This morning, we are going to walk where Jesus walked when He walked to Nazareth, and our text is Matthew chapter 13, verses 53 through 58. We’re really completing a study which we began last Lord’s Day of this often overlooked text, and I want to read, as we begin, from verse 53 through 58, and you follow.
“And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. And when He had come into His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, ‘From where hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brethren James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? From where then hath this man get all these things?’ Ando they were offended in Him. But Jesus said unto them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and in his own house.’ And He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”
Now in these two Sundays, as we’ve been finishing up the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, we are discussing the power of unbelief. “He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” History chronicles for us the power of unbelief to stop the blessing of God.
Eve failed to believe God, and the whole world was cursed. The world itself failed to believe God’s Word through Noah, and was destroyed in the flood. Israel refused to believe God, and wandered forty years in the desert. Again refused to believe God, and ultimately was scattered throughout the earth to suffer for centuries.
Pharaoh refused to believe God’s Word through Moses, and lost his slaves, his son, and his army. Aaron refused to believe the Word of God about worship, led the people into idolatry, and as a result, lost 3,000 lives. Moses refused to believe God, and it cost him the long-awaited Promised Land. Achan refused to believe God, and was killed, along with his whole family. Nebuchadnezzar rejected God’s Word, and became a raving maniac. Sennacherib blasphemed God’s Word, and an angel of the Lord slew 185,000 of his soldiers, and he himself was slain by his own sons.
The rich young ruler refused to believe in the words of Jesus Christ, and was damned to hell. The Pharisees refused to believe Jesus Christ, and died in their sins, and went to a place where they would never know anything but pain and suffering. And many would-be disciples refused to believe Jesus when He talked about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, and they walked no more with Him, and stepped into eternity without God. Felix wouldn’t believe, and Festus wouldn’t believe, and Agrippa wouldn’t believe when Paul presented to them the gospel of the grace of God; and they were lost forever. And maybe the greatest illustration of unbelief, because of his proximity to the truth, was Judas, who in living three years in the presence of the Living Truth never did believe, and was damned to go to his own place.
We talk a lot about the power of faith. And faith has the power to bring blessing. Faith has the power to bring eternal life. Faith has the power to bring heaven.
And, conversely, unbelief brings pain, and sorrow, and remorse, and eternal hell. The fearful power of unbelief. “He that believeth” – says our Lord – “is redeemed. But that believeth not is condemned.” The power of unbelief.
Now this is the final element in our Lord’s instruction to the disciples in chapter 13. He has given them the parables of the kingdom, which describe the age which they will confront. And the parables have warned them that when they go out into the world to preach the kingdom – as we must do today as well – they and us will be confronted with unbelief.
There will be that hard soil. There will be that shallow soil. There will be that thorny soil or weedy soil. There will be those tares. There will be plenty of people who will not see the kingdom as a pearl of great price, who will not see salvation as a treasure hidden in a field, to be purchased by the trading of all that they possess. There will be out there unbelief; that’s the character of this form of the kingdom. And our Lord is telling His disciples that as they go into the harvest field, as they go to proclaim the kingdom, as they go to call men to repentance and salvation, they must be aware that they will face unbelief.
In fact, beginning in chapter 13, verse 53, and extending all the way through the twelfth verse of the sixteenth chapter, the Lord gives eight little incidents where people are confronted with the message of the kingdom. And in only two of the eight is there belief; in six of the eight, there is not. It’s the same ratio, again, as the soils: one to four – one good soil, and three that are non-receptive to the gospel. And so having said it’ll be this way, the Lord then illustrates it in Matthew’s gospel with eight responses to the message of the kingdom.
The first response is given to us in the end of this chapter. It is an incident where our Lord leaves Capernaum and enters the village where He was raised, the village of Nazareth. Verse 54 says it’s His own country. The parallel passage in Mark affirms the same. It is Nazareth, the little village where our Lord lived until His ministry began.
