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JOHN 9:35-41 | SEEING IS BELIEVING… OR NOT!

SEEING IS BELIEVING… OR NOT!

JOHN 9:35-41

MARCH 26, 2017

 

 

 

MY BROTHER-IN-LAW, MY SISTER’S HUSBAND, DR. JIM BOOKMAN IS AN OPHTHALMOLOGIST IN NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, WHERE HE HAS BEEN IN PRACTICE FOR 40 YEARS OR SO; AND IS NOW SEMI-RETIRED, BUT STILL WORKING WITH VANDERBILT EYE INSTITUTE.

 

JUST A LITTLE MORE THAN 40 YEARS AGO, WHEN HE WAS IN THE LAST YEARS OF HIS RESIDENCY AT OCHSNER MEDICAL CENTER IN NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA, I GOT THE OPPORTUNITY TO SIT IN ON AN EYE SURGERY HE WAS PERFORMING.

 

IT WAS A LITTLE GIRL, I CAN’T REMEMBER EXACTLY, MAYBE 6 OR 7 YEARS OLD, WHO HAD SEVERELY CROSSED EYES WHICH SIGNIFICANTLY IMPAIRED HER VISION.

 

THE PROCEDURE, JIM EXPLAINED TO ME, WOULD BE TO GO IN AND SHORTEN A SECTION OF THE MUSCLES ON THE OUTER PORTION OF THE EYE (LIKE CUTTING A RUBBER BAND SHORTER WHICH CAUSES GREATER TENSION) – THIS WOULD THEN PULL THE EYEBALL OUTWARD, STRAIGHTENING THE EYE POSITION.

 

THEY HAD DONE ALL SORTS OF MEASUREMENTS, ETC. SO, THEY KNEW JUST HOW MUCH TO CUT, TO BRING THE EYE TO CENTER.

 

AS I SAY, THIS WAS MORE THAN 40 YEARS AGO, SO I MIGHT NOT HAVE ALL OF THIS EXACTLY RIGHT, BUT AS I WATCHED HIM PERFORM THIS VERY DELICATE PROCEDURE, MAKING TINY INCISIONS, AND EVEN TINIER SUTURES, I WAS AMAZED TO KNOW THAT THIS WOULD NOT ONLY STRAIGHTEN HER EYES, BUT IMPROVE HER SIGHT.

 

AFTER 40–45 YEARS OF PRACTICE, I DON’T EVEN KNOW IF JIM REMEMBERS THIS CASE, BUT I DO, AND ISN’T IT AMAZING TO THINK ABOUT ALL THE PEOPLE WHOM HE HAS HELPED TO SEE OVER THE YEARS…?

 

THOUSANDS, I SUPPOSE, AND WITH MUCH LESS, AND IN SOME CASES, MUCH MORE SEVERE EYE PROBLEMS THAN THIS; INCLUDING TERRIBLE INJURIES TO THE EYE, WHERE EXTENSIVE SURGERY WAS NEEDED.

 

MOST OF US SUFFER SOME DEGREE OF VISION IMPAIRMENT – EITHER HAVING NEARSIGHTEDNESS FROM AN EARLY AGE, OR DEVELOPING IT LATER IN LIFE.

 

MANY OF US HAVE AGE RELATED FARSIGHTEDNESS – GETTING TO THAT POINT WHERE OUR ARMS AREN’T LONG ENOUGH TO HOLD THE MENU OR NEWSPAPER FAR ENOUGH AWAY TO BE ABLE TO READ IT;

AND WITH AGE, AND ILLNESS, COME OTHER EYE ISSUES SUCH AS CATARACTS, GLAUCOMA, VISION PROBLEMS RELATED TO DIABETES, ETC.

 

AGAIN, HOW GREAT IS IT THAT WE HAVE AN ENTIRE BRANCH OF MEDICINE, AND DEDICATED PHYSICIANS AND EYE CENTERS, TO HELP RESTORE OUR SIGHT?

 

GIVEN THE WIDE VARIETY OF JESUS’ HEALING MIRACLES, AND THE WORDS FROM THE GOSPEL OF LUKE ABOUT JESUS BEING “THE GREAT PHYSICIAN…”

 

I SUPPOSE, HAD JESUS HUNG OUT A SHINGLE, AND OPENED A MEDICAL PRACTICE, HE WOULD HAVE HAD TO LIST HIMSELF AS AN OPHTHALMOLOGIST, AN OTOLARYNGOLOGIST, AN ORTHOPEDIST, GYNECOLOGIST, PEDIATRICIAN, DERMATOLOGIST, AND PSYCHIATRIST.

