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18 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 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 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.” 22 (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.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 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.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 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?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 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. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. (John 9:18-41)

Slaves to fear

Last week we considered how the Pharisees were subdued by religious formalism. Religious formalism is a reliance on one’s capacity to continue maintaining the religious externals without radical, internal transformation. It’s doing the stuff that make you look and sound religious, but not really allowing Jesus to change you from the inside. These religious leaders were so consumed with observing the Sabbath their way that they tried to discredit the man who had been healed and incriminate Jesus because he healed on the Sabbath. I find it ironic that they were condemning Jesus for healing, but willing themselves to have a court hearing on the Sabbath.

This week we will focus on the fear of the formerly blind man’s parents. We will also consider the faith of this man who was healed by Jesus. We’ll begin in verse 18. 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. They wanted to know three things. 1. Is this your son? 2. Is he the one born blind? 3. How is it that he can now see? The parents respond: 1. Yes, he’s our son. 2. Yes, he was born blind. 3. We don’t know how his sight was restored. He’s a big boy, ask him yourself.

This man’s parents kind of threw him under the bus. First of all, this guy has been blind his entire life. This is the first day his eyes had ever seen his parents or anything else for that matter. You would think they would have said: Can we deal with this later? We’re trying to celebrate with our son today. We’ve been praying for him to receive his sight for all these years and God has answered our prayers! But they didn’t say anything like that.

Could it be that they were more concerned for their reputation and religious status than they were excited that their son had received his sight? They should have been standing shoulder to shoulder with their son saying: This is our son and he was healed today! Isn’t this great? We need more of this in our church. We need to see more of the miraculous hand of God at work. This man from Galilee healed him. His sermons are powerful, relevant and life-changing. They are so much better than the stale old religious talks we hear every Saturday. We need more of this in our church. But instead they said, “He’s a big boy and old enough to speak for himself. Go ask him.”

In John 9:22 we get a clearer picture of what’s going on. “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.” The religious leaders had been listening to Jesus. Jesus made claims that the only way to be saved and receive eternal life was by faith in him. This flies in the face of religious formalism that says we receive eternal life based on our ability to maintain external religious duties. They convened and decided that Jesus was a threat to their religion. To them, confessing Jesus, as Messiah would be the same as saying that all the religious work you had performed didn’t count for your eternal life or standing with God. If you believed what Jesus taught about himself you were kicked out of the church.

The reason this man’s parents didn’t stand up for their son and confess Jesus was they were controlled by fear. They were afraid to lose their religious standing in the church. Because it was such a religious culture, if they lost their standing with the church they would lose the acceptance of their friends and family. They feared rejection.

If the parents recognized what had happened to their son by Jesus, they must also recognize their own need for Jesus to do the same for them. Don’t allow religious formalism to keep you from fully trusting Jesus. Don’t let fear of rejection keep you from fully trusting in Jesus.

Freed by faith

I find it curious that in America your religion is considered your faith. In fact, religion and faith are exchangeable words considered synonyms. Someone might ask what faith are you rather than to what religion do you subscribe. I suppose that all religions require faith in something. However, most religious systems implement fear. Whether it is fear of unworthiness, fear of rejection or a fear of failure, fear plays a major role in most faiths/religions.

That being said, faith and fear are not synonyms. In reality, faith and fear are actually antonyms. “Do not fear” is on of the most common commands in the Bible. I’ll challenge you with this consideration: the only way to overcome fear is by absolute faith in Jesus. If you are experiencing fear it is probably because your faith is in something other than Christ.

I want to briefly recap John 9:24-34. As you remember, the man to whom Jesus restored sight was brought before the religious leaders. After an interrogation, they still didn’t believe he was the man born blind, so they called his parents to the meeting. Finally, they believed that he was this man born blind, but they were dead set on incriminating Jesus rather than celebrating the work of God.