Here is the real fulfillment of John 1:11, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” For thirty years in their presence, He had lived a perfect life. And when He comes back to present to them the message of the kingdom, their unbelief stares Him in the face, and He is thwarted from doing mighty works in their presence. The power of unbelief.
Now as I told you last time, this is the Lord’s second visit to Nazareth. He had been there about a year earlier, at which time they had tried to throw Him off a cliff and kill Him. They were so upset that He claimed to be the Messiah, instead of accepting Him as the gift of God. His wisdom they couldn’t deny. His miracles they couldn’t deny. They had benefited from both. He promised them that He was the Messiah. He showed them that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah 61. And instead of, in joy, embracing their Messiah and His kingdom, they endeavored to kill Him.
And now, about a year later, He comes back; and He follows basically the same format as the first time, in verse 54. He taught them in their synagogue. He again went into the synagogue, sat down, and taught. And you know well what He taught; He taught them the wisdom of God. He taught them again that He was the fulfillment of the promise of God, and they were astonished, they were astonished. It sounds like a great beginning. They were astonished.
At the end of verse 54, they said, “From where hath this man this wisdom and these mighty works?” They couldn’t deny His wisdom; it was undeniable. When He opened His mouth, everything that came out was so profound it staggered them; and yet so clear and so simple, it was equally hard to believe. His speech was that which was unique to Himself, and that is why they said on another occasion, “Never a man spake like this man.”
And they couldn’t deny His mighty deeds and His miracles either; they were everywhere. And so in hearing Him teach, they were astonished, astounded, amazed, in wonder. It was hard for them to comprehend the depth, the clarity of His wisdom, and the obvious power that He had to do miracles. And yet, in verse 58, it says that He couldn’t do His mighty works there because of their unbelief.
Now how is it that you can be unbelieving in the face of such an astounding individual? How is it that you can reject Jesus Christ when His wisdom and His power are inexplicable in human terms? How is it that you cannot believe He is from God, when there’s only one explanation for what He says and what He does, and that is that God is with Him? Even Nicodemus came to Him, and said in John 3, “We know Thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do the things that Thou doest except God be with Him.”
And again and again did Jesus said to the people, “Believe My words, and believe Me for the very words sake.” And the amazing thing, as I pointed out to you last time, is that one of the greatest apologetics for the deity of Jesus Christ is the fact that His enemies always affirmed His power. His enemies never denied His miracles, and they never denied His wisdom. It’s only His contemporary enemies who are foolish enough to do that.
The ones alive when He lived never tried that. It was too obvious that He had wisdom and power beyond human explanation. They never denied that. But they never made the logical connection between that power, and that wisdom, and God. And it wasn’t because the connection wasn’t apparent; it was apparent. They were willfully unbelieving; and that is one of the responses that we’re going to have to the proclamation of the gospel in this age. That’s the stony ground. That’s the hard soil. The seed never even penetrates, because there is a hard heart of bitter unbelief.
And we saw last time why it is that men’s hearts are hardened in unbelief. In John chapter 3, and verse 18, “He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” And the reason he is condemned for his unbelief is that, “Light has come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. And everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”
Listen to me. It was not a lack of evidence that caused them to be unbelieving, it was a love of evil – big difference. It was not a lack of proof, it was a love of their sin. They did not want to abandon themselves to what was obvious. They did not want to be exposed as sinners. They did not want to turn from their sin.
And I submit to you that that’s still the problem. It isn’t a lack of evidence today that causes people to be hard and unbelieving, it is a love of evil. They do not wish to come to the truth, lest their deeds should be made manifest.
And so with that in mind, as the sense of what’s happening in Nazareth, let me remind you of the four lessons that we learn about unbelief in this incident. And the first one we looked at last week: Unbelief blurs the obvious. They asked the most ridiculous question imaginable at the end of verse 54: “From where hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?”