 

THIS MORNING, IT IS JESUS THE OPHTHALMOLOGIST WHO IS CENTER STAGE.

 

AS I ALLUDED TO EARLIER, YOU DON’T KNOW YOU CAN’T SEE, UNTIL YOU DO.

YOU DON’T KNOW YOU NEED GLASSES, UNTIL YOU DO.  UNLESS, OF COURSE, YOU ARE BORN BLIND, LIKE THE MAN IN OUR STORY FOR THIS MORNING.

 

HE HAD BEEN BORN BLIND.  HE HAD NEVER BEEN ABLE TO SEE.

 

JESUS’ DISCIPLES ASK, GIVEN THE RUDIMENTARY THINKING OF THEIR TIME, WHETHER IT WAS THIS MAN, OR HIS PARENTS, WHO HAD SINNED, CAUSING THE MAN’S BLINDNESS; A COMMON MIS-BELIEF OF THE TIME.

 

JESUS SAYS THAT IT WAS NEITHER THE MAN’S SINS, NOR HIS PARENTS, THAT CAUSED HIS BLINDNESS;

 

INSTEAD, THIS MAN’S BLINDNESS WAS ABOUT TO BE AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE KNOWN THE WORKS OF GOD;

 

WHICH JESUS THEN DID, HEALING THE MAN OF HIS BLINDNESS.

 

AND THIS STARTED A WHOLE BIG THING; WITH THE AUTHORITIES QUESTIONING THE MAN, AND HIS PARENTS, AS TO THE AUTHENTICITY OF THIS SUPPOSED MIRACLE;

 

AND WHO HAD HEALED HIM; AND HOW; AND WAS HE JUST MAKING ALL OF THIS UP?

 

DESPITE REPEATED TESTIMONY BY THE MAN’S PARENTS, BY PEOPLE WHO KNEW HIM, BY THE MAN HIMSELF;

 

THE AUTHORITIES STILL QUESTIONED THE AUTHENTICITY OF IT ALL, BECAUSE TO HAVE CONFIRMED THE MIRACLE, WOULD HAVE BEEN TO AFFIRM JESUS, AND THEY DIDN’T WANT TO DO THAT.

 

IN THE END, THE AUTHORITIES RUN THE MAN OUT OF TOWN TO SILENCE HIM; TO KEEP HIM FROM TELLING HIS STORY, AND IT IS HERE, WE PICK UP OUR PART OF THE STORY.

 

HAVING HEARD THAT THEY HAD RUN THE MAN OUT OF TOWN, JESUS FINDS HIM, AND ASKS:

 

“DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE SON OF MAN?”  AND HE ANSWERED, “AND WHO IS HE, SIR?  TELL ME, SO THAT I MIGHT BELIEVE IN HIM.”

 

JESUS SAID, “YOU HAVE SEEN HIM, AND THE ONE SPEAKING TO YOU IS HE.”

 

HE SAID, “LORD, I BELIEVE.”  AND HE WORSHIPPED HIM.

 

JESUS SAID, “I CAME INTO THIS WORLD FOR JUDGMENT SO THAT THOSE WHO DO NOT SEE MAY SEE, AND THOSE WHO SEE MAY BECOME BLIND.”

 

THE PHARISEES, THINKING THAT THIS WAS A SHOT AT THEM, WHICH IT WAS, SAY: “SURELY WE ARE NOT BLIND, ARE WE?”

 

JESUS SAID TO THEM, “IF YOU WERE BLIND, YOU WOULD NOT HAVE SIN.  BUT NOW THAT YOU SAY, ‘WE SEE,’ YOUR SIN REMAINS.”

 

REMEMBER… THIS STORY BEGAN WITH THE DISCIPLES ASKING JESUS IF THE MAN’S SINS, OR THOSE OF HIS PARENTS, HAD CAUSED THE MAN’S BLINDNESS;

 

AND IT ENDS, WITH JESUS SAYING THAT IT IS THE BLINDNESS OF THE PHARISEES, AND OTHERS, THAT PREVENTS THEM FROM SEEING HIM AS THE SON OF MAN, THE MESSIAH; THAT’S THE REAL SIN, HERE.

