Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Great Lent Week 6: The Blind Man

Volume 3 No. 130 March 14, 2013

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Crucifixion
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Apostolic Holy Lent Encyclical 2013: Charity

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_HH-encyclical-2013.htm

Bible Readings for This Sunday (Mar 17)

Sixth Sunday of Great Lent (Samiyo/The Blind Man)

Sermons for This Sunday (Mar 17)

Sermons for the Sixth Sunday in Great Lent (Samiyo/ The Blind Man)

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_6th-sunday-in-lent.htm

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation, reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible readings etc. First, read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week and day by day. You can find the resources here.

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Default.htm

Daily Reflections - Bible Readings, reflections and prayers for each day of the week: Week 6 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week6.htm

What is Keeping You Away From Success?

In every social structure, whether it be family, town, county or state, there are "The boys down at the stable." They are the jealous ones. They are too scared to try something different. They show their ignorance by laughing at those who do. Learn to recognize them for what they are. Don't let them hurt you. It takes a certain amount of toughness to succeed. One has to rise above those who would tear you down so that they can laugh and say, "I told you so!" ...

Featured: The Works of God and the Worship of Jesus

No matter what mess you're in or what pain you're in, the causes of that mess and that pain are not decisive in explaining it. What is decisive in explaining it is God's purpose. Yes, there are causes. Some of them your fault, perhaps, and some of them not. But those causes are not decisive in determining the meaning of your mess or your pain. What is absolutely decisive is God's purpose. ...

For Judgment I Came into This World

The mission of Jesus was not to condemn. It was to save. But he saves by being the truth and speaking the truth and doing the truth. And those who are not "of the truth" (John 18:37) refuse to embrace him as Savior, and therefore are condemned. The ministry of Jesus, which aims to save, inevitably reveals and confirms the blindness and unbelief that condemns. ...

Do You Still Not See (Even After Witnessing All The Miracles)?

Jesus put saliva on his eyes and placed his hands upon him. "Can you see anything?" rings the now familiar question. The man looked up and said, "I can see people, but they look like trees, walking." Putting his hands on the man’s eyes once more, Jesus restored the blind man’s sight. And he walked away seeing clearly. ...

Orthodox Man as The Image of God

The Word of God was made the Son of man in order that man might become God. He had to become all things to all man except sin. So, He comes as the perfect image of God and He gives us the possibility of restoring this likeness to God within ourselves. ...

When You Feel Like You're Not Enough

When we focus our thoughts on ourselves and how inadequate we feel, or what others think about us and how we're performing, we cast a shadow of doubt in our minds by blocking the light of God's Truth in our hearts. ...

Recipe for Chorukka (Bitter) for Good Friday

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Passion/chorukka-recipe.pdf

Family Special: What We See in Each Other

Like Samuel, we often make judgments based on what people look like. But God doesn't use looks as his criteria. He evaluates people by what's in their hearts. He sees their character, their faithfulness and their commitment to him. ...

About Malankara World

Apostolic Holy Lent Encyclical 2013: Charity
 
HH Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and All The East and Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, has issued the Apostolic Encyclical for Lent-2013. HH stresses the importance of charity in this year's message. Read the full encyclical in Malankara World.
This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (Mar 17)

Sixth Sunday of Great Lent (Samiyo/The Bland man)

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Sermons for This Sunday (Mar 17)
This Week's Features

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation, reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible readings etc. Read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week and then day by day. You can find the resources here:

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Default.htm

Week 6 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week6.htm

Daily Meditations and Bible Reading:

Day 35 - March 17 - Sixth Sunday of the Great Lent

Day 36 - March 18 - Monday before Hosanna

Day 37 - March 19 - Tuesday before Hosanna

Day 38 - March 20 - Wednesday before Hosanna

Day 39 - March 21 - Thursday before Hosanna

Day 40 - March 22 - Friday before Hosanna (40th Friday)

Day 41 - March 23 - Lazarus Saturday (Saturday before Hosanna)

What is Keeping You Away From Success?

by Bob Proctor

Many years ago a young lady who was attending a seminar shared an interesting story with me. Apparently she and two or three of her girlfriends went and tried out for a place in a stage play. She got the starring role while her girlfriends were not even picked for the supporting cast. Opening night she said she was really excited but afterwards became very disappointed when her girlfriends never came out and supported her. She was explaining the situation to an elderly friend of her fathers named Hap. He wrote her a letter and she gave me a copy with her permission to share it with others. Read it carefully and think.

Dear Ann,

Once upon a time there was a fellow by the name of Al Capp who wrote a comic strip called "L'll Abner." Many years ago he had some characters in his strip who lived in a town near Dogpatch. They were the town bums, the n'er do wells, the failures whose whole aim in life was to pass judgement on others. Their criticism and ridicule became so vehement that in time the rest of the people in the town became acutely conscious of it. "The boys down at the stable," as they were called because that's where they spent most of their time, soon set the social standards of the town. Nobody could do anything without their sanction.