There was only one answer to that, and it was obvious what it was. It was from God; for only God could do what He did: banish disease from Palestine, speak with such astounding clarity and wisdom. Such depth, such profound truth could only come from God. But because they will not accept Jesus as from God, they blurred out what is obvious with a question that only shows their stupidity: “From where hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?” They blurred out the obvious.
Now keep yourself in remembrance of this, that when you propagate the gospel of Jesus Christ, and you have done it with clarity, and people are hard and unbelieving, it is not, even though they may demand it, that they need more proof, it is that they need to be broken in their love of their sin.
Now that leads us to a second things, and it’s connected closely with the first one. This is the second lesson we learn about unbelief. Unbelief also builds up the irrelevant. If you have ever had occasion to witness to someone who is resistant and unbelieving, inevitably, after they have blurred out what is patently obvious in the presentation of the gospel message, after they have willingly refused to see what is clear, they will then attach themselves to something that is totally irrelevant, and press that to divert you from the real issue.
Maybe you’ve brought someone to church, and as you’re going home or as you spend time with them, you present Christ to them, and you get comments like this: “Well, they weren’t very friendly.” “Well, I didn’t like the seat. The guy in front of me kept moving his head, and I was disturbed.” “The guy is too loud who preaches there, or too long.” And those are sure marks of carnality.
Or maybe he was offended by something that was said: “I’ll never go back there again. He said such-and-such about such-and-such,” and they build up this big smokescreen of that which is irrelevant; and the real issue is, “What about your eternal soul? What about the claims of Jesus Christ? What about the gospel of the kingdom?” Not, “What about the pew, or the length of the sermon, or the looks of the preacher, or the whatever.”
But, you see, invariably, unbelief diverts itself off the main issue. It is settled on self-justification, and it moves to that which is irrelevant. And you can tell a true seeker from one that isn’t. You present the gospel, and they say, “Well, tell me more about that. Well, tell me more about that. Well, how does that happen? Well, how do I make that my own? Well, how do I appropriate the gospel? Well, how do I really know the resurrection is valid?”
Well, here’s the evidence: “Oh how wonderful that it is true.” You can tell that from the person who just doesn’t believe any of it, and wants to divert you from that which is the real issue at hand and get you off onto all kinds of other stuff. And that’s what they do in their self-justification. And they were the ultimate kind of egotists, believing that they had already attained to the kingdom of God through their legalism. They weren’t willing to back up and confess their sinfulness and accept Jesus Christ.
They were also totally blown away by the fact that anybody from their town could have arisen to such power. They just wouldn’t accept that somebody from their community could have gone higher than they did. There was a pride issue, a jealousy issue, an envy issue, a pettiness issue. That was all bound up in their evil hearts of unbelief. And so they come up with all of this totally irrelevant stuff in verses 55 and 56: “Is not this the carpenter’s son?”
Now I can’t think of anything more irrelevant than that. What does that have to do with the truth of what He said? The fact that His father was a carpenter has nothing to do with it. Then it says, “Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers, aren’t they James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Judas?” James, the one who later became the head of the Jerusalem Church, and presided at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. Joseph, obviously named for his father. Simon, not to be confused with Peter. And Judas, not to be confused with Judas in the apostles.
“And His sisters,” – verse 56 – “are not all of them with us? I mean this is just Jesus. He’s just the son of the carpenter,” tektōn. The word means “one who works with hard material.” And some believe it could indicate that His father was a mason, because homes were built out of brick. If he was a homebuilder, he would have built out of brick, and then he would have made door frames and window frames and other things like that out of wood; and so he would have worked with both hard materials.
It may well have been that he was a carpenter who made plows, yokes, and other wood implements. But he was a common laborer; and it’s wonderful – isn’t it? – how God dignifies common labor by bringing the Messiah into such a family. And no doubt, when His father died – and he’s unnamed here, which may mean that he was dead by this time – Jesus had taken over the business, perhaps, before He began His ministry.
And so they’re saying, “Look, this can’t be anybody special; we know His family.” What an irrelevant thought. What does that have to do with His message? How does that in any way, shape, or form impact the fact that He did miracles? How can you use that to explain away the fact that He raised the dead?
