The Gospel of John: A True Shepherd, Part Three.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” (John 10:1-6)

What are some of the characteristics of a true and faithful shepherd? The qualities which a literal shepherd of sheep in ancient and present Israel certainly apply to the Lord Jesus Christ and His relationship to his followers or disciples. In the immediate aftermath of healing a man born blind in John 9, and the dialogue which followed with the unbelieving Jewish religious leaders known as the Pharisees, Jesus shared a parable in John 10:1-21 regarding a typical or faithful shepherd and his relationship to his sheep. One of the most significant characteristics of the shepherd was being a guardian and protector of the sheep.

First, true shepherd enters by the gate to the sheepfold and not by another way, as would a thief or a robber. Jesus said, “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens.” Jesus is the true shepherd of believing sinners.

Second, the sheep know the voice of the shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” We follow and hear the voice of the Lord when we obey His Word.

Third, the shepherd knows each sheep by name. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” It is commonly said that shepherds customarily knew each of their sheep by name. In the Old Testament, God called his special ones, his closest servants, “by name” (Exodus 33:12, 17; cf. Isaiah 43:1).”

Fourth, the shepherds leads (Numbers 27:15-17; 2 Samuel 5:1-2) the sheep by being in front of the sheep rather than driving the sheep from behind. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”

What is true of literal shepherds is also true of our spiritual shepherd: the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the true Shepherd and Savior of our souls. His voice, or word, we are to follow and obey. He knows each of us by name as indicative of a personal Lord and Savior. Jesus also leads us and we are called by God to follow Him.

How ironic that the religious leaders display that Jesus is not their shepherd, and they conversely are not His sheep, by the Apostle John’s comment in John 10:6: “This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.”

Pastor Burk Parsons concludes by explaining that, “The full biblical picture the Lord paints for us is that of a Shepherd-Warrior who cares for His sheep, lovingly disciplines His sheep, rescues His sheep, and protects His sheep from themselves and from their enemies. This is why Jesus calls Himself the Great Shepherd, and He does not drive His sheep with a whip from behind but calls His sheep by name and leads them into green pastures. For He is the author, the pioneer, and the captain of our faith who goes before us, even laying down His life for His sheep, and He is the finisher of our faith who protects and preserves us to the end.”

The hymn, Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us, is most appropriate to remember at this time. Based on John 10:2-4, it was written in 1836 by Dorothy A. Thrupp.

Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use Thy folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.

We are Thine, Thou dost befriend us, be the Guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.

Thou hast promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be;
Thou hast mercy to relieve us, grace to cleanse and pow’r to free.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! We will early turn to Thee.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! We will early turn to Thee.

Early let us seek Thy favor, early let us do Thy will;
Blessed Lord and only Savior, with Thy love our bosoms fill.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast loved us, love us still.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast loved us, love us still.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: A True Shepherd, Part Two.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” (John 10:1-6)

What are some of the characteristics of a true and faithful shepherd? The qualities which a literal shepherd of sheep in ancient and present Israel certainly apply to the Lord Jesus Christ and His relationship to his followers or disciples. In the immediate aftermath of healing a man born blind in John 9, and the dialogue which followed with the unbelieving Jewish religious leaders known as the Pharisees, Jesus shared a parable in John 10:1-21 regarding a typical or faithful shepherd and his relationship to his sheep. One of the most significant characteristics of the shepherd was being a guardian and protector of the sheep.

The IVP Background Commentary states, It (John 10) is based on Old Testament images of God as the shepherd of Israel (Genesis 48:15; 49:24; Psalm 23:1; 28:9; 77:20; 99:6; Is 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11–31), of Israel as his flock (Psalm 74:1; 78:52; 79:13; 100:3) and of abusive or unfaithful religious leaders as destroyers of his flock (Jeremiah 23:1–2; Ezekiel 34). Faithful human shepherds (Jeremiah 3:15) included Moses, David (2 Samuel 5:2; Psalm 78:71–72) and the Davidic Messiah (Micah 5:4).”

