visited and called to see. Like the way it happened out of blue to the man of Jn. 9, it happens to some people and it has happened to you and me. Jesus came to us, opened our spiritual eyes, and we can now see Him!
Let me talk about our nameless man of Jn. 9 a bit more. I believe that this man had had no idea of what opening eyes and seeing meant before he was sent to a pool to wash his eyes and, having washed, saw everything. I believe that he would’ve asked and begged Jesus to open his eyes if he had had an idea of eyesight. Compare this man with other blind people who appear in the gospels. There are four blind men that appear in Mt. 9 and Mt. 20 – two men in each case. These four blind men heard that Jesus was passing by and they cried out loudly and what they asked was exactly the same although they were two completely separate occasions – they cried out and said, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” Hearing their cry, Jesus knew what they were asking – it was opening their eyes. Those men were not born blind; they became blind later by untold reasons. But this man of Jn. 9 was different. Unlike those other blind men healed by Jesus, this person had never known what seeing was. But Jesus came to him and commanded him to go, wash and see.
Having washed, he was able to see all things, all people, like everybody else. But, he could see something many others could not see. What was it? Jesus who is the Christ! It is interesting to know how his new eyesight has become brighter. From the start, people asked him how his eyes were opened. This man answered in v. 11, ‘The Man called Jesus’ opened his eyes. Then, in v. 17 he answers to the Pharisees and says, “[Jesus] is a prophet.” Do you see a slight improvement here? ‘The Man called Jesus’ is now in his eyes, ‘a prophet of God.’ After this, as he again says in v. 30, “[Jesus] opened my eyes,” he is quite sure about Jesus’ origin. He says in v. 33 that Jesus is from God. Then, finally, we read from v. 38 how unblemished his eyesight has become – this man says, calling Jesus Lord, “Lord, I believe,” and he worships Jesus, his Lord!
As was this nameless believer of Jn. 9, we’re called by Jesus and our eyes are opened to see Him. Seeing, we believe in Him. As we believe Him, our vision of Him becomes brighter and we worship Him who is the Christ, the Saviour and Lord of the world!
Having said, let me assure you that no one can believe Jesus unless he/she sees Jesus. This vision is not by our physical eyes; no one can see Jesus with his/her physical eyes. This vision is by our spiritual eyes Jesus opened for us. Only by this sight, do you and I believe. Heb. 11:1 agrees by teaching us that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In this verse, the words rendered in ESV as ‘assurance’ and ‘conviction’ originally mean things like ‘real being or nature’ and ‘proof or evidence.’ In other words, something that is tangible in terms of our human senses. But again, not by physical senses, but by spiritual eyesight.
Let me assure you that if you confess that Jesus is the Son of God and your Saviour and Lord, if you mean it, you see Him with your spiritual eyes! If any of you are not sure about this, do not worry but wait and see. You’ll soon find out that you’ve been seeing Him since you confessed your faith in Jesus. This man of Jn. 9 testifies that, like him, you’re called to see and believe Jesus and worship the Father through Him.
III. PRESSED CONSTANTLY TO NOT SEE THE INVISIBLE
While we enjoy our new eyesight and fix our spiritual eyes on Jesus, we find ourselves under a constant pressure from this world and the unbelievers. It’s true to say that the clearer a believer sees Jesus, the colder this world becomes toward the believer, the surer he will face omnidirectional persecution.
Our Lord Jesus taught His disciples about this in Jn. 15:18 and following: “If the world hates you,” meaning that this world will surely hate us, Jesus’ followers, “[if you find the world hates you], know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” He continues, telling us that this will be so “because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Our Lord means that we’ll surely face the world’s hatred. As we open our spiritual eyes and see Jesus, the world starts hating us. This will become stronger as we see Jesus clearer, as we focus on Him more.
That’s exactly what this man of Jn. 9 who is our fellow brother in Jesus faced. He was cast out of the Jewish synagogue, excommunicated from the Jewish fellowship, severed from the society he once belonged to. We don’t really understand its impact, its severity, because we’re not Jews of the 1st century. The closest illustrations for us of the 21st century might be your bank account blocked permanently or being openly branded as a public enemy. This severance our unnamed brother in faith experienced came with painful shame and isolation. Truth is that not only him, but all men and women of faith have tasted this persecution. Some names of faith are listed in Heb. 11, the chapter often called as ‘the Hall of Faith.’ The life of each one listed in that chapter of faith points out the same, that is, all who believe in Jesus face rejection, persecution and various difficulties in this world.
If any of you thinks that you haven’t been rejected or persecuted, if you think that you haven’t had any difficulty, despite your faith in Jesus, then, you need to think about that in either of these two possibilities. First, your faith might not be a genuine, biblical faith; you might not believe in Jesus in the way the Bible teaches. If this is the case, then, you’d better repent of your lukewarmness, ask the Lord for faith. Or, second, you haven’t faced any difficulty, but challenges are approaching because of your Christian faith. When a trouble finally meets you, however, you should remember what the Lord Jesus you trust, love and worship said in Mt. 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account [in other word, because of your belief in Jesus Christ]. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” In difficulty, you should also remember the words given to us in 1 Cor. 10:13: “God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” What a gracious God we trust and how tender these words of our Lord is! Knowing this and experiencing all these, the Apostle Paul records in 2 Cor. 4:8 God’s full power and His complete comfort in these words: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carry in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies”! What a joy it is to hear about such a victory like this!
You and I are called by God to open our eyes and see Jesus clearer every day! We have no interest at all now in what is mundane, what is finite, but desire to see Jesus clearer and enjoy His saving work of grace that has begun in and among us. The world has begun hating us and it’ll be stronger, but our joy in seeing and believing the Lord Jesus is too great and deep to be interfered.
IV. THE EQUATION OF SEEING AND BELIEVING
So, we see Jesus and believe in Him. In this sense, seeing is believing. People of this world say the same thing, but they mean something completely different from what we mean by this. We see Jesus with our spiritual eyes, and we believe and worship Him.
Based on this, we can say that the reverse is true also – that is, believing is seeing. The more you believe, the clearer your vision of Jesus becomes, doesn’t it? St. Augustine of the 4th century talked about this relationship between faith and sight in this way: ‘Faith is to believe what you do not see [he means, with physical eyes]; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.’ Surely, believing is seeing.
This is the equation between faith and sight, between seeing and believing. One grows, the other becomes greater in degree and strength. Heb. 11:3 points this out in these words: “By faith we understand the universe was created by the word of God.” By this faith in Jesus, our vision gets clearer, enabling us to see not only our origin and destination, but also the very beginning of time and the universe as well as what will come at the end of all things! We see Jesus and believe Him, and we believe and see all things of Jesus and God!
My dear brothers and sisters in this faith whose eyes are wide open and see the Lord clearly, let us rejoice in this greatest gift, that is, faith in Jesus. Know Him more to have greater joy. See Jesus the Lord in all things we do as God’s children and altogether Christ’s church. Find Christ in the Communion we’ll soon take part in this morning. And let us continue together the work that is assigned to us by the Lord – that is, we worship Him, we proclaim Him as King and Lord, and expand His kingdom to all directions. ***