Jesus, the Light of the World
October 25th, 1987 @ 10:50 AM
JESUS, THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-25-87 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message entitled Jesus, The Light of the World. It is an exposition of the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John [John 9:1-41]. John closes his Gospel with the twentieth chapter [John 20]. The twenty-first chapter is an addendum, written long after he had finished the message itself [John 21:1-25]. He closes his Gospel with these words in the twentieth chapter, “Many other sēmeia” [John 20:30]. In other places in John it is translated “miracles.” Here it is translated, correctly, “signs”:
Many other sēmeia truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book:
But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; and that believing you might have life through His name.
Out of the many marvelous affirmations of the deity and Saviorhood of our Lord, John chose seven, and presents them in his Gospel. These are signs, affirmations of the Saviorhood of our Lord.
For example, in chapter 4, He will describe the miraculous healing of the nobleman’s son [John 4:46-54]. That’s Jesus, the Great Physician [Luke 6:19]. In the next chapter, chapter 5, he will describe our Lord as feeding the five thousand [John 6:1-14]. That’s Jesus, the bread of life [John 6:35]. In chapter 11, he will describe the marvelous resurrection of Lazarus from the dead [John 11:43-44]. This is Jesus, the resurrection; and the life [John 11:25]. The Gospel closes, of course, with the triumphant resurrection of our Lord from the grave [John 20:1-18]; that is Jesus, triumphant over death [1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Revelation 1:10-18]. Here in the ninth chapter of the Book of John, he describes the marvelous miracle of restored sight: the creation of sight in a man who is born blind [John 9:1-7, 25]. And that is Jesus, the light of the world [John 8:12, 9:5].
So we begin with the first verse of chapter 9 in John’s Gospel, “As Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth” [John 9:1]. He was congenitally blind; he was born without sight, and he sat there begging [John 9:8]. I suppose that the multitudes were uncounted that passed him by, paid no attention to him, did not even look at him. But the story begins, as Jesus passed by, He saw him, noticed him, looked upon him [John 9:1].
How like the Lord, thus to be sensitive to a man who was blind, poor, and begging. If you at all follow the life of our Savior, He was thronged with people like that. Wherever He went, there were the multitudes assembled around Him, sick, poor, lost, leprous, dying, heartbroken, hurt. The whole story of our Lord is like that. Isaiah 53:3, says that He was to be “a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” How like our Lord to notice this man: begging, born blind [John 9:1, 8].
In these years past, there was an American correspondent of a great newspaper in our nation, stationed, living in Shanghai. While there, he made the friendship of a correspondent for a Chinese newspaper in that great city. The Chinese correspondent was a devout Buddhist, and the American was a faithful Christian.
The Chinese said to the American, “You come with me to my temple, where I worship Buddha. And I’ll go with you to your church, where you worship Christ.” They attended first the temple of Buddha, then the next Lord’s Day they attended the Christian church. And as they walked out, the Buddhist said to his American friend, “I like my religion so much better than yours. When I go to my temple, there is my god and he’s happy and he’s affluent and he smiles, but when I go to your church, there’s a cross on top of it, and on the inside there is the message of your Jesus, suffering and dying. I like my religion much better than yours.” The American correspondent had never thought of it like that, and had no way that he could find to answer.
In the few days that followed, the American correspondent was in a rickshaw pulled by a coolie through the streets of Shanghai, and suddenly, the coolie collapsed. The American got out. He was there, dying of starvation; the American sought to get help from the Chinese passing by. They wouldn’t even look at him and the American correspondent picked him up in his arms and looked at that poor and emaciated face, and he had his answer.
Where would you have taken him? Would you have laid him at the feet of that little god Buddha, with his fat rotund belly and his hands clasped over it, smiling in his affluence? Or would you have taken him and laid him at the feet of the cross, before a Savior who knew what it was to be hungry and to suffer and to die? [Hebrews 4:15].
How like our Lord; as He passed by, He saw a beggar, blind from birth, and He stopped. “And as they stood there His disciples said unto Him, ‘Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’” [John 9:2]. That was a theological question that was discussed forever in the rabbinical schools. To them, all sin had a repercussion in a judgment and in suffering. So this man, born blind; where was the sin that resulted in that suffering judgment? Was it in his parents that he was born blind? Was it in the fetus, he? And they believed that, that he was born blind.