Because they lived within the structure of their crummy little world, they would laugh and point their fingers at anyone and everyone who tried to be better than they were. As a result the people feared the ridicule of the boys down at the stable so much that they stopped trying. Soon everybody became bums and the town died.

In every social structure, Ann, whether it be family, town, county or state, there are "The boys down at the stable." They are the jealous ones. They are too scared to try something different. They show their ignorance by laughing at those who do. Learn to recognize them Ann, for what they are. Don't let them hurt you. It takes a certain amount of toughness to succeed. One has to rise above those who would tear you down so that they can laugh and say, "I told you so!"

There are too many of us who love you and want you to make it. I could put myself at the top of the list. You aren't going to fall flat on your face as they would have you. You are going to do a superb job. Remember this show is only a small step in the direction of greater things you will do, many of which are beyond your wildest dreams. All you have to do is want to. One of the things I like about you best is that you always give it hell for try.

The show will be a success because of you and others like you who try. There are only winners in the cast. The losers are gathered down at the stable laughing and hoping for your failure. If we could dig down deep inside them, I'm sure we'd find they want to win also, but are too scared to try, and they attempt to cover up their own failures as human beings by laughing at others. In a sense I'm sorry for them. Their guilt must make them very unhappy people.

Much love,

Hap

Source: Insight of the Day - Friday Story

Featured: The Works of God and the Worship of Jesus

by John Piper

Scripture: John 9:1–39

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is he." Others said, "No, but he is like him." He kept saying, "I am the man." So they said to him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" He answered, "The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.' So I went and washed and received my sight." They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know."

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" And there was a division among them. So they said again to the blind man, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet."

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" His parents answered, "We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself." (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore his parents said, "He is of age; ask him."

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, "Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner." He answered, "Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?" And they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." The man answered, "Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."

They answered him, "You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?" And they cast him out.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you." He said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him. Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind."

Last time, we focused on verses 1–5. Jesus sees a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples ask about the cause of the blindness. Jesus turns the question around and says, in effect, human causes are not decisive in explaining things. Divine purposes are decisive. Verse 3: "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents [human causes], but that the works of God might be displayed in him [God's purpose]."

The reason causes are not the ultimate explanation for things is that God is not ultimately a responder but ultimately a planner. In other words, when God ordains that something happen, God is not, at the bottom, responding to human causes. He is, at bottom, planning a purpose.

All Things for Good - Even Mess and Pain

The implication of this for your life is profound. No matter what mess you're in or what pain you're in, the causes of that mess and that pain are not decisive in explaining it. What is decisive in explaining it is God's purpose. Yes, there are causes. Some of them your fault, perhaps, and some of them not. But those causes are not decisive in determining the meaning of your mess or your pain. What is absolutely decisive is God's purpose. "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him" (verse 3).

And if you will confess your sins, and hold fast to Jesus as your Rock and your Redeemer and your Riches, God's purpose for your mess and your pain will be a good purpose. It will be worth everything you must endure. We know this is true because God says so. Romans 8:28: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

God Himself: The Greatest Treasure

Of course, none of this will make sense, or be helpful, if God himself, and the glory of his incomparable works, is not your greatest treasure. When Jesus says, the purpose of this blindness is "that the works of God might be displayed in him," he assumes the manifestation of the works of God, has a value that outweighs years and years of blindness. Both for the man and his parents.

In order to embrace that, we have to value the manifestation of the works of God more than we value seeing. Indeed more than we value life itself. Psalm 63:3 says, "Your steadfast love is better than life." And Jesus said to the prisoners in Smyrna, "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." Being loved by God, and being with God forever, is better than having eyes and better than being alive in this world. If we don't believe that, then saying that God has wise and good purposes in all our losses, will not be much comfort. But if we do believe it, not only will God's purposes comfort us and strengthen us, but they will make us able to patiently, and gently help others through their times of darkness.

Jesus: Doing the Works of God

Now here we are at verses 6–7 and the actual healing of the man born blind: "Having said these things, [Jesus] spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam' (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing."

Here's an observation that sets the stage for everything else in this chapter. Jesus said in verse 3 that the man was blind so that the works of God would be manifest. But then he said in verse 4, "We must work the works of him who sent me." And in verse 6 Jesus himself made the mud and healed him. So the stage is set for the question: Who is this Jesus? How are we to respond to this Jesus, who says God's work is going to be shown here, and then does the work himself?

Controversy Divinely Designed

And I'll tell you ahead of time what's going to happen so you can watch it unfold. The controversy that follows is all designed by God to show how the person and work of Jesus leads some to blasphemy and some to worship. The blasphemy is in verse 24: "So for the second time they [the Pharisees] called the man who had been blind and said to him, ‘Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.'" In other words, God gets glory when you call Jesus a sinner. That is blasphemy. "You are glorifying God when you are demonizing Jesus" is blasphemy.

