Dirt, Spit, & The Gospel

If we’re honest, we’ll likely confess that what Jesus does to the man born blind is actually quite disgusting.

John reports that Jesus mixes some dirt with His saliva and rubs it on the blind man’s eyes (John 9:6).

Sheer curiosity makes me wonder what the blind man’s initial response to this sensation was. I don’t think we should imagine the man immediately saying, “Oh, I get it, spit and dirt on my face—you’re going to heal my blindness!”

I wonder if the man’s initial response was one of disgust. I wonder if Jesus offended him. I wonder if the man’s initial response was one of doubt and scepticism.

Whatever the man’s initial response was, it eventually gave way to obedience. Jesus instructs the man, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam” (John 9:7). The man born blind complies. John says that the man went and washed and came way seeing.

I think there is an obvious analogy to the Gospel here.

The apostle Paul explains to the Corinthians that to some people the Gospel is foolishness, and to others it is offensive.

The Gospel describes how God takes on human flesh, lives a perfect life, and yet is arrested as a criminal and is executed upon a Roman cross. The Gospel tells us that by trusting in this God-man, and in His death, we gain salvation.

To some that sounds about as plausible as healing a blind man with dirt and spit.

Some hear the Gospel and are sceptical… “This sounds too easy—this sounds too good to be true.” Some hear the Gospel and are bothered by it. They are bothered by all the talk of sin and judgment. They are bothered by the notion that salvation is only possible by trusting in the gruesome death of Jesus. But, thankfully, some hear the Gospel message and believe it and, as a result, come away seeing.

It is a huge deal for a man born blind to be able to see. So we’re likely not surprised to see this miracle become “the talk of the town”. And we’re probably not surprised to read that the religious leaders of the day wanted to investigate this miracle. The Pharisees ask the man how he had received his sight. I love the simplicity of the man’s reply: “He put mud on my eyes, I washed, and now I see” (John 9:15).

Again, this is an excellent analogy for how salvation comes:

God does something (He initiates healing / Regeneration)
We do something (We believe in the Gospel / Faith)
And then we see

The healing of a man born blind is massively significant. And yet, this healing is not the main point. This healing demonstrates the will and the power of God to heal spiritual blindness. It is fitting then that Jesus and this man meet up again in verse 35.

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.

The man who was healed of his physical blindness now gets healing for his spiritual blindness.

At first identification, the man born blind refers to his healer as “the man they call Jesus” (John 9:11). During their second encounter, however, the man confesses “Lord, I believe” and proceeds to worship Jesus.

Permit me to draw out one final aspect from this analogy of sight. Though the man’s sight was perfectly restored, there would have been many things he would have been incapable of identifying. The man would need help comprehending what he was now seeing. He would need someone to help him to identify landmarks and the various species of animals, insects, and birds. He could see, but the work of discovery still lay ahead.

Friends, if the Lord has healed your spiritual blindness, remember that the work of spiritual discovery remains.

Perhaps there are some who share my experience of reading the Bible before becoming a Christian and then reading it again after receiving Christ. I recall reading many passages after becoming a Christian and asking myself: “How did I not see that the first time?”

The answer: I was blind. I needed a cure for my spiritual blindness before I could see what the Bible was saying.

Now, it’s also possible that you don’t regard yourself as a seeing person, but rather you regard yourself as someone looking to learn more about Jesus and His claims. It’s possible that you are cognizant of your impaired vision and you are seeking healing. And maybe the Gospel looks like the intellectual equivalent to putting mud on your eyes….

But I want to encourage you: This is how Jesus heals. God uses humble means and a simple message to initiate healing. What is left is for us to wash the mud off of our eyes—what is left is for us to believe this Gospel.

Once we place our trust in Jesus, we will be able to confess with the man born blind, “I was blind, but now I see.” (John 9:25). And with new vision, the privilege of discovery awaits.

I don’t imagine that this healed man continued to beg for alms at the Temple gates. I don’t imagine that he went home and sat around his living room all day. I imagine this man became engrossed in discovering what he had missed seeing all of these years.

Similarly, if we are “seeing people” in the spiritual sense, we ought to be seeking to discover the beauty of Christ that we were previously missing. And so my challenge to you is to dig into the Scriptures with a view to discovering all that God is for us in Jesus.

