Fear and Arrogance
Part 2: Arrogance Deceives
March 24, 2020*
By Pastor John Partridge
1 Samuel 16:1-13 John 9:1-41
Note: If you need to read Part 1 of this message, click here: https://pastorpartridge.com/2020/03/22/fear-and-arrogance-part-1-fear-gives-poor-advice/
You understand the characters in today’s story of Jesus because you’ve met them. Obviously, you didn’t meet the same person that Jesus met, but either at work, or in a club that you belong to, or in government, or on television, somewhere you have met someone who was exactly like that people that Jesus is talking to. You know them. These are the people, male or female, who are never wrong. But more than that, not only can they never be wrong, they are so full of themselves that they cannot even conceive of the possibility that they might be wrong or that someone else might know something that they do not. They are always quick to offer advice, but they never want any of your advice in return and, they would almost certainly dismiss it or ignore it if you offered.
Often this sort of a person is referred to as being a narcissist, but that is a psychological diagnosis that would be an extreme case. While we might run into the occasional narcissist, far more often we will encounter people who are just bulldozing through life, and bulldozing the people around them, while they themselves are filled with their own arrogance and pride.
Today we remember the story of Jesus healing a man who was born blind, and who spent his days begging at the gates of the Temple to earn enough money to survive. But after he is healed by Jesus, the man, and his family, are hounded by the Pharisees who, despite the evidence of his healing, and despite his firsthand, eyewitness testimony, as well as some sound logical and theological evidence, the Pharisees refuse to… well, let’s read the story first. It’s a little long, but bear with me, it’s one of my favorites and I think it will be worth it. (John 9:1-41)
9:1 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.
As Jesus and his disciples walk towards the temple, they ask him “who sinned?” What they wanted to know is, whose fault is it that this man was born blind. The commonly accepted wisdom was that any illness or defect must be a punishment from God so, if someone was born blind, who was God trying to punish? How was it possible for someone to sin before they were born? And how could God punish an unborn child for the sins of his parents? But Jesus assures them that the man’s blindness wasn’t anyone’s fault. The world in which we live is broken and bad things happen. Not everything bad happens because God is out to punish people. Instead, bad things offer us opportunities to do the work of God in our world. And, with that, Jesus sends the man to go and wash, to be cleansed, and to be healed of his blindness. And he does. And he is.
Once the man is healed, people notice. Everyone who had ever known him, or who had ever walked past him on the way to the temple, knew that he was blind. But some people were so sure that blindness can never be healed, that they insisted that it must be someone who looked like him and not the man himself until he insisted, that he was indeed the same man.
Even the Pharisees noticed. But rather than being impressed that Jesus had done the impossible, rather than being amazed that a man who had been blind since birth now stood before them with his vision restored, the Pharisees were upset the Jesus had the audacity to spit and make mud, and perform a healing on the Sabbath when people were commanded not to work. Really?
The Pharisees couldn’t believe that this was true. And so, not only did they question the man who had been born blind, they called his parents in as witness to verify that he was, in fact, their son and had indeed been born blind. And they said that he was. But, because they knew that the Pharisees had threatened to essentially excommunicate anyone who said that Jesus was the Messiah, the parents refused to answer any further questions and told the Pharisees that they should ask their son, who had been healed, if they had any other questions.
After that, the Pharisees send for the man a second time and they insist that he was lying the first time and should come clean, give glory to God, and tell the truth this second time, because they know that Jesus is a sinner. It is at this point that I begin to wonder if the blind man is deliberately trolling the Pharisees and trying to get them angry. He says, I don’t know if Jesus is a sinner, but I know that I used to be blind, and now I’m not. And then, when they persist in asking the same questions that he already answered, he asks them if they want to follow Jesus and become his disciples. This, of course, throws them into a rage but the man just keeps poking them with the truth saying, “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.”
And with that, they insult him and throw him out.
But even though they threw him out, some of them must have followed him because they are there when he finally meets Jesus and sees him for the first time. And in that conversation, Jesus declares that the Pharisees are the real blind men. While everyone was trying to decide whether the blind man or his parents were guilty of sin, it is the Pharisees, Jesus says, that bear the real guilt because they claim to see while ignoring the truth.
Like those people that we have all met, the Pharisees were so sure of themselves, so certain that they were right, that they couldn’t even conceive of the possibility that they might be wrong. Despite the evidence and the testimony of a man they had all walked past or stepped over on the way to the temple, a man they knew to be a blind beggar, a man that his parents testified was blind, the only option that they had left was to blame the man who had been healed. They were so sure of themselves that the only option they had left was to blame the victim.
But Jesus said that the real blame was on the Pharisees. The guilt, and the sin, was theirs. They were blind because they refused to admit the facts that stood in front of them and it was their arrogance that blinded them.
We see the same thing all the time. The Flat Earth people think that thousands of scientists and engineers are a part of an enormous hoax because they can’t bring themselves to admit that maybe somebody understands the world of mathematics and physics better than they do.
We see it on social media today in people who would rather believe in an international conspiracy than to believe that a microscopic virus is still capable of shutting down the world in the twenty first century.
And we still see it in the lives of people who see Jesus transform the lives of people they know, they see people cured of incurable diseases, they see prayers answered, the hungry fed, the naked clothed, but they always seem to find another way of excusing it, or transferring the blame, or the credit, somewhere else.
But arrogance leads to sin.
Never forget that arrogance deceives.
Don’t be afraid to change your mind.
Don’t be afraid to hear the truth.
And never allow yourself to get tired of sharing that truth with the people around you.
You can find the video of this message here: https://youtu.be/Aeo2RhoVWeE
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