“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
(from John 9)
A few Saturdays back, we went to see a Birds of Prey raptor education program. These photos are of Ari (short for Aristotle, if I remember correctly), a red-tailed hawk. Usually, when an animal comes to the rehab center that houses these birds, the ultimate goal is rehabilitate any injuries, strengthen and then release back into the wild. But sometimes, that can't happen due to certain injuries that are incompatible with life in the wild; then, if a bird is of the correct temperament, sometimes it can become educational ambassador. That is exactly what happened to Ari. If you look at the photos of her, you'll notice her one eye is cloudy. She is blind in that eye and for a bird of prey who needs both eyes to have the 3-dimensional sight to which enables her to hunt, blindness in even one eye is a pretty serious thing.
Ari, however, doesn't realize she is an educational ambassador. She's not a pet. She's not been "trained" to perform although she does have a measure of trust with those who regularly feed and handle her. I'm not even sure she realizes she is blind. When she wants to see, she turns her head or her body. When she feels threatened, she responds aggressively as would any other wild hawk. Her beak and talons are capable of inflicting nasty injuries. When I've the opportunity to enter her cage and feed her, it is always with soft, reassuring words - letting her know where I am, with her food held high - so she can see and smell it and know why I'm entering her territory, and using slow, methodical and gentle movements - so that I do not startle her with an aggressive or loud demeanor.
Ari is lacking physical sight in one eye.
In the Jesus encounter I've been studying the last several weeks - perhaps for even most of the summer now, a man blind from birth receives physical healing thanks to Jesus. Now, he can see.
Additionally, throughout these verses, the Pharisees demonstrate repeatedly their spiritual blindness.
According to MacArthur, four things define spiritual sight.
1. Spiritual sight requires divine initiative. Just as this man had absolutely no capacity to make himself see physically; neither he, nor the Pharisees, can will or pray or work or worship enough to gain spiritual vision. Instead, just as with the man born blind's physical healing, Heaven must enter the scene. Jesus came down, located him and then He healed him. I remember being so blown away by the fact that Jesus fell in with Andrew, that He found the man at the Pool of Bethesda, and that he found the man born blind - twice. Spiritual sight begins with sovereign resolve: "...the Son of Man is come to seek and save that which was lost." Jesus later tells His apostles, “You have not chosen Me. I have chosen you.” He didn't come just to save. He came to seek and to choose because according to Romans 3, no man seeks. No man, without divine intervention, chooses to go looking for God. Jesus is the Savior Who Seeks. "A darkened, spiritually blind man is found by Christ, for Christ’s own saving purposes. All spiritual sight initiates from heaven because God is the seeker." (John MacArthur)
2. Spiritual sight requires faith. After Jesus finds the blind man, initiates a conversation with him, asks him a leading question. The man responds, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” I love what MacArthur has to say about this:
Here is a man who is ready to believe. He just wants to know who to believe in. I wish I had the time to develop that as a theology, because what you’re seeing here is the essence of the doctrine of regeneration at work. This man is ready to believe. He just wants to know what to believe. This is not easily understood. It is not because of what we say that people believe. It is because of what God has done to open them to believing that they respond to what we say. This is an amazing thing. Here is a man who is saying, “I’m ready to believe. Who do I believe in? Show me who to believe in.” That’s a prepared heart. That’s good soil.... This is not some kind of rational act where [someone] convinced this guy he needs to believe based on facts. The Holy Spirit has enabled him to believe, even before the facts become clear.
No man, without divine intervention, is able to believe God, is able to trust in God.
3. A confession of Jesus as Lord. Jesus says, “You’ve seen Him, and He’s the one talking with you.” The man responds, “Lord, I believe.” Again, MacArthur's words:
He didn’t say, “Could you give me some evidence why I [should] believe that?” I don’t know what he had heard, what he had known. It was sufficient for him that Jesus had made him able to see, that he had already declared about Jesus [many truths]: a) He’s from God. b) He’s of God. c) He is heard by God. d) He is a prophet. Now he knows He’s a prophet from God. And if a prophet from God says, “I am the Son of Man. I am the long-awaited Messiah,” that’s enough for this man. Prepared heart. ...When he says “Lord” in verse 36, he’s asking a question. Who do I believe in? Now, he believes, and he says “Lord” in a completely different sense because he immediately does what? Worships. ...It’s just an astounding and marvelous miracle, like the miracle of physical sight.
The man born blind, who had never seen anything prior to that day, has been gifted physical sight. More significantly, he's been given spiritual sight. Divine initiative seeks out an encounter with one who's been graced to respond with faith. During that encounter, two things happen. The one sought recognizes his Lord and Savior. And that's where we come to the fourth necessary element for a healing of spiritual sight.
4. Worship. The previously blind man worshiped his LORD. The Father seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and truth.
How do you know when someone’s a believer? Because he becomes a what? Worshiper. How do you know you’re Christian? Not because you prayed a prayer. Not because you asked the Lord to do something for you. Not because you got emotionally moved in a meeting and felt sentimental about Jesus. How do you know you’re a believer? How do you know you’ve been transformed? Because you have become a worshipper.... This man falls on his knees in adoration. The opposite [happened earlier] ...when Jesus declared who He was to the Pharisees: they picked up stones to stone Him. ....Believers worship. That’s the priority of their life. And I’m not saying that the only place you worship is in the collective assembly of the church. That’s not. But this is what lifts you up and strengthens you and encourages you for the rest of those hours when you worship as an independent person. This is critical. This fulfills the longing of our heart, to honor the Lord, to hear from the Lord, to exalt the Lord, to praise the Lord. Worshipers.
John MacArthur's sermon link
Photos from an ARK Birds of Prey educational presentation
this week's gratitude list