READ : John 9:24-25
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
John 9:24-25 rsv
How can you be sure about your religious beliefs? How can you know, for example, whether or not the Christian faith is really true? Let me suggest two ways: a first-hand experience of the power of Christ and a growing acquaintance with His person. Convinced Christians, assured believers, know both what has happened in their lives and who is responsible for it.
Let me read you about a man like that. This is from the Gospel according to John, chapter 9, verses 11, 24 and 25:
He answered, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, `Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went and washed and received my sight” . . . So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give God the praise; we know that this man [that is, Jesus], is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
Think about the man born blind. When we first meet him, his knowledge of Jesus Christ is zero. He’s never met Him, never had anything to do with Him. Try to put yourself in this man’s place. You’ve never seen a sunrise or a world turning green in the spring or the love shining from a human face. Your darkness has never been pierced with even the faintest gleam of life. You are blind.
More than that, you’re blind from birth. It was not an illness or an accident that snatched your sight away. You have never seen. You came into the world with sightless eyes. People see in you, therefore, not just a victim, but the hint of some sinful secret, some dark curse. A fearful judgment from heaven, perhaps, has overtaken you. The followers of Jesus inquire about you in grim tones: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). This confirms to you what you already surmise. Your life is worthless, hopeless, ill-starred from the beginning. You feel at times it would have been better for you if you’d never been born.
TOUCHED BY HIS POWER
But then comes another voice, altogether different. “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him” (v. 3). Here is something you’ve never heard before. Its music begins to waken something in you. Jesus has said, in effect, “This man is here for a purpose.” That’s a heady new thought. You may have felt that others were here for some reason, but not you. What good are people like you? In your day and your society, all that blind people can ever do is beg. But now, you discover that your life somehow has meaning. In fact, from what Jesus says, it has the highest meaning of all. The works of God are going to shine forth in you.
You’re just beginning to savor that hope when you sense that He’s approaching you. He’s touching your face. You shrink back at first but His touch is friendly and gentle. You feel something cool and moist covering your eyes. Then you hear His word again, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (v. 7). There’s quiet authority in that voice and a kindly note that quickens your confidence. You grope your way toward the pool. It isn’t far away. You’ve been there many times before. You’re wondering what this is all about. You’re excited, yet hardly daring to believe that anything could really happen.
Now you’re there. You kneel by the pool and splash its waters on your face, and then light! For the first time in your life you can see. Everything is ablaze. You kneel there for a while, completely overcome, drinking in the splendor all around you. And it’s real; it doesn’t go away. You blink, but you see again. You’re sure of it now. This is a new world for you. You get up and begin to walk. It’s the same ground beneath your feet, the same sounds around you. But oh, how different it all seems!
People begin to notice you. “Hey, isn’t that the blind man that used to sit here begging?” someone says, “Yeah, that’s the man.” But another answers, “No, it couldn’t be. But it does look like him.” Laughing to yourself at this little controversy, you set things straight right away. “I’m your man. I’m the beggar all right, but I’m not blind any more.” “What happened?” they asked. “How did you get your eyes opened?” You say, “It was the man called Jesus. He made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, `Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed. Here I am, I got my sight.”
A crowd has gathered by now and you realize that you’re the center of interest. Soon you’re brought to the Pharisees, the religious leaders. They inquire about how all this happened and you tell them your story. Their reaction strikes you as strange. They say, “This Jesus can’t be from God. He doesn’t keep the sabbath” (see v. 16). Many in the crowd murmur at that. “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” they ask. Before long, a full-scale controversy is raging around you. People ask for your opinion. “What do you say about him since he has opened your eyes?” You answer, “He is a prophet” (v. 17). He has to be a messenger from God.
The authorities are still upset. They want to get to the bottom of this, they say, so they call your parents. Now you can see them for the first time in your life. What a moment that is! But they seem frightened under this cross examination. “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” (v. 19). Your parents are thrilled, naturally, by what has happened to you, but they don’t want any trouble. “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him: he is of age, he will speak for himself” (vv. 20-21). So for the second time, they question you. “Give God the praise,” they say. “We know that this man is a sinner” (v. 24). Come on, tell us the truth, they seem to say. We know all about this Jesus.
ONE THING I KNOW
By this time, you’re getting impatient. Here’s a man who has given you the priceless gift of sight and they’re quibbling about technicalities! You give your witness. “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
There is the voice of Christian certainty. We believers don’t have all the answers. We don’t pretend to. We can’t counter every charge that’s leveled against Christ and His cause. But we know what has happened in our lives. We know the difference Jesus Christ has made, and to that we bear witness.
