The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

Christmas – the greatest adventure of all time…

Based on: Philippians 2:1-11

Most of us enjoy a good adventure story. Whether it’s ‘Ice Age’, ‘Madagascar’, ‘Despicable Me’, ‘Frozen’, ‘Toy Story’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Lord of the Rings’ or one of many others. There’s something about leaving behind what we know and love, what is familiar to us, to venture off into the wild blue yonder to discover whatever there is to discover. Adventure means going to new places, and being in different circumstances that will need different responses. So adventure stories fill us with excitement and wonder.

When I was growing up, I enjoyed watching the Indianna Jones movies – some of the best adventure stories of all time. It was thrilling to watch Indianna Jones get himself into all kinds of trouble, then to see him get back out of trouble, always with the girl of course. These days, adventure movies aren’t enough for me, and I need to have my own adventures. Last year I went to New Zealand, and it was so exciting some of the most amazing places I’ll ever see. But adventures don’t always go to plan. This year, I went to America. I rented a motorhome, and managed to lock the keys inside. So here was I, on the night before my 40th birthday, on the other side of the planet, in the middle of an American desert, at night, climbing through the side window of a rented motorhome. As I was rolling around on the dinning table, I couldn’t help but wonder, what happened for my life to get to this point? I mean, Indianna Jones never climbed through the window of a rented motorhome. Had I known what I was in for, I might never have gone! Climbing through that window was a long way from my quiet, comfortable life I know in Australia.

We all have our adventures, whether good all bad, and it’s good to remember our adventures. At Christmas, we remember the beginning of the greatest adventure of all time. What am I talking about? I’m talking about the birth of Jesus, his life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven.

What makes this adventure so great? Remember I said adventure is about leaving behind what we know, and going somewhere else. Well, Jesus left behind what he knew. Jesus left his home in heaven, to be born like one of us. We can’t get our heads around what this means! Jesus had been with his father for eternity! Yet Jesus swapped the majesty of heaven, for the filth of an animal shelter, to be born as a baby. He swapped eternal royalty for being despised on earth, and eventually crucified. Jesus went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Unlike me, Jesus knew exactly what he was in for. But he came anyway. And he came because of you.

Here’s where it becomes really radical. Jesus was completely and utterly sinless. He never did anything wrong, not against God, or anyone else. Yet Jesus swapped his sinlessness for our sinfulness. Everything we have done wrong, absolutely everything with nothing left behind. Jesus sees our sin and says, “I will have that!” Then he took our punishment for the sin we have done by dying on the cross. Instead of us being punished for our sin, Jesus was punished instead so we could be forgiven. This is massive. But it doesn’t end there. Jesus also rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. So now, Jesus says anyone who believes in him can have his sinlessness. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine, for example, giving away your nice new car, or your home? You just wouldn’t do it, would you? If you did, you’d want it to be someone who really deserved it. Well, Jesus gives away his sinlessness to people who don’t deserve it. This is why we can now have forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus left behind eternity to enter a sinful world to take our sinfulness so we can have his sinlessness. Christmas really is the start of the greatest adventure of all time.

But Christmas also the start of our adventure. What am I talking about? Remember I said adventure is about leaving behind what we know, and venturing off into different circumstances that require different responses. Well, by dying for our sins so we can be forgiven, Jesus has enabled us to leave behind the things we know. To leave behind the way we normally do things. We have left behind the world of sin, and we now stand in God’s Kingdom. So now we live with entirely new circumstances. Jesus has placed use in a right relationship with God – for eternity! We are now motivated and encouraged by Jesus, because we want to honour him. We are now comforted by Jesus when things aren’t going our way. We are part of what God is doing in the world through his Spirit. We are now the subject of Jesus’ affection and compassion. And these different circumstances require a different response. Instead of competing with one another and trying to out do each other, we’re to have the same understanding and same love. Rather than thinking that we’re better than others, we’re to have a servant’s attitude, always looking to the interests of others. Not because we should, but because this is precisely what Jesus has done for us. By doing these things we show what Jesus has done for us.

