• Tony Birkhead

The Main Event Week - 3



Don’t miss Jesus because you refuse to look!


INTRODUCTION

Just outside of Jerusalem, Jesus performed a miracle that changed a man’s life forever. For 38 years, this man was unable to walk. But when Jesus said, “Get up,” the man was healed. However, it’s what Jesus said next that made this miracle a clear sign of who Jesus really was.

KEY SCRIPTURE

John 9:1-41

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. 8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” 10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. 11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” 12 “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said. 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided. 17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.” 18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” 20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” 25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” 26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” 38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” 40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” 41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

JOHN 9:1-12.

John communicated in the physical realm concurrently with the spiritual realm. With that in mind, what does the man born blind indicate about the world apart from Christ?

The man, once healed, was transformed so significantly that his neighbors struggled to recognize him. What are some ways you’ve noticed Jesus’ transforming your friends and family? Have you told them you’ve noticed?

When reading John’s Gospel, it’s important to note how John addressed both the spiritual and physical realm concurrently. When Jesus referred to Himself as the Light of the World in John 8:12, He was making a proclamation of His salvific purpose in the world. Repeating the identification in John 9:5 links the healing of the man blind from birth with Jesus’ proclamation of His salvific work. In other words, Jesus used the sign of the healing of the man born blind to physically demonstrate His eternal power over spiritual darkness and blindness.

JOHN 9:13-34.

Why do you think the Pharisees were incapable of refuting the healed man’s story? What does that indicate about the power of your own experience with Jesus?

What are the high points, so to speak, of your experience with Jesus? What are the pivotal moments that you would make sure to communicate?

The healed man, who had understandably become frustrated with the incessant badgering from the Pharisees, concluded his exchange with them with a notable observation: “This is an amazing thing....You don’t know where He is from, yet He opened my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He listens to them. Throughout history no one has ever heard of someone opening the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He wouldn’t be able to do anything.” His spiritual eyes had been opened as well as his physical eyes, so his clear insight confounded the Pharisees.

JOHN 9:35-41.

What were the circumstances through which Jesus initiated His relationship with you? Why is that important to understand when telling of your experience with Jesus?

What are some attitudes or dispositions that we experience that can threaten our ability to “see”?

The Pharisees in this passage were blinded by their own sense of righteousness that came from knowing the right things, doing the right things, going the right places, and so on. The reality, Jesus said, was that because they were prideful in their own spiritual knowledge, they were blind to the things of God. Their knowledge carried no corresponding action, no sign of transformation. As result, even with God Incarnate standing in front of them, they were oblivious to the truth.


MOVING FORWARD

  • What are some things that can threaten to make you prideful in your religious knowledge? Are those things inherently bad things? How does worship help weaken that threat?

  • Read Ephesians 2:10. In conjunction with Jesus’ teaching about doing the works of God while it is day, how does Ephesians 2:10 help you understand the best way for you to share your experience with Christ with others?


PRAY TOGETHER

Thank God that He came into this darkness to save us. Pray that those in your group would be sensitive to the opportunities to share their experience with Jesus this week.


COMMENTARY

JOHN 9:1-41

9:1-41. Jesus’ identity as “the light of the world” was illustrated in His sixth and penultimate “sign” recorded in John’s Gospel—the healing of a man born blind. As in chapter 5, Jesus healed on the Sabbath and thus suffered persecution from the Jewish leaders. But in contrast to the lame man of chapter 5, who showed no faith and reported Jesus to the authorities, the formerly blind man showed a progression of faith and ended up worshiping Jesus (9:38). Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their spiritual blindness (vv. 40-41).

9:2. The disciples’ question reflected the assumption, customary in ancient Judaism, that suffering could be traced to specific sins (cp. Job 4:7). The underlying concern of this assumption is to clear God of wrongdoing against innocent people (Ex 20:5; Num 14:18; Dt 5:9). Yet the NT makes it clear that suffering is not always a direct result of a person’s sin (Lk 13:2-3; 2Co 12:7; Gal 4:13). We should not speculate about the cause of a person’s suffering but realize that even evil can contribute to the greater glory of God (esp. the crucifixion; cp. Jn 12:28,37-41; 17:1,5).

9:7. Jesus’ sending the man to wash in the pool of Siloam is reminiscent of Elijah’s sending Naaman to wash in the Jordan River (2Ki 5:10-13). The words which means “ Sent” may echo the messianic reference in Gen 49:10 (cp. Isa 8:6). After 9:7, Jesus is not heard from again until verse 35.

9:14. The mention of the Sabbath here (cp. 5:9) resumes the earlier Sabbath controversy in chapter 5. Jesus had moistened clay with His saliva and then kneaded it to make mud. Kneading dough, and by analogy kneading clay, was included among the 39 classes of work forbidden on the Sabbath by Jewish rabbinic tradition ( m. Shabb.7:2).