If I were to generalize I would say to you that those who go to the Scriptures with impaired vision see religion, and those who go to the Scriptures with restored sight see a relationship.

Let’s engage in that relationship. Let’s go to Jesus. Let’s worship Him.

Getting The Message Out

Below is the sermon audio & the sermon notes of Bryn MacPhail. “Look, The Lamb Of God”, based on John 1:19-34, was preached at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk on January 16, 2011.

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In ancient days, before there was facebook, email, or text messaging, there were heralds.

Traveling dignitaries sent heralds ahead of them to announce their coming and to prepare the way for their visit.

John the Baptist was such a person—appointed by God to prepare the way for the King of Israel.

My understanding is that a herald typically traveled with such an impressive caravan, and was adorned in such extravagant apparel, that when they descended upon a town they were often mistakenly thought to be the king.

John the Baptist found himself in a similar situation in that the religious leaders of the day wondered whether he might be the Messiah foretold long ago by the prophets.

It is curious that such an inquiry would be made given that there was nothing outwardly attractive about John the Baptist.

John did not dress in robes of silk, but rather, Mark’s Gospel tells us that he “was clothed with camel’s hair” (Mk. 1:6). John the Baptist, who was crudely dressed, also had an unusual diet, consisting of “locusts and wild honey” (Mk. 1:7).

What was it then? What prompted the religious leaders to seek John out and to ask him if he was ‘the Christ’? Was it John’s ability to endear himself to people?

Certainly not! Do you remember John’s sermon introduction, recorded by Luke? John the Baptist begins his sermon with the words, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Lk. 3:7).

John’s clothing was crude, his diet was strange, and his message was harsh . . . and yet, there was something about this man that caused others to wonder if he might be the promised king of the Jews.

Responding to the inquiry, John the Baptist demonstrates for our edification a number of things.

1) First, in John the Baptist, we see the marks of a faithful messenger of God.
2) Secondly, we hear from John the marks of the central message from God.
3) And thirdly, as we survey John the Baptist’s ministry approach elsewhere, we note the urgency of making the central message known.

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Preach Jesus

Below is the sermon audio & the sermon notes of Bryn MacPhail. “Preach Jesus”, based on Acts 4:1-12, was preached at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk on September 19, 2010.

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As we continue to wade through the Book of Acts, what will see is the steadfast courage that the members of the early Church displayed. They possessed a Spirit-given boldness which enabled them to proclaim the Gospel even in the face of fierce opposition.

Indeed, preaching Jesus was a risky business in the first century. Proclaiming Jesus as risen from the dead could get you arrested, or even executed.

This has not been our experience, has it? Preaching Jesus may be unpopular in our postmodern society, but in this part of the world it is not the least bit dangerous to profess Christ.

Nevertheless, we share the same mandate as our 1st Century brethren. Our mandate is to preach Jesus.

I would go as far as to say that the priority of every Christian should be to promote the Lord Jesus Christ with our words and with our actions.

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A Message Worth Repeating

I was at a Pastors Conference in Chicago in the late 1990s when a question was put to Howard Hendricks, “Is it acceptable for a preacher to deliver the same message more than once?” (presumably in different contexts).

Without hesitation, Hendricks replied with an emphatic tone, “If it’s not worth preaching more than once, it’s not worth preaching!”

I appreciated that response very much. As I was delivering my final messages at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well, from a series entitled, “Parting Words From Your Pastor”, my wife exhorted me to make these messages my opening words for St. Andrew’s Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas.

This past Sunday, we began a message series entitled, “Foundational Priorities”. Within this 6-week series I am adapting and reusing a few of my messages from “Parting Words”. The first was “Understand The Gospel”—based on Ephesians 1 and 2.

Reflecting on this passage, I presented the Gospel as having 5 prongs, or primary components:

1. The Gospel centres around God (His nature, His initiative, His glory, His reputation, etc.)

2. The Predicament of Human Sin (How our sin alienates us from God and prevents us from honouring Him)

3. The Gift of Grace (God’s riches bestowed, apart from merit, through Christ)

4. The Gift of Faith (Our God-given capacity to apply the riches of Christ)

5. We Reflect God’s Glory (Having been made alive, and having our nature altered by God’s Spirit, our lives become centred around glorifying Christ).

Have a listen to the audio below.

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