Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
27 September 2020
There is no video for this week: the service is available as text (below) or audio podcast.
Rick shared a testimony at the end of the service at Church last Sunday which I thought would be good to share here. As Graham and Dylys, and Roland and Sue were all away Rick offered to manage the Sound Desk although he didn’t have any experience of bringing up the songs to play on Youtube. Graham gave him a couple of brief training sessions after the Service last Sunday and they met up again on Tuesday evening. Unfortunately, after we listened to the first song, as Rick was preparing the list for the next song, all the songs disappeared. Rick announced that he was having difficulties and then one of the two new visitors we had on Sunday morning, Benjamin from the Netherlands, got up out of his seat and went to assist Rick with his expertise on the Sound Desk. All went wonderfully well afterwards as the both of them managed all the songs and other items shown on the Screen. Praise the Lord who supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
As He went along He saw a man blind from birth.John 9:1
Last Thursday as I was preparing the message for the Sunday morning service at Bethel using the outline in the Service at Home 20 September 2020, I had a strong impression not to preach on Matthew 24-25 but rather on the text from Matthew 12:20: “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick He will not snuff out.” Afterwards, I had some encouraging feedback on it and so will continue a short series on those ‘bruised reeds’ that Jesus doesn’t break, and those ‘smouldering wicks’ that He will not snuff out. On the contrary, as we saw last week He totally transformed their lives. This week we will be looking at the man who was born blind.
Please read John 9:1-41.
We have frequently made the point that Jesus mission on earth was:
- To do the works of His Father in heaven, e.g. “My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work”; “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do”; (John 4:34; 17:4) and
- to speak His Father’s words e.g. “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work.” (John 14:10).
He was a man under His Father’s authority, living in that moment by moment relationship with His Father in heaven, as enabled by the Holy Spirit. When we read in chapter 9 verse 1: “As He went along …” (NIV) or “As He passed by …” (NASB) this is no “I just happened to be in that place at that time” kind of meeting, this is Jesus under the constraint of the Spirit doing His Father’s work, speaking the words of the Father, being in the right place at the right time, speaking the right words to the right people, because this man who was blind from birth was God’s chosen instrument.
(1) God’s Chosen Instrument
Imagine someone had told this man the day before his meeting with Jesus, this ‘smouldering wick’ in whom there was only darkness, “Do you realise you are going to be mightily blessed by God and people will be marvelling at the way you stood your ground against the religious leaders, and they will be talking about you, teaching about you and discussing you for at least the next 2,000 years.” He would have probably suggested that the person who told him this should go and get some rest because they had been out in the midday sun too much. But this is the “immeasurably more” of God (cf. Eph. 3:20-21), and He does it through ‘bruised reeds’ and ‘smouldering wicks’ and He can do the same through your life and mine.
Do you not think that God knew this man, even before he was in his mother’s womb? cf.
Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Then I said, “Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak.”Jer. 1:4-7
It is not just to Jeremiah, Isaiah, or the apostle Paul, that the Sovereign Lord, our Eternal God can say such things, He knows everyone in this way, to Him be all the praise and glory. Think of what this means with regard to the man born blind. God knew about his situation all the time. He saw all the difficulties that he faced and went through, the pain, the discomfort, the rejection, the abuse, the loneliness, the feelings of uselessness that he battled with and the humiliation of it all. There were no guide dogs for the blind; there was no Braille but God was there with him continually, even carrying him (cf. “Footprints in the Sand”). God allowed all this and more:
Have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone he accepts as His son.’
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined – and everyone undergoes discipline – then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.Heb. 12:4-13
This man stood up to those who conspired to kill Jesus (Matt. 12:24). Whereas his parents were afraid of these Pharisees and their threat of expulsion from the synagogue to anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah (John 9:22), this man wasn’t. And here he is, now healed, taking on the theologians at their own game:
The man answered, ‘Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where He comes from, yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does His will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing. ’To this they replied, ‘You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!’ And they threw him out.John 9:30-34
Inadvertently, and ironically, the Pharisees with their condemnation of the man “You were steeped in sin at birth” are admitting therefore that he was born blind, which they refused to believe previously (John 9:18), as obviously, they would then have to acknowledge that Jesus had performed a miracle. Truly, God’s chosen servant had won the argument hands down!