In John 9:24 they summoned this man for a second time. They started off the conversation by slandering Jesus saying, “We know this man is a sinner.” The man born blind said to them, “I can’t speak for Jesus, but I know what I know. I used to be blind, but now I can see”. The Pharisees responded with the same questions as last time: “What did he do? How did he do it?” The man said, “I’ve already told you what I know, but you didn’t listen. Do you want to become his disciples too?”

For various reasons, this man should be in fear of these religious leaders, but he’s not. The way he is now speaking to them it seems as if his fear is melting away. It is almost as if he has experienced something so powerful by the hand of Jesus that it trumps any fear imposed by these religious leaders. He doesn’t fully understand Jesus, but he knows enough to bolster his confidence.

Now, the Pharisees are getting nowhere in this conversation and are actually getting put in their place by this man. What happens when we are on the losing side of an argument? That’s right, we start flinging insults. That’s exactly what the Pharisees started doing in verse 28; they reviled him. That’s what people do – they start name-calling. “You’re fat.” “You’re ugly.”

While these guys are hurling insults, the man born blind uses the same deductive process the Pharisees used on him. In verse 16 they said this about Jesus: A. This man is not from God. B. He does not keep the Sabbath. C. Therefore, he cannot be responsible for restoring your sight.

So the man, formerly know as blind, said to them: A. We know that God does not listen to people whose hearts rejoice in sin (Psalm 66:18-19). B. God listens to those who worship and obey him. C. There is no historical account of anyone ever restoring sight to a man born blind. D. Therefore, he is from God or he could do nothing.

That’s a pretty compelling argument. The Pharisees had no rebuttal, so they said, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” Then they cast him out. They stripped him of his church membership. All he did was speak the truth and they excommunicated him.

This was like the best day and the worst all rolled into one for this man. He gained his eyesight and lost his religion all in the same day. But don’t you love the tender concern of Jesus? I love the way he cares for the outcast and the lame (Zeph 3:19). John 9:35 – Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  We don’t find Jesus, he finds us. He finds us when were lost and blind. He finds us when were rejected and hurting. He comforts us and calls us to faith. Do you believe in the Son of Man?

Listen to his honest response: “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” He’s saying: I just got kicked out of the church. On one hand, I’m deflated, but on the other hand, I’m full of hope. You see, this morning I was blind, but now I see. Show me this man so that I can believe! Then Jesus said, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”

Watch this man’s faith come to life in verse 38: “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Shouldn’t that be our response too? In verse 3 Jesus said it was not for sin that this man was born blind, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. It is the work of God (John 6:29) that our spiritual eyes are opened to believe Jesus is who he is and fall on our knees and worship him. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9)

Here’s a guy who was born blind, uneducated and was incapable of performing his religious obligations because of his physical limitations. In the eyes of the Pharisees, he would have been seen religiously inferior to them. But Jesus wants to make a distinction between religion and faith, between religion and the gospel of grace.

John 9:39-41: 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.

Jesus is telling these guys that they are without excuse. They witnessed the power of God that day, but they chose to cling to their religious formalism rather than place their faith in Christ alone and be saved.

We face the same options as the Pharisees, the man born blind, and his parents. We can either remain slaves to fear or be freed by faith in Jesus. You may be caught up in religious formalism like the Pharisees. You may be trying to work your hardest to accomplish the steps that led you to God. Do you have absolute assurance? No, you can’t. You will live your life controlled by the fear if inadequacy. Maybe you are a conformist like the blind man’s parents and you’re trying your hardest to fit in with your culture. You don’t want to upset the neighborhood or disappoint the family, so you continue to ignore the clear call of Jesus to simply trust in him alone. You can’t have assurance there either because you’re in a conflict between the voice of Jesus and the voice of the culture or religion or family. You are controlled by the fear of rejection.

Maybe you are ready to let go of your fear and simply believe in Jesus. Maybe you are ready to accept that you can’t save yourself through fulfilling religious external duties. Maybe you are ready to accept the approval of God rather than the approval of man or religion or family. See, based on our own merit we aren’t accepted by God. But based on the merit of Christ alone we are accepted by God. We are covered by the righteous of Jesus and brought into his family by faith in Jesus alone. Will you believe in the Son of Man?