The proposition is both ways. Some suffering is due to a specific sin. Ultimately, of course, all tragedy and hurt and suffering comes from the transgression in the garden of Eden, the judgment of ultimate death [Genesis 3:1-6]. But there is another thing, there’s another side, there’s another truth, and our Lord avowed it when He said, “This, this is for the glory of God,” the manifestation of the ableness and power of presence of God [John 9:3].
May I take both of those just for a moment? There is no doubt, there’s no forensic confrontation that we would present against suffering as a result of sin. Here in our congregation was a tall single young man, blond, strong, just handsome, about twenty-five, twenty-six years old. He came to my study here at the church and sat there and for an hour, wept bitterly, pouring out his heart to me.
He was a homosexual. He had AIDS, and had the sentence of death in his body. And pouring out his heart to me, described his life of compromise and wrong, and how he had repented, and how God had forgiven him, and how he was ready to die. One of the most moving sessions I’ve ever been party to. The young fellow was so faithful here at church. Every Sunday morning you’d see him seated right there. Every Sunday night he was there. Every Wednesday night he was there, and most always, visit with me after the service was over.
Anyway, when I went to England the last of this August, he died within seven days, seven days, died of AIDS. No one would be of a disposition to dispute that there is a judgment that follows sin and transgression. But Jesus says not all suffering and not all hurt and not all sorrow is a result of sin, of wrong. Sometimes, Jesus says, that suffering and hurt in human life is that we might glorify God, that we might know more of the grace and ableness of our Lord [John 9:3].
In the Old Testament, you have the Book of Job. His, Job’s comforters, and that’s a proverb; his “comforters” came and said to him, “Job, you are a great sinner, because you suffer such great agony” [Job 4:7-8], that’s what they said. Of course, the Book says he glorified God in his suffering [Job 2:3]. God allowed it that Job might grow heavenward.
What would you say of the sufferings of our Lord Jesus? He was afflicted and bore our stripes [Isaiah 53:4-7; 1 Peter 2:24]. I do not know of a more poignant passage in literature than this, from the pen of the apostle Paul:
Lest I should be exalted above measure…there was given me a thorn in the flesh . . .
For this thing I besought the Lord . . . that He take it from me.
But God said, My strength is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities . . .
I take pleasure in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
[2 Corinthians 12:7-10]
There are sufferings and hurts and sorrows that come into your life that God uses that make you lean upon His strong arms, that make you bow in His presence, make you look up in prayer and supplication. So with this man born blind that the glory of God might be seen in him [John 9:2-3].
From many a pillar of stone have they seen visions of heaven, and from many a height of Pisgah, ascended by toil and trial, have many seen the Promised Land; sorrow and trouble and heartache in human life.
It was then that our Lord said and repeated what we read in John 8:12 “…I am the light of the world: he that believeth in Me shall dwell in the light, shall have life in Me and I in him.” And here He repeats it again: “I am the light of the world” [John 9:5], then opened the eyes of the man that he could see [John 9:6-7].
What the sun is to our planet earth, Jesus is to our lost and fallen and dying humanity. This man —and when you read it hastily, you wouldn’t think of it—this man was congenitally blind. He was born blind [John 9:1], and the miracle of Jesus giving him his sight was not restoration. It was creation. This man had never seen. He was born blind. His healing was not from some illness that came after he was born seeing. He was born blind. And this was creation in the power of God.
There are many things that we’re able to do. There are some things that only God is able to do. It is only God that can light the sun. It is only God that can control the seas. We have no key to the Atlantic. No man has the Pacific in an iron safe in his study. We cannot hasten summer, melt the snows. We cannot guide the winds. We cannot perform an eclipse. These things are in the power of God.
And this is one of them: we are born spiritually blind. We are born facing the inevitable hour of death. Decay and decadence and destruction are enwrapped in our very existence. And who can give us life? Who can open our eyes? Who can visit us with light from heaven? Only our Lord.
One of the most poignant, I think, of all of the Scriptures—quoting Isaiah, when Matthew presents the Lord Jesus as He begins His Galilean ministry—Matthew says, quoting Isaiah:
Zebulun, and Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
They that sat in darkness have seen a great light; and they that sat in the region of the shadow of death to them light has shined.
Paul said it like this:
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
[2 Corinthians 4:6]
Jesus, the light of the world [John 8:12] and that is this sēmeion, this sign. What Jesus did in bringing light to this blinded man [John 9:1-7, 25] is what Jesus does in bringing the light of heaven to our souls [2 Corinthians 4:6].
I want you to look at this fellow. He’s one of the most unusual characters you’ll ever read about in your life. The neighbors, which before, had seen him blind, said, “Is not this he that sat and begged?” [John 9:8]. And some said, “This is he”; others said, “He is like him”; but he said, “I am he” [John 9:9].