I remember a young man telling me how his life had been changed. He had lived with a terribly low self-image, he said. He had trouble believing that he was worth anything or that anyone could care about him. But something new was happening in his life. What had been negative and self-destructive in his outlook seemed to be breaking down. An unexpected power was coming into his life. He was praying for the first time in years, “Lord, let Your will be done.” And, through the persistent love of a young girl, he was beginning to sense God’s greater love and to feel differently about himself. He couldn’t analyze it or explain it or defend it, but he knew it was happening. When we have felt the touch of Jesus Christ on our lives, we have something that no one can deny or take away. Then we’re ready to bear witness.
MEETING THE LORD
But there’s more to Christian certainty than one experience. It’s one thing to know the change that has come about in our lives. It’s another to know the Person who is behind it. This blind man had been given his sight by Jesus, and, with that new vision of the world, there gradually dawned a vision of who his benefactor was. He described him first as simply “the man called Jesus.” When asked later about who this man was, he ventured, “He is a prophet.” Then when contending with the Pharisees, he became even more convinced, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing” (v. 33). That much he knew. This Jesus had to be from God.
Then, having been ostracized because of his courageous witness, the man finally met Jesus, saw Him now for the first time. In fact, the Lord sought Him out and said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” (vv. 35-36). He wanted to find out. He was open to what Christ had to say to him. Then came Jesus’ word, “You have seen him and it is he who speaks to you” (v. 37). The once blind man said, “Lord, I believe” (v. 38). And he fell down and worshiped Him.
Jesus Christ spoke directly to this man. He made Himself known to him. He became to him not merely an unknown benefactor but a personal Lord. The man was sure then, sure not only of a changed life but of the Master who had changed him. He could witness not only to his salvation, but also to his Savior.
It’s along this road that certainty comes. When we listen to Christ’s word, when we respond actively to His call, He becomes increasingly real to us. We learn to say, as the apostle Paul said, “I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12). It’s not simply the effects of Christian faith that I know or the doctrines about the Savior, but Jesus, Jesus Himself. And once He has made Himself known to me, no one can ever convince me that He isn’t real and that He isn’t Lord.
But the blind man’s experience teaches us this: before you can be sure, you need to realize that you don’t know it all. Jesus says that those who know they are blind can receive vision. But those who think they see everything miss the truth even when it’s before their eyes. In a sense, we’re all like that blind man, without hope, without purpose, without the knowledge we most need, until Jesus Christ comes our way. We may say we don’t need Him. We may shrink away from His touch. We may say that His word to us, “Go and wash” seems too simple. It doesn’t make any sense; it won’t do us any good. In other words, we can remain as we are. But if we’ll listen to Him, if we’ll take a simple step in response to His word, we’ll experience His power in our lives and begin to know Him in a personal way. And then, friends, we’ll be sure and we’ll have something to share.
WHO CAN WITNESS?
Sometimes I talk with Christians who feel that they can never witness effectively to Jesus Christ because they don’t know enough about the Bible, or perhaps because they’ve never gone to seminary or never had a course in evangelism. So what can they do? They feel ill equipped to witness, inadequate to share Christ with others.
Maybe you feel like that today. Let me share an important secret with you. It’s not extensive knowledge of the Bible that makes people effective witnesses. It’s not seminary training. It’s not courses in evangelism, though all of those things are obviously important and helpful. But you don’t need any of those to be an effective witness to Jesus Christ. You simply need to experience His power in your life, His grace, His salvation, as this blind man did. You simply need to know Him in a growing, personal way. Then, praying for the Holy Spirit’s power and leading, you can look for opportunities to share that. When someone asks you about a reason for the hope that is in you, when someone calls you to account in some way about your Christian faith, you can simply talk about Jesus and the difference He has made in your life.
And you know there’s something very winsome and powerful about that kind of witness. People may parry your intellectual arguments. They may be very clever about that. They always seem to raise at least one question you can’t answer. They can challenge the church you go to, or point out the hypocrisies of Christians they know. But one thing they can’t deny and dismiss is your personal confession. “This and this, Jesus Christ has done for me, and this is what I believe about Him.”
You don’t have to have all the answers. This blind man surely didn’t have any. He was ready to admit it. Whether this or that is true, what the answer is to some puzzling question, he didn’t know. But he knew one thing. He was absolutely sure that he had been blind all of his life and that now he could see. Lord, help us to give a simple, clear, faithful testimony like his.