We’re talking about obstacles; life is full of them, everybody has them. They’re challenging and difficult to maneuver. They cause us to slow down and at times they’ll make you want to give up and just throw in the towel or not even try at all. And sometimes obstacles keep us from drawing near to God.
In other words, there are valid reasons that some of us keep God at arms-length or don’t believe in God at all . . .
- It could be suffering in the world and you can’t reconcile just God against what your observing.
- Maybe you’ve known Christians who have wronged you in some way and you’re thinking, “Why would I want to be one of those?”
- Some take issue with the exclusivity of Christianity.
- It might be that the narrative of scripture doesn’t line up with scientific theories that you’ve been taught, and you just can’t get past what you see as discrepancies between the two.
Whatever the reason, you just can’t get past the obstacle those reasons create.
Today’s message is in no way intended to discount the importance of your obstacles, but this is what I want you to hear. There is an avenue to God that takes you around your obstacles, not through them.
Let me explain . . . just about every area of life, we opt for the undeniable over the unexplainable.
If you are a parent, I could give you a book that explains parenthood and the psycho social development of children and you may interested in what the book has to say, but if a bunch of your friends say, “Hey, let me tell you what worked for us” . . . you’re in. Because if it works, you don’t really care why.
Maybe you were in science class and they talked about how an airplane flies and you got an A on the test but honestly, you still don’t really understand how the plane gets in the air. And yet, I’ve never met anyone who said, “I’m not getting on the plane until I fully understand how it works”.
You see, in our everyday lives, we don’t allow the unexplainable to overcast the undeniable.
In fact, when it comes to Christianity, most of those who have chosen to follow Jesus did not do so because every question they had was answered but because something happened in their life that made it so personal and the reality of Christianity became so undeniable that they are willing to carry with them into that relationship some things that they would admit are absolutely unexplainable.
This is what we’re going to see in our text this morning. (Our reader) is going to read the first part, so you know the context, but I’ll tell the rest of the story. Let’s listen to our text: READ John 9:1-7
On this day, the disciples were out on a walk having an intellectually stimulating discussion with Jesus and they happen to come upon a man who is blind—has been, from the day he was born and he is a beggar, because there is no help for the visually handicapped, there's no government disability and so in order to survive he had to rely on the handouts of people.
And when they see this blind beggar, they pose a question, “who sinned, this man or his parents?”
You see, in that culture and perhaps a little in our culture . . . they believed that there was a direct correlation between what you did and how God responded.
So, if someone had an ailment, like blindness, it wasn't a question of why it happened but rather who was responsible for it happening . . . who was the sinner? This is the question they are asking.
Now, when Jesus looks at the man, he sees something else altogether. He sees an opportunity to show the world what God is like and so, casually, he spits on the ground, makes mud with his spit, and rubs the mud on the man’s eyes.
There are a lot of interpretations as to why Jesus would do this but the one, I am most comfortable with says that this action recalls the story of creation. When God created man, he scooped and molded the earth from the ground.
And here, Jesus scoops the earth from the ground and molds it to this man's eyes as if to say, "I am making you a new creation. You are no longer defined by your blindness. You are no longer defined by your sin."
And after he places the mud on the man’s eyes, he sends him to a pool called Siloam which means “Sent,” with instructions to wash.
And as the man washes the mud from his eyes, his world changes; he was blind but now he can see. This should be cause for celebration but there’s a problem, it doesn’t make sense.
First, for the neighbors. They see the man, but they are not convinced that it is him because the man they know is blind, the man they know is a beggar . . . I mean, even the text calls him the blind beggar.
But this man can see, and that just doesn’t make sense; It’s unexplainable.
And so, they start arguing amongst each other; some were saying, “it was him”, others were saying, “Nah, this guy just looks like him but it’s definitely not him.”
Eventually the guy was like, "You know I'm standing here, right? There's never been anything wrong with my ears so I can hear you. If you'd just ask, I'll let you know that it’s me."
When they finally see that it is, really, truly, him, they want an explanation; tell us how it happened.
He tells him, “This guy named Jesus made mud with his spit and put it on me and sent me to the pool to wash and now I can see.”
And when they heard his story, they were like, “That’s crazy, you’re story doesn’t make any sense” and so they asked where they could find Jesus to maybe get a better explanation but the guy had no idea where Jesus was, besides he never got a good look at him. He was blind, remember.
So, they took him to the religious leaders because in that culture when someone was healed, they had to present themselves before a Rabbi to confirm that indeed a healing had occurred, and to be restored back into community.
Now at this point, the story just spirals into the most absurd dialogue you’ve ever heard, but here’s where it becomes relevant for us. See, we all have a box for God. There’s something in us that says, here’s how God ought to work, and if God doesn’t work within the parameters of the box we’ve created, it becomes an obstacle.
These religious guys box says, God would never ever do a miracle on the Sabbath. Sabbath was a day for rest and there were very strict rules about the kind of things you could and couldn’t do on the Sabbath.
So, when they heard that this man who had been born blind was given sight on the Sabbath the religious guys started arguing among one another trying to determine if Jesus was breaking the rules.
One group said that there’s no way this man was from God because God wouldn’t break the rules, but the other group asked, “Well, how can a sinner do a miracle?”
They were divided over the question, “Are we going to go with the unexplainable or the undeniable?”
It’s unexplainable that it would happen on the sabbath or that this guy named Jesus could even do it. But what’s undeniable is a man who’s never seen before can now see.
So, they decide to ask the man again, “Ok, you tell us what happened, but this time we want a rational explanation. Tell us in a way that fits into the parameters of our box.”
The guy looks at them and I think with a question mark, he says, “He’s a prophet?”
At this point they realized that they weren’t getting anywhere with this guy, so they call for his parents because surely, they’ll have a rational explanation. So, his parents come in and the religious guys ask them, “How is it that your blind son can see?”
They were like, “We know he’s our son and we know he was born blind (that’s undeniable) but how he can see or how it happened, well, we have no idea (that’s unexplainable).
Hmmm, not really but let me explain what’s really going on here.
They’re freaking out because if they acknowledge the thing that is undeniable, that their son was blind but can now see because of something Jesus had done on the Sabbath, then they run the risk of being kicked out of the church.
So, they tell the religious guys, “You know what, he’s a big boy, why don’t you just ask him”
Again, they summoned the guy who had been blind and say, “Alright, we know we’ve already asked you but we’re going to ask one more time and this is your last chance . . . how did this happen? And remember, God is watching, and he’ll zap you if you don’t tell the truth.”
The guy was like, “Listen I’ve told you what happened I was blind but now I see. You may not like my explanation, but could we at least have a little celebration that I was blind and now can see or are we just going to spend the whole day focused on the fact that my explanation doesn’t fit into your box.”
And then he takes a little jab and says, “What, do you want to become his disciples too?”
Well, that crossed that line and they responded, “We follow Moses, we don’t even know where this guy, Jesus, comes from.”
Time out. How do you know that? Were you there 800 years ago when God spoke to Moses? Guys you are so confident that God spoke to Moses but the only reason you believe that is because your momma told you and her momma told her and her momma told her. You believe God spoke to Moses by faith.
Why can’t you acknowledge what’s right here in your midst, that God has done something extraordinary? I was blind but now I see and that happened because of Jesus. I’m mean, You’re the religious leaders, you should know that only God could do something like this.
And with that they threw him out; out of the church, out of the temple sacrifices, out of community. He could no longer have atonement for his sin. He was considered ceremonially unclean. He would no longer be considered worthy of God grace as they had defined it.
Well, when Jesus sees that he’s been thrown out of the church, thrown out of community, he finds the man and says do you believe in the son of man?
By the end of our passage, after having navigated all these people who just can’t get past the unexplainable, he knows one thing. He can literally see now – that is undeniable.
And so, he proclaims, “Lord, I believe.” and it is in this moment that the healing is complete . . . not only is he restored into the sighted community but now, through Jesus, he has been restored into relationship with God. Through Jesus, he has indeed become a new creation.
That’s the story but before we wrap up, let me tell you a little something about myself. Occasionally, someone asks me, “Do you really believe this stuff you talk about? Or do you, in private, have doubts?”
And I’ll be honest with you, “There are absolutely times that I doubt”. In fact, there are some doubts that if I shared them, you might doubt as well because you hadn’t even thought about that doubt yet.
But let me tell you something that I’ve learned about myself when it comes to doubt
- I doubt when I get focused on what’s unexplainable and lose sight of what’s undeniable.
- I doubt when I forget what God has done and I begin to focus on the things I can’t get him to do.
- I doubt when I lose sight of the things that I’ve experienced God do in my life.
- I doubt when I say, “God you’re not acting like I think you ought to act.
But you know what? Just like you, in every other area of my life, I’m willing to make decisions based on the undeniable over the unexplainable.
Because here’s what I know is undeniable. Two thousand years ago, this guy shows up in Galilee in Nazareth. He’s a carpenter’s son, and he has this totally radical message; love your neighbor and pray for those who persecute you, if somebody asks you to go a mile, go two miles. Love everybody.
This wasn’t just a message he proclaimed, it was something he demonstrated as he loved and embraced sinners; those who were broken, outcast, and discarded and He offered hope, reconciliation and relationship.
And then, he makes the claim, “I am the light of the world, no one comes to the father except through me.”
He said and did radical things and to be honest, his message and his name should never have made it out of his lifetime. It certainly should not have made it out of the first century.
But he did something else. He said, “I will die, and I will rise” and hundreds and hundreds of eyewitnesses said, “We don’ understand (it’s unexplainable) but we saw (that’s undeniable), and so we believe” and they gave their lives to carry on this radical message of Jesus.
And today, 2,000 years later, on every continent in the world, there are men and women who could tell you a story about how they had drawn close to God, not because they had a good Q&A session with God but because they met Jesus in a very personal way and they went around those obstacles and took their questions into the relationship.
All I want to do for you today is to let you know that there is an avenue by which you can pack up all your questions and obstacles, put them on you back, and draw closer to God . . . if you will simply opt for what is undeniable and not live in the shadow of what is unexplainable.