It is irrelevant. That is not the issue. But that is so typical of unbelief. It will find something that doesn’t matter, and attach itself to that, and make that an issue, and divert you. And now they want to get into a discussion about whether He’s got the family credentials. How silly. What a betrayal.
Mark adds that they also said, “Is not He a carpenter?” Not only did He not have the right family, but He just didn’t have the right kind of trade. I mean He was just a common person. And I mean His brothers were just His brothers. And His sisters, “We know them. This can’t be anyone special.” Now, you see, it’s hard for us to understand as Christians how they could just ignore this mass of miracles, and this tremendous teaching, and just get stuck on this issue. But that is the character of unbelief.
In seventh chapter of John, and the fifteenth verse, the same approach is used again, this time in Jerusalem. He comes there, and verse 14 tells us He again went into the temple, and He taught, just like He had done in Nazareth. And the same reaction: the Jews marveled, just like being astonished in Nazareth. I mean they’re just literally amazed at His teaching.
But this is their reaction: “How knoweth this man letters, never having learned? This guy can’t be – I mean He can’t be who He obviously is, because He hasn’t been to the right school; He doesn’t have his degree.” You see, they have all these false criteria. So they ignore His words, they ignore His works, and they disqualify Him because of a lack of credentials.
You know, they did the same thing to the apostles in Acts chapter 4: “Peter and John say, ‘Neither is there salvation in any other. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.’ And now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived they were uneducated and ignorant men, they marveled.”
“I mean how can these hayseeds from up in northern end Galilee know all this?” That isn’t the issue. The fact is, they do; and so they divert to that which is totally extraneous to the issue.
Just a note. “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” and as Mark indicates, “Is not He Himself a carpenter?” indicates probably that Joseph was dead. “Is not His mother called Mary?” indicates that they perceived Mary as an ordinary person, certainly far less than some perceive her under the term “the queen of heaven.” She was just very common. “And His brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas.” And He certainly is being connected to them in the family.
There are some who would like us to believe that Mary never had any other children. The Roman Church calls it perpetual virginity. But that is against the obvious indication of this text. And they would say that perhaps they’re using the word “brethren” here in some kind of a religious sense. Hardly. These are the enemies of Jesus. They’re trying to debunk Him to discredit Him, and they’re trying to do it by showing that He comes from a common family. And that’s the intent of their criticism.
And Mary did have children. That’s why in Luke, it tells us very explicitly that Jesus was her firstborn; and the implication of that is that there were others that followed. And here, they are even named. We have already met them in chapter 12, verses 46 and 47. They are indicated in John 2:12, John chapter 7, Acts chapter 1, and so forth.
So Mary, very ordinary woman, albeit a woman of great godliness, but not supernatural. The brothers and sisters, very ordinary people. And the question is, “With this kind of family, from where then hath this man all these things? I mean He doesn’t have the heredity to pull this off. He doesn’t have the training. He doesn’t have the education. He’s not from the elite.”
Now this says something very interesting. As a footnote, you know, when we think about the period of time from the Lord’s birth to His ministry, that thirty-year period, most Bible teachers sort of figure that Luke 2 is the only insight we get into that whole period where the Lord was twelve – you remember? – and He went to the temple with His parents, and He went into the temple, and He was asking questions of the doctors in the temple. And, of course, they had to go back and get Him.
And the text says, “He was growing in wisdom and stature, and favor with God and man.” And many believe that’s the only sort of insight we get into that gap of time: “He was growing in wisdom and favor with God and man,” – so forth – “stature.” But I believe this is also one of those kinds of passages, and we haven’t always seen it that way. This, to me, is a tremendous insight.
