Everyone Has a Story
John 9: 13 – 34
The best biblical example of someone who used his testimony to tell others about Jesus is found in John 9. It is the story of how Jesus healed a man who had been born blind. And, it is one of my favorite stories in the New Testament.
I like this story for several reasons. First, Jesus uses the circumstances of this man’s illness to address one of the most enduring false beliefs about suffering. Most people in the ancient world were a lot like people in our modern world. They believed that there was a direct relationship between sin and suffering. If a person is sick, then there must be some sin in their life to explain their sickness. Of course, that raises a question about this man who was born blind. Was his sickness the punishment for some sin he would commit in the future? Or, was his sickness the punishment for his parents’ sin?
In John 9: 2, the disciples asked Jesus this very question, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” And, Jesus said, “Neither…”
Sometimes, there is a relationship between sin and suffering. We make a bad decision and suffer the consequences. Other times, there is no relationship. Suffering is a part of life and a sign that we are not experiencing the very best that God has to offer us. God’s best is reserved for Heaven—a place where there is no more death, no more suffering, no more sickness, and no more tears…
The other reason I like this story is that the Pharisees tried their very best to get this man to deny that Jesus had healed him. Despite all their pressure, this man could only tell others how Jesus had changed his life.
John 9: 13 – 17… 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.”
Restoring sight to blind eyes is no ordinary miracle. In the Old Testament, restoring sight to the blind was something only God could do. Also, Isaiah 61 associates restoring sight to the blind with the work of the Messiah. In the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), restoring sight to the blind is the most common miracle Jesus performed. Therefore, if Jesus healed the blind, then Jesus is making a statement about his character. Jesus is God. Jesus is the Promised Messiah—not only for the Jews, but for all races and all nations.
It is interesting that the people bring the healed man before the Pharisees. Since the Pharisees were the religious authorities of the ancient Jewish world, and since most people thought there was a theological connection between sin and sickness, the people brought the healed man to the Pharisees to verify the miracle or to interpret it in theological terms. But, that is not what happened.
Just think about all the good that happened. First, a blind man was healed. Second, Jesus made a theological statement about who he is. Third, a crowd of people got to witness all of this happen.
However, the Pharisees could not see all the good that had happened. All they could see is that Jesus performed this miracle on the Sabbath Day.
According to the Pharisees, Jesus had violated at least two Sabbath regulations. (You won’t find any of these Sabbath regulations in the Old Testament. That is because the Old Testament wasn’t specific enough. So, the Pharisees wrote detailed descriptions of what could be done and what could not be done on the Sabbath.) It was a violation of the Pharisees’ Sabbath regulations to make mud by mixing dirt and water on the Sabbath. It was also a violation to heal someone unless it as a life-threatening illness. Since Jesus made mud and healed a man who wasn’t in critical condition, Jesus had broken the Pharisees’ understanding of Sabbath regulations. The Pharisees thought Jesus was a sinner.
The healed man had a completely different perspective. He probably didn’t even notice that this was the Sabbath Day. All he knew is that he had been healed. The man who healed him must be a prophet—the highest compliment a Jewish man could think of.
There are two different ways to look at this miracle. The Pharisees interpreted it one way, and the healed man interpreted it a different way. These two perspectives have two different starting points. And, they lead to two different views of Jesus. The Pharisees started by looking at the Sabbath Day regulations and concluded that Jesus was a sinner. The healed man started by looking at how Jesus had changed his life (his experience) and concluded that Jesus was a prophet.
John 9: 18 – 23… 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.”
I find this part of the story remarkable! The man who had been healed was the only person who could make a judgment about what Jesus had done. He specifically told the Pharisees and the crowd that Jesus had healed him and that Jesus is a prophet. But, his testimony was not good enough for the Pharisees. They wanted to talk to his parents.
The reason they wanted to speak to the man’s parents, is because they do not believe that this man was ever blind to begin with.
The parents serve an important role in this story. On one hand, the parents knew the man had been blind from birth. Therefore, they could prove to the Pharisees that he once was blind. On the other hand, the parents knew the man before and after Jesus had changed his life. Therefore, they could verify that a change had taken place. This was the same man, but his life was different now. Jesus had changed his life.
