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“Why Don’t You Ask Him?” (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
January 15, 2021 3:00 am

“Why Don’t You Ask Him?” (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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January 15, 2021 3:00 am

Normally, we think of dress-up as kids’ play—but in the New Testament, we find a group of Pharisees engaging in a religious version of this game. Find out how they responded when a blind man dressed them down. That’s on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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The New Testament includes a number of accounts about a group of leaders called the Pharisees who were experts at playing religious dress-up. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg explains how these religious leaders responded when a blind man's question challenged their authority and dressed them down. We begin with part one of a message titled, Why Don't You Ask Him? Father, what we know not, teach us. What we have not, give us. What we are not, make us. For Jesus' sake. Amen. Well, we're turning now for the third time to John chapter 9.

It won't be our last time. In the 31st verse of John chapter 20, he explains to the readers of the Gospel of John that all of the signs that Jesus did in the company of his disciples, all of the miracles that he performed, have not been written down. He simply says there wouldn't be enough space for a book to contain them all. But rather, a selected number have been provided for us in the Gospel of John, and they are in the Bible to provide evidence—an evidence which may in turn produce belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and then that belief in Jesus as the Son of God may issue in life which is really life. And we've been thinking very much about the privilege that we've been given as a church to go into our communities and amongst our friends and neighbors and to encourage them to consider the claims of Jesus in a very straightforward way, to say, Have you ever examined the evidence?

If you will consider the evidence, the evidence provides a basis for belief, and belief opens the door to spiritual life, to eternal life. And it has been our desire that in studying this record of a man who received his sight, a man who'd been born blind, that we as individuals might recognize that we too are as spiritually blind as he was physically blind, and that our eyes may be opened by Jesus just as his were. And at the same time, that those of us who have come to a knowledge of Jesus in this way might be better equipped to go into our communities and to speak to folks in light of the fact that we understand what the Bible says concerning this absence of spiritual sight. We need to be very, very clear—or we will lose our way very quickly in this chapter—that in providing physical sight to this man, Jesus is displaying his purpose and his power to provide spiritual sight to men and women who are as devoid of spiritual seeing as this man was of physical seeing.

Now, I think most of us know the hymn Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound that Saviour Writs Like Me. Certainly the opening two lines, and many of us will know the following two, in which John Newton, the writer, employs this particular metaphor. Remember, I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind, but now I see. John Newton there is not referencing some physical impairment that had marked his life, but he is testifying to the fact that although he'd gone through his life thinking that he understood and saw things properly, it was only when he was brought face to face with Jesus that he first of all discovered that he didn't see things properly. Indeed, that he didn't see things correctly at all—that he was actually spiritually blind. And then, when the truth of who Jesus is and what he had done upon the cross dawned upon this slave trader's hard and stony heart, he said, My eyes were opened to it. And I, who was once John Newton the blind man, became the man who could see. Now, we need to be very clear that the Bible makes plain to us that sin has robbed us of spiritual vision, and that in this respect we too are like this man in John 9, blind from birth. Like this man, we are unable to rectify our condition. And like him, each of us is in need of Jesus to recreate in us the faculty which sin has destroyed.

Now, all of that by way of introduction, but purposefully, because without that as the framework, we will very quickly lose our way in this particular chapter. Last time, some of you will remember that we noted in the opening twelve verses or so that the transformation in the life of this man had really set the cat among the pigeons in his community. Communities are used to things happening as they normally happen, and it often takes some time to adjust to something that is out of the ordinary. Well, this was definitely out of the ordinary, because this man was familiar in his neighborhood as a blind man and as a man who begged because he was blind. And as people would go about their day, they would listen to the familiar sounds. They would almost disregard the man. He would be so much a part of the surroundings to them. They knew he was there. They heard his cries.

They knew his desire for money. And now, all of a sudden, he's reappeared in the streets, and he's no longer asking for money, but he's walking around, and he can see perfectly well. The neighbors, according to verse 8, who had formerly seen him begging, said to one another, "'Isn't the same man who used to sit and beg?' And some said, "'Oh, yes, I think it is.' And others said, "'No, I think it's probably someone who looks like him.' And they asked him, "'How is it that your eyes are opened?' He said, "'The man they called Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes and told me to go to Siloam and wash, and I went and washed, and then I could see.' "'Well, where's the man?' He says, "'I don't know where he is.'"

Now, we pick up the story from that point. They're unable to resolve their dilemma, and so they do what was customary to do. They determine to take this man to the court of public opinion, as it were, represented by the religious leaders—the place of the synagogue in the small towns and communities of the time was a significant place. And in the same way that in events unfolding in contemporary life, journalists go to ask for a statement from certain significant individuals in the community, so in this context they were essentially going to the significant individuals in the community, namely the religious leaders, to see if they could shed some light on what had happened to this man. Now, Peterson, who paraphrased the New Testament, might be a little zealous when he paraphrases verse 13—"They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind." He paraphrases that, so they marched the man to the Pharisees, almost as if they took him by the ear and said, Come on, you're coming to the Pharisees. You can imagine the man saying, Oh no, not the Pharisees, please, not the Pharisees, I don't want to go to the Pharisees. And that would have been with some justification, because what follows is not so much a conversation as it is an interrogation—an interrogation which at the beginning has the Pharisees, the religious leaders, very much in the driving seat, but by the time it reaches the end, the man himself has turned the tables on them. Verse 26, they ask him again, What did he do to you?

How did he open your eyes? And the man said, I told you that already. Why do you keep asking me the same question? You didn't listen when I told you the first time. Why do you want to hear it again? Aha!

You want to become his disciples too, don't you? Oh, that infuriated them. No, they were angry then. They insulted him.

They threw him out. Who is this upstart that can see? Who does he think he is? Smarty-pens going around the community, coming to us, the religious leaders, we who know everything, and speaking as if there is something he knows that we don't know.

We don't usually like people knowing things that we don't know. Now, in an attempt at clarity and simplicity, I'm going to draw our thoughts around three words. Word one is formalism. Word two is fear.

Number three is faith. Formalism, fear, and faith. First, the formalism that is represented by the attitude and the actions of the Pharisees, to whom we're introduced in verse 13.

These religious leaders were focused on the externals without any real regard to the inner significance of the things that they paid lip service to. Jesus was on one occasion to refer to these religious leaders as sepulchres. He said, You're white on the outside, but inside is dead men's bones.

Graphic picture. A reminder to us, incidentally, that Jesus was more than willing to get down beside those whose lives were in disarray and who were aware of their predicament and who sensed themselves in need of the salvation that he came to bring. But at the very same time, he reserved his most stinging and scathing rebukes for religious orthodoxy that was only skin deep. And you can see that the religious orthodoxy of these individuals was skin deep, because they brought the man to the Pharisees, the man who had been blind. And instead of these individuals rejoicing in the man's story, instead of them saying, We've been hoping for a chance to meet you, the word is out in the community that you could see, and we're so glad that you've chosen to come along and meet with us.

No, there is none of that at all. Instead, they react in such a way as to challenge what he's saying, looking for ways to discredit him, and at the same time to incriminate Jesus. Now, you see, is that not surprising? Does that not represent some kind of callous heart on the part of these men? Surely the normal milk of human kindness would say that when somebody whose life has been marked by darkness is ushered into light, irrespective of our particular focus and concerns about our own interests and so on, don't you think that we would find it in ourselves at least to say, We rejoice with you that although you have been blind from birth and although we cannot understand what has happened, we share the wonder of what has taken place.

But not so. Now, their problem, John tells us, at least on the surface, was the Sabbath. Verse 14. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man's eyes was the Sabbath, therefore the Pharisees asked him how he had received his sight. It's interesting that it's a therefore.