Now there are very many fanciful, sort of wishful dreams about the time of our Lord when He was from His childhood to thirty. And some have tried to tell us that, you know, He was manifesting His deity in wonderful ways. He as a little boy, would walk down the road, and He’d found a bird with a broken wing, and He’d stroke its wing, and then it would fly away. Or He would find a calf with a broken leg, and He would heal its leg. Or He would find a little child that was ill, and He would heal the child. And they sort of have Jesus going through these thirty years doing all kinds of miracles here and there. But this text militates directly against that.
You see, the problem the people in Nazareth have is very simply this problem: they cannot relate the Jesus they’re seeing now to the Jesus they knew for the prior years, which indicates that there was nothing about Him that went beyond that which was human, in the sense of overt acts of deity. Oh, yes, He was perfect. Oh, yes, He was sinless. But there are no indications that He demonstrated divine power during that time.
I believe that when Jesus became man, as it tells us in Philippians 2, He humbled Himself, He took on Himself the form of a servant, on Himself human form. I believe in every sense, those years were lived in the confines of His humanness. Sinless, yes, but not with manifestation of divine power. That’s why they didn’t make the connection.
“This is the carpenter’s son. This is the one we knew as a carpenter. This is the son of Mary, and the brother of these men and these ladies. This is not anybody, any special person.” And I think that rises out of the fact that there were no indications during that period of the manifestation of His deity. Their confusion initially was based on His commonness. Oh, how humble. Oh, how obscure did God become, that He might be a sympathetic High Priest for us.
And so they drag out the commonness of His life as if it were the issue, and they say at the end of verse 56, “From where then hath this man all these things?” They asked the right question, but they will not believe the right answer. They are unbelieving in spite of the right question. The one thing they can’t believe is that it’s from God, because He is too common, and because they can’t live with the fact that one of their own should be so anointed above His fellows. Hard for people to handle that.
So unbelief blurs the obvious, and builds up the irrelevant. Thirdly, unbelief blinds to the truth. And now we see how blind they are. Verse 57: “They were offended by Him.” And the word “offense,” skandalizō, scandalized, they stumbled, simply means there was a wall.
They just stumbled over it. They couldn’t handle it. This couldn’t be the Messiah. They were offended at Him. “It can’t be Him!” They were offended by His background. They were offended by His commonness. They were offended by the fact that He came from their town.
And believe me, they were offended by what He taught too, because He must have unmasked their hypocrisy and spoken to them in true terms of entrance into the kingdom. He must have talked to them of their sinfulness, and the need to repent; and the whole thing offended them, it scandalized them. They were not neutral; they were adamantly antagonistic and bitter toward Him. And just as Isaiah had said, and as our Lord had reiterated in the beginning of chapter 13, “Their eyes would not see, their ears would not hear, their minds would not understand. They were blinded.”
Paul tells about it, 1 Corinthians chapter 1, and verses 23 to 28, that wonderful section. He says, “The Jews look at Christ and they stumble, they stumble. But we who believe see Him as the power of God, and the wisdom of God. His words and His works to us reveal God. His words and His works to them cause them to stumble,” – why? – “because they wouldn’t believe.” “Why wouldn’t they believe?” “Because they were not ready to have the sin revealed.”
Now, people, when you go out to present the gospel, that is the bottom line. It isn’t more proof that people need, it is a willingness to abandon their sinfulness; and that demands that plowing of the hard soil that is the preparation work of the Spirit of God. And sometimes God will use us as tools to help in that plowing process. But until that is done, and they’re willing to break with their sinfulness, there can be no believing, there can be no seeing, there can be no understanding.
“The natural man” – says Paul – “understandeth not the things of God.” And when the apostle Paul talks about why God set apart Israel, he says in one sentence: “They were broken off by unbelief, a refusal to believe,” not because the facts aren’t there, but because there’s not a willingness to deal with sin.
So our Lord is giving us a beautiful illustration, and to the disciples as well, that when you go out into the world in this era of the kingdom, in this mystery form, you will hit unbelief, and this is how you can recognize it. Only those who believe will understand.
In John 8, the Lord said, “If you continue in My word, you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” It is only those who show a willingness who will understand. The heart has to be open. You remember the story of Lydia, in Acts? It says, “whose heart the Lord opened, and the gospel message came.” That’s the pattern.
And the Lord responds with a statement that He used on several occasions, verse 57. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, and in his own house.” That was a proverb. He was saying, in a sense, “I’m fulfilling a proverb. All experts are from out of town, right? Nobody can be an expert from our town. I mean this is just Him. I mean this is just Him, it’s nobody special.” He’s saying, “You have fulfilled the proverb; you have rejected Me.”
And, you know, even more tragic; in John chapter 7 – and I’ll just read this to you – it says this, verse 5: “For neither did His brothers believe in Him.” Even in His own house, they didn’t believe in Him, which again demonstrates to me that there was a tremendous amount of obscurity in those years.
And it also demonstrates to me the typical human envy and jealousy, even within His own family. You can imagine how it would be to live thirty years with a brother who was perfect and never sinned a sin. That would get to you, constantly being the perfect standard by which you saw your own imperfection. And so there was no honor in His own town; He was just nobody. There was no honor in His own house; He was just older brother. And there was a lot of jealousy and envy.
Oh, how their unbelief blinded them; much as it says in Deuteronomy 32:20, “They were children in whom is no faith.” And what happened? Fourth lesson: Unbelief blocks the supernatural. As a result, verse 58 says, “He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. He didn’t do many mighty works because of their unbelief.”
Now listen, and I’ll try to explain that verse to you simply. God did, through Christ, many mighty works. Many of them were done in response to a person’s faith. Some of them were done where there was no faith exercised. Many of Jesus’ miracles were done where there was no faith. For example, when He raised the dead, you can believe there was no faith on the part of the dead. And you can also believe that when He cast demons out of demoniacs, there was no faith on the part of the demoniac.
There are times when He acted in response to faith. There are times when He acted where there was no faith. But He acted sovereignly, with or without faith, in terms of His healings and His dealing with people. But while faith then is not necessary for miracles in the Gospels, unbelief that is willing and hard and overt will always stop miracles. He may heal someone who is neutral, or someone who is somewhat open, or the man who says, “I believe, and help my unbelief,” where there’s a mixture. But where there is hardhearted unbelief, that blocks the supernatural.
I think of it in reference to Luke 17 where the ten lepers met Jesus, and Jesus said, “Now you go to the priest and show him that you’re clean.” You go pass their test that they gave, so that they could put lepers back into society, because they were outcasts.
And Jesus healed all ten of them. And how many came back? Only one; and the one came back to give glory to God. And Jesus said, “Where are the other nine? Only this one has come back to glorify Me.” And He said to him, “Your faith has made you whole.”
What did He mean? He didn’t mean, “You’re cleansed from your leprosy. He already had that, and so did the other nine. What He meant was, “I healed them physically by My sovereign choice. Their unbelief ended the process at that point. You came back. You received not only physical healing, but your faith has made you” – what? “whole.” And wholeness is not just physical, it’s physical and spiritual. And that man received the saving of his soul. So while God will heal with faith or without faith by His sovereign choice, when it comes to the unbelief of the heart, that will stop the divine and supernatural intervention.
You see, it goes right back to Matthew 7: “Do not give that which is holy to the dogs, and do not cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under your feet.” In Matthew 12, the Jews came, and said, “We want a sign. Do a miracle. Do a mighty work.” And He said, “I will give no such sign to this evil, adulterous, unbelieving nation.”
And so here it is, folks. You find a person who’s willfully hardhearted and unbelieving, and they can run around all they want demanding miracles, and God is not going to give them any, because that is not the issue at all. The issue is their sinfulness.
So unbelief is powerful. It blurs the obvious, builds up the irrelevant, blinds to the truth, and blocks out the supernatural. Now I want to illustrate this in an incident in John chapter 9, so turn to it, and we’ll pull it all together in this most wonderful story. Now I confess to you that the man in John 9 is one of my favorite people in the world. I am so anxious to meet him in heaven.
Let’s see what happened. John 9, verse 1: “As Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.” – never seen anything – “And the disciples said, ‘Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ – and they’re kind of holding on to the tradition that the sins of the parents are sort of borne by the children – ‘And was it his fault? Did he sin and get punished? Or did his parents sin, and he got punished for their sin?’ And the Lord said, ‘No, neither this man sinned, nor his parents. He is blind that the works of God should be manifest in him. He’s blind for the glory of God. It’s no sin issue at all; he’s blind for today, that he may be given his sight, and God may be glorified. He was created for a miracle. He was made blind for a miracle.’”
And then in verse 6, “When He had spoken, He spit on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.’ – and you notice it doesn’t say anything about the faith of the man; He just told him to go wash – “He went his way therefore and washed, and he came seeing.” – never seen in his whole life – “The neighbors therefore, and those who before had seen him that he was blind, said, ‘Is not this he that sat and begged? This is the blind beggar. And look at him; he can see.’ And some said, ‘This is he.’ And others said, ‘Oh, he just looks like him.’ And he said, ‘No, I’m he.’” I like this guy. I mean he’s right in there giving his testimony, “I’m the one. I’m the one.”
“And so they said to him, ‘How were thine eyes opened? How? How did it happen?’ He said, ‘A man who’s called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, “Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.” And I went and washed, and I received sight.’ Then said they unto him, ‘Where is He?’ – you know why they said that? Because they had problems too: aches, and pains, and diseases, and whatever, and they wanted to see Him – ‘He did this?’ And he said, ‘I do not know where He is.’”
And so they get the guy, and they scoop him up to bring him to the theological experts for an investigation. I call this part of the chapter “Unbelief Investigates a Miracle.” And you know what happens when unbelief investigates a miracle? Nothing really; and we’ll see that.
“So they brought to the Pharisees him that formerly was blind.” And, you know, these blind beggars sat at the gate every day; everyone knew who they were. “So they brought him in, and it was the Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. And then again the Pharisees asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, ‘He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I do see.’ Therefore,” – and I think that’s a great legal word, that’s a logical word, that’s a sequential word – “having heard the testimony of the man, ‘Therefore,’ – said some of the Pharisees – ‘this man is not from God.’” What a brilliant conclusion; and it’s astounding.
They bring the guy in, he has been blind all his life, he can now see, Jesus did it, therefore Jesus could not be of God. Great reasoning. But, you see, that’s what happens when unbelief investigates a miracle. You see, it sets up false standards, does biased research. And you say, “Well, how in the world could they say that? I mean how could they be so stupid as to say, ‘This man is not of God’?”
I’ll tell you why, verse 16: “Because He doesn’t keep the Sabbath day.” Oh, my. Oh, what a false standard. Now that’s blurring the obvious and building up the irrelevant, right? I mean that doesn’t answer the question, “How come he can see?”
You can’t just say, “He’s not of God because He didn’t keep our tradition on the Sabbath.” In the first place, their tradition was ridiculous. And the second place, it isn’t even the issue. So they blur the obvious, build up the irrelevant – so typical.
“But others said, ‘Well, how can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?’ – I mean there were a few rational people in the group – ‘How can you explain this?’ And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind again, ‘What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?’ He says, ‘He’s a prophet.’ – I mean you didn’t have to be Phi Beta Kappa to figure out that – ‘He came from God.’ But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that received his sight.”
I mean they are so hard, “They get his parents, and they said, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then doth he now see?’ His parents answered them and said, ‘We know that this is our son, and we know that he was born blind; but by what means he now sees we don’t know. And who has opened his eyes we don’t know.’ And then they said, ‘He’s of age; ask him. He’s a big boy, he can talk for himself.’” You see, they don’t even want to get in this deal, they’re afraid.