In a very real sense, we as Christians are on the greatest adventure of all time. Greater than any adventure movie. It began with Jesus leaving behind his home in heaven to be born as a baby. It continues with us as we leave behind what we want, and going after what God wants. This is the adventure that should fill us with excitement. This is the adventure that should fill us with wonder. This is the adventure of eternity.

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December 16, 2015 Posted by | Bible, Sermons | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Being led by the Spirit – John 16:12-15

John 16:12-15

This sermon was preached at Wesley Church, 26th May 2013. A fuller text of the sermon is provided below.

In a news article I read recently, a mother and her daughter in North Carolina were found walking down the street naked. When stopped by police, the mother informed them they were walking down the street naked because God had told them to.[1]

In another article, a South Boston made was charged with disorderly conduct for ‘train surfing’. He later informed police that God told him to do anything he wanted.[2]

In a much more disturbing article, a mother accidently suffocated  to death her 3 year old daughter believing her daughter had a demon, and that God had told her to exorcise the demon. She was committed to a state mental health institution for six months.[3]

News articles like theses may well see us asking: what does it mean to be led by God, or by his Holy Spirit?

As Christians, we have experiences which we may describe as being led by the Holy Spirit. We may particularly seek out guidance by the Holy Spirit when buying a house or a car. Or searching for a job. Or considering a marriage partner, or whether to marry at all. And I don’t wish to put the legitimacy of those experiences into doubt. Even I, myself, sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit as to which passage I should preach on today. I was given a choice of 4 passages by this church, and I felt led to preach on John 16:12-15.

But these experiences do not define the norm for what it means to be led by the Holy Spirit. For if we keep pushing this kind of thinking, we will end up seeking the Holy Spirit over which breakfast cereal we should eat – which is just ridiculous. For if that is how we think of the Holy Spirit’s guidance, there’s not much, if anything, that separates us from those in the news. So, we are still left asking: what does it mean to be led by the Holy Spirit?

Can I say from the outset, that the work of the Holy Spirit is not to diminish our responsibility, but to enhance our responsibility as followers of Jesus. To understand how the Holy Spirit does this, we must understand who the Holy Spirit is, where he and his authority comes from, and what he actually does. Once we have done this, we’ll be in a much better position to know what it means to be lead by the Holy Spirit.

Before answering those questions, we may wonder why is the Holy Spirit needed? In John 16:12, we find the disciples suffering a bit of ‘information overload’. When you consider that this is one of the longest single discourses of Jesus we have recorded, it’s understandable. But this is not the main cause of the information overload. It starts way back in chapter 12 with the celebration of the Passover.  In 14:8, the discourse takes on a sharp focus with Phillip’s request for Jesus to show them the Father. In other words, Phillip is asking Jesus for a fuller, richer experience of what it means to be his disciple. They’re about to receive that experience in 1 week’s time when they witness Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. But they’re not going to understand it. That’s why they can’t bear what Jesus is saying to them now. Their eyes are glazed over, and nothing Jesus is saying is going in. How are they to continue on in the absence of Jesus, especially when they’re so thick?

The answer is the Holy Spirit referred to as ‘Spirit of Truth’ in v13. It’s not the first time he’s been mention in this discourse. So to find out more about him, and how he solves the problem, we’re going to look at other parts of this discourse.

So, who is he?

In 14:17, he is again referred to as the ‘Spirit of Truth’. There, we learn he is not of this world. He does not blend into this world. He cannot be received or recognised by the world. Why? I suggest it’s because his agenda is different to the world’s agenda. He does not entertain worldly passions. Do you want the Holy Spirit to lead you to that nice sports car, or that luxury yacht because your workmate has one? I suggest it’s not going to happen. The Holy Spirit’s concern is different from the world’s concerns.

