Summary: God’s work cannot be seen by those who are proud of their spiritual sight.
My sister sent me a newsletter from Timberdoodle, a supplier for homeschooling families. The article noted a problematic teaching in a Children’s Study Bible used in Sunday school. Referring to Matthew 3.12, the footnote said, “This means that Jesus will come to separate the good people from the bad people, saving the good and punishing the bad.”
The author of the newsletter commented: “In the past year, thanks to the gospel-saturated teaching of Tim Keller, our family has become keenly aware of how religion has infiltrated the church and turned a massive number of people away from the gospel. Religion says that if I am good enough, then God will love me, a way of thinking which leads to either spiritual pride or crushing despair. But the gospel says that God loves me, and so I want to be good. If we believe Romans 3:10, which says that ‘None is righteous, no, not one,’ how then do we dare say that the good go to heaven and the bad to hell, for there are no good people?”
She when on to describe how she taught the children our problem with sin: “In class we talked about poke cakes, those cakes which you bake, then poke holes in and fill those holes with flavorful syrup. Imagine if, instead of sweet syrup, it was a slurry made of barnyard manure and pond water. Covered with thick frosting and a substantial amount of colorful sprinkles, that cake would look good, but at its core, it would still be bad…. That’s why we all desperately need a Savior…. How thrilling it is to understand that there is nothing that I could or should ever do to make God love me more than He does today. If you can help your children to grasp this truth, you will save them from the barrenness of religion.”
In John 9, Jesus cures in order to confront the religious barrenness which plagues the Pharisees. This passage is recorded in the Bible that we might see Jesus as God’s solution for hardness of heart and dryness of soul. [Read John 9.1-41. Pray.]
The current issue of By Faith, our denominational (PCA) magazine, features a story on Steve Moore’s struggle after a car wreck radically changed his life. Steve “lost many things precious to him in a heartbeat – his health, his livelihood, and his trust in a loving God. This 64-year old military man and former elder who had prided himself in his self-sufficiency and strength found that those traits no longer worked in the spare economy of chronic pain and illness. Gone was the casual ease of productivity, reliability, and self-determination. A new currency was required – one steeped in humility, dependence, and endurance.” Moore, who now must use a walker and motorized cart to move around said: “After the accident, I realized that I didn’t know how to accept help. That was a very hard things for me to learn to do.”
Many of us find accepting help a very hard thing to do. We generally fail at it. We prefer to hobble on our own. But what if the sidewalk moves, carrying us backward faster than we stumble forward? Could we be losing ground and not even know it? The Pharisees were.
Day in and day out they strove to please God. They could see the goal – just ahead. The law promised: “this commandment…is not too hard for you” (Deuteronomy 30.11). “It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God…then you shall live and multiply” (Deuteronomy 30.14-16). “Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deuteronomy 30.19b). I can see what I need to do – but with every stumbling grasp, they found themselves further away. Their “religion” failed them; self-sufficiency would not bring them close to God.
So God — with love, compassion, and astonishing mercy— God forms within the womb a man whose eyes do not work, in order to demonstrate his solution to a religion that cannot see. Jesus’ healing is a living parable, teaching by action with a two-fold challenge.
First, each of us must ask with whom we identify – the man born blind or those who have their spiritual life together. Do you see yourself as one who cannot see, or one who sees pretty well on his or her own?
Second, we must ask if we see like Jesus. Those who count on Jesus to save and sanctify, must call him Lord and follow in his footsteps. Jesus finds a man born blind in order to challenge his disciples. From now on, they must practice ministries of mercy, they must be trained to witness to their neighbors, they must confront their own tendency toward relationship destroying self-righteousness.