Focal Passage: John 9:24-38
A few months ago, while interviewing a candidate for a children’s ministry position, our search committee asked him the question, “What are some of the biggest challenges in children’s ministry today?”
With almost no hesitation, he mentioned the difficulty of overcoming the seven most deadly words of a church: “We’ve never done it that way before.” Although he went on to mention other difficulties and obstacles, which generally come from the outside, his first answer reflects a deep problem that people struggle with from within: a heart that is resistant to change.
Overcoming a hard heart is among the most difficult challenges for any human. In our sinful condition, our natural tendency is to feel like we know what is best and to do things our way. Our pridefulness often leads us to value tradition over truth, comfort over change, frustration over flexibility and repetition over repentance.
While such a hardened, prideful spirit can debilitate ministry in the local church, it doesn’t compare to the dangerous position it places those in who are resistant to trust in Jesus. Such a person will be reluctant to believe and follow Jesus no matter the evidence, and this is precisely what we see in John 9.
The chapter begins with Jesus performing a sixth sign by miraculously giving sight to a man who was blind from birth. After anointing his eyes with mud and telling him to go wash in the pool of Siloam, our Lord allowed this man to see for the first time. But while the man and others were deeply amazed by this miraculous work, the celebration was dampened when he was quickly escorted to be questioned by the Pharisees.
The religious leaders were not only perturbed that he had been healed on the Sabbath, but their anger was kindled to a higher degree because Jesus was the one who healed him — who many were testifying to be the Christ (v. 22). But rather than seeking to know the truth about the matter, the Pharisees hardened their hearts against the possibility of Jesus being the Messiah.
First, they doubted the man’s testimony about his own healing experience. Second, they questioned his authenticity by calling in his parents for verification. Third, when the religious leaders brought him back, John says that they “cast him out” after he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, stating that only God could perform such a miracle, and concluding, “if this man were not from God, he could do nothing” (v. 33). But rather than believing what everyone knew to be true and what the Scriptures confirmed, they tragically hardened their hearts against Jesus.
So, how does an unbeliever overcome unbelief due to a hardness of heart? Is it possible? The answer is yes — but not through his or her own ability to believe, but only through Jesus giving sight to the spiritually blind.
Jesus explains the need for grace at the end when he asks the man if he believes in the Son of Man. The man questioned who this might be. Jesus responded, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” The man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him (vv. 35-38). The man was only able to see Jesus because Christ first opened his eyes! B&R