Grab the camera and lace up your walking shoes, friends; it’s time to visit the Great Wall of China! Just as this breathtaking structure—which stretches over 13,000 miles!—creates a barrier between those on the inside and those on the outside, chapter 9 reveals a definite dividing line between those sympathetic to Jesus and those set against Him.
Scripture writing: I loved copying out verses 3-5 in The Message translation:
Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent Me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”
How my heart craves the reminder to look for Someone at work rather than for someone at fault! Jesus’ perspective turns every hard day into a treasure hunt for light and fills it to the brim with dynamic purpose.
Studying: The most enlightening note I discovered came from The Gospel Transformation Study Bible over, incidentally, the same passage:
Instead of asking, “Why did this happen to me? Who’s to blame?” we begin to ask, “Where is God in this situation? What is He up to? How may His glory ultimately shine through this?” Grace leads us to ask more vertical questions and fewer horizontal ones. Only the gospel of eternal purposes and hope beyond this world can enable us to accept suffering as a normal part of the Christian life. For the ultimate suffering, condemnation, and separation from the Father in hell has been undergone by Jesus in our place. All current suffering in the lives of those who are in Christ can therefore only be by the loving hand of a caring Father, who is training us to walk with Him—and enabling others touched by our lives to do so also, as they walk through this broken world with us.
In light of this, I wonder—in which of my wounds and weaknesses would God love to display works of glory? Remembering that every trial has been intentionally allowed “by the loving hand of a caring Father” keeps the clouds from blocking my view of the Son.
Commentaries: Matthew Henry writes of verse 34 that
Proud men scorn to be taught, especially by their inferiors, whereas we should never think ourselves too old, nor too wise, nor too good, to learn.
Yes! Life is a classroom, and everyone I encounter has something to teach me. How much I lose when I limit where knowledge may be found.
D.A. Carson clears up a question I’ve had about why the formerly blind man’s friends and neighbors would haul him off to the principal’s office rather than throwing a party for his miraculous change in circumstances:
In a day when almost all events bore religious overtones, the extraordinary healing cried out for comment by the religious authorities—much more so than the way that, in today’s world, after a significant international event millions of people will expect the Foreign Office or the State Department to express an opinion.
Sermons: John MacArthur makes a profound statement bursting with colorful imagery:
Since the fall, we’ve all been marked by corrupting influences—we’re all in the process of dying. But with Jesus, miracles explode in every direction.
In response to bad attitudes about troubled times, Mark Driscoll remarks that
The whole conversation changes when we stop asking why we’re suffering and start asking how we should be suffering—is there something to repent of, someone to comfort, or some way to encourage others?
I once read that suffering was never meant to be private; it’s a chance for community to develop and deepen, for the family of God to mourn with those who mourn. From the standpoint of someone who loves to give and loathes to receive, I am greatly challenged by the thought that my suffering is intended to be a blessing to others so that they can share in the process of learning to walk with the Lord. Opening myself up in need is just as much a gift to those around me as pouring my strengths into them when they ask for help.
Journaling: As I scratched out some thoughts about the first scene of the chapter, one particularly gripped me:
At first I wondered why Jesus would take the time to clear up yet another dumb question from His disciples before healing the blind man, but then I realized this might have been part of the healing, the emotional/spiritual side of it. How long must this man have listened to people accuse him or his parents of sin bad enough to warrant blindness? To hear these words of glory from the mouth of the One who would heal him must have impacted him greatly.
Meditation: This chapter’s main character captivated my imagination. What happened to him afterward? Could he have joined the disciples and become one of the 72? Or maybe he stayed in his hometown and married that girl he’d always thought had a nice voice? How did his relationship with his parents evolve? While these musings swirled around my brain, the scene of verse 38 stood out:
Then the man threw himself at His feet and worshiped Jesus and said, “Lord, I believe in You!” (TPT)
This guy has probably spent his whole life on the ground, begging for his bread. Now he finds himself in the same dust again, but this time, everything is different. Though he’s homeless, he’s finally home at the feet of Jesus.
Well, that wraps it up. China’s Great Wall will forever hold a special place in our hearts, but let’s not forget the adventure that still lies ahead. Onward!
*Following the study schedule right along, my binder is thickening up with doodles, prayers, and tons of background information on the text. This summary is just the condensed version, the highlights of each approach—you can find my full binder notes for John 9 here.