In 14:6, 26 and 16:7, the Greek word used to refer to him is paracletos, and is usually translated as ‘helper’ or ‘counsellor’. I suggest another helpful word might be ‘coach’. He coaches us in our relationship with God. A sports coach doesn’t play the game for you, nor tell you what to do at every single point in the game. But he does point you in the right direction, and equips you to play the game well. Don’t expect the Holy Spirit to do your decision making for you. But look to him so you do make good decisions.

Where does the Holy Spirit and his authority come from?

In 14:26 we learn that the Holy Spirit comes from the Father in Jesus’ name. He is sent by the Divine Father who has been revealed by the Divine Son. This should give us a clue as to why he is not of this world, and cannot be engaged by the world. Because he is of God, and is God he is engaged in God’s work. His concerns are God’s concerns.

That’s why in 16:13, we learn that he has no authority is not his own. He takes what is God’s and what belongs to Jesus, and makes it know to us. So if you find the spirit is saying one thing, and the Jesus is saying another in the Bible, I suggest to you whatever spirit your listening to is not the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit does not speak of his own authority, but only the authority of the Father and the Son. And we know what the Father and the Son have said, because it’s been recorded for us in the Bible. There’s no guess work for us!

So, what does the Holy Spirit do?

In 14:26 we learn that the Holy Spirit reminds and teaches us what Jesus said. In 16:7 we learn that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is in direct relation to Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’˜ ministry was to make atonement for sin in his death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit applies that ministry to us. That’s why Jesus says in 16:7, “if I don’t go, he wont come”. Jesus was going to make atonement for sin, and unless that happened, they’d be no atonement for the Holy Spirit to apply. And if there’s no atonement to apply, there’s no work for the Holy Spirit to do. Follow??

In 16:13, we learn that the Holy Spirit guides us in all truth. Does this mean that Christians don’t need to study for exams? I can’t see any of my former lectures at Bible College being convinced of that kind of thinking! The force of what is said here is that the Holy Spirit will immerse us in everything Jesus has said. The disciples hardly understood anything Jesus said to them. But it was still truth. It was still relevant. The disciples needed to be immersed in that truth by the Holy Spirit so they could understand it with their minds, and have it seep into their hearts, and out through their bodies as they lived out that truth.

We also learn that the Holy Spirit declares the things that are to come. Does that mean that there’s more revelation to come? For us, no. For the disciples, yes. Remember, in 1 week’s time, they will see their beloved Lord crucified, buried and resurrected, and though they may believe, they will not understand. In 20:8-9, Peter believed but didn’t understand. In v13, Mary Magdalene thought someone had moved Jesus’ body. And in v25, poor old doubting Thomas needed physical proof!

It wasn’t until the Holy Spirit came that they understood why Jesus had died, and was resurrected. The Holy Spirit reminded them of everything Jesus had taught, and made known to them the meaning of his death and resurrection. That when he died, he was taking their punishment, in their place, for their sins against a Holy and Righteous God. That they were no longer their own to do as they pleased, but they now belonged to God, PURCHASED by the precious and pure blood of Jesus for eternity. That they no longer belonged to this world with all of its selfishness, all of its lust, and all of its greed. But they now belonged to a new order, a heavenly order, where the good of the other is sought in love, and God the Father and his Son Jesus are worshipped alone, and are made known.

The same is true for us. We need to be immersed in that glorious truth by the Holy Spirit. The truth that we have been PURCHASED. We no longer belong to this world, so why on earth do we insist on living like it? We belong to God, and we live according to a heavenly order. The Holy Spirit guides us and enables us to do that. We owe Jesus praise and worship, big time!

It’s no wonder, then, that in 16:14 we learn the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus. The Holy Spirit keeps pointing back to Jesus. There is nothing more to know about God apart from Jesus. Jesus says, “Everything the Father has is mine…” Everything! … Everything concerning God, who he is, what he’s doing, what he will do, it’s all found in Jesus. All that the Holy Spirit talks about is Jesus. This is why Jesus says in v15, “… he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Are you starting to notice a pattern here? Being led by the Holy Spirit is not about our activity, and God responding to our small-time ideas. It’s about God’s saving activity in Jesus, and us responding to God’s ideas for eternity!

