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This Dark World’s Light

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
August 18, 2021 4:00 am

This Dark World’s Light

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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August 18, 2021 4:00 am

Many people used to assume that diseases were caused by personal sin. But Jesus had a very different perspective. Find out how a blind man’s story challenges some of our common ideas about suffering. That’s our subject on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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Music playing Well, let's begin in John chapter 20, and verse 30 and 31. I point you here purposefully, because this is where John tells us the purpose of his gospel. He explains here in verse 30 that not all the miraculous signs that Jesus did in the company of his disciples have been recorded in this gospel, but instead there's been a selection given, and the selection that has been used has been used in order that the things that have been written may foster belief, that people may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and then that by believing they may find life in his name. Someone pointed this out to me some time ago, suggesting that this may actually be a key for working our way through John's gospel.

I think it's quite a good idea. In other words, what you have in the signs is evidence—the evidence, then, providing the basis for believing, and the believing giving way to life in the name of Jesus—evidence, belief, and spiritual life. And we come now, till we get to the end of chapter 9 of John's gospel, to look at what this meant in the life of this man to whom we are introduced in verse 1. Notice, first of all, the man's condition. As he went along, as Jesus went along, he saw a man blind from birth. This man had been born blind. And as was often the case at that time, and indeed not only in that era, the man's recourse was simply to sit out on the street and hope that people would be benevolent towards him.

And in verse 8, we are discovering that his profession or his circumstance had been that of a blind beggar. So we are in no doubt that his condition was pitiful, that it was, in every instance, hopeless, that he was actually quite helpless in relationship to the circumstance that he faced. He was not, as we will discover later in the story, devoid of personality. He was a colorful personality. He had a mind of his own.

He was quick-witted in his response to those who put pressure upon him. But his condition is such that without a miracle, he was destined to live his life in darkness. Now, his condition gives rise to a question—the question that is posed in verse 2 by the disciples. Those who are following Jesus ask a question that many of us perhaps regard as almost inevitable.

"'Rabbi,' they said, "'who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?'" Now, the assumption made by the disciples that the sin and suffering of this man are intimately connected is, of course, generally true, isn't it? Sin and suffering are connected. Indeed, the Bible makes it clear in Genesis chapter 3 that it was the entry of sin into the world that changed everything in terms of the goodness of the world that God had made.

God made the world and everything in it, and he pronounced that it was good. And all of the thorns and the thistles and the bloodshed and the disagreement and the disharmony and the murder and the mayhem and the weeds and the tsunamis and all of the earthquakes and everything else is generally linked to the fact of the fall of man. So, the assumption on the part of the disciples is understandable, and as I say, it is generally true. However, for them to attempt to join the dots between sin and the sufferings of a particular individual is to put themselves on shaky ground. And that is exactly what they discover in the answer that Jesus gives.

They've concluded that the man's blindness is the result either of his own sin—the Jews believed that you could sin in the womb, they had a concept of prenatal sinfulness—or that it was directly related to what his parents had done. Jesus then answers their concern. Incidentally, the question of sin as it relates to suffering, and suffering in general, is a question that I think most of us face all the time.

But I do want to say this to you in passing. We need to be ready for the suffering question. We need to be ready for the suffering question in a way that doesn't argue unconvincingly or unkindly or does not throw verses at people as if somehow or another slabs of information will address the disruption in their hearts and minds.

But people always ask the question, Why don't they? Because God has set eternity in their hearts. He has made them as moral beings. And as a result of that, they understand that the Why question is directly related to the oughtness of their lives. And this week you will meet them again, as you walk from a hospital ward, as you sit for coffee somewhere—people asking the question, Why is he in that chair? If this God you say you know is alive and well, even those closest to Jesus have those kinds of questions. And ultimately, without some mathematical formulaic answer, Christianity introduces us not to a God on a deck chair but to a God on a cross who understands rejection, who understands pain, who understands grief at its deepest level.

That is an aside. Verse 3 brings us to the answer that Jesus gives. The condition gives rise to the question, the question gives rise to the answer. Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus. In other words, you're asking the wrong question.

You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause and effect here, says Jesus. He wasn't blind because of his own sin or because of his parents' sin. No, this has happened, he says, so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. In other words, his blindness was the key to his salvation. Indeed, we would say that were it not for his blindness, then the encounter would never have happened, and therefore we would have no record of the fact that the man came to see spiritually.

And what is true of this man is often true when people tell you how they became Christians. Something happened, either physically or emotionally, turmoil and pain, entered into your life. And in that, all of your foundations were rocked and unsettled. And that which was a very unattractive encounter became the very means whereby you looked for an answer beyond yourself. You may actually be here this morning, and that's exactly where you are.

I don't know, because I don't know all the congregation. It may be that you have wandered in here, or you have purposefully come here, because of something that has happened to you in recent days. And it is a happenstance over which you have no control. It is either ugly or unpalatable.

