There’s a text in John’s Gospel that I thought about referring to last week in the message entitled, “The Gift of Humility”, because it fit. Instead, I determined to preach it this week; because I believe it requires more attention than a passing reference.
It’s often called the story of the blind man (in fact he’s the only person in the Bible said to be born blind); but that’s a misnomer, because there are a lot more people blind in John 9 than this one fellow. In fact, Jesus heals him; but not them! The truth is, everyone else in the story, with the exception of Jesus, is blind as a bat. And at the core of every instance of blindness is the absence of humility.
Providentially, as I was preparing this week’s message, I read Paul David Tripp’s entry for July 17 in his devotional, New Morning Mercies. His lead statement for the morning is, “Sin causes me to be all too convinced of my righteousness and too focused on your sin.” Before I excerpt more of what Tripp says, let me point out that the issue of sin is foremost in the minds of the disciples when they see this blind man. They ask Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents; that he was born blind?” And while Jesus’ answer redirects their focus from sin to the glory of God, the link between sin and blindness is well-established in the balance of the story. Jesus answers, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” But, amazingly, in the immediate aftermath of God’s work is blindness brought on by the hubristic sin of the people around this man. It’s the same blindness that’s all around us today. We’ll seek to unpack all that John is telling us this week in a message entitled, “Blind Awareness”.
But back to Tripp. In commenting on Jesus’ words to Christians at Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-19, Tripp says:
Here’s the problem that these hard words are addressing in a warning that we all need to hear: you and I like to think that no one has a clearer, more accurate view of us than we do. We all tend to be way too trusting of our view of ourselves. We do this because we do not take seriously what the Bible says about the dynamic of spiritual blindness. If sin is deceitful (and it is), if sin blinds (and it does), then as long as sin still lurks inside me, there will be patches of spiritual blindness. I simply will not see myself with the accuracy that I think I do. In the language of poverty and riches, the passage above basically says, “You look at yourself and you think you’re okay, but you’re far from okay.”
Not only does sin blind, but as sinners, we participate in our own blindness. We all swindle ourselves into thinking that we are better than we are, that what we’re doing is okay when, in fact, it’s not okay in the eyes of God. The spiritual reality is that we’re like naked homeless people, but we see ourselves as affluent and well-dressed. It’s an embarrassing and humbling word picture. It confronts us with how deeply distorted and delusional our view of ourselves can be. Don’t be defensive as you read this; take in the warning.
So here’s what happens. When you think that you have this righteousness thing licked, then you quit being concerned about you and you focus your concern on the sins of others. You really need to know that you’re in spiritual trouble when you’re more concerned about the sin of the person next to you than you are with your own. Spiritual clear-sightedness always leads to personal grief and confession, not condemnation of your neighbor. Perhaps your eyes are more closed than you think they are. Perhaps you don’t know yourself as well as you think you do. Pray for the sweet, loving, sight-giving, convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit. His presence in you is a grace.
Tripp nails it. And in case you have any doubt, read John 9 and see that the deepest blindness is not ocular, but psychological and spiritual.
In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
- Read Jeremiah 5:15 and see the universality of spiritual blindness.
- Why would the disciples ask that question in verse 2?
- What are the works of God that are to be displayed in him?
- Why does Jesus spit on the ground and make mud to put in the man’s eyes?
- What is the significance of sending the man to the pool of Siloam to wash?
- Why don’t the neighbors believe that he’s been healed? (verses 8-12)
- What’s the impediment to the Pharisees believing that he’s been healed? (verses 13-17)
- Why do his parents say what they say in verse 21?
- Why do the Pharisees get angry in verses 28 and 29?
- What’s the irony of the Pharisees’ statement and action in verse 34?