Pastor Burk Parsons explains that, “When we hear the word shepherd, we typically think of a gentle, mild-mannered man in a relaxed posture surrounded by sheep grazing in a serene valley with beautiful hills. But that’s only part of the picture. Shepherds are first and foremost guardians and protectors of the sheep. They must be gentle and strong, tender and courageous, caring and fierce. Today, in many parts of the world, as in the ancient Near East, shepherds are some of the most skilled hunters and warriors among their people.”

I discovered that shepherds carry not only rods but also staffs (Psalm 23). What I once thought were two words referring to the same instrument, I discovered I was mistaken.

The rod was a short club that could be thrown with great speed at a fast-approaching predator. The rod was also used to discipline the sheep when they were fighting, to examine the sheep, beneath their wool, to ensure they were free from skin diseases, and to also number the sheep (Ezekiel 20:37).

The staff, on the other hand, was a much longer, narrow rod with a crook on the end that was used for many purposes. It was primarily used to guide the sheep and to rescue them from thickets or from the crag of a rock.

The shepherd’s rod and staff were always visible to the sheep. The shepherd always walked and dwelt among his sheep, rather than sit on a hillside overlooking the sheep. He was always with them. His rod and his staff, the tools he used to guard, rescue, and protect his sheep, were a constant comfort to his flock. In John 10, Jesus describes in His parable the characteristics of the true shepherd.

First, true shepherd enters by the gate to the sheepfold and not by another way, as would a thief or a robber. During the cold winter months, sheep were kept inside a pen at night. The pen, or corral, usually had a stone wall, which might have briers on top of it.  Remember, winter was approaching at the time of the Feast of the Tabernacles (John 7-9). Jewish law distinguished thieves from robbers in that the former broke in, whereas the latter often lived in the wilderness and would have no reason to enter the sheep pen other than by the gate. Jesus said, “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens.” Jesus is the true shepherd of believing sinners.

Second, the sheep know the voice of the shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” We follow and hear the voice of the Lord when we obey His Word.

What is true of literal shepherds is also true of our spiritual shepherd: the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the true Shepherd and Savior of our souls. His voice, or word, we are to follow and obey.

Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the only Savior and Shepherd of your soul? Are you following Him by obedience to His Word: the Bible?

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: A True Shepherd.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” (John 10:1-6)

The immediate question that should come to mind is exactly to whom is Jesus speaking? His statements occur within the same preceding and immediate context of Jesus’ healing of the man born blind and the subsequent debate with the Pharisees. This is important for us to know because Jesus begins His discourse on being the door and the good shepherd with the words “truly, truly.”

As we have observed in previous articles, repetitious statements in the Scriptures are placed in the text for emphasis. John’s record of Jesus’ statements carry particular importance regarding who He is and what He will do on behalf of His people who He calls “sheep.”

The word “truly” comes from the Greek word ἀμήν from which we derive our English word Amen. The word means an affirmation that something is true and indeed real in the sight of God. To repeat the word emphasizes the importance of what Jesus is going to say and how true it truly is.

The text begins by Jesus saying, ““Truly, truly, I say to you.” Jesus is invoking His own authority in speaking and giving revelation about Himself. He does so because He is God and has the privilege and power to do so.

It should be noted that the pronoun “you” is in the plural form. Jesus could be speaking to not only the man born blind but also to the common people along with His disciples.

However, John 10:6 gives us a greater insight as to whom Jesus is addressing. The verse says, “This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” Both pronouns “them” and “they” are also in the plural form. It is therefore reasonable to assume that these are the same people Jesus begins speaking to in vs. 1. The only thing said about these people is that “they did not understand what he was saying to them.” While this statement could refer to the common people who initially questioned the blind man, it makes more sense to understand that Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees.

Consider the contrasts Jesus provides in using the sustained metaphor of a shepherd and his sheep. He identifies some people as thieves, robbers and strangers. He then refers to the shepherd of the sheep. It is he to whom the sheep will follow because he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out of the sheepfold or enclosure.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, Jesus spoke in vv. 1–30 using a sustained metaphor based on first-century sheep ranching. The sheep were kept in a pen, which had a gate through which the sheep entered and left. The shepherd engaged a “gatekeeper” (v. 3) or “hired hand” (v. 12) as an under-shepherd to guard the gate. The shepherd entered through that gate. He whose interest was stealing or wounding the sheep would choose another way to attempt entrance. The words of Ezekiel 34 most likely form the background to Jesus’ teaching since God decried the false shepherds of Israel (i.e., the spiritual leaders of the nation) for not caring properly for the flock of Israel (i.e., the nation). The Gospels themselves contain extensive sheep/shepherd imagery (see Matthew 9:36Mark 6:34; 14:27Luke 15:1–7).

