Here is a sermon I presented to two small UMC churches in upstate SC.
Three Unexpected Evangelists #3: The Healed Blind Man John 9
Good morning church! It is an honor and a blessing to fill in for Rev Stacy. It is not lost on me the trust she has put in me to deliver to you a message worthy of this pulpit, and on behalf of my wife, Karry, and I, we thank you for your warm welcome.
This sermon is the third in a series God has given me on unexpected evangelists in the Gospels. Like the woman at the well in John 4 and the formerly demonized man in Mark 5, the man born blind in John 9 has a fantastic encounter with Jesus. The importance of the encounter is not necessarily in the miracle but in what happened after the miracle. The man’s interactions with his neighbors, family, and the religious elite set up a second encounter with Jesus that clearly defined who was blind and who had sight.
Before we get into the text, let’s talk briefly about evangelism and evangelists. When I use the word “evangelist,” who comes to mind? Billy Graham, Greg Laurie with Harvest Ministries, or Reinhardt Bonke and Daniel Kolenda with Christ for the nations (an African evangelist ministry). Then there are historical figures like Billy Sunday, Amie Semple McPhearson, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and of course, John Wesley. When I use the term evangelist, if folks like these come to your mind, it can be a bit overwhelming if you are like me. I sometimes say to myself, “I’m not Billy Graham or John Wesley; how can I be an evangelist?” But the truth is that every person who calls themselves a follower of Jesus – a Christian – is called to evangelism.
Evangelism is not scary when you look at it Biblically. The word comes from the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον euangelion. Simply, this means good news. Matthew 24:14 tells us that the Gospel, the euangelion,is all about the Kingdom of God – there here and now the presence of Jesus that can bring us into a relationship with God through the forgiveness of the sins that separated us from him. That’s it. When we become Christian, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and this brings us into a lifelong relationship with God as he transforms us into the Jesus-centered life – what Wesley called Christian Perfection.
As a part of that relationship, we have an obligation to tell others about the Gospel. Most times, this is done with words. The famous evangelists mentioned before used lots of words. But there was only one Billy Graham, and he was called to evangelize in his way. There is only one Gregg Johnston, and I am called to evangelize my way. There is only one of you, and you are called to evangelize in your way. It doesn’t have to be a sermon; it can be as simple as encouraging someone when they are going through a hard time, saying something nice to a server when they are having a tough day, greeting and looking the cashier in the eye when going through the shopping line. Sometimes, the best forms of evangelism do not use words. Hospital chaplains frequently the ministry of presence, just being with people, when ministering to those in need.
All of this brings us to John 9. We will talk about a man who was not expected to become an evangelist, but he was. You may think to yourself, “I could never evangelize,” but this story shows that God can call anyone at any time to speak the words of the Gospel of Jesus. To set the scene up, Jesus and his disciples are coming from the Temple in Jerusalem when they encounter a ubiquitous site – beggars. These beggars were there because they had some deformity – blindness, lameness, deafness, etc. Because they had the afflictions, they were considered unclean and could not participate in society – leaving them destitute. The Temple area had much traffic going in and coming out, so this was a good spot for asking for financial assistance. Let’s read the first two verses:
As he was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? ” John 9:1-2 (CSB)
As Jesus and the disciples were leaving the Temple, the disciples asked Jesus a critical question concerning one of the beggars they were passing by. Did this man sin, or did his parents sin and cause the man’s blindness? This belief was common in the first-century Jewish-Roman world. These particular hardships must result from evil deeds either by their family or themselves. Our pantheist friends call this karma – evil deeds will result in bad things. However, Jesus had something else in mind. He told the disciples
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him. We must do the works of him who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:3-5 CSB
Noted in this response are three critical items:
- Jesus rebuffs the karmic belief and instead states that the man’s blindness reveals God’s works.
- We (meaning Jesus AND the disciples) must do the work of God while Jesus was with them.
- Jesus cryptically refers to his crucifixion and three days in the tomb as “night.” He contrasts this “night” with his presence as “the light of the world.”
You can only assume that the disciples were baffled by this response. They were probably even more baffled when Jesus then spit on the ground, made mud, and then spread it over the man’s eyes. He then told the man to go to the pool of Siloam and wash off the mud. Why did he make this mud? Because vs. 1 reveals that the man was born blind; therefore, a creative miracle was needed – the man needed new eyes. The man did what Jesus told him to, and he received sight. But that is not the crux of the story. What is most important is what came afterward.
His neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit begging? ” 9 Some said, “He’s the one.” Others were saying, “No, but he looks like him.”
He kept saying, “I’m the one.”
So they asked him, “Then how were your eyes opened? ”
He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So when I went and washed I received my sight.”
“Where is he? ” they asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. John 9:8-12
After the man was healed, he went home, and his neighbors were amazed and couldn’t believe that this man, whom they knew, was now seeing. Some even doubted it was actually him! They took him to the religious elite in the synagogue to verify this miracle. These guys were not happy with what happened. Why? Because Jesus made mud, violating Sabbath Law on no work. They didn’t even believe that the man was born blind, so they hauled his parents in to verify what everybody already knew.
The Jews did not believe this about him — that he was blind and received sight — until they summoned the parents of the one who had received his sight.
They asked them, “Is this your son, the one you say was born blind? How then does he now see? ”
“We know this is our son and that he was born blind,” his parents answered. “But we don’t know how he now sees, and we don’t know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he’s of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said these things because they were afraid of the Jews, since the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed him as the Messiah, he would be banned from the synagogue. This is why his parents said, “He’s of age; ask him.” John 9:18-23
Notice the threat that the Judeans used when confronting the parents. They threatened to case them out of the synagogue. This threat is significant because if one were thrown out of the synagogue, one would lose access to buying and selling goods and be cut off from the people in the town. It was a powerful threat because they had seen their son tossed out of the community for being blind, and now they were threatened with the same circumstance. So the Judeans called the man in front of them a second time, and this is how it went:
So a second time they summoned the man who had been blind and told him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.”
He answered, “Whether or not he’s a sinner, I don’t know. One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I can see!”
Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
“I already told you,” he said, “and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? You don’t want to become his disciples too, do you?”
They ridiculed him: “You’re that man’s disciple, but we’re Moses’s disciples. We know that God has spoken to Moses. But this man—we don’t know where he’s from.”
“This is an amazing thing!” the man told them. “You don’t know where he is from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but if anyone is God-fearing and does his will, he listens to him. Throughout history no one has ever heard of someone opening the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he wouldn’t be able to do anything.”
“You were born entirely in sin,” they replied, “and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out. John 9:24-34 CSB
Even though the man was brought before a hostile audience, he testified about Jesus and told the Pharisees what had happened to him. He stuck to this basic fact – I was blind, I met Jesus, and now I can see. He spoke the Gospel to an audience that did not want to hear it. But the man was faithful nonetheless and risked all with his testimony. Being thrown out of the synagogue was the same as being blind – he was again an outcast in his own culture. He knew that would happen, but he spoke the truth regardless.
However, what happens next is even more remarkable:
Jesus heard that they had thrown the man out, and when he found him, he asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
“Who is he, Sir, that I may believe in him?” he asked.
Jesus answered, “You have seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
“I believe, Lord!” he said, and he worshiped him.
Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, in order that those who do not see will see and those who do see will become blind.” John 9:35-39 CSB
This is the Word of God for the People of God
So what can we take from this passage? First, God calls us to speak the Gospel even to hostile audiences. We are not to have any fear when doing this because the Holy Spirit will be with us the whole time. Second, speaking the Gospel will cost us something. We may be ridiculed, ignored, or met with anger. Millions of Christians in the world live under the threat of imprisonment and death for speaking the Gospel. But they do it anyway. Third, this story lets us know that even though some would resist the Gospel, Jesus came into the world so that all might see. Some who see – think they have the truth – are actually blind to that truth. Others, who are genuinely seeking truth and believe that they are blind, are actually the ones who can see. As Christ-followers, our calling is to speak the Gospel to everyone at any time, regardless of the cost or the response.
If you are a follower of Jesus, ask God how he wants you to speak of his love and forgiveness. Ask him to whom you are supposed to deliver this message. Be ready because God will bring people in your life who need ministry – who need to hear the good news. If you are not a follower of Jesus, I pray that you will be open to what God has for you in Jesus. He is ready and willing to forgive and heal you in body and soul so that you can live a life of meaning and purpose.