John 7-11 (12.17.22)
Grab your Bibles and let’s dive into John chapter 9 today.
John is often known as “the gospel of belief,” because God’s purpose for John’s testimony of Christ’s life is to bring about belief in many who would study it and see Jesus as the true and eternal Son of God. John states his purpose clearly in John 20:31: “… these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
I pray that those of you who are not saved would hear this testimony of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and that you would believe. I pray you would give your life to Christ in faith. For those of you who believe, I pray your faith would mature and your trust in Jesus as God the Son would mature all the more.
The word of God commands all men to believe in His Son, but so many do not. So while John’s Gospel is a telling of Jesus Christ that is designed to bring many to belief, it is at the same time a chronicle of unbelief, and we’ve seen unbelief in a number of forms.
We saw the unbelief of Nicodemus, to whom Jesus said, “If I have told you earthly things, and you believe not, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” We saw the unbelief of the people of Cana, to whom Jesus said, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” We saw the unbelief of the masses—the crowds who saw the miracles, and still didn’t believe. And Jesus said, “You have seen and do not believe.” Even the brothers of Jesus, of whom it was said, “Neither did His brothers believe in Him,” have demonstrated unbelief for us.
The group that stands out most and we see Jesus interacting with the most is the studied, faithful, devoted, zealous, Jewish leaders. These are the ones who think they have a stronghold on God and the ways of God, but they are filled with unbelief in the Son of God. They reject Him for that which He testifies and claims. They mock Him and argue with Him and want Him dead. And this ninth chapter is no different, as we witness yet another display of a wonderful miracle of mercy and healing that Jesus has performed for a man that has suffered his entire life, but the Pharisees are forging a full-frontal attack.
1. Unbelief (Man-Made Religion)
The Pharisees say specifically that Jesus couldn’t be from God as He didn’t even honor the sacred practice of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a commanded day of rest given in the moral law. The purpose is to provide us a special day of worship to God. It is physical and mental rest and refreshment and fellowship with other believers. It was not to be a common day but a special day that was set aside for honoring God.
Because of the fall of mankind, our sinful tendency is to produce—to earn—our identity, to prove ourselves, to make something of ourselves. But Sabbath is about being satisfied in God and resting in who God is and His promises.
So, the practice of Sabbath is a good thing and part of God’s moral commands, which means that we are still to practice them today. The problem was that the Pharisees took the good commands of God and added regulation and parameters to them that were more than God intended them to be. For the Pharisees, any labor—even picking a piece of wheat to eat–was not permitted. Even doing something that was kind to someone in need was not permitted. So, time and time again the Pharisees run into Jesus with disdain because He didn’t adhere to the same strict guidelines they had come to adopt.
In Mark 2:27-28 we read, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, and in His time on earth, He gave us many great clarities that worked against the traditions of the Pharisees. For example, in calling back to David eating the bread of the presence in the house of God, Jesus is teaching that acts of necessity are permitted on the Sabbath.
Things that are necessary for living are permitted.
Another example is found in Matthew 12. There, Jesus uses the example of the Old Covenant priests, and His point in that is to say that religious devotion, religious work, and worship is permitted on Sabbath.
So, pastors and other church staff are not in sin for “working” on the Sabbath, because these are permissible acts of piety.
Another example is what we see in today’s text, and that is that acts of mercy are not prohibited on the Sabbath. On the contrary, it is glorifying to God to do acts of mercy to others on the Sabbath. We see this in Jesus healing others on the Sabbath. Therefore, if you have a friend in real need and a solid opportunity to do good to them on the Sabbath, do not decline that opportunity on the basis of it being your Sabbath day; rather, where wise and helpful, do acts of mercy.
These points of clarity may seem like common sense to us, but they were not viewed this way by the Pharisees in that day. They were lost in the unbelief of man-made traditions and religion.
The self-propelled practices of man are not what our faith in God is based on. Our belief in God is a dependence and trust in Him. It is a belief into Jesus. It is not grounded on or based on our performance. If we miss the gospel in our practice of religion or pursuit of God, we miss true belief altogether.
This was evident in the Pharisees and the reason for their rejection of Jesus. Unbiblical belief or practice will keep us stuck in long seasons of lostness and unbelief. We must be oh-so careful to not even put our hope or standing on our performance but on the performance and perfection of Jesus. The evidence of true belief in Jesus is obedience to God’s word and commands, but it is never the basis of it, as these Pharisees judged Jesus for the fact that He didn’t meet their extracurricular parameters for the Sabbath.
Before we move on, do you get caught up in performing righteously in order to keep your spiritual persona looking good? We must be oh-so careful not to let man-made practices or standards be what drives our faith. Instead, we must live obediently and faithful out of the gospel—out of the truth that we only have new life because of Christ.
Look with me at verse 18.