 

SEEING IS BELIEVING… OR NOT!  SOMETIMES, IT’S NOT SEEING, THAT IS BELIEVING.

 

REMEMBER THE RESURRECTED CHRIST’S ENCOUNTER WITH THOMAS?

 

“DOUBTING THOMAS”, WE HAVE COME TO CALL HIM.  HE SAID HE WOULDN’T BELIEVE THAT CHRIST WAS RISEN FROM THE DEAD, UNLESS HE SAW IT WITH HIS VERY OWN EYES.

 

CHRIST OBLIGES HIM, NOT ONLY LETTING HIM SEE HIM, BUT TOUCH HIM, AND THOMAS BELIEVES; AND FALLS TO HIS KNEES, WORSHIPPING JESUS.

 

BUT DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT JESUS SAYS?

 

“HAVE YOU BELIEVED BECAUSE YOU HAVE SEEN ME?  BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN AND YET HAVE COME TO BELIEVE.”

 

THAT WOULD BE YOU AND ME; AND BILLIONS OF BELIEVERS OVER THE LAST 2000+ YEARS.

 

CHRISTIAN SINGER, SONGWRITER, CHRIS RICE HAS A WONDERFUL SONG ABOUT THIS; LIVE BY FAITH; WE’RE GOING TO LISTEN TO IT AT THE END OF THE SERMON; BUT LET ME GIVE YOU A PREVIEW OF SOME OF THE LYRICS:

 

I CAN’T FEEL YOU MOVE INSIDE,

I DON’T HEAR YOUR VOICE WHISPERING AT NIGHT;

AND I’VE NEVER SEEN YOU WITH THESE EYES OF MINE,

AM I JUST A FOOL?

 

THEY ASK HOW I FOLLOW WHAT I CANNOT SEE;

WHY I TRUST IN A LOVE MY ARMS CAN’T REACH;

I DON’T NEED YOU, DON’T NEED YOU TO PROVE TO ME,

I’LL BE A FOOL, YES, I’LL BE A FOOL.

 

CAUSE BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN, AND YET BELIEVE;

AND BLESSED ARE THE HANDS THAT KEEP GIVING BUT NEVER RECEIVE;

AND BLESSED IS THE HEART THAT GETS BROKEN BUT KEEPS HOLDIN ON;

HOLDIN ON FOR ANOTHER DAY;

BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT IT MEANS TO LIVE BY FAITH.

 

SEEING IS BELIEVING… OR NOT!

 

SOME WHO THINK THEY SEE THINGS CLEARLY, ARE AMONG THE MOST BLIND;

 

AND BLIND FOOLS, WHO TRUST IN GOD, WHO LIVE BY FAITH, ARE OFTEN THE ONES WITH TWENTY/TWENTY VISION WHEN IT COMES TO THE WAYS OF THE WORLD; AND THE WAYS OF GOD.

 

THE AUTHOR OF THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS, IN THE ELEVENTH CHAPTER, JUST BEFORE GIVING A LONG LAUNDRY LIST OF THE BIBLICALLY, HISTORICALLY FAITHFUL, AND HOW THEY LIVED BY FAITH IN GOD, SAYS THIS:

 

“NOW FAITH IS THE ASSURANCE OF THINGS HOPED FOR, THE CONVICTION OF THINGS NOT SEEN.”  NOT SEEN.

 

AS I HAVE MENTIONED TO YOU IN THE PAST, JESUS’ MIRACLE STORIES ARE OFTEN PARALLELED BY A METAPHORICAL MEANING:

 

JESUS HEALS A BLIND MAN, WHILE POINTING OUT THOSE WHO REFUSE TO SEE HIM AS THE SAVIOR;

 

HE HEALS ONE WHO IS DEAF, WHILE REMINDING HIS DISCIPLES AND THOSE IN THE CROWD, THAT “WHOEVER HAS EARS, LISTEN.”

 

JESUS HEALS ONE WHO IS LAME, WHILE TALKING ABOUT WALKING IN PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

 

HE FEEDS THOSE WHO ARE HUNGRY, WHILE REMINDING US THAT WE DO NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT COMES FROM GOD’S MOUTH.

 

JESUS CASTS OUT DEMONS, WHILE REVEALING THE DEMONS THAT LIVE WITHIN ALL OF US.