As in Jesus’ day, there are many false teachers who present themselves as shepherds of the sheep or pastors of the people of God. However, they are in reality spiritual thieves, robbers and strangers. We need to be discerning as to the true nature of these charlatans or imposters. They truly do not care for the people of God but rather only themselves and the fulfillment of their various sinful appetites.

One way of identifying such false teachers or false shepherds is by observing what or who they emphasize. Do they speak of themselves or do they point the congregation to Jesus Christ? Do they seek to dominate what the congregation does or does not do? Do they place themselves as the final authority rather than the Word of God? Do they have a teachable spirit or are the condemning of everyone who disagrees with them and their ideas?

Important questions to consider in discerning whether you, or someone you know, are under the ministry of a false teacher or shepherd. More to come.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: There Are None so Blind As Those Who Will Not See.

“If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. 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. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” (John 9:33-41).

It has been quite a journey for a man who was born blind and now is able to see. The Apostle John records in John 9 a passage which began with a question about the relationship between suffering and sin, Jesus healing of the man resulting in the man testifying of the miracle and eventually defending Jesus as the One, True Messiah before the religious hypocrites of the day.

One thing remains: and this is for the man who now can see to meet the One who not only gave him physical sight but who alone provides spiritual sight to those blinded by their sin.

Following his defense of Jesus, the Pharisees condemn the man and cast him out of the synagogue. They socially and religiously purge themselves of this one who has so boldly spoke in defense of Jesus Christ. One commentator explains that, “despite the proper Jewish argument he gave in 9:31–33, the authorities expel this man on the premise that he was born in sin—which the reader knows to be false (9:2–3). How formal excommunications were in this period is unclear, but he is certainly expelled from participating in the local center of religious life.”

However, the man will come to worship the One, True God in spirit and in truth. Jesus, after hearing that the Pharisees had excommunicated him, seeks out the man born blind and upon finding him asks “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” This Messianic title was Jesus’ most frequent self-designation and refers us to Daniel 7.

The man responds, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” The man is not simply stating about acknowledging the existence of the Son of Man, but rather wants to commit, depend, trust and worship. Jesus says, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.” The man’s healing is now complete. He can see both physically and spiritually. He is a man who can see both with his eyes and with his soul. The blindness which dominated his life has vanished.

However, contrast this with the blindness which conspicuously remains in the Pharisees. The irony is that those who profess to see most clearly are those who are blind most severely and completely.

The text concludes, “Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

Dr. John MacArthur states, “Not that his (Jesus’) purpose was to condemn, but rather to save (12:47Luke 19:10); saving some, nevertheless, involves condemning others (see notes on John 3:1618). The last part of this verse is taken from Isaiah 6:10; 42:19 (cf. Mark 4:12).Those who do not see refers to those who know they are in spiritual darkness while the statement “those who see” ironically refers to those who think they are in the light, but are not (cf. Mark 2:17Luke 5:31).”

Pastor Burk Parsons explains, We see, then, an ironic contrast between two groups of people. Some people are born blind and know they are blind. Jesus is quite willing to open the eyes of these individuals, not merely physically, but spiritually, so that they may see and believe. The man born blind represents these individuals. Others, however, think that they can see, not only physically but spiritually. The Pharisees, who are actually blind to the things of God, represent this second group. Jesus came into the world for judgment, to give sight to the blind and to show how blind are those who trust in themselves spiritually. This is not at odds with His purpose to bring salvation (3:17) but is its secondary and necessary result. Condemnation attends salvation—those who reject the dazzling light of Jesus as He is offered in the gospel are blinded to the things of God by His glory. John Calvin comments, “Since Christ is, by his own nature, the light of the world (John 8:12), it is an accidental result, that some are made blind by his coming.”

There is an old English proverb attributed in 1546 to a John Heywood which says, “There Are None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See.” It resembles Jeremiah 5:21 which says, Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not.” The full content of Heywood’s quotation is There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know”.

May we live today in the light of the glorious truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May we live and speak as people who once were blind, but now can see.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: To Be Attacked by Unbelief; To Respond by Biblical Logic.

“And 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.” The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! 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 anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:28-33).

John 9:28 says, “And 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.”

The word in the Greek for revile (λοιδορέω; loidoreo) means to abuse, to slander, and to strongly insult. Within the grammatical context, the Pharisees revile the man born blind who Jesus had healed. They did so with their entire being. They did so intellectually, emotionally and willfully. They did not do this ignorantly. Certainly, they were ignorant of who Jesus was and is, but they were not ignorant of what they were doing in speaking so insultingly to the healed man.

Part of their reviling included their condescending speech to their fellow Jew. They said, “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.”

Dr. John MacArthur states, “At this point, the meeting degenerated into a shouting match of insults. The healed man’s wit had exposed the bias of his inquisitors. As far as the authorities were concerned, the conflict between Jesus and Moses was irreconcilable. If the healed man defended Jesus, then such defense could only mean that he was Jesus’ disciple.”

Therefore, if the former blind man was Jesus’ disciple he was not worthy, in the Pharisees estimation, of either their time or attention. He was to be shunned and attacked as they endeavored to shun and attack Jesus.

However, the now physically seeing man displays an even greater sight and vision of soul. He displays an understanding of biblical truth and consistent logic which the religious leaders, for all of their ostentatious and outward display of religious righteousness, cannot begin to fathom. He says, ““Why, this is an amazing thing! 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 anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

The nameless man echoes the words of the Pharisee Nicodemas from John 3. “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” (John 3:1-2).

One commentator explains that, “Miracles were not unknown to first-century Jews, for they had the Old Testament Scriptures to tell them about the wonders associated with the work of prophets such as Moses, Elijah, and Elisha (for example, Ex. 14; 1 Kings 18; 2 Kings 6:1–7). So, the simple fact that Jesus performed miracles did not in itself distinguish Him from others who came before Him. What did set Him apart was the kind of miracles He did. First and foremost, our Lord’s exorcisms distinguished Him from other prophets, for the ministry of Jesus was characterized by supernatural conflict: the kingdom of God was manifest as He cast out demons (Luke 11:20). But our Lord’s healing of the blind man also set Him apart, for there are very few instances of blind people receiving their sight in the Old Testament. Moreover, the healing of the blind was prophesied as a sign of the messianic age (Isa. 42:1–9). So, Jesus’ opening of the eyes of the blind was a proof of His messianic office.”

“That seems to be at least one reason why, in today’s passage, the man born blind insists that Jesus has been sent by God (John 9:32–33). Before Jesus came, some people who became blind during their lives were healed, but no one who had been born blind received sight. Thus, His healing of the man born blind proves His divine authority and points to His messianic anointing. The man may not have fully understood Jesus’ identity when he was first healed, but he knows enough that the miracle he experienced means that Jesus cannot be an emissary of Satan. God would by no means answer the prayers of Jesus and give Him such re-creative power if He were the devil’s servant (v. 31).”

Do not be intimidated by people who present themselves as super-spiritual. They may outwardly appear to have it all together, like the Pharisees, but rather consider the conduct of their lives, the attitudes of their hearts, and the speech which proceeds from their mouths.

I Peter 3:9 says, Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”

You may have been, or will be, insulted for the name of Jesus Christ. Like the man born blind, do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling. Rather, bless that you may obtain a blessing from God.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

The Gospel of John: The Obstinacy of Unbelief.

“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 answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” (John 9:24-27).

Oh the obstinacy of unbelief! Obstinacy means stubbornness, determination, wrongheadedness, pigheadedness and/or inflexibility. It is the unwillingness to accept or believe what is real and true but rather to accept or believe what is a lie.

The obstinacy of unbelief is illustrated in John 9 by the Pharisees who refuse to accept and believe Jesus is the Messiah following His healing of the man born blind. They refuse to accept the cause and effect circumstances which are plainly before them. A man born blind is now to able see. That is indisputable.

What is at issue is whether Jesus, who healed him, was wrong in doing so because He performed this miracle on the Sabbath. The Pharisees, rather than give glory to God and accept and believe Jesus is the One, True God they should give glory to, refuse to do so.

Why? It is because Jesus does not fit their cause and effect philosophy within their legalistic works righteousness religion. For you see, Jesus healed the man born blind on the Sabbath. The Pharisees considered this act of healing, done on the Sabbath, as a breach of their long held tradition of ceasing from any activity on the Sabbath. Their misinterpretation of God’s Word would not allow them to either accept Jesus as God or rejoice in what He had done.

Compare this to the man born blind’s growing acceptance and faith in not only what Jesus had done but also Who He is. In response to the Pharisees accusation that Jesus is a sinner, the man replies, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

The Pharisees once again interrogate the man hoping to find some inconsistency in his testimony of how Jesus healed him. They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

The man consistently continues to give these people the same facts and concludes with a subtle criticism of their obstinacy of unbelief. He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

Hardly! They do not want to follow Jesus. These religious leaders want to do whatever they can to kill Jesus (John 5:16). They do not want to praise Him for He exposes before them their obstinacy of unbelief in the One, True God in spite of the superficial religiosity. Rather, they follow their father, the devil (John 8:42-45).

What about the occasions when we perhaps have displayed our own obstinacy of unbelief? These are the times when we failed to trust, commit, depend and worship Jesus as our Lord and Savior. These are the times when we chose to dwell in the valley of doubt and despair rather than follow the Lord’s leading us through and out of the valley.

Unlike the man born blind at this point in his personal journey, who did not know whether Jesus was a sinner or not, we know Him to be the One, True God of heaven and earth along with being our Lord and Savior. May we ever trust Him as we follow Him.

Pray today for those you know who wallow in the obstinacy of unbelief. Pray that God would bring the light of the glorious truth of the Gospel and let it shine into their blind and darkened souls. Take time today to also thank and praise God for bringing sight to your blinded soul and giving you sight unto salvation.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Fear!

“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. 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.) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” (John 9:18-23).

A young pastor once went to the grocery store in order to pick up a couple of items his wife needed for dinner. As he approached the store entrance he was met by a dear friend of both he and his wife. Following a warm greeting, the friend told the pastor of a situation in which some other acquaintances expressed a degree of fear in being involved in an activity. The activity in question was a Bible study. The leader of said Bible study was to be this young pastor.

I wondered what would propel a person to fear and resist attending a study of God’s Word by someone who’s teaching ministry they had sat under for some time. What were they afraid of, or who? The young pastor will probably never know the answer to this question. Perhaps the individuals in question won’t either.

In John 9, we do know that the man who was formerly blind had a set of parents who were still living at the time of his healing. One wonders what joy they must have felt in their son being the recipient of Jesus’ gracious and miraculous act of giving their son sight. Their son could now see!

However, instead of rejoicing they were scared. They were afraid. They were fearful.

What were they scared of? The Apostle John comments that their fear was about being put out of the synagogue for confessing Jesus was the Christ. The Pharisees made this punishment common knowledge among the common people. If anyone spoke well of Jesus, or even suggested that He might be the Messiah, they would be removed from one of the most important social and religious centers of first century Judaism: the synagogue.

So the former blind man’s parents bailed when the Pharisees asked them if their son was truly blind from birth and if so, how he could now see? They both confessed ignorance as to what happened and who was responsible. They twice told the religious leaders to ask their son since he was of legal age and could speak for himself. Their son might speak well of Jesus, but they wouldn’t.

Often people are scared, not because of what other people will do but rather what other people might do. They fear the unknown consequences. The parents of the former blind man were concerned they would be excommunicated from the synagogue if they confessed Christ. Today, people perhaps are scared they may be ostracized if they attend a Bible study.

The solution is to rest in the providential sovereignty of Almighty God. He alone is in control. We can rest in this and no longer fear what men may do to us, say about us or conspire against us.

Psalm 27:1 says, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Don’t be afraid any longer my friends. The LORD, Yahweh, is our light and our salvation and deliverance. He who delivered us from the penalty of sin is also delivering us from the power of sin. This includes our fears.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: The Truth be Told!

“They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” (John 9:13-17).

When a person tells the truth about an event in their life, or some event they have witnessed, the facts pretty much stay the same. The core truth of what occurred does not change. It is when a lie is being told that the words spoken vary and change with each passing moment.

When the Pharisees asked the man who Jesus healed what happened and how he now could see he told the same story he had shared with the common people earlier. “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”

We should pay attention to the particular detail John adds to this account. The healing occurred on the Sabbath. Therefore, the Pharisees dismissed Jesus as a law breaker because He healed the man on the Sabbath. This unbelieving response is reminiscent of the Jewish religious leader’s reaction to Jesus healing the paralytic man in John 5:9-16. Their conclusion now, as then, was ““This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

However, others were not so willing to reject this miracle outright. They reasoned, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs? And there was a division among them.”

One commentator explains, “This charge of breaking the Sabbath comes from His (Jesus) not waiting until the next day to do a work of healing, but it might also be related to the tradition that kneading dough is a work that cannot be done on the Sabbath. After all, Jesus mixed saliva and dirt to make mud, which would have involved a type of “kneading” (vv. 6–7). Other Pharisees, however, doubt that Jesus really is a sinner (v. 16). Clearly, these Pharisees are not enslaved to their oral traditions but are willing to reevaluate them when new evidence presents itself.”

What follows is an interesting admission by the Pharisees who again ask the former blind man to tell them what happened. “So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” The Pharisees admit that Jesus did the miracle. They acknowledge by their own words the facts before them. What they reject is the significant meaning of the miracle, which is that Jesus is God.

What is the now seeing man’s response? He said, “He is a prophet.” Dr. John Macarthur explains, “While the blind man saw clearly that Jesus was more than a mere man, the sighted but obstinate Pharisees were spiritually blind to that truth (see v. 39). Blindness in the Bible is a metaphor for spiritual darkness, i.e., inability to discern God or his truth (2 Cor. 4:3–6Col. 1:12–14).”

Dr. R. C. Sproul states, “Over the course of John 9, the man born blind goes from only knowing Jesus’ name to calling Him a prophet and then confessing Him as Lord (9:10, 17, 38). This progression indicates a growth in the man’s understanding and faith. We should see the same growth in ourselves. The longer we follow Jesus, the more we should know Him and the more committed we should be to Him as our Lord.”

Is your understanding and commitment to Jesus growing with each passing day, week, month and year? 2 Peter 3:18 says, But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

My prayer is that this daily blog will assist you in your progress.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Seeing is not Necessarily Believing.

“The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” (John 9:8-12).

How many times have you heard the old adage “seeing is believing?” The sense of the axiom is that one only has to see an event to acknowledge that it is a reality. However, this is often not the case.

Take for example the people who knew the man born blind. They saw him, perhaps each day, presumably begging at the Temple for money or alms. There was little else for a blind person to do in order to financially support themselves in this historical context (see Acts 3:1-7),

However, in spite of this obvious fact that this man was indeed the blind beggar they had seen so often, the people argued among themselves about whether this man was truly the man born blind who now could see. Here is the issue: it was not that they could not believe he had once been a blind beggar but rather that this one who had been a blind beggar could now see. There had to be some reasonable explanation as to how this man could see. One reasoning was he was not the man born blind. He only looked like him.

The former blind man continued to tell the people that he indeed was the blind beggar they had known. His testimony as to the circumstances leading to his healing is straightforward and truthful when the doubtful people asked him how we now able to see. He said, ““The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.”  The man did not even know where Jesus had gone nor what He looked life (John 9:35-37).

Dr. John MacArthur contributes some thoughtful insight regarding the circumstances surrounding the people’s reaction to what they were now seeing. “This section in the story of the healing of the blind man reveals some key characteristics of willful unbelief: 1) unbelief sets false standards; 2) unbelief always wants more evidence but never has enough; 3) unbelief does biased research on a purely subjective basis; 4) unbelief rejects the facts; and 5) unbelief is self-centered.”

I vividly recall my mom’s reaction to my testimony after I had received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I shared how He had changed my life and its direction from one of sinful rebellion to one of dedicated service to Him. This would even include becoming a pastor. She responded, “You’re not giving yourself enough credit.” You see that she had to come up with an alternative explanation for the changes which occurred in my life. She couldn’t accept that my repentance and faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ was the reason my life had changed. For her, seeing the changes in my life did not result in her believing the reason for those changes was personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

As we will see later on in this text, people’s disbelief in what they knowingly see reveals their own inner blindness. It is a blindness of soul and spirit which can only be overcome by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you recall the lyrics to the southern gospel song composed by the late Hank Williams.

[Verse 1]
I wandered so aimless life filled with sin
I wouldn’t let my dear savior in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

[Verse 2]
Just like a blind man I wandered along
Worries and fears I claimed for my own
Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light
.

[Verse 3]
I was a fool to wander and a-stray
Straight is the gate and narrow the way

Now I have traded the wrong for the right
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

[Chorus]
I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

Soli deo Gloria!

n like the blind man that God gave back his sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light
.

 

The Gospel of John: I Once was Blind, but Now I See!

“Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.” (John 9:6-7).

I do not know if John Newton was thinking about the man born blind when he wrote those famous lyrics to the hymn Amazing Grace. But as we will see later on in this text, Jesus’ act of giving physical sight to the man born blind illustrates the giving of spiritual sight by the Holy Spirit to sinners blinded to the gospel due to having been born sinners.

Why did Jesus spit on the ground, make mud with the dirt from His saliva, anoint the man’s eyes with the mud and then tell him to go wash his eyes in the Pool of Siloam? Certainly, Jesus could have simply spoken and the man would have received his sight. Much as He spoke to the storming wind and waves and they became calm (Matthew 8:23-27), Jesus could have spoken to the man’s non-functioning retinas and corneas and said, “See!”

But He didn’t. Remember, Jesus had a purpose for anything and everything He did. He didn’t waste time or effort. Dr. John MacArthur speculates that, “As he had done when he originally made human beings out of the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7), Jesus may have used the clay to fashion a new pair of eyes.”

What do we know about the Pool of Siloam? The term “Siloam” is Hebrew for “Sent.” The pool of Siloam was southeast of the original city of David. Its water source was through a channel (Hezekiah’s tunnel) that carried water to it from the spring of Gihon in the Kidron Valley. It was called the “lower pool” or “old pool” mentioned in Isaiah 22:9, 11.

Water for the water-pouring rites at the Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles, was drawn from this pool (see John 7:37–39). Remember, the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles featured water-drawing and lamp-lighting rituals to which Jesus referred to in John 8:12 when He stated, “I Am the light of the world.” How appropriate for Jesus to send the man born blind to receive his sight at the exact pool used for the Feast of the Tabernacles which illustrated that God is the light of the world. He who had lived in darkness all his life would now see light.

Imagine for a moment if you will what it must have been like for the man who had been blind since birth to suddenly see. Imagine the joy which must have filled his mind, emotions and will.

Imagine the man seeing the Sun for the first time after only feeling its heat. Imagine him seeing a rose for the first time after only feeling its thorns or smelling its fragrant aroma.

I wonder if he said, “So that’s the sky! It’s so blue! I can see blue!” Finally, imagine the man finally seeing the faces of his parents after years of only feeling their touch, hearing their voices and smelling their scents. There’s a song from the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof entitled Wonder of Wonders, Miracles of Miracles. The song’s title could certainly be applied to this fantastic event in this man’s life.

However, something even more significant was about to occur. While the reality of receiving physical sight would have been monumental, the man born blind was about to also receive spiritual sight and understanding who Jesus was and why He came. The man born blind would come to understand that Jesus came to not just to heal his dead eyes, but to also raise his dead soul. The joy of seeing Jesus would pale in comparison to the joy of believing in Jesus.

Can you identify yourself with this man? Were you once, like John Newton wrote, “blind but now you see?” For those converted by the gospel, there is nothing like the wonder of wonders and the miracle of miracles of understanding who Jesus truly is, and what a sinner becomes when they receive new life in Christ. Praise the Lord, I see the light!

Soli deo Gloria!