Being led by the Holy Spirit is about Jesus. Knowing Jesus and glorifying Jesus. There is nothing else to know or to be revealed apart from Jesus, because everything concerning God has been given to Jesus.

Therefore, being led by the Holy Spirit involves much more than our decisions. It involves our thoughts and our attitudes. We are to look for ways where we can be immersed in the truth about Jesus, growing in our knowledge of him, and glorifying him.

So, when it comes to buying a house, or a car, ask yourself, “How will this glorify Jesus?” When looking for a job, or a marriage partner, ask yourself, “Will this help me grow in my knowledge of Jesus, or is it a distraction?”

And if you really can’t make up your mind between Cornflakes and Cocoa Pops, there’s a very easy solution – have both! God gave us food to enjoy. Don’t make it any more complicated than what it has to be!

Being led by the Holy Spirit means growing in the knowledge of Jesus, and glorifying him in all we do.

(c) The Student’s Desk, 2013


May 26, 2013 Posted by | Bible, Sermons | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Worshipping God in Difficulty

The following sermon was delivered at Gosford Presbyterian Church, 27th January 2013 on Psalm 98.

I suspect everyone here would agree that worshipping God is important. God deserves to be worshipped, and we were created to worship God. But if we are honest, we can find worship difficult. Perhaps one of the main reasons why we find worship difficult is wrong motives. We can end up thinking that God exists to bless us the way we want. Then when we don’t get what we want, we struggle to worship God. I admit, I find it easier to come to church when I’ve had a good week, rather than when I’ve had a bad week. Worse still, we can face the very real temptation to stop worshipping God all together.

On the other hand, correct motives sustain us to worship God. So it’s worth asking, what should motivate us to worship God? A good place that helps us answer that is the Psalms.

Psalms 96 – 99 form a block of Psalms that celebrate God’s kingship. These Psalms give us insight into correct motives for worshipping God. They’re worth reading through, in your own time, noting what the Psalmist mentions, and perhaps what he doesn’t mention.

Today, we’re looking at Psalm 98, which begins by inviting us to worship God by singing a new song v1. The idea being expressed by the Psalmist of a new song means to look beyond our present circumstances – our frustrations, our weaknesses, our disappointments – and look forward to the NEW work of God in the future, which we’ll look at in a minute.

But some of you might find this a big ask. Some of you may find your circumstances so painful, you just can’t see past them at the present time. Well, there is a solution. Before you look forward to what God will do, look back to see what God has done, and all the positives he has provided. That’s exactly what the Psalmist does!

in v3 The Psalmist looks back to the time when God made salvation for his people. It’s likely that the Psalmist is referring to God’s salvation in general terms. But it is also likely that he was thinking of the exodus – when God saved his people from the tyranny of slavery in Egypt, and after many years, brought them into the Promised Land. Just as he had promised their forefathers generations before.

For us today, we need to look back to the salvation that God made for us in Jesus – when we were saved from the tyranny of sin. When Jesus died on the cross, our wrong doing before God was removed so we could enter a right relationship with him. His resurrection assures us that sin has been conquered, and the work of salvation continues.

Whether it’s the salvation that Israel experienced in the exodus, or the salvation we experienced in Jesus, we are to understand that salvation is entirely God’s work. In v1 it is stated that “God’s right hand and holy arm have made salvation”. This gives us confidence to depend on what God has provided for us.

If I make something, trust me, you know it will fall apart. The same is true for our salvation – if we try to make our own salvation, it will fall apart. We can’t put confidence in our own efforts. But, because God has made salvation, it can’t fall apart. If you trust in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, your relationship with God is secure. Nothing can change that – not our frustrations, weaknesses, or disappointments.

So here is the right motivation to worship God. We worship God not because he gives us what we want – although sometimes he does, and we should thank him for it. But we worship God because he gives us what we need – a right relationship with him.