(2) Jesus had compassion on the man in his need
How did it all begin with this blind man and Jesus? Jesus was concerned about this man’s need. The disciples were concerned about this man’s sin:
As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’.John 9:1- 2
Jesus’ answer is
Neither this man nor his parents sinned.John 9:3
Note Gary Burge in his commentary challenges the usual translation of John 9:3-4. Burge states:
… the NIV and most English translations invite gross confusion with Jesus’ answer. The NIV reads: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:3-5). The words “this happened” do not appear in the Greek text and are an interpretation added in the NIV. It hardly takes a careful reader to see the theological implications following this line of thought: God brought suffering to this man so that He might glorify Himself in his healing. While a sound theology cannot doubt God’s sovereignty to do as He pleases, thoughtful Christians may see this as a cruel fate in which God inflicts pain on people simply to glorify Himself.
Gary Burge – The NIV Application Commentary – p. 272-3
Without going into Burge’s detailed explanations as to how he arrives at a different translation, he suggest the following translation is the correct one:
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus ‘But so that the work of God might be displayed in his life, we must do the work of Him who sent me while it is still day”
Gary Burge – The NIV Application Commentary – p. 272-3
It is the will and the work of the Father to have compassion on people in their need and not to snuff out ‘the smouldering wick’ or break ‘the bruised reed’. Compassion not only feels for the person but also does something to alleviate the suffering’s of that person. Jesus, doing the work of the Father, had compassion on this very needy person in his terrible plight and restored his sight both physically and spiritually.
This was and is so important especially at that time when there was there was such a strong belief that either he or his parents must have sinned for him to be born blind. This belief even extended to a baby sinning in the womb based on Genesis 25:22: “The babies jostled each other within her”. There is a need to be careful not to use Scriptures to back up erroneous views. Here we can think of Job’s ‘comforters’ who were convinced that all his sufferings were because he must have sinned at some time in his life and all their counsel towards him was based on this erroneous belief, adding further grief to Job in his already severe sufferings. All his life this blind man had the stigma of being labelled a sinner and his parents also. But Jesus in compassion deals with it, the “Sent One” (the word send/sent appears 60 times in John’s gospel e.g. John 3:17 showing the importance of mission), sends this man to the Pool of Siloam (means “Sent”) again emphasising that Jesus was sent to do works of compassion and so are all who follow Him!
(3) Jesus sought a full confession of faith
We can say it was a mercy in disguise that this man was thrown out of the synagogue by the Pharisees (John 9:34). These Pharisees were the ones whom Jesus had denounced with the words:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”Matt. 23:13-15
Get the new Christian away from such people that they may grow and not be stifled and led astray. Often our heavenly Father, when we first come to Christ, takes us away from our old surroundings, and all their seductions and temptations, and starts to mould us and make us into the image of His Son: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). In a short time, after spending time with Jesus and His disciples (and not the Pharisees) this man grew and moved spiritually from acknowledging Jesus as
- “The man they call Jesus” (John 9:11)
- to “He is a prophet” (John 9:17)
- to “one of His disciples” (see John 9:27-28)
- to “this man is from God” (John 9:33)
- to believing that Jesus was “the Son of Man” (John 9:35-37)
- to believing Jesus was Lord and worshipping Him: “’Lord I believe’ and he worshipped Him” (John 9:38).
“The healing of his blindness had resulted in sight, both physical and spiritual”
“God overruled the disaster of the child’s blindness so that, when the child grew to manhood, he might, by recovering his sight, see the glory of God in the face of Christ”
Amen! And we have no record of what the Lord continued to do through this former ‘bruised reed’ and ‘smouldering wick’, but we will find out one (‘eternal’) day, Amen!
Quote of the Week
“To become a Christian is not to recover what has been lost, but to receive a wholly new illumination”
Verses of the Week
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future He will honour Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan – The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.Isaiah 9:1-2
Our Gracious Loving Heavenly Father, we come to You in and through Your Son Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. Father, so fill Your Church with Your Spirit and power that Your light will the more shine in the darkness and before others, that they may see our good deeds and glorify Your Name in heaven.
Oh Lord, we need so much more of You in our lives, in Your Church, here on earth, so that we might do here on earth that which is done in heaven, Lord Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Do, in our time, those things You did here on earth, by Your Spirit, through Your Son, and later on through Your Church.
Lord lead us to those bruised reeds, and smouldering wicks; transform their lives, both physically and spiritually, that we all might proclaim freedom for those in bondage, recovery of sight for the blind, a setting free of all who are oppressed to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour in Jesus Christ, Amen.