It is certainly something that shows you that you have lost your bearings, and you have no mechanism, no means of restoration. God understands all of that. God is not taken by surprise. Edinburgh, Monday night, before the first Sunday night in a month, when we had our guest service, we went out into the community and went up and down the tenement buildings, knocking the doors, and offering to people a guest service invitation. That usually said, No, that's fine, thank you, goodbye. But every so often someone said, Well, okay, why don't you just come in for a moment? And the two men went into the house, spoke for about five minutes, said, Well, we need to keep going. We would pray with you if that's all right.

The couple, in their late sixties, said, That's okay. And then as they were ready to pray, the lady said, Will you pray for those who have cancer? And so the men prayed. And when the prayer was over, the lady stood up immediately and turned off the overhead light and turned on a table lamp. The room immediately went into a much dimmer perspective.

And as the two gentlemen left, they realized that the tears were running down the woman's face. It turned out she was a quite fascinating lady. She was from a Huguenot background. Everybody knew her. She had a great sense of humor. And her funeral service was attended by hundreds and hundreds of people from the city of Edinburgh. They wanted to know what had happened to this lady, that in the dying embers of her life, as she faced cancer, she faced death with such triumph. And her husband outlived her by a number of years.

I would see him every Sunday that I would go back to Edinburgh, and he would be seated still up in the balcony, the only gap being the gap left by his wife. But it was her cancer that was the mechanism that brought her to face the fact that she was blind and she needed Jesus. God moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform. He plants his footsteps in the sea, and he rides upon the storm.

Now, having answered in such a straightforward way, he takes action in a way that is equally straightforward. And having said that, he spat on the ground. Jesus spits. The Creator spits. The Creator, who took and fashioned a man out of his own, created dust, takes again his own dust, and spits in it. You see, what we have in these signs is not the circus coming to town. What we have in these signs are signs to the identity of Christ. Who is this Jesus of Nazareth? That's the question that you ought to be asking if you don't believe. Who is this man in this story?

Who is this person who spits on the ground and rubs mud on someone's eyelids? None other than the Creator of the universe. You see, we can't set him aside as a nice man doing kind things and speaking to children in a way that is endearing, as if somehow or another we can set him aside on that basis. No, because he won't allow us to. He stands before us, doing these dramatic things and making these unbelievable assertions. You see, what John is doing in his Gospel is simply working out his prologue. Do you remember how he begins? In the beginning was the Word.

That's the logos. That is Jesus, the second person of the Trinity. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and he was with God in the beginning.

And through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made. So for him, in John 2, to give his first miraculous sign and bring water to wine—hey!—in him was life, and the life was the light of man. For him to heal the noble man's son. For him to feed the five thousand. For him to walk on the water. For him to raise Lazarus in chapter 11.

For him to deal with this man in chapter 9. The Jewish mind understood this. The Jew understood. This is an expression of divinity. That's why the Pharisees are so infuriated.

Because now they've got to put these two pieces of the puzzle together. One, undeniably this must be God, but we don't like him as a Messiah. Therefore, we can't get what we want without getting what we don't want. If we want him to be God, then he has to be our Messiah.

But we don't want him. Exodus 4. Moses, I want you to go to Pharaoh. Moses to God. I don't think I'm the man for going to Pharaoh.

I'm not a very eloquent person. Remember how God responds? Who made your mouth? And it's in that context that he says, Who is it that can make you speak or make you dumb? Who is it that can make you blind or make you see? The answer is God. The psalmist says it all the time. God is the one who opens the blind eyes. God is the one who brings from darkness into light. And the sign of the Messianic Age, as you find in Isaiah all the time, and one of the great signs of the Messianic Age is that the Messiah will step onto the stage of history, and the lame will walk, and the deaf will hear, and the blind will see. John says, Here's my evidence.

Here are my signs. They're here in order that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name. Evidence, belief, life. Some of us have set aside Christianity without ever having considered the evidence. That is intellectually not so good.

At least examine the evidence and see whether he is not the person he claims to be. Now, the final sentence in verse 7 is as matter of fact as anything you could ever read, isn't it? This is one of the things that makes me realize that Gospels are just the Gospels. You know, if someone was inventing this, I think it would have a lot more to it, don't you think? Magic mud, you know, something like that?

Then he got the magic mud, which was kept in the old canister that they had found underneath the old temple over by the Fountain of Zipadoo Life, and, you know, and it's like, Whoa! No! These are like… The guy's like, Okay, what now? Well, go over to the—how do I get there? I'll get somebody to get you there. Don't worry.

Come on. Go to the pool of Siloam and wash. So the man went and washed and came home seeing. What? So the man went and washed and came home seeing. Yes, that's exactly right.

And put the cat among the pigeons for the neighborhood. Because the people began to say to one another, Isn't this the man who used to sit and beg? Some said, Yeah, that's who he is. Others said, No, he just looks like him.

He's a very similar look. But the man says, I am the man! I want to be who I am!

I am the man! How then were your eyes opened? Well, mud, spit, wash, Siloam.