So, what will this worship look like? How are we to worship God? In a word, publicly and loudly. Occasionally I hear about the idea of a ‘private Christian’ – someone who keeps their faith to themselves and never lets on they’re a Christian. Such an idea is inconsistent with Psalm 98. In v4 the psalmist’s invitation goes out to th`e whole earth, which involves making music. Until the invention of headphones, music was not a private affair! Music that is out in the open is noticed by anyone nearby. There is nothing private about music. So, according to Psalm 98, neither should there be anything private about our worship of God. Everyone is invited to worship God.

So, when it comes to right motives for worshipping God, we need to be looking beyond our own circumstances, because it’s God who makes salvation, not us, and our response in worship is to be public.

Now, I’ve made mention that our circumstances can be painful. But in focusing our attention on the salvation that God has made for us, I do not intend to be dismissive of such circumstances. I know when I’m hurting, and my concerns are dismissed, it only hurts even more. I don’t want to do that to anyone. We should be looking to support each other any time one of us is hurting. But at the same time, we must recognise that the support we get is not the final solution to that hurt.

The final solution to our frustrations, weaknesses, and disappointments is judgement. We see that in vv7-9. Judgement is a part of salvation. They go hand-in-hand. Judgement will see a time when things are put right. Not just improved. They will be made right! A time when evil and wickedness will be punished. A time when the righteous will be protected. That is, for those who are trusting in God’s promises, harm and injury will be done away with. Suffering will be no more.

It’s important to note the difference in who pays attention to salvation and to judgment. While we might expect that salvation gets the most attention, its actually judgement that gets the most attention. With salvation, everyone on earth pays attention, which when you think about it, that’s a lot of attention! But in vv7-9 judgement not only grabs the attention of everyone on earth, it grabs the attention of creation itself. The fish, the animals, the rivers, the mountains are all caught up in the worship of God, looking forward to the judgement that is to come.

Our motive for worshipping God is bigger than ourselves; bigger than our circumstances; bigger than our lives – what we’re doing, and what we hope to do. Our motive for worshipping God is God himself: What he has done in making salvation. For us, that salvation is through Jesus; and what God will do in judging the earth.

We need to see that our motive for worshipping God should not be restricted by our circumstances.

So when I have a bad week, I still come to church. When I’ve had a discouraging day, I still go to Growth Group. When I’m angry and want to tell someone off, I still pray. When I feel like hiding at home, I still look for ways to share my faith. When I feel like escaping reality by watching a movie or playing a computer game, I still read the Bible. When I’ve been ripped off, I still look to be generous with what I have.

I don’t abandon God just because I don’t like my circumstances. And neither should you. Instead, we are to persevere in our worship of God, looking beyond our circumstances. And our worship is to be motivated by the salvation God has made, and his coming judgement.

In this way, we can truly sing a new song, and worship God, just as the Psalmist invites us to do!

January 28, 2013 Posted by | Sermons | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s work through disability – John 9

Yesterday I had the privileged opportunity to preach at St. Clements Anglican at Mosman. Preaching at all four services was a test of endurance. I was pretty wasted when I returned home at 11pm after being up at 5:30am. But the effort was worth while. God did amazing things as people were impacted by what was said.
To listen to the sermon, click here for the web page. I’ve provided a transcript below…
From John 9

As Australians, we can be obsessive about a number of things. One of those things is ability. We love to celebrate those who have ability. Doctors, academics, particularly sports people. Think of the amount of money sports people earn. It’s remarkable.

And so we should celebrate ability. We ought to thank God for the abilities that God gives people. But there is a dangerous flipside for people with disabilities. They are often perceived as not worth celebrating. To be minimised. Perhaps even to be avoided. They are also often perceived as not being able to work, or make a contribution. Such thinking can cause much difficulty and hurt for those with disabilities. But when we bring that thinking into the church, it causes even bigger problems. Such thinking affects the whole church community as it faces the very real prospect of missing out on God’s work – which is the touchstone of Ch. 9. What does it mean to be doing God’s work? and who can do God’s work?