Why therefore? Why so they asked him? Well, because they were the custodians of the Sabbath. They were the ones who knew what was to happen on the Sabbath and what wasn't to happen on the Sabbath, and they knew for sure that there was no spitting on the Sabbath. You see, the Pharisees not only had the bald statement of the law of God in the fourth commandment, that you shall not work, but they had decided that that needed a little help.

And so they had added to it a whole list of their own regulations. For example, if a man had a runny nose, and he was downstairs in the kitchen and he knew his handkerchief was up the stairs, it was a violation of their perspective of the Sabbath to go upstairs and get the handkerchief, let alone start rubbing his nose with it. It was not possible, from their perspective on the Sabbath, for a man to cut his toenails. Nor if he found that he had one of those strange hairs that grows right out of the front of your eyebrows, if he happened to see that, as sometimes happens, he was not allowed to reach for it and pluck it out until the day after the Sabbath.

And certainly, there could be no spitting in the dust and stirring around and making up any kind of paste, no matter what you're trying to do with it. Now, Jesus had already run into this. Turn back a few pages to chapter 5, and let me just show you that these folks had a fixation with this.

Chapter 5—you'll need to read it for yourself as homework—is the story of another dramatic healing, one of the signs. The man, who has been at the pool of Bethesda, an invalid for thirty-eight years, is healed by Jesus. And as a result of that, off he goes walking down the street. And who do you think he runs into? Ha-ha!

Our friends! The day, verse 9, on which this miracle took place was a Sabbath, and so, therefore, the Jews said to the man who had been healed, It is the Sabbath the law forbids you to carry your mat. You think at least they might have said, Hey, nice to see you walking!

How's it feeling after thirty-eight years lying there on a mat? But no. Because the fact that this man could walk, and what they were then to discover concerning how he came to walk, challenged their religious formalism, challenged their religious externalism. And so, once again, they used the Sabbath as the mechanism from distancing themselves from the impact that the transformation in this man's life may potentially make upon their own. Now, you say, Well, isn't this all so very far away from us?

Well, no, actually not. This Sabbath question was enough for them to be divided amongst themselves. Verse 16, some of the Pharisees said, He's not from God, for he doesn't keep the Sabbath. What they meant by that was he doesn't keep the Sabbath our way. Of course Jesus kept the Sabbath.

He kept the law in its perfection. Jesus was sinless. In fact, Calvin suggests that Jesus performed these miracles purposefully, deliberately, on the Sabbath.

I kinda like that idea. So that it wasn't like he said, Now take up your mat and walk. And he healed the man, and somebody said, Hey, Jesus, don't you realize it's the Sabbath? He said, Of course I know it's the Sabbath. Watch this. And then he does it again. The man going by, she goes, Sabbath! He says, I know! Watch this!

And right on cue they come. Religious formalism cannot cope with transformed lives. Religious formalism can't cope with conversion. Religious formalism cannot face the fact of the dramatic impact that Jesus makes when he takes a person and turns them upside down, which is actually to turn them the right way up.

Why? Because the religious formalist then recognizes that he or she is upside down and therefore needs as much to be turned the right way up as this individual, and not wanting to face the challenge of that, they hide behind the smokescreen of their ability to maintain all of the externals in terms of their religious experience. There's no indication on the part of these folks that they examined the evidence, that they had any interest in the evidence at all.

Their interest was to deny the miracle and to discredit Jesus. Now, I'm sure that some of you can identify very quickly with this. You became a Christian. You may have become a Christian just recently. You came and acknowledged that you were blind and that you had things completely wrong, that you were lost, and that Jesus came seeking to save the lost, and you asked Jesus to save you and to be the shepherd of your soul. And what you've discovered now is that religious formalism has no place for that kind of radical change. And there can be nothing more challenging, nothing more embarrassing to the religious formalist than the presence of someone who comes and shares with them that they have found Jesus to be their Savior, to be the one who has opened their eyes, to be the one who has turned them from darkness into marvelous light.