Ah! What an amazing transformation in that man! He had a new countenance. He had a new face. He looked different. He was different. “Any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; look, all things are become new” [2 Corinthians 5:17]. That’s what happened to this man. He didn’t look the same. Yet, he was the same. That’s the same man. But he was changed. And he, he didn’t deny the rock from which he was hewn or the hole, the pit, out of which he was digged. He said, “I am he” [John 9:9].
And when they asked him, “Who did that? Who changed you? Who brought you life and light? Who opened your eyes?” [John 9:15]. And he said, “The Lord Jesus. He did it” [John 9:25].
And those who despised the Lord, they said, “We know that this Man is a sinner. Therefore, give God the praise” [John 9:24]. Can you imagine that? What prejudice will do to a man’s heart, a man’s judgment! “This Man, Jesus, who opened your eyes is a sinner. Praise God for your sight” [John 9:24]. Prejudice.
I copied this this week out of a history book. In the reign of Abdula III, there was a great drought in Baghdad. The Mohammedan priests issued a decree calling upon the faithful Muslims to pray for rain, but the drought continued. Finally the priest, the Muslim priest, consented that the Jews should add their prayers to those of the true Mohammedans. When their combined petitions were ineffective and the famine pressed sore, they were driven to consent that the dogs, Christians, should also pray to their God, the Lord Jesus. Immediately, torrents of rain began to fall, whereupon the whole conclave of Muslim priests, with the mufti at their head, were now as angry at the cessation of the drought as they had been before oppressed by it.
After much counsel, they decided, by a unanimous vote, that the god of their prophet Muhammad was so highly pleased with the prayers of the faithful that he withheld the rain purely out of the pleasure he had in listening to their supplications, but that the prayers of the infidel Christian dogs was such an abomination before him that he granted their petitions rather than be compelled to hear their loathsome importunities and intercessions.
Did you know that blindness of prejudice on the heart of so many in this world keeps them away from the truth of the Lord Jesus? The prejudice of people is an astonishing development in human life.
I read this week about a man who said, in these years past, only gold came from Mexico and Peru. And a fellow brought to him a nugget, a gold nugget, from California, and said to him, “The assayer says this is gold. And it passes on the market as gold.” And the fellow took the nugget, and he said, as he looked at it, he said, “I’m not disputing that it passes in the market place as monetary, as gold. And I’m not disputing what the assayers say. But I’m telling you it’s not gold, because gold only comes from Mexico and Peru.”
The blindness of people who won’t see and the prejudice of people who won’t open their eyes and ears and hearts to accept. That’s this. “This is a sinner. This Man is a sinner” [John 9:24].
And the reply of this man who had been blind and now could see, he answered and said, “Whether He be a sinner or no, I do not know: but one thing I do know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see” [John 9:25]. Ah, what an affirmation and what a testimony, “This one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” You have a song like that:
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now I’m found,
Was blind but now I see.
[“Amazing Grace,” by John Newton]
We are listening to these beautiful testimonies, like Robert Hill’s, during this stewardship time. You know, someone came up to me in the church and said, “Pastor, you have testimonies at stewardship time. Why don’t you have testimonies the rest of the year from some of these people who have been gloriously saved in our church? Why don’t you have them come up at church time and let them witness to what God has done for them?”
I don’t know why I haven’t done that in these years past. We’re going to do it in the future. Some of the most marvelous conversions I’ve ever seen in my life are right here in our congregation. And we’re going to have them come up and tell you what God has done for them.
Sweet people, I have never lived through anything as one Christmas. Ira McCollister who headed our mission ministry here in the city of Dallas, at a Christmas time, having a party every year here at the church in Coleman Hall, brought all of those people from our missions. And he’d have a gift for them. And it was just beautiful. Well, this year, this year, that year he did something that I’d never had seen before. He had different men from all of those mission chapels, he had them stand up and witness what God had done for them.
I sat there for three solid hours and wept my heart out in gratitude to God as I listened to those men witness to what God had done for them. Here was a man caught in a theft, a robber, a cheat, sent to the penitentiary. When he got out and came home, then he would point to this godly man, “And this man won me to Christ, and I have a new life, and a new hope, and a new faith in Him.”