In the time of Jesus, God’s work was clearly defined by the religious leaders, and it had severe implications for the disabled. If you were disabled there was a very simple explanation for it. You deserved it. You or your parents had done something to offend God, and God was punishing you with a disability. So you were perceived as rejected by God, and were ostracised by God’s people. Particularly if you were blind you were perceived as incapable of receiving God’s revelation. So you certainly could not do God’s work if you couldn’t receive God’s revelation. Hence we have the disciples’ question in v2 “Who sinned, that this man was born blind?”

Now, before we charge these religious leaders with disability discrimination, we need to understand that these beliefs developed out of a desire for holiness. These were devout honest, men who wanted to remain pure; who wanted to live up to God’s standards in keeping the law. Especially when it came to the Sabbath. For these men, the work of God meant separation from those who they considered condemned by God – erecting barriers between themselves and undesirables.

We may not go to the same religious extremities that the leaders of Jesus’ day. But our response to disability can be just as questionable. Disability can make us feel uncomfortable, and some can find disability very confronting. One reason for this is disability may remind us of our own brokenness. Once reminded, our self perception and self worth are threatened because in our culture, they are so closely tied to what we can do.

I turn 37 this week. For most of my life I’ve been trying to prove to myself and everyone else that I am not disabled. For some reason it hasn’t quite worked. I did this through cycling – I would ride anything up to 250km/week. I’ve learned to drive a car, sail a boat, and cook. I’ve travelled and camped on my own. I’ve done what most sensible able-bodied people wouldn’t do! Mostly because it was fun. But partly because I wanted to disassociate myself from disability, and show I’m just as important, just as valuable as anyone else. For the record, all that effort has failed. My importance and value has nothing to do with what I can do.

Or, another reason may be that we think we need to hide our brokenness to provide a good witness. That for God and his gospel to have any credibility, we need to appear as though God has solved all our problems. That our brokenness is mended. That as Christians, we have our life together, and we’re just cruising through life. Otherwise, if we are still struggling with brokenness, maybe there’s something wrong with our faith, or perhaps God isn’t the real deal. I know an elderly man who, when you ask him how is, he’ll answer “I’m fighting fit”. But probe a little deeper, and you’ll find he’s battling some serious health issues. For some reason, we are reluctant or even embarrassed to expose our brokenness, and can be desperate to hide it.

Often we do not have a place for disability in our Christian thinking. The result is it affects who we engage with and form relationships. We can easily find ourselves erecting barriers between us and who we regard as broken. The reality is, we’re all broken, no matter how much we try to hide it. None of us are self sufficient. All of us need God’s grace. All of us need the support of others. The main difference between many of you and myself is my brokenness is allot harder to hide. Yet, we still find ourselves erecting barriers.

Where the religious leaders and, to a lesser extent, us today see disability as a barrier to doing the work of God, Jesus does not. In response to his disciple’s question, in v3 Jesus says, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Jesus takes this whole understanding of disability, and turns it on its head. Rather than the person being rejected and condemned by God, Jesus understands that this person is at the forefront of God’s work.

The whole aim of Jesus ministry was reconciliation. Reconciling people to God, and to other people, in his name. It’s not a wishy washy reconciliation where we get rid of anything that might cause conflict, so no one believes anything anymore. It’s reconciliation by Jesus. Ultimately, this was achieved in Jesus’ death and resurrection. But this was also being demonstrated in his earthly ministry.

This had implications for the disabled as it was through them along with other broken people that God’s grace would be demonstrated. This is why Jesus says in v4, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” Jesus time on earth was short, and in this blind man, he saw an opportunity to demonstrate God’s grace. This grace would be vividly demonstrated by removing what was thought to be a sign of God’s rejection of him – his blindness. The result was making this man a recipient of God’s revelation, enabling him to display God’s grace in his life, and to believe and testify to Jesus. In this Jesus was redefining the work of God. It was about tearing down barriers that stood between God and people, and between people themselves.