You see, if you look at the text, you see that that's exactly what happened to them. When they come a second time in verse 24 and summon the man, and they said, Come on now, tell the truth. We know that Jesus is a sinner. This man's a sinner. He said, Well, I don't have a comment on whether he's a sinner or not. I don't know anything about that, but I do know this.

One thing I do know, I was blind, but now I see. And they couldn't cope with that very, very quickly. They began to insult him. They hurled insults at him, verse 28, and eventually, in verse 34, How dare you come and lecture us?

They said they just threw him out. But if you go back to chapter 5, I'll show you that they condemn themselves right out of their own mouths. John chapter 5, once again, the healing has taken place, the story of life through Jesus unfolds. There are testimonies about Jesus.

And they began to challenge this testimony. And Jesus speaks to them, and he says, verse 39, You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

He said, In one sense, you're on the right track. You believe that the Scriptures lead to eternal life. In fact, the Pharisees used to attach them to their wrists in little boxes.

You may have seen some orthodox Jewish people in the heights, wearing the same thing, phylacteries on their wrists, and also strapped around their heads on their foreheads, as an expression of their devotion to the Scriptures. But Jesus says to them, These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I mean, if I might put it in terms of Parkside, what he's saying is you may have a big, fat Bible, and you may underline it in at least three colors.

You may have symbols of diagrams and triangles and circles and all kinds of mechanisms whereby, when your Bible is around, you're able to show how much the Bible means to you. But that Bible may never have brought you to faith in Jesus. You may still refuse to come to Jesus to have life.

It's unlikely, but it is possible. You see, if religious formalism was enough to get a man or a woman to heaven, then there would be no need for Jesus to die upon the cross, would there? If doing it ourselves is sufficient, then there would be no need for this amazing grace. Placing our trust in Jesus and not in ourselves, an important reminder that religious rules aren't the same thing as having a saving relationship.

That's at the heart of today's message titled, Why Don't You Ask Him? on Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. In our series about Jesus' encounters with the lost, we see how fundamental every person's need for salvation is. Yet when it's up to us to introduce others to Christ, the idea of starting a conversation about the gospel can often stop us dead in our tracks.

Well, thankfully, Roger Carswell can teach us how to get past that barrier. Roger has a burden to reach the lost. He also has a desire to help each of us feel more comfortable sharing the gospel with others. He's written a book called Facing a Task Unfinished where he points us to the Holy Spirit as our source for help. Facing a Task Unfinished is a 52-week devotional. It's meant to be read once each week over the course of a year. Each devotion includes a Bible passage, prayers, hymn lyrics that will help us focus our hearts on the Lord's desire to save the lost. You can even use these reflections to fuel your prayers for the salvation of others, and there's a space provided at the end of each entry for you to record those prayers. Request Facing a Task Unfinished when you make a generous one-time donation to Truth for Life, but don't delay.

Today is the final day I'll be mentioning this book. You can simply tap the image you see in the mobile app or visit truthforlife.org slash donate to obtain a copy or call 888-588-7884. If you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book, write to Truth for Life at Post Office Box 398000, Cleveland, Ohio 44139. Now if you're a regular listener to Truth for Life, you know we are committed to being partners with you in your spiritual growth. We teach the Bible with clarity and relevance every day, and we do it knowing that God's Word is the key for each one of us to growing in godliness. As you find yourself looking for biblically anchored help on the issues you're facing in life, things like how to find peace in the middle of trials or dealing with anxiety or grief, growing old gracefully or caring for others who need our help, whatever the issue you're facing, please visit truthforlife.org slash hope where you can view a selection of Christ-centered resources on any of these and other topics. I'm Bob Lapine.

Hope you have a relaxing and a refreshing weekend. Keep in mind that Alistair Beggs preaching at Parkside Church is streamed live most weekends. To see if Alistair will be in the pulpit this weekend, you can go to truthforlife.org slash live. Join us again Monday for the conclusion of today's message from our series, A Light in the Darkness. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-04 00:57:57 / 2024-01-04 01:06:43 / 9

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