And another man then stood up, “I was a drunkard; beat my wife and my children. When I’d come home, my children would hide, for fear, from my being there.” Then, he’d point to that godly man: “That man won me to Jesus. And now,” and then he would describe his beautiful Christian home and his precious family. There’s nothing like it in the world. “Once I was blind, but now I can see.” “Whether He is a sinner or no . . . I know this, whereas I was blind, now I can see” [John 9:25].
I heard this man, Ironside, who was pastor of the Moody Church for a generation, I heard him say one time that speaking on the streets of San Francisco with the Salvation Army, he was interrupted in his witness for the Lord by a man who challenged him to a debate the next day at the same place, at the same time. And Dr. Ironside, the preacher-pastor, said, “Sir, I’d be glad to debate you. I’d be glad to debate you here at the same time, at the same place, you and your infidelity, and I and my Christian faith.” Then, the preacher said just this, “Here, at the same time, at the same place, when I come, I’ll bring one hundred men and women with me who have been saved by the love and grace of Jesus Christ. And you, you bring one hundred with you who have been saved by infidelity.” The debate never came off.
Where would you find a hundred people who had been changed and gloriously saved by the gospel of atheism and unbelief and infidelity? Where would you find them? But my brother, give me a few moments, at most, and I can bring you a thousand who will stand up anywhere in the earth and testify, “Once I was blind, and now I can see” [John 9:25]. Saved, converted, changed by the grace of God [Ephesians 2:8].
I must close. “They cast him out” [John 9:34], when you can’t answer, just throw him out. They cast him out and Jesus found him. Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and He found him [John 9:35]. Isn’t that like our Lord? Where the blind are, and where the outcasts are, and where the lost are, there Jesus is. They belong to Him. He is especially a shepherd for them.
“And Jesus said,” and this closes the chapter:
For judgment I am come into the world, that they which say they see might not see; and they which do see might be made blind.
And some of the Pharisees which were with Him heard these words, and said, Are we blind also?
And Jesus said unto them, If you were blind, you would have no sin: but now you say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
When a man says, “I don’t need God. I am self-justified and I am self-sufficient, and I don’t need any Lord to die for me. And I don’t need any Savior to plead for me at the great judgment bar of Almighty God. I’ll stand on my own in my own righteousness and ableness.” That man, Jesus says, is blind and lost [John 9:41].
But when a man says, “Lord, I need You. I’m not sufficient. I’m not able, I need You.” That man will find sight, and light, and life from the gracious hands of our Lord. And it happened here. Jesus said unto him, “You have seen your Lord, and it is He that talketh with thee. And the man said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped Him” [John 9:35-38]. What a beautiful conclusion to a marvelous story. It closes with this man bowing at the feet of Jesus, worshipping our Lord.
O God, that this service might end like that: bowing before the Lord, worshipping the precious Lord Jesus. And that is our appeal to you this spiritually heavenly moment.
To give your heart to the Lord, to bow in His presence, to let Him open the doors of heaven to you and unashamedly to avow that faith, make it now [Romans 10:8-13]. This morning, this hour, a family you to come into the church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; a couple you, to build your home on the Lord; a one somebody you, to accept Jesus as your Savior; as the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, make that decision now. Let us pray.
Our Lord, in this moment of a quiet intercession, we pray God will bear the message upon the wings of the Spirit to the hearts of these who have so prayerfully listened this morning. And our Master, singing our hymn of appeal, may they come to Thee and to us unashamedly, gladly, gloriously, affirming the commitment of hope and life to our wonderful Savior, in whose dear name we pray, amen. While we stand and while we sing.
LIGHT OF THE WORLD
A. Jesus notices the
blind man (John 9:1)
1. He is
sensitive to need (Isaiah 53:3)
B. Discussion of the
disciples (John 9:2)
1. Not all
sorrows and trials due to our sins
sometimes troubles to glorify God (John 9:3, 2
II. Jesus the Light of the world (John 8:12)
A. What the sun is to
our planet, Christ is to our souls
B. Miracle not
restoration, but creation
in the ability and power of God
C. We are born
1. He brings
light of heaven to our souls (Matthew 4:15-16, 2
III. The testimony of the man to the
miracle of Christ
A. Neighbors questioned
his identity (John 9:8)
1. The change in his
countenance (John 9:9, 2 Corinthians 5:17)
B. Standing by the
1. Prejudice of
the Pharisees (John 9:24)
2. He refused to
deny the miracle (John 9:25)
IV. The vision beautiful
A. Jesus a shepherd to
the blind, outcast, lost
1. Blind man
believed on the Lord Jesus (John 9:35-38)
B. Jesus addressed the
blindness of the Pharisees (John 9:40-41)