2. Unbelief (Fear and Respect for the Wrong Master)
The Pharisees’ unbelief is stated clearly in verse 18, and so they go on the hunt for Mom and Dad to try to solidify their hunch that this is all a falsity. But what they find is that Mom and Dad are vouching for the fact that this is indeed their son and that he was in fact born blind. But they do not testify how he now sees. They pass it off to the son saying, “He is old enough, just ask him.” Now, why do the parents do this? It says clearly in verse 22. They feared the Jews and the widely known propaganda that if anyone was verbal in siding with Jesus, they would be discredited and banned from the synagogue. This shows us another kind of unbelief—the kind of unbelief that is rooted in the sin known as “the fear of man.”
The Fear of Man is man’s deep seated, sinful desire to long for the approval, applause, acceptance, compliments, and affection of other people rather than from God.
The fear of man is concern for what other people think of us. It is a desire for approval and a fear of rejection. It is when we place the opinion of others over that of God.
To make it personal for you today:
Do you often need something from others to make you feel good about yourself?
Do you crave compliments?
Do you worry that you might be exposed as an imposter?
Do you think about your self-worth and look to others to shore up how you feel about yourself?
Do you often feel unappreciated?
Are you quick to shift blame so you do not look like a failure in front of others (i.e., “I get that from my mother”)?
What we have to understand is the gospel does not produce fear; it produces confidence and hope and boldness. Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:7, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
If you come this morning tense and depressed with fear and are feeling anxiety over life, your primary need is to see the gospel again. You need to stop and ponder what it implies about God’s intentions toward you that He gave His Son to die for you.
True belief in God means you fear only God. You understand that you are His, and no one but Him holds the keys to your life. But these parents showed unbelief in that they only were concerned in what man has to say or what man could do.
What do you do in your faith when confronted by a boss or a government official or someone else who threatens to negatively affect your life if you don’t comply? A true believer in God doesn’t bend to the will or ways of man in order to keep the life the way they want it or without consequence. The true believer says, “I am the Lord’s and if He wills, I will do this or that.”
3. Unbelief (Head Knowledge Is not Enough)
When the Jewish officials call the man who was healed back into their presence, they start by saying, “Give glory to God.” In other words, they are saying, “Tell the truth.” They didn’t get the testimony they had hoped for out of his parents, so they are back to him with a manipulative press on him to hopefully get the testimony they want.
The manipulation is in their words, “We know that this man [speaking of Jesus] is a sinner.” This is like when law enforcement arrests a number of people, and they are bringing them in the room one at a time, and after interviewing another witness, they bring you back in the room and say, “Ok, we know that he is guilty.” This is to give the impression that they know something that allows you, the witness before them, to go ahead and be honest, because they already know the other guy is guilty. Therefore, there is no need to hide any truth anymore since they already know. Now, the Pharisees would say this was not a lie, since they believe Jesus broke the law by healing a man on the Sabbath. But the point is still worth making, which is that these Pharisees are full of unbelief, and they are trying to sway this entire thing toward their view of Jesus.
Now, the once blind man’s reply is another sign of unbelief. He says that he doesn’t know if Jesus is a sinner or not, but he does know that he was blind and now he can see. He is saying, “I can’t vouch for who the guy is, but I can tell you what he has done.”
There is a very real buy-in and belief about Jesus that many can show based on head knowledge—based on the facts of Christianity. Many people for many generations have sat in the pew faithfully and heard a lifetime of preaching and studied the Bible thoroughly. They know the information; they know it well. But what you must understand is that believing the information to be true, or just knowing the information of the gospel in your head, is not saving faith or true belief. No, you must be transformed. You must be given eyes to see and ears to hear it–not just into your head, but into your heart.
Ezekiel 36:26 “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
We must know Jesus personally. This man who was healed has interacted with Jesus and has been blessed by Him. He believes that He is someone important but doesn’t yet believe with saving faith. How do we know that? Because he doesn’t vouch for Him as the Son of God when accused of being a sinner. He only speaks of what he knows in his head, which is about what Jesus did to him. We also know this because we are given the testimony of his conversion. We will see that next week. But first, the application here is important for us.
To just know God with our mind—to know tons of information about God is not enough. We must know Him with our heart and soul also! We must know Him with our deepest emotions and affections. He must be someone we KNOW and not just someone we know about.
This is an important topic that we must slow down and take seriously. I fear that far too many people who casually pursue the things of God by attending church or by saying a prayer one day because they were told to in order to avoid hell believe they KNOW God intimately, but in the end, they only know about God and the things of God. This is serious because on Judgment Day, many of these people will stand before Jesus and hear him say, “… I never knew you, depart from me …” (Matthew 7:23).
On that day, your eternity will hang in the balance solely based on your relationship with Jesus and by works of your own doing.
The good news is that all God intends to save; all of His sheep will know Him in saving faith.
John 10:27-28 (NASB) “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”
Jesus will say this so precisely in his High Priestly prayer:
John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Jeremiah 9:24 “…let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
Let’s move on to the next example of practical unbelief.