The same thing should be true about each of us who claim to be Christians. The Christian faith is different from other world religions. Christianity is not a religion in the sense that there are religious regulations we must keep in order to please God or to draw closer to God. Christianity is not a philosophy in the sense that we can learn or think our way into favor with God. Instead, Christianity is a life transformation.
The Christian faith is a historical faith. It is grounded in the historical reality of Jesus, his crucifixion and Resurrection. If Jesus never lived, then our faith would be futile. If Jesus never died on the cross, then this would be for naught. If Jesus never rose from the dead, then there is no hope for a better future. The life, death and Resurrection of Jesus are historical fact—and can stand up to the same kind of historical scrutiny as any other historical event. Through the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus, God has accomplished salvation once and for all for anyone who places their faith in Jesus.
The Christian faith is also an experiential faith. Salvation was objectively accomplished in the cross and the empty tomb. However, salvation is a subjective event which happens personally and individually within every man and woman who believes in Jesus. Jesus died on the cross as the ultimate and final sacrifice for sin. Jesus rose from the grave as the first to experience Resurrection and eternal life. Jesus’ death promises forgiveness for anyone who believes. Jesus’ Resurrection promises a new and eternal life for anyone who believes.
If you claim to be a Christian, people should notice a change in the way you live… There should be a difference between the way you lived before Jesus and the way you live now. Another way to say this is to say that you ought to have a testimony. Or, other people should know there is a difference in your life now that Jesus is a part of your life.
John 9: 24 – 34… 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.
When the healed man said, “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” he was making a powerful statement.
The Pharisees wanted to engage in a theological debate about the nature of Jesus. Is Jesus a sinner? Is Jesus a prophet? Is Jesus the Son of God? Is Jesus the Promised Messiah?
The healed man refused to engage in a theological debate with the religious leaders.
Or perhaps the Pharisees wanted to research the historical minutiae of Christian prophecy. Where did the prophets say the Messiah would be born? Did Jesus fulfill all the prophecies about the Messiah? If Jesus restored sight to blind eyes, does that make Jesus the Son of God and Messiah?
The healed man refused to participate in historical research or to engage in theological debate. There was only one thing he wanted to do. He wanted to talk about Jesus and how Jesus had changed his life. He wanted others to know about his experience with Jesus. He wanted to tell his testimony!
Last Thursday evening, our church was the host for the Mosaic Center fundraising dinner. If you don’t know about the Mosaic Center, you are missing out on a great ministry success over the past eight years. They serve women in the Lufkin area and provide them with GED classes, Bible study, computer training, help finding employment, and general training for life skills—all within a Christian context.
Each year, at the Mosaic Center fundraiser, the Mosaic Center asks one of their recent graduates to stand up and tell her story to the hundreds of people in attendance. This is usually an emotional time for everyone in the room. We know the Mosaic Center is a worthwhile ministry…But, it is more emphatic to hear a living and breathing human being tell her true story of how her life has been transformed.
This is the power of a story…And everyone has a story. What is your story?
The woman who spoke at the Mosaic Center fundraiser told us what her life was like before she enrolled at the Mosaic Center—it was a life of suffering and bouncing around from one low paying job to another which left her unable to take care of her family. She told us about the volunteers at the Mosaic Center who invested in her life and helped her get the training she needed. Then, she told us what her life is like right now—she has completed her GED; has a steady job at a local business; and has recently entered into the management training program in her company.
As a Christian, you have a story just like that. We typically call it our testimony. The best way to tell your testimony is to break it into three parts. First, what was your life like before you became a Christian? Second, how did you become a Christian (the people, places and events which led to your decision to become a Christian)? Third, how has your life changed since you became a Christian (or, how has Jesus made your life better)?
I think all Christians ought to write out his or her testimony and practice telling it. You never know when or where you will be presented with an opportunity to tell someone else about the ways Jesus has changed your life.
Writing out your testimony and learning how to tell someone how Jesus changed your life is different from the CD we have been giving away. In The Invitation, Lee Strobel tells his testimony of what his life was like before he became a Christian…how he became a Christian…and how Jesus has made his life better. He also provides you with some intellectual resources, historical research and philosophical arguments to use when discussing Christianity with another person. But, your testimony is different from historical research and philosophical arguments. Your testimony is personal. It happened to you. No one can deny what happened to you. And no one can take your testimony away from you.