“They spoke,” – in verse 22 – “because they feared the Jews, for the Jews agreed already that if any did confessed that He was the Messiah, he’d unsynagogued,” which would be excommunication from the Jewish society. So anybody who said that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue, and they wanted nothing to do with this argument. “So they said, ‘Ask him.’ Therefore said his parents,” – verse 23 – ‘He’s of age; ask him.’”
“So they come back to this man again,” – if this isn’t ridiculous – “and they said to him, ‘Give God the praise. We know this man’s a sinner.’” In other words, “We’ve already made our conclusion about Jesus, just praise God. God must have done it.” It’s sort of unbelievable unbelief – isn’t it? – I mean just flying in the face of all the evidence, rejecting the facts, just blurring out the obvious, building up the irrelevant, blind to the truth, totally blind because of unbelief.
“And he answered them,” – verse 25 – ‘Whether He’s a sinner or not, I know not. One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.’ And they said to him again, ‘What did He to thee? How open He thine eyes?’” Now at this time, the guy is getting irritated, because they keep asking him the same question. “He said,” – and I like this boldness – ‘I told you already, and you did not hear. Why would you hear if I tell you again? Do you want to be His disciples?’” I love that. Boy, he’s sarcastic, isn’t he?
“And then they reviled him” – screaming profanity at him – “and said, ‘You’re His disciple. We’re disciples of Moses. We know that God spoke unto Moses; as for this fellow, we know not from where He is.’” But they should have known, shouldn’t they? It’s obvious.
“And the man says, ‘Why here is a marvelous thing, that ye know not from where He is, and yet He hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners; but if any man be a worshiper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth. And since the age began, was it not heart that any man open the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, He could do nothing.’”
Oh, now he’s preaching. He’s a better theologian than all of them put together. You see, he was ready to believe, wasn’t he? They weren’t. Both people had the same facts. One had a heart that was open, one had a heart that was closed.
“And so they said to him,” – and now they’re just throwing names at each other – “they said unto him, ‘Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us?’ – They’re just shouting profanity at him now – “and they threw him out.” “You had a sinful birth. Are you teaching us?”
“Jesus heard they’d cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, ‘Does thou’ – what? ‘believe on the Son of God?’ He answered and said, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I might believe on Him?’ And Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee.’ And he said, ‘Lord,’ – what? – ‘I believe.’ And he worshiped Him.”
And you know something? That man will spend forever in Christ’s presence; but the others, because of unbelief, blocked the supernatural. And in verse 39, “Jesus says, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that they who see not might see; and that they who see,’ – that’s the Pharisees who think they see everything – ‘might be made blind.’” He’s talking about the Pharisees, who think they see everything.
“And some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said unto Him, ‘Are we blind also?’ And Jesus said unto them, ‘If you were blind, you should have no sin. But now you say, “We see.” Therefore your sin remains.’” He said, “You’re sinners. You’re sinners.” Unbelief; tragic.
Be warned, would you? Be warned in the words of Hebrews 3:12. The writer of Hebrews says – and I’ll read it so I don’t miss it: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in you an evil heart of unbelief.” Let’s bow in prayer.
Father, we do see in this text the power of unbelief. And O God, we pray two things this morning, that there would not be any here who are living in unbelief, blurring the obvious, building up the irrelevant, blind to the truth, blocking the supernatural in self-justifying, love of sin, investigating Jesus Christ with such bias that they could never see the truth, though it were as obvious as it was to the Pharisees when they saw the blind man who could saw. Father, plow up the hard soil by Your Spirit, that there might be receptive hearts.
And then, Father, beyond those who need You here, give us a vision to reach a lost and unbelieving world, realizing that we can’t convince against the will, but need to be available when Thy Spirit is softening the will and plowing the soil. We need to be there to sow the seed. Help us not to be discouraged when we see unbelief, but to know it as a fulfillment of Thine own prophecies. But help us, Lord, to continue faithfully with that good soil, to sow the seed, that we may come rejoicing, bringing our sheaves with us, in Christ’s name. Amen.
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