 

HE TOUCHES AND HEALS THE LEPER, WHILE TELLING US TO WELCOME THE STRANGER AND THE OUTCAST AMONG US.

 

JESUS FORGIVES THE SINS OF MANY, WHILE REMINDING US TO DO THE SAME;

 

AND TELLING US “JUDGE NOT, LEST YOU BE JUDGED;” AND THAT “WHOEVER IS WITHOUT SIN, LET THEM CAST THE FIRST STONE.”

 

JESUS RAISES THE DEAD, WHILE PROMISING US OUR OWN RESURRECTION TO ETERNAL LIFE.

 

THESE PARALLELS ARE NOT HAPPENSTANCE; THEY ARE REMINDERS OF ALL THAT AILS US, AND HOW MUCH WE ARE HELPED, AND MADE WELL, AND MADE WHOLE, BY OUR FAITH IN GOD.

 

YEARS AGO, IN A CHURCH I WAS SERVING THERE WAS A WOMAN, EVA, WHO LATE IN LIFE, WAS LOSING HER SIGHT DUE TO MACULAR DEGENERATION.

 

EVA HAD BEEN BORN LATE, TO OLDER PARENTS, WHO, BY THE TIME SHE CAME INTO HER EARLY TWENTIES, NEEDED CARING FOR.  EVA NEVER LEFT HOME.

 

A TRAINED BOOKKEEPER, SHE REMAINED IN THE HOME INTO WHICH SHE WAS BORN, ALL HER LIFE.  SHE WORKED, SHE CARED FOR HER PARENTS, SHE ATTENDED CHURCH; SHE SERVED AS THE CHURCH TREASURER.

 

WHEN HER PARENTS DIED, AFTER LONG YEARS OF CAREGIVING ON HER PART, THE CHURCH WAS ALL EVA HAD LEFT.  WHEN SHE RETIRED, IT WAS WHERE SHE SPENT HER TIME, KEEPING THE BOOKS, AND HELPING IN THE OFFICE.

 

ALL HER FRIENDS WERE IN CHURCH; WHEN HER EYESIGHT BEGAN TO FAIL, IT WAS HER CHURCH FRIENDS WHO CARED FOR HER.  IT WAS HER CHURCH FRIENDS WHO DROVE HER AROUND; WHO ARRANGED FOR BOOKS ON TAPE.

 

WHEN SHE COULD NO LONGER LIVE IN HER CHILDHOOD HOME, IT WAS HER CHURCH FRIENDS WHO HELPED MOVE HER INTO A STEP FACILITY; FIRST, INTO AN APARTMENT, LIVING SOMEWHAT INDEPENDENTLY;

 

THEN INTO A ROOM, AS HER EYESIGHT CONTINUED TO DECLINE;

 

AND FINALLY, INTO ANOTHER ROOM SHE SHARED WITH ANOTHER PERSON, WHERE SHE EVENTUALLY DIED, FOR THE MOST PART, COMPLETELY BLIND.

 

OVER THE TIME I KNEW HER, AND AS I VISITED WITH HER IN HER LATER YEARS, SHE WOULD TELL ME, EACH TIME, HOW MUCH LESS OF ME, AND OTHERS, AND EVERYTHING, SHE WAS SEEING.

 

AS HER SIGHT DIMINISHED, HER FAITH IN GOD GREW.

 

AS SHE WAS LESS ABLE TO DO FOR HERSELF, THE MORE SHE DEPENDED UPON OTHERS; ESPECIALLY HER CHURCH FRIENDS.

 

CAUSE BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN, YET BELIEVE;

AND BLESSED ARE THE HANDS THAT KEEP GIVING BUT NEVER RECEIVE;

AND BLESSED IS THE HEART THAT GETS BROKEN BUT KEEPS HOLDIN ON;

HOLDIN ON FOR ANOTHER DAY;

BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT IT MEANS TO LIVE BY FAITH.

 

JESUS SAYS, “DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE SON OF MAN?”

 

“AND WHO IS HE SIR?  TELL ME THAT I MAY BELIEVE IN HIM.”

 

“YOU HAVE SEEN HIM, (OR NOT) AND THE ONE SPEAKING TO YOU IS HE.”

 

“LORD, I BELIEVE.”

 

AND THEY WORSHIPPED HIM.

 

 

[PLAY CHRIS RICE – LIVE BY FAITH]

 

 

 

 

 

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