I went and washed, and then I could see. Oh, yeah? Well, where is the man?

I don't know where he is. Ah! Come on. Have you ever told somebody about how you became a Christian? Somebody told me that Jesus' blood was shed from my sins? What is your blood shed for your sins?

What is that about? Well, Jesus died and bore my sins, and the pastor told me that if I would metaphorically plunge myself into that fountain that Christ provided by his death, that I would be cleansed, and I would be made to see. So, come on. Come on. I mean, next thing, you're gonna be telling me that some guy spat on the ground, made mud, put on somebody's eyes, and the guy was walking around going, Hey, hey, hey!

I can see everything! So that's what I am gonna tell you. In fact, that's exactly what it says. Well, we have to stop, don't we?

But not without acknowledging that some of you are asking the right question, and the right question is this. What in the world does this have to do with anything? And certainly, what does it have to do with me? What possible relevance does it have as I get ready to go out of here and have my lunch? Really, the question is, So what?

isn't it? So what? It's the right question.

Let me give it to you as straightforwardly as I can, and we'll pick it up from here next time. The man's physical condition is a mirror image of the spiritual condition of you and of me. It's not a very nice thing to say in polite company, but it is what the Bible says—namely, that we are blind beggars, that we are spiritually blind, and that we are entirely unable to rectify our predicament. We're blind as a result of our partnership and solidarity with Adam and Eve in their sin, and we're blind culpably because we neither understand the light, nor do we recognize him, nor are we prepared to come into the light, because we like darkness rather than light.

This is the verdict. John 3.19, Light has come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. By nature we're selfish, proud, envious, and we attempt to live with a cover-up, choosing not to love the light. In fact, we hate the light. It's perfectly understandable if we expose ourselves to the light, then all our dirty, dark secrets will be revealed.

No one likes that kind of process. So although we throw up the smokescreen of our intellectual arguments—and I'm not denying that people have genuine and significant intellectual questions, let's be honest about that—but let's also be equally honest that most of our unbelief is not an intellectual issue, it's a moral issue. It's a moral issue. We know ourselves to be stained and dirty, and therefore, if someone asks us to come out into the light and show ourselves up for what we are, that is a process that does not appeal to us. We would rather run again into the darkness. If you spill coffee on your trousers, gentlemen, after you've only just pulled out of the driveway of your car, you either have to turn around, go back in the house, get another pair of trousers, or you hope that where you're going is dark.

Isn't that right? I mean, you're going out to dinner, your wife says to you, Oh, don't worry, I think the restaurant is quite dark. So that's good, because I'm going to have to conceal this. You go into the restaurant, it's a blazing light.

It's like, Oh, for goodness sake, that is embarrassing. If I'd known how light it was, I would not have come in here like this. That's our nature. We love darkness rather than light, because our deeds are evil. We are blind beggars. We cannot make ourselves see. Jesus comes to expose our blindness, to touch our lives, and to make us new.

When John Newton got it, he sat down and wrote it in a hymn, didn't he? Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I'm found. I was blind, but now I see. Peter says to the scattered believers of his day, he says, You were once not a people, but now you are a people.

Now you're a chosen generation, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, who has brought you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Well, you know where you are today, and so do I. I wonder, are you prepared to face up to your blindness? You could just cry out to Jesus like another man who was blind did, blind Bartimaeus. He just shouted out.

He didn't care when anybody heard. He just called out in the street, Son of David, Have mercy on me! And Jesus says, What is it that you want me to do for you? And Bartimaeus said, Jesus, I want to see.

That's all you need to do. He said to the man, Go and wash. He went and washed. Have you ever been and washed in the cleansing pool provided by the atoning death of Jesus?

If not, you remain in darkness. Go and wash. All of us need to cry out to Jesus for mercy. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. We learned today that each one of us is spiritually blind.

Each one of us needs Jesus. If you'd like to know more about what that means, you can visit the Learn More page on our website. There you'll find a brief video from Alistair explaining the gospel, also a short illustrated presentation that explains God's plan of salvation.

Simply go to truthforlife.org slash learn more. Maybe the topic of spiritual blindness has prompted you to think about eternity. What does God's word have to say about life after death? If you're curious about what heaven is going to be like, you won't want to miss requesting our book selection today. It's a book titled, Heaven on Earth, What the Bible Teaches About Life to Come. This brief book turns to the Bible to give us a glimpse of eternity, but it also emphasizes the fact that what we do before death really matters.

It makes a great way to begin a gospel conversation. Scripture is clear that there is life after death, and when we trust in Jesus, we don't have to wonder about our eternal destiny. Our life in heaven is secure. Find out what the Bible says heaven will be like. Request your copy of the book, Heaven on Earth, today when you make a one-time gift on our website, truthforlife.org slash donate, or call 888-588-7884. I'm Bob Lapeen. What would it take for you to be happier? Be sure to listen tomorrow as we find a king at his lowest point, and then discover the surprising keys to happiness. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-14 20:27:07 / 2023-09-14 20:35:53 / 9

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