Tag Archives: tragedy
Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (The Blind Man in John 9 – Part 3)
Today’s Challenge: As we will see this story has many spiritual implications. The clear one today is to immediately do what Jesus asks us to do. What has He asked you to do? Then, by God’s grace, do it!
Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (The Blind Man in John 9 – Part 2)
We are taking a number of our posts to work our way through this most extensively described miracle in all of Scripture — the story of the man born blind. His lack of vision, as we will find out, will be healed by Jesus. And there are a number of spiritual lessons for us as we look at his life.
In this series of blog posts on FOCUS I want to examine my own vision and ask if my spiritual eyesight is getting dim, distracted, or damaged by choices I make. We will be looking at a number of key biblical passages which emphasize this sense of sight. I am particularly looking forward to pondering the healing miracles which turned blind people into sighted people.
In our study of John 9 we’ve seen that the Lord Jesus knew that this man was blind from birth (perhaps from hearing his unique begging call). The disciples asked Jesus a profound question of causality — “Who sinned? This man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus then corrects the disciples’ poor multiple choice question, for it provided only two possible responses, both of which would have been wrong.
Instead Jesus declares that this man’s birth defect was not the result of God’s judgment on him or his parents. And Jesus dogmatically proclaims why this happened to this man: “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3). The works of God will focus on this man’s receiving his physical vision for the first time in his life.
Our passage further reads: 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Day or Night?: After answering the disciples’ question, Jesus makes an enigmatic statement about day and night. He says that “we must do the works of him who sent me” as long as it is day. We will discover later that the miracle Jesus will do for this man will be done on the Sabbath!
I worked for seven long years for UPS from about 11 at night until 4 in the morning while going to graduate school. Modern electricity turns night into day — and people work all hours of the night. In Jesus’ day when the sun went down the work stopped. Night prohibited most labor.
The Light of the World: This reference to day and night might symbolically be speaking of the presence of the Lord Jesus in the world. “Night” (His death, burial, and resurrection) will come and He will return to the Father. But at this moment He is in the world, doing the Father’s will, embodying light itself. It is fascinating that the Lord Jesus says of His followers in Matthew 5:14 something quite remarkable: “You are the light of the world. A town build on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Today’s Challenge: Would you say you are doing the works of the One who sent the Savior into the world? Are you taking advantage of the “day”? How do you and I practically flesh out being “the light of the world”?
Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (The Blind Man in John 9 – Part 1)
It is very hard to focus when one has no sight. In our passage for the next several posts, we get to examine the most extensive miracle story in all the Bible. This story of the man born blind proclaims with utmost clarity some of the most critical truths upon which we are to FOCUS.
In this series of blog posts I want to examine my own vision and ask if my spiritual eyesight is getting dim, distracted, or damaged by choices I make. We will be looking at a number of key biblical passages which emphasize this sense of sight. I am particularly looking forward to pondering the healing miracles which turned blind people into sighted people.
I wonder how Jesus knew this man was “blind from birth” (v. 1)? As God the Son He knew all things, of course. However, one explanation that I find possible is that this man had a particular begging call. Perhaps his begging call was, “Blind from birth! Please help me! I’m blind from birth!” The text doesn’t tell us, but what we know is that this man had never seen anything in his life. He did not lose his sight from an accident or injury. He was born that way. Sightless.
An Amazing Question: What is immediately fascinating is the question Jesus’ disciples ask Him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (v. 2). Their question was an honest one — and they actually believed that Jesus could authoritatively answer it. But they were not prepared for the answer they were going to get.
I’ve taught undergrad and seminary students for over 20 years. The real bonus of being a faculty member is that I no longer have to take tests! I give them! And one kind of test is a multiple-choice test. Is it “A” or “B” or “Sometimes ‘C’” or “None of the Above.” The disciples’ question was a multiple choice question: “Rabbi, is it “A” or “B”? “Was it this man’s sin or his parents’ sin that caused him to be born blind?”
A Flawed Multiple Choice Question: One of the worst things a teacher can do on a multiple-choice exam is . . . not have the right answer among the choices! And Jesus’ disciples limited Jesus’ possible answer to two options, unaware that there was a third which they hadn’t thought of!
