Today we continue our series of why Jesus came. Today’s theme is that he came for judgment. Merry Christmas!
Judgement is not what you think about at Christmas. In fact it might be the last thing you think about. Judgement is one of the things that people most dislike about Christianity. Most people think that to be told you are wrong, or doing something wrong is unacceptable. To hear that judgment is coming seems inconceivably wrong. People recoil from Christianity for these reasons, and yet there is clearly a need to say certain things are wrong in our society. This past summer we saw riots over disturbing police shootings. Justice was being demanded, and there was outrage. There is a search and desire for justice by everyone, so we should not eschew it too judgment altogether. There is a real need for judgment. If we are going to live in a world where everything is right, then there must be a judging of wrongs. On one hand we may not like judgment, but on the other we must have it. Which raises the question, how can it be given in the right way?
When Jesus was born it was said he was the messiah. The messiah was to be the prince of peace. You have heard this about Christmas, the messiah was to establish a kingdom of justice and righteousness (Isaiah 9:7). Wouldn’t it be nice to live a world where people always did what is right! Well, Jesus brings it, and having righteousness means having a judgment.
Judgment might not be the first thing you want to hear at Christmas, but I hope that as you hear this today, it does makes you more grateful for Jesus and also shows why you just might want to hope in him.
Read John 9:1-41
Jesus judges all things by his light, so that all things are made right.
This passage begins with Jesus and his disciples walking past a man born blind, and the disciples ask, “Who sinned, this man or his parents.” Beggars like this blind man were the truly poor people of the day. Some would have said their existence was hardly worth living. They were not unlike the crippled that we see on streets today, that so much of society shuns.
The disciples see this man and ask who sinned. They assume the man’s present status must be connected to someone’s sin. They essentially say someone got what they deserved. That’s not an uncommon thought. Some assume the same today, thinking if a hardship is suffered it was deserved. Some religions teach that bad things in this life are the result of what you did in previous life, or that the person is experiencing judgment for decisions he made earlier. Even in the Bible you see how Job’s friends wrongly thought his suffering was a direct result of his sin. This connection shouldn’t surprise us. We are used to seeing it on a daily basis. You tell a friend not to be late to work for the fifth time in a week; he does it and gets fired. No surprise. You tell your kid, don’t walk with your eyes closed,” then you hear a thud and scream, and it’s no surprise. There is a connection between what we do and what happens, like the connection of scattering seed and growing plants, but that connection is not always a one to one correlation. It’s not always you did this therefore you get this. It’s not always you did good so get good in return, or you did evil so get evil now. Jesus says there is also a greater purpose behind events. He says, “Neither this man sinned nor his parents, but that the works of God may be displayed in his life” (v3).
This then segues for Jesus to tell who he is in verse 5. Later in verse 39 he will tell why he came in the world. But in verse 5 he tells something of who he is. Something of his being. He says he is the light of the world.
The Bible is enveloped by the imagery of light. In the beginning physical light springs forth as the first created thing. Light is the very basis of life on earth. Light comes into the world with breathtaking suddenness, illuminating power, and life giving property.
There was a terror about the absence of light, Job 12:25 speaks of a deposed ruler who is left to grope in the darkness. He is lost in the darkness. Before the Exodus the Egyptians were enshrouded in darkness while Israel had “light where they dwelt.” Light also represents goodness and holiness as opposed to evil. In the book of Esther when Haman’s planned genocide is foiled it is said that the Jews then had “light, gladness, and joy, and honor” (Ester 8.16). In the end of the Bible the new heavens and earth are full of light and continuous day. Darkness and death are abolished; there is light, and everlasting light reigns. There is life, blessing, goodness, without end.
We often think of light as coming naturally from the sun, stars, moon. We think about it coming artificially from light bulbs. We need light to see, we need it for warmth. We need it for food. It sustains the world. And Jesus is saying he is the true light. The source of all light. The sun is not the light of this world he is! He is what we ultimately need. You can have so many things in life and yet still be destitute. You can have received a great tan, and be dead on the inside. Jesus is saying here that true blessing, true illumination, and lasting blessing and illumination are found only in him. All other light is destined to burn out and fade away. If you are burnt out and fading then perhaps you need to turn to him for true light.
But also hear what an audacious claim Jesus makes. Why would anyone listen to him? I recently heard a young athlete state he was the greatest of all time. Most didn’t even take notice of him. He is out of his mind. How much more ludicrous is Jesus claim here. He is saying he is the light of the world. The very thing that gives life to all the world. Not just the greatest of all time, but greater than the sun! Why would you ever pay attention to a man that teaches that. Well, we pay attention to him because of what he does next.
Jesus comes to this man blind from birth. He spits on the ground. He wipes the mud on his eyes. Tells him to go and wash. And the man is healed. Boom! Maybe you should listen to what he says. I mean it is so outlandish for a man to say what he said that you wonder why anyone would pay any attention at all to him. I mean what would your response be to a guy who says he was the light of the world. And yet Jesus does a work like this and forces you to pay attention to what he just said.
Now my favorite unusable insight from my research on this passage that I had to relay is that many people have termed his work here the “Spittle Miracle.” I love that term. You kids think of all the cool things you could do with spit. Well Jesus opened a man’s eyes, made him see again! No spitting on your brother trying to give him x-ray vision. :-)
If you don’t know anything about the Bible you hear this and think wow. If you know a little about the Bible you will notice that this seems reminiscent of God creating man out of the ground and breathing his Spirit into him. At creation God gives life to the dirt, and Jesus does something similar here. He puts light into the man’s eyes.
This miracle is unique among all that Jesus did. In the other miracles he took what had previously work (paralyzed John 5, and dead John 10) and he makes it work again. In this passage Jesus makes something work that had never worked before.
This man’s eyes are opened in every way. He sees the light. Physically and spiritually. His eyes are healed and surprisingly this brings him into contention with the religious leaders.
Interestingly, Jesus tells the man he needs to do something. LIke Naaman the Syrian general who had to go wash in the Jordan, so now Jesus doesn’t just heal this man on the spot but requires him to do something. I don’t know why some get an immediate healing and some have to do something to get it. You may ask yourself why God didn’t just give you something but makes you work for it. It is a mystery, and we simply need to be obedient to what he calls us to do.
Jesus also tells the man to go wash in the same pool that water was taken from to celebrate the feast of Tabernacles in John 7. During the last and greatest day of that feast the Jewish people would take water and pour it out on the ground. It was a way to remember and look forward to the day that God would pour out his Spirit. Water often symbolized the Spirit in the Old Testament and there was a hope that the Spirit would be poured out in the world and transform it. Deserts would flourish. The sick would be healed. Righteousness would flow. Jesus show this is realized in him. He makes the pool and water do what the people hoped it would do.
This man is healed completely by Jesus and unfortunately that makes him a target for those wanting to discredit Jesus. What happens next is one of my favorite passages in the Bible.
The religious leaders start interrogating him. They ask him who this man is. They want to either prove that Jesus didn’t do the healing or discredit the healing as being from God, it happened on a Sabbath so it couldn’t be of God! (v15). When asked who Jesus is the man says he is a prophet (v17) , and the very next verse (18) it’s like the leaders didn’t even consider this an option, because they move on to questioning if he was born blind. It’s like they didn’t even hear him! The man’s parents do not stick up for him and refuse to offer any help, quickly putting things back on their son (v20). This is when the most unlikely of people becomes a teacher.
The man has testified rightly, and the leaders press him more. They say, “give glory to God…” And this heightened intensity gives incredible weight to the man’s testimony. He has only recently encountered Jesus. There is much he does not know. If we were to ask him questions about the Trinitarian nature of God, the procession of the Son from the Father, the nature of Jesus being not just similar substance to the Father, but the same substance, he would not be able to do it. But one thing has happened and that he is confident. I was blind and now I see. What a powerful testimony! You should desire to articulate your faith. Desire to understand the main doctrines of the faith. Desire to winsomely articulate your position on various topics. But also never forget just how powerful it is telling people what Jesus has done for you; you were once blind and now you see. Tell them how Jesus has changed you forever. This man leaves the issue of determining Jesus guilt or innocence to others. He simply states emphatically what he has done for him.
The man testifies to who Jesus is and he comes to the same conclusion of others. John the baptist saw Jesus baptized and exclaimed he was the Son of God (John 1:34). Nathaniel did the same (1:49). Jesus said he is the Son of God (John 5:25, 9:35), Peter believes he is the Holy one of God (6:69), and now the healed blind beggar has joined this cloud of witnesses.
But his powerful testimony falls flat! The teachers are unable to refute his logic so they attack the man personally. They don’t just say you’re wrong, or born in sin. They claim he was steeped in sin (v34). They fault the man and claim the problem is in him. They are not interested in the truth or doing what’s right. They are blinded to their own agenda. The religious teachers fail to remember the many prophecies that when the messiah comes he would open blind eyes.
But just consider what has happened here. A man who was born blind, lived a life of begging is healed. He can see. Praise God! He no longer has to beg for a living! His ship has finally come in. Life is going to be grand. But he is now on trial for what has happened. No one sticks up for him. He tells the truth at his trial. His own parents offer no help. No one in the community sticks up for him. He is being devoured by the Pharisee's accusations. At a crossroads he is told to give glory to God and so he does. He amps up his testimony so it is loud and clear. He gives a riviting testimony of “Whether this man is a sinner or not, i do not know, but one thing i know, I was blind but now I see.” He even goes on the offensive to proclaim the truth by questioning how in the world the pharisees do not know who he is. Never in the history of the world has it happened that a man blind from birth received sight. We all applaud his testimony today, but no one did at the time. It was pure silence. It’s like William Wallace giving his Bravehardt speech of “they can take our lives but they will never take our freedom!” and everyone just kind of looks around and is like, “Ah, lets go home.” It falls flat. He is derided, accused of suffering for his sin, and thrown out of his community. He is forcibly thrown out like a piece of trash. He is blackballed. This guy makes me think of the saying, “If it wasn’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have any luck at all.”
Do you think he may have had a moment where he thought, man my life was better off before Jesus came? He is all alone at the end. Have you ever had one of those moments. You step out in faith and it doesn’t go the way you thought.
The light has come in the world. It is healing and having an effect but it is also resisted, and that is why the talk of judgment.
The man has been abandoned by all and yet Jesus finds him. In the midst of the evil actions of the religious leaders Jesus says it is for judgment that he has come (v39). Jesus can do this because of who he is. The light of the world brings illumination and restoration, but it also brings judgement. Judgment has the word judge in it. To judge is to make a decision, presumably a right decision. It is to reward those who deserve rewarding and to punish those who need punishing. We live in a world that needs judging. This passage proves that. Whether it’s the evil of a false trial, or a trial of an unsolved murder. Things need to be righted. Even the things that are “no one’s fault” like being born blind, these need to be righted. Jesus says it is for this reason he came. He came for judgment.
There is a paradox of revelation. Those who see are blinded and those who were blind now see. The physical reveals the spiritual. Those who suffered injustice are rewarded; those causing the injustice are condemned.
First, the blind man is brought up (v 37) Jesus provides a revelation of who he is. For the first time the man is able to truly see his healer. He responds with a model confession, “Lord I believe” (v37) and he worships (v38). He bows down and worship Jesus. Thats a hard verse for our Jehova’s witness friends.
Does the man regret what Jesus has done for him? I don’t think so. He now has a reason to worship God. He lost so much, but he now knows the light of the world. He knows its power and he knows its presence.
The true light has dawned in the world but it has not come in all it fullness. We see its rays breaking in to chase away the darkness but has not come in completeness. We must wait for that. God is with him in his struggle. Life is just one stage after another of trusting God. Trusting God for healing and then trusting him for being cast out. Like us where we have to trust God for a job and then trust him for the business of having a job. Trust him for a spouse and then trust him for kids. Life is a constant trusting of God. So much of life is waiting on God. Waiting on the Lord is that frustratingly painful time between standing between what you have and what you want.
A little light is shed on our situation though. It will all result in the glory of God. That’s why Jesus said these things are so that God may be glorified. His healing did result in God being glorified, so will everything else. We often want things to be righted immediately. We are frustrated when they are not. But they will be one day. Jesus was the light of the word, and when he returns the light will come in all its fullness. That is when everything is made right. Blindness will be removed and praise will go to God. Cancer will be removed. Back pain healed. Sciatic nerve pain, heart issues. It is so hard to see friends in pain. But what hope we have that it will all be taken away when we see Jesus. Our frail fallen bodies will be restored, not just to the best state we experienced in this life, but to a state never before experienced.
In Jesus there is also a righting of wrong. There is a grace and illumination to the light coming into the world. But just as light heals and reveals, it can also blind you. It can burn you. It destroys darkness. The salvation the light brings also means condemnation for those who reject it. If you fall off a boat and are struggling for you life in the water and they throw you a rope, refusing to take hold of that rope is your condemnation. It’s the same with Jesus here. In John 3:20 he says he didn’t come into the world for judgement. He ultimately came for salvation, but rejecting him is to bring destruction on yourself. John 3:19 says “Light has come into the world and people loved darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” The pharisees refuse to hear Jesus, refuse examine his miracles, refuse to do what is right, and they are left in the darkness. They love darkness and have no light in them. Their guilt remains (v41). It was said of Jesus at his birth that he would cause the rising and falling of many (Luke 2:34-35). He brings judgment so that those laid low might be brought up and those up high might be brought down. While things may seem out of whack in this world, Jesus ensures that justice prevails.
Some of you may have experienced abandonment and ostracism by trusting in Christ. I have met muslims who trusted in Christ and their family completely rejected them, even persecuted them. I know many others who trusted in Christ and while not totally ostracized and cut off, their relationships were never the same. I hope the fact that you have seen the light of the world and now have something worth worshipping comforts you and causes you to never want to turn back.
For many others our greatest temptation is not in abandonment but in conformity to the world. To conform to those who are shouting injustices or doing wrong things. These people had to square with Jesus’s coming justice and judgement. You have to decide who you will serve. Will you continue to live by your own standards and do whatever you think is right. If you are following Jesus you will be brought into odds with others. We need to testify to what is right and why it is right. We need a boldness like this blind man had. We too will be judged for what we have done and that should stir us to seek justice now.
The only appropriate response to Jesus is a complete and whole hearted surrender to who he is. If you have never done that I want to ask you to do that now. To surrender your life to him. To begin a life of worshipping the Son of man, the light of the world, the judge of all things. If you are a Christian but you have wandered from this path, turn back to him now. Stopping making excuses for not following him. He sees through it.
It’s a dangerous thing when we demand justice. It’s dangerous because all of us have done wrong, evil, hurtful things. Whether it’s ignoring right and wrong in a mob trial or on the school playground, we have done whats wrong. We have been blinded to truth and righteousness because of our own agenda. We need justice and yet we also need a way to escape our own injustices. Jesus offers that. He provides redemption to those who are fallen. He heals the blind and makes them see. He can do that for you and me. But receiving that means we turn from our evil ways and walk in the light. We turn to him as the true light, the source of all hope, joy, and life.
This Christmas season we celebrate the judgment Jesus brings because it means we have hope of everything wrong in the world being made right. This caused a rejected man to bow down and worship. It should cause us to do the same.