9:16. The division among the Pharisees follows the differing ways of reasoning observed by the schools of Shammai and Hillel. The former argued from foundational principles (“anyone who breaks the law is a sinner”), the latter from the established facts of a case (“Jesus has performed a good work”).

9:24. The Pharisees’ exhortation to the healed man, Give glory to God, was a solemn warning for him to tell the truth (Jos 7:19; 2Ch 30:8; Jer 13:16).

9:28. The Pharisees’ claim of being Moses’ disciples was undermined by their failure to listen to the One of whom Moses wrote.

9:29. The Pharisees’ assertion, We know that God has spoken to Moses, harks back to God’s giving Moses the law at Mount Sinai (Ex 33:11; Num 12:2-8; cp. Jn 1:17).

9:31-33. The healed man’s major premise, that God doesn’ t listen to sinners, is borne out by the OT (Ps 34:15; 66:20; 109:7; 145:19). His minor premise, that there was no precedent for opening the eyes of a person born blind, is also confirmed by the absence of such instances cited in OT or extrabiblical sources. The man’s conclusion, If this man were not from God, He wouldn’ t be able to do anything (cp. 3:2), fit with the common Jewish view that miracles were performed in answer to prayer.

9:34. The Pharisees’ charge against the healed man may allude to Ps 51:5. Threw him out refers to expulsion from the synagogue. The way this was done suggests an impulsive action rather than excommunication based on a formal procedure.

9:39-41. Giving sight to the righteous blind (Ps 146:8; Isa 29:18; 35:5; 42:7,18) and blinding unrighteous persons who can see (Isa 6:10; 42:19; Jer 5:21; cp. Mt 13:13-15; Jn 12:40) are common OT themes. Elsewhere, Jesus called the Pharisees “blind guides” (Mt 23:16; cp. 15:14; 23:26).



DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE


HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


DAY 1

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.

Matthew 28:16-17

The disciples had seen thousands of miracles. They’d even seen the greatest miracle of all: Jesus resurrected after three days in the tomb. And yet, here at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, we read that “some doubted.” Even as they worshiped and received the Great Commission, the disciples doubted Jesus. Unbelievable—isn’t it? It’s so easy to sit here with my Bible in my lap and gape at their lack of faith. After all, you and I would never struggle with doubt if we had seen and experienced what they had, right?

Well… Not so fast. Remember the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31)? In this story we see a conversation between two characters, a rich man who died and went to Hades and Abraham. The rich man is in torment. And as he’s suffering, he looks across a great chasm and sees a poor beggar he knew from before he died named Lazarus. This poor beggar, who’s wounds dogs used to lick, is right at Abraham’s side. The rich man calls out to Abraham: “Please, send Lazarus over to give me a cool drink of water—I’m in agony!” Abraham replies: “Sorry, that’s not how it works. The gulf between us is too wide to cross.” The rich man begs: “Will you at least send him to warn my family so they don’t end up in this place of torment?” Abraham’s answer is chilling. He says, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

The Enemy of Unbelief - You see, this parable is eerily similar to what’s happening in today’s verses—and to what happens in our hearts every day. While it’s easy to sneer at the disciples’ doubt, we ignore the reality of our own. And in doing so, a great enemy ravages our hearts without us ever taking notice. Like the rich man, we think if we just had the right evidence or information laid out for us, we’d believe the truth. But Abraham helps us see this isn’t so. In fact, the disciples themselves show us that no amount of “evidence” ever quite convinces the human heart. So to the very end of his earthly ministry, Jesus battled unbelief tooth and nail. The disciples were looking a man raised from the dead straight in the eyes—and even that wasn’t enough. The truth is that unbelief is likely something we’ll battle for all of our earthly lives.

It’s good to ask honest questions and seek their answers (Proverbs 25:2). But it’s foolish to think we’re beyond doubt. Instead, we must worship through our doubt, be honest about it with each other, and ask Jesus for increased faith. Just like the man whose son Jesus healed in Mark 9:24 said: “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 2

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food. Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.

Proverbs 23:1-5

When I was a kid, every time a friend would get a new gadget, I wanted one too. I’d go to their houses and see their flashy video games and expensive sports trading cards. Automatically, I had to have them, too. The funny thing is, as adults we don’t magically outgrow this mindset.

In today’s verses, we learn to put a “knife to our throat” when we’re around wealthy people with nice things. In our day, I think the primary place most of us get into this situation is on social media. We see the Instagram version of people’s lives—all the highs, none of the lows—and it’s easy to envy.

Instead, we often see what other people have: vacations on social media, new house and fancy cars…We secretly want them, too. However, it doesn’t stop at stuff. We also see things like: pastors with larger churches, friends with faster-growing businesses and coworkers who get promotions. At worst, we resent them for their growth thinking we deserve them. Maybe your heart is more pure than mine and you’ve never had to fight these proclivities, but as a business owner, nonprofit leader, author, and pastor, I constantly fight to kill envy and jealousy in these areas.

I find the remedy to envy in answering these two questions: What is God’s purpose for my life? What do I want to spend my days pursuing? When we discover and embrace God’s purpose for our lives, something incredible happens.

Life becomes about what we can GIVE not what we can GET! God blesses his people to be blessings to the nations (Genesis 12:2). God grows his people to provide fruit to everyone around them (Hebrews 6:7–8). Jesus calls his people to multiply the talents he’s entrusted to us (Matthew 25:14–30). This is our mission as well.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 3

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

John 1:43-46

Nathanael was skeptical of Jesus because of where he came from. His gut reaction was that nobody worthwhile, or “good,” could be from the despicable town of Nazareth. So, what was so bad about this town? For most of my life, I’d understood that it was simply a nothing-burger of a town. An inconsequential, backwater village of about 150 people.

Honestly, Nathanael, seems a bit harsh here, doesn’t here? Who in the world even cares about a town like this? Well, the real story of Nazareth gives us a surprising look into what Jesus’ life growing up may have looked like.

You see, archaeological evidence tells a different story than I ever knew. Instead of being inconsequential, Nazareth was likely the site of a Roman garrison. A garrison was simply the home base for Roman soldiers. And because a large Roman bath was also discovered there, it indicates this was actually a pretty big garrison, too.

This means a couple of things. First, instead of living in a town on the fringe of the Roman empire, it would’ve actually been a bustling military hub. This would have meant Jesus had quite a bit of experience with the Romans growing up. Second, it’s likely that Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, would’ve had lots of work as a mason (carpenter) for the Romans. So, it’s no wonder that Nathanael would’ve had a negative reaction to Nazareth. It was a town connected to the Roman empire. On top of that, it was likely a closely-connected “affiliate center” for Jerusalem, which some Jews (like Nathanael) wouldn’t have respected much. Regardless, Nazareth had more going on than I ever knew. This matters because where we are from does not define us or our impact.

Whether Jesus was from a small village without much going on Or a Roman garrison town brushing shoulders with the evil empire . . . Jesus’ didn’t! So, no matter where you’re from, God can use you to bring the Gospel in incredible ways. And I absolutely believe that he wants to.

Adapted From: http:// shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 4

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

James 4:17

A Sunday School teacher who was speaking to her class on the topic of sin asked, "Can anyone tell me what the sin of commission is?" One girl raised her hand. "I know!" she said. "The sin of commission is when you do what you shouldn’t do." "That’s right," the teacher said. "Now can someone tell me what the sin of omission is?" A boy in the back of the room was anxiously waving his arm, so she called on him. He said, "The sin of omission? Well, those are the sins that you want to do, but you haven’t gotten around to them yet."

While you can’t help but smile at the boy’s answer, he didn’t quite have it right. The sin of omission is not doing what you should do. And one of the ways we can commit this sin is when we don’t respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to share the gospel.

I think most Christians know more than enough to go out and start sharing their faith, but they are just afraid to try. Yet when Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 to "go and make disciples of all the nations, . . . " it was a command in the original language. This is not the Great Suggestion; it is the Great Commission. But for many, it has become the Great Omission.

Also in the original language, Jesus’ words are addressed to everyone. That means it is not just for the so-called professionals. This command is for every follower of Christ. This is for everyone to do. No one is exempt. These are God’s marching orders. It is a daunting task. It is intimidating, even scary sometimes. But Jesus has called us to do it. And His calling is also His enabling.

Will you ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to someone today whom you can invite to hear the gospel through Harvest America? It’s this Sunday, so now’s the perfect time to make the invitation to attend or watch online. Don’t forget to spread the word via social media! And please continue to pray for this historic outreach.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org

DAY 5

After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn't miss him at first.

Luke 2:43

On one occasion when Jesus was twelve years old, He went missing. Mary and Joseph lost sight of Him, and it took three days of searching to find Him again. They had been in Jerusalem for the Passover, and as they were returning home, He was nowhere to be found. But here is the interesting thing: they traveled an entire day before they missed Him. It isn’t that they lost their love for Him or their faith. They just lost Him.

Can this happen to us? The answer is yes. It is possible to go through an hour, a day, or even a week without a passing thought of Jesus. (That is, until a crisis hits.) This is the easiest thing to do at Christmas. We are so busy celebrating the birth of Christ that we can forget about Christ. This is the time of year when we have all kinds of responsibilities. And God’s only begotten Son can become God’s only forgotten Son.

One way we lose Jesus is when nonessentials displace essentials. When we are busy, often our spiritual lives are the first things to go. We don’t have time to read God’s Word. We don’t have time to pray, even for a moment. We can’t afford to give anything to God because we have so many things to buy. We allow nonessentials to take the place of essentials.

Whenever I lose something, I retrace my steps. Where did I have it last? I go back to that place, and often I will find it there. If you’ve found that you’ve lost Jesus in the busyness of life, then you need to go back to where you were before. And the good news is that even if we lose sight of Jesus, He never loses sight of us.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

“One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

John 9:25b

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