One of the biggest barriers at the time of Jesus was Sabbath. To be a person of God, you needed to observe the Sabbath tradition. But for Jesus, showing mercy and doing the work of reconciliation in his name is more important then tradition, or the way things are done. In this, Jesus changed what it means to do the work of God.

So how did people respond to this new way of doing God’s work? Well, just like people don’t like change now, they didn’t like then. In the text, we have 4 groups of people responding in 5 different ways to the news.

The first group is the neighbours in vv8-13. They haven’t a clue what’s going on. They can’t even decide if it’s the same man, and refer the whole matter to the religious experts. People today can have the same attitude toward disability – ‘it’s too hard, let someone else handle it’.

So it’s onto the second group in vv14-17, the Pharisees, the religious experts. When they hear the man’s testimony, they were divided as to whether this was God’s work. Some doubted pointing to the fact it was the Sabbath and concluded it was impossible for the man’s testimony to be God’s work. Others disregarded the issue of the Sabbath and simply considered what had happened and concluded the man was worth listening too. Yet these people felt the pressure of their peers and changed their view of the man. I’ve seen this before where people value the person with a disability, until someone with a louder opinion comes along, and people change their minds, or remain silent.

The third group are his parents in vv18-23. They readily admit the man is his son, and that he was born blind. But that’s as far as their support goes. They avoid the whole issue of the man’s testimony, otherwise they’ll run the risk of rejection. Instead of supporting their son, they’ll let him sort out his own problems. For his parents, they were more worried about what people might think if they became involved with their disabled son, and acknowledged the work of God that had occurred in his life.

So it was back to the Pharisees for a fourth response in vv24-29. They respond a second time by maintaining the Sabbath barrier. They hold fast to their own traditions, and conclude on one shred of evidence, as sure as this man is born blind, that Jesus is a sinner, and do not listen to the man. The stupidity of their conclusion is brought out by the blind man when in v30 he says, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.” This is an emphatic statement. In other words, “You have labelled Jesus a sinner, and you don’t even know where he comes from!” They are rejecting the man’s testimony when they haven’t even done the basic checks! All because of their view of a person born blind.

Four different reactions, yet with one thing in common. Whether it was general confusion, peer pressure, fear of rejection, or maintaining tradition, all four groups were not able to receive God’s work because they refused to accept this man’s testimony due to his status in life and position in the community.

There is a fifth reaction I haven’t mentioned yet, that of the blind man in vv31-33 – receiving the work of God, and becoming part of the work of God. Against the Pharisees with their one shred of evidence, he begins to stack up the evidence for his healing being a work of God. Firstly, God listened to Jesus. Secondly, no one has opened the eyes of a man born blind before. Thirdly, if he Jesus wasn’t from God, he wouldn’t have been able to perform the miracle. The man knows that to understanding his healing as a work of God, he’ll face identity issues, he’s going against religious tradition, he faces the denial of his parents, he faces banishment from the religious community, and yet believes. In believing, this man was able to do the work of God, not by performing miracles, but by testifying that Jesus was sent from God.

You see, this man was able to do the work of God, not by what he could do, but by who he believed – Jesus. When Jesus caught up to him in vv35-38, Jesus revealed himself to the man as the Son of Man – the one who reveals God. In response he worshipped him.

Since involvement in God’s work does not depend on what we can do, we, in the church, can not afford to obsess over ability like those outside the church. If we do, we run a very real risk of erecting barriers between ourselves, and those who we consider less able, and miss out on the work of God in our midst displaying his reconciling grace.

We must recognise that the work of the gospel is reconciliation – reconciliation between God and people, and reconciliation between people. This means removing barriers where ever possible. This doesn’t come natural. Allot of the time it may not be easier. It may involve going against social norms and traditional concerns. It may involve spending more time and effort getting to know someone as it would somebody else. Certainly in my case, it takes more time and effort to listen. But by removing the barriers, we’ll soon discover that all followers of Jesus are involved in God’s work of reconciliation, regardless of ability or disability.

March 5, 2012 Posted by | Sermons | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment