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Friday, October 7, 2016

The Man Born Blind, Part 2 Persistent Unbelief

The Man Born Blind, Part 2
Persistent Unbelief
John 9:13-34

The 82nd Psalm, is a psalm by Asaph where the Lord God is scolding earthly, human judges for not doing their jobs.  Instead of judging fairly and righteously… they instead show favoritism toward the rich and the wicked.

In verse 5, we read… Psa 82:5 NKJV They do not know, nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness…

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on this verse, wrote… They know not because they will not understand. None so blind as those that will not see. They have baffled their own consciences, and so they walk on in darkness, not knowing nor caring what they do nor whither they go.”

“None so blind as those that will not see.”  This is a well known and well worn quote.  Nearly everyone has heard it.  Many have used it in some form or another.  Few know that its origin is biblically related.

“None so blind as those that will not see.”  It speaks of those people who refuse to acknowledge the truthfulness of something… regardless of the evidence.  It speaks of pre-conceived notions that people stubbornly cling to in the face of knowledge or evidence to the contrary.

For example… the lack of any real scientific evidence that proves global warming… doesn’t hinder the global warming faithful in the least.  As they have been caught doing in the past… when there’s no proof, there’s no problem… they’ll just make it up.

Another example of pre-conceived notions that people stubbornly cling to… despite evidence to the contrary is evolution.  The truth is… there is no observable scientific evidence for macroevolution… or in other words… the evolution from one distinct “kind” of organism to another “kind”.

Neither is there any fossil record that shows any sort of transition from one “creature” into another “creature”…  Paleontologist, Niles Eldredge, who is, by the way, a very “bitter” opponent of creation science, has acknowledged that… “There is little, if any, evidence of evolutionary transitions in the fossil record.  Instead, things remain the same!”

Yet… despite the lack of evidence… and his acknowledgment of that lack… he stubbornly remains an evolutionist.

“None so blind as those that will not see.”  Atheists claim that there is no such Being as God.  Where the Christian believes that in the beginning there was a Supreme Being who created everything… the Atheist would say that in the beginning there was nothing… that exploded into something.

They will adamantly claim that the notion of a Supreme Being is an ancient superstition from our cave dwelling days that must be cast off in order for mankind to make any real progress…  When the truth is that all evidence shows that when God is taken out of the picture… man doesn’t “progress” at all… he “regresses”.

An illustration of this would be a garden.  If the gardener is removed from the picture… will the garden progress?  Or will it regress into a tangled mess of weeds, brambles and plants that have gone to seed?

When God is removed… then there is no “ultimate moral authority”.  Morality then becomes defined by what I want at any point in time.  I can do whatever I want… and change my “morality” as needed.  I can murder.  I can rob.  I can rape.  Anything I want to do is ok because I am my own moral authority. 

Atheist existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre claimed that “If God does not exist… man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon, either within or outside himself” 

The atheist would have us remove God from our existence… not because he has evidence that God doesn’t exist… but because he simply doesn’t want Him to exist.  Because if those Theists are right, and God, as the Law Giver, does exist… then there is an ultimate right and wrong… and Man will be held accountable.

But… I don’t want to be held accountable… so I will just choose to “not believe”.  This is exactly what atheist, and comic artist, Martin Rowson, said when he wrote that even… “If God proved he existed, I still wouldn’t believe in him… I don’t believe in God, not because I can’t but because I don’t want to”

Finally… an atheist who admits the truth that...  he doesn’t believe, because he doesn’t want to.

Rowson… along with these others… are examples of people who stubbornly cling to pre-conceived notions… despite evidence to the contrary.  Their unbelief is “persistent”, and has so infected them that they’re unwilling to hear an opposing view.

And this attitude of willful and stubborn unbelief isn’t unique in this enlightened age that we live in.  As we can see from our passage today… Jesus, and any others who believed in Him and followed Him… had to deal with the malignant unbelief and preconceived notions of the Jewish authorities in almost every encounter they had with them.

After healing the man who had been born blind… Jesus steps out of the picture while the newly healed man faces an inquisition concerning this miracle that’s been done to him.

And it’s during this initial questioning by the Jewish authorities, that their unbelief is revealed as an…

I. Inconsistent Unbelief

Joh 9:13-16 NKJV They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees. (14) Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. (15) Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see." (16) Therefore some of the Pharisees said, "This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath." Others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" And there was a division among them.

Once again, John makes a special point of telling us that this healing occurred on a Sabbath.  And it’s possible that the Jews might not have even taken notice of this healing if it weren’t for that. 

Now, these Jews that are questioning him, had probably passed by him many times, and hadn’t given him a second glance…  Some may have tossed a coin into his cup now and then to show everyone how generous they were. 

But most of them, probably walked right on by… resting in their confidence that he was blind because he was a sinner and deserved this punishment.

But now… he’s not a blind beggar anymore.  Now he’s something else… something they have to take notice of.  Because what’s happened to him… if it really happened… occurred on a Sabbath.

So, why would Jesus deliberately and consistently provoke the religious leaders by disregarding their Sabbath regulations?  Well first, He did it to show His divine authority as the Lord of the Sabbath. 

He also did it to emphasize the oppressive nature of the Jewish Sabbath regulations.  Through their traditions they had turned a beautiful day of rest and worship into a burden that few people could bear. 

But Jesus had already taught back in… Mar 2:27 NKJV …The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

But because this healing… and the method used… occurred on a Sabbath… a division arose among the Pharisees.  You see, this division came about because there were two opposing schools of thought at the time… which were lead by two different teachers…

Rabbi Shammai taught his followers that “anyone who breaks the law is a sinner”, regardless of the outcome.  But Rabbi Hillel taught more from an “end result” viewpoint.  In other words… if God has blessed someone to heal or be healed on a Sabbath… then that is evidence that they didn’t sin.

So, their unbelief is inconsistent.  Some say He’s a sinner… but others wonder if that’s actually the case… both though, persist in their unbelief… showing us…

II. Intractable Unbelief

Joh 9:17-24 NKJV They said to the blind man again, "What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet." (18) But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight. (19) And they asked them, saying, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" (20) His parents answered them and said, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; (21) but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself." (22) His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. (23) Therefore his parents said, "He is of age; ask him." (24) So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, "Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner."

The fact that Jesus had performed a miracle was obvious.  The evidence was standing right in front of them… and they’re at a loss to explain it.  And the proof of that is that they ask the beggar himself… Joh 9:17 NKJV …"What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?"

These Pharisees were so arrogant and full of themselves that they would never seek the counsel or opinion of someone like this beggar, if they could come up with some explanation themselves.  But in this division that arose among them, they turned and asked his opinion… but they didn’t like what they heard, at all.

Joh 9:17b NKJV … "He is a prophet."  I want you to take note of this mans progression in understanding.  When he’s first asked about the person who gave him sight… he responded with, “a man called Jesus” (9:11).  But now, Jesus has grown in his estimation to “a prophet” (9:17)… which is probably the highest designation he could think of, because a prophet is one who speaks for God.

But we can see his spiritual growth continue throughout the chapter, because in (9:27), Jesus is one who would be followed by disciples… and then in (9:33), He’s “from God”… and then finally in (9:38), Jesus is “Lord” and is worthy of worship.

You know… a similar progression is seen in our own understanding, isn’t it?  When I finally gave my life to Christ… I had no real understanding of who He was.  Even though I was a preacher’s kid and raised in the church… I had been away from Him for so long… that my life and understanding was a crowded and confused mess of brambles and weeds… like that garden I mentioned earlier.

All I had been told was that God still loved me… regardless of what I had done… and that if I repented of my sins… He would forgive me.  My repentance and faith was toward God… But in His infinite grace and mercy… He continued that work He had begun in me, and brought me to a fuller… and more mature understanding of what He had done for me through His Son.

And now my faith is in the Son of God who paid the debt I couldn’t pay… and washed me clean with His blood.

And this poor beggar’s faith and understanding is growing in a similar manner... but the Jews aren’t.  They’re firm and intractable in their unbelief.  And because they refuse to give Jesus any acknowledgment… they decide instead that this man had never really been blind at all.  Joh 9:18 NKJV But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight

So they bring his parents into the picture in order to verify… or disprove his claim.  But because of their fear of being put out of the synagogue… all they get out of them is… “Yes. He’s our son.”  “Yes. He was born blind.”  “We don’t know how this happened.  Ask him.”

Apparently, the beggar had been removed from the room while his parents were interrogated, but now he’s brought back in for a second round.  And they tell him to… Joh 9:24b NKJV …"Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner."

Now it could be that they still thought he was lying… so they invoke God… in the same way that Joshua did with Achan, after the defeat at Ai.  Or it could be that they’re willing to acknowledge that he’s received his sight… but give God the glory… not Jesus… because He’s a sinner…

Like the atheist who looks at the beauty and order in the universe, and says it’s due to random “chance”… these Pharisee’s also refuse to acknowledge what’s right in front of them.

Their unbelief is not only inconsistent and intractable… it’s also…

III. Irrational Unbelief

Joh 9:25-30 NKJV He answered and said, "Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see." (26) Then they said to him again, "What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?" (27) He answered them, "I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?" (28) Then they reviled him and said, "You are His disciple, but we are Moses' disciples. (29) We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from." (30) The man answered and said to them, "Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes!

The fear that his parents displayed toward the Pharisees… isn’t seen in their son.  And this is really unusual, I think… because the threat of excommunication would typically cause most people to shut up and defer to the religious leaders.  The synagogue and the temple were the life of the Jewish nation.  To be cut off from them by excommunication would be similar to becoming a leper.

But with this young man… we can see not only a growing faith… but also a growing animosity toward these men who obviously consider themselves his “betters”.  Because first, he refuses to agree with them that Jesus is a sinner. 

Then, we can almost hear a rising level of frustration in his voice when he said… Joh 9:27 NKJV … "I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?"

And then finally his animosity and frustration is vented with sarcasm… Joh 9:30 NKJV … "Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes!

And I wondered what would cause this man to display such boldness and lack of concern?  And I came up with two thoughts on the matter.  The first being that he had already been an outcast all his life.

He was blind from birth… defective… and most people thought of him as a sinner.  He sat on the side of the road begging from the day he was weaned.  He had no place in the synagogue… never did.  So the threat of being “cut off” by these Pharisees didn’t carry much weight.

But beyond this… we can see that he had something that was even more important than a place in the synagogue…  He had something no one could ever take away… his testimony.  Joh 9:25b NKJV …One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.

All the sarcasm… anger… arguments… or threats mean very little to someone who’s had an encounter with Jesus Christ.  You can say whatever you want… but when the Son of God opens your eyes and you can now see the glory of God in the face of Christ… nothing is going to change your mind.

And this so frustrated and angered the Pharisees that they began heaping verbal abuse on him.  And this is always the sign of a defeated opponent.  When the name calling begins… you know they “got nutt’n”.  When you’re called a racist… a hater… a homophobe… an islamaphobe… a “whatever”… you know they’re at their wits end.

So these Pharisees pull themselves up by their self-righteous bootstraps, and fall back on Moses… claiming to be his disciples… but… Joh 9:29 NKJV… this fellow, we do not know where He is from.

Stubborn rejection of facts is irrational… just as it’s irrational for those who have heard and know the gospel truth… to continue to cling to their sin and unbelief.

It’s stubborn… it’s irrational… it’s…

IV. Insolent Unbelief

Joh 9:31-34 NKJV Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. (32) Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. (33) If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing." (34) They answered and said to him, "You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?" And they cast him out.

The beggar becomes the teacher.  He turns their own logic against them because they said that they knew that Jesus was a “sinner”.  But if this is so… then how did it come about that God worked this miracle of miracles by Him?

No one has ever opened the eyes of someone who had been born blind… “Since the world began…”  Not even Moses.

If “this man” were the sinner they claimed Him to be… then God wouldn’t hear Him!  Even the scriptures tell us that there’s a link between a person’s righteousness and God’s responsiveness to his prayer…

Pro 15:29 NKJV The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.  (See also Psa 34:15-16; 66:18; Pro 15:8)

But apparently… God did hear “this man” whom they despise so much they can’t even bring themselves to say His name.  The proof is standing right in front of them… It’s irrefutable.  And his logic is irresistible.

And it so enrages them that they resume their verbal attack… and finally… kick him out of the synagogue.

*  *  *  *  *

“None so blind as those that will not see.”   You know… I’d like to say that this level of unbelief was unique.  That this level of illogical and stubborn refusal to see what’s so clearly seen, doesn’t have it’s counterpart in today’s world.

But as I pointed out in the introduction… truth means nothing to those who refuse to believe it.  I can argue my point until I’m blue in the face… but if the other persons mind and heart are closed… there’s nothing I, or anyone else can do.  Only the Holy Spirit of God can soften a petrified heart.

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