The common Jewish theology was that if you were suffering greatly, there was a strong possibility that you were under the judgment of God. The Old Testament book of Job shows that both Job’s friends as well as Job himself held this view. But sometimes things just “happen.” The causal factor is not man, but God!
A Denial: Jesus challenges the disciples’ either/or question by stating, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” Only GOD would know that, right? Jesus could categorically pronounce both this man and his parents innocent of any transgression that led to God’s punishment of blindness at birth.
A Declaration: And notice the answer Jesus gives. “But this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (v. 3) Wow! Jesus knew why this man was born blind. And it was not for no reason. There was purpose in his pain — and that purpose could not have been a greater one! Somehow, someway “the works of God” would be displayed in his life. The immediate work of God, as we will see later, will be Jesus’ giving sight to this man.
Today’s Challenge: Today’s Challenge: Would you say that the works of God are being “displayed” in your life? Have your eyes been opened by the saving work of Christ? What do you see?
Some Thoughts on the Book “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” (Post #18): Chapter 17- “Jesus’ Resurrection”
Chapter 17 of Martin Thielen’s book What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? is entitled Jesus’ Resurrection. His subtitle is “Is There Hope?” Thielen does a masterful job of affirming the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and showing that it is our HOPE.
I like how he brings in contemporary films (such as Cast Away and The Shawshank Redemption) to show the absolute necessity of HOPE. He also bears his own soul in telling about his sorrow of having to conduct the funeral for a pastor friend who died (with his whole family) in a car crash. Only hope (inspired by the resurrection of Jesus) could redeem this awful tragedy, he thought to himself.
He quotes the words from The Shawshank Redemption in which Andy says to Red, “Remember, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
MY RESPONSE: I don’t disagree with Thielen about anything in this chapter. What concerns me is that he says nothing to challenge one of the scholars he quotes earlier in his book (Marcus Borg) on another issue. But Borg said the following about the resurrection of Christ: “I think the resurrection of Jesus really happened, but I have no idea if it involves anything happening to his corpse, and, therefore, I have no idea whether it involves an empty tomb, and for me, that doesn’t matter because the central meaning of the Easter experience or the resurrection of Jesus is that His followers continue to experience Him as a living reality, a living presence after His death. So I would have no problem whatsoever with archaeologists finding the corpse of Jesus. For me that would not be a discrediting of the Christian faith or the Christian tradition.”
Granted, Thielen is writing these last chapters to state what he believes Christians ought to believe. But I wish he were more forthcoming about those who deny the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Some Thoughts on the Book “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” (Post #17): Chapter 16- “Jesus’ Death”
Chapter 16 of Martin Thielen’s book What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? is subtitled What about Suffering? Thielen gives several stories to illustrate both the problem of suffering and the fact that God is with us, in the midst of our suffering.
Our questions of “Why?” do not have a final answer — unless we look at our “crucified God” on the cross. He enters into our suffering. There are various sources of our suffering — human sin, the laws of nature, God’s allowing suffering, the possibility of demonic forces producing pain and suffering.
To the question “Where is God When It Hurts?”, Thielen says He is right smack in the middle of our pain. And Christianity is a religion of the cross. “The cross is the center of our faith.”
MY RESPONSE: C.S. Lewis said that “pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world!” As someone who was a cheerleader in college, I learned a very valuable lesson: don’t stand next to the girl with the megaphone! We need the loudness of suffering to wake us up from the myths that life is safe, that good people deserve good things, that all is right with the world. Although there is much to be thankful for in this world (“This is my Father’s world”), much is WRONG with this world. And suffering can fix our eyes on God instead of the goodness we think we deserve.
Thielen is right to point to the Lord Jesus on the cross as proof that God is with us in our suffering. I wish he had said something about WHY Jesus died. But perhaps that will come in a later chapter. Might I suggest that as we listen to the stories of our non-Christian friends and neighbors who tell us of their suffering, we should be ready to pray for them. And when the occasion is right, to point out that suffering has a way of drawing our minds toward God and the things of God.