4. Unbelief (Devotion to the Wrong Leader)
This is a particularly funny part of this exchange to me, in that the man grows tired of their persistent inquisition as to what happened. He has said it plainly to them multiple times and has not minced his words. But they ask once again. So he inquires back and says, “Why are you so driven to know this man? Do you want to become his disciple [his devoted follower]?” In a voice of disdain and mockery, they jest back at him and say, “You are the one who seems to be devoted to him Jesus. We are disciples of Moses. We are devoted followers of Moses.”
This is the trappings of religion 101. To not believe that Jesus is God and the only way to the Father is to not believe in the one true God. You don’t have God without Jesus. Any deviation from Jesus as the only way to salvation is a deviation to death—to false belief. Devotion to Moses combined with unbelief in Jesus is a recipe for judgment and eternal death. This is because you don’t have saving faith and a restored right relationship with God without the atonement and lordship of Jesus, without trusting your life to Jesus alone.
Jesus says Himself, “… I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
The unbelief of the Jewish faithful before Christ that day is perpetuated by the fact that they think they are good because they are devoted to Moses. Please hear this today: It is devotion to Jesus alone that gains us favor and life with God. No amount of religious fervor or devotion outside of Christ earns us eternal life. Let us always be most careful to be devoted followers of Jesus Christ alone.
5. Unbelief (Lacking Ears to Hear and Eyes to See)
The Jewish leaders argue that they are confident and solidified in their belief in the teachings and testimony of Moses, but Jesus is an unknown entity from Galilee. They are saying the will of God was made known through Moses and written in the Pentateuch and passed on in the oral tradition. They are saying, “These are the hallmarks of our faith—not this ill-founded, new revelation given from Jesus.”
The response of the man who was healed is bold and strong in opposition to his parents who were fearful and timid. What a cool sign of the work God is doing in him to awaken him unto true faith in Christ. God has set His love on him. What an amazing view into this man’s life, as we are about to see a miracle of superior quality in comparison to his physical healing of lifelong blindness.
John 9:30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! …”
This is amazing. The work of Jesus is amazing!
This is God revealed and at work in the presence of man. Power of healing, preaching of truth, grace and mercy are being shown to guilty, sinful people. The life and work and word of Jesus Christ truly is amazing! It is grace in the flesh. It is a rescue mission of love of infinite proportions. What is cool is that this man still doesn’t see and savor the best part of who Jesus is; he is simply praising the things we see in the physical.
We have so much more in our salvation. We have spiritual insight into who Jesus is and what He has done! We see how it changes everything about us and we see God like never before.
Praise God. The gospel of Jesus Christ truly is “an amazing thing.” Is this the way you speak of Jesus? Let us who are spiritually made new not be outdone by a man in his flesh who still did not know Jesus as Lord. Let us who are saved and set free proclaim how amazing He is. Let us do it OFTEN!
Look at what he goes on to say in John 9:30-33.
Now, the man is using their own Jewish history and belief to make his case. It was understood that God only listened to the cries of the righteous man and not the enemy of God. It was also understood that this kind of healing was extremely rare and only happened as an answer to faithful, fervent prayer.
So, the man is making a case that the works they see Jesus performing are a great sign that He is indeed of God. The Jews are so enraged and angered that they do not have any view of the messianic promises they were raised hearing. Their unbelief is fueling a deep blindness that is worse than the man who was blind for a lifetime until this point. This is an ironic backdrop to the words the Pharisees say next.
John 9:34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
They use the man’s lifelong blindness and disability at birth as a way to discredit him as worth anything valuable. They mock him and try to discredit his argument—not by addressing what he said, but by discrediting him based on their view that because he was steeped in sin at birth, he surely cannot exercise wisdom greater than they who are righteous and devout.
They cast him out. They threw him out. They threw out the one man who was pointing them to life-changing truth. To the light. To the only one who saves: Jesus!
Hear me today:
We must see these many ways that unbelief blinds us from living in the truth of saving belief.
They surely lacked eyes to see and ears to hear. This is the sobering reality for all unregenerate people. We are desperate for God to give us a new heart, a new view of the gospel—one that brings us to utter confession and repentance of sin and total life surrender to Jesus as Lord. A view that leads to believing not just about Him but believing into Him—to trusting our lives to Him.
This is the greatest joy of life, the greatest truth you could ever know. I pray you know Him and not just about Him.
Now, even we who are saved, we have a danger of practicing any of these modes of unbelief in our sin. So let us be mindful always to not slipping into:
- Looking for your solidification with God to be grounded in our man-made religion and practice.
- A fear and/or respect for the wrong master. To fear man and not God.
- To lean on our head knowledge over the transformation that must happen in the heart.
- Exercising devotion to the wrong leader. May we be devoted to nothing or no one more than Jesus Christ.
By His grace and for His glory,
Pastor Joshua Kirstine