But that was not the only response to the healing of this blind man. There is also worship. This is in verse 38. It's the climax of the story. The last thing the man does in this text before he disappears from the story is worship Jesus: "‘Lord, I believe,' and he worshiped him." In the other six places in this gospel where the word "worship" (Greek proskuneo) is used, it means really "worship," not just "fall down."

Toward Blasphemy and Worship

So that's where the story is going. Jesus has himself done the works of God. And those who have eyes to see say with John 1:14, "We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." That's what the blind man saw. That's what the Pharisees did not see, which is why this chapter ends with blindness just like it began, only of a worse kind.

So let's see how things unfold toward blasphemy and worship.

Why Mud?

Why did Jesus use mud to heal the blind man? I suggest two reasons. One is explicit in the text, and the other seems implied.

First, Jesus did it because it was against the law to do it on the Sabbath - against the Pharisee's understanding of the law - and he meant to unleash the controversy that would bring out both the blasphemy and the worship (compare 1 Corinthians 11:19). You can see this in verses 13–14: "They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes." So the mud-making is explicitly connected with the Sabbath and the Pharisees. They had developed many applications of the prohibition of work on the Sabbath, and one of them was the kneading of dough. And the word for mud or clay here is the same as the word of dough. Jesus had broken the law against kneading dough, or clay, or mud.

Why the Sabbath?

Why would he do this? To show that he was "Lord of the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:8). He defines the Sabbath. To show what the point of Sabbath rest is. The point of Sabbath rest is healing. That's why you rest. Healing! The point of Sabbath rest is that we are helpless and God creates, God sustains, God heals, we don't. What day could be better for God incarnate to find a broken man and heal him - to give him and his parents rest from all the struggles of blindness? That's what the Sabbath is for - God-exalting blessing to broken and weary humans.

And he did it on the Sabbath to trigger this controversy that goes on for 41 verses. Hearts are exposed in this controversy. And not just exposed. Hearts are shaped. Faith doesn't just get revealed; faith gets strengthened. This blind man becomes clearer and clearer about who Jesus is. And he becomes stronger and stronger in his courage in defending Jesus against very dangerous adversaries. This is what Jesus was after: Clear sight of who he was, courageous confession of faith, and worship. And the expression of tragically blasphemous hearts.

That's the first reason for the mud. It was on the Sabbath and would unleash a firestorm for the sake of truth and faith and worship.

God Usually Uses Means

The second reason for the mud is to show that God usually uses means in doing his wonderful works in this world. Jesus could have simply spoken and the man's eyes would have been opened. Most of the wonders of God in the Old Testament were brought about by the use of human means. "The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord" (Proverbs 21:31). God is decisive in the victory, but he uses means. He doesn't need the horse, but he uses the horse.

Ponder this in the bigger picture of life for a moment. What this means is that God does not despise the physical world he has made. He uses the means of food to sustain life. He uses the means of sex to beget children. And he uses a thousand remedies to bring about healing - from sleep to penicillin. From Riboflavin to radiation. From sunshine on the skin to cough syrup for the throat.

Not Despising the Physical World

And lest you think this removes the mystery of God's wonderful work, consider boring down through layer after layer after layer of physical causes for why antibiotics work against strep. Forty or fifty layers down into the molecular, subatomic activities of the smallest particles, or non-particles, there comes a point where there is no explanation inside this closed material system. The final explanation is always God. And if our hearts are alive and humble and worshipful, we will not stop until we see God at the bottom of everything.

It is no small thing, to believe that God uses means to accomplish his purposes. And his purposes are that the glory of his work would be displayed. And therefore, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (Psalms 19:1). And so does all the rest of creation, if we have eyes to see. Jesus used mud. We may use mud - or medicine. The difference is how close to the surface the miracle is. Let your life be full of wonder at the works of God - and full of worship.

The Pool Called Sent

Now Jesus sends him away to wash in the pool of Siloam. Verse 7: "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing." The name of the pool meant "sent" and John bothered to point that out. Why?

Perhaps because the reason the pool was called Sent is that the water in the pool was sent there by stream from a distant spring. In pointing this out, Jesus may have been making a comparison between the pool called "Sent" and himself as the one "sent" from the Father as the living water (John 4:10–11). Verse 4: "We must work the works of him who sent me."

If that's right, then the water signifies not just cleansing, and not just healing, but life. In John 4, Jesus gives the woman at the well "living water" - the water of life. When you meet Jesus and receive him for who he is, you live, and you see, and you begin to be healed, and will be healed completely before he is done with you at the resurrection. All our seeing and all our healing is owing to new spiritual life that comes from Jesus - the Sent One.

Five Conversations Follow

Now come five conversations, and step by step the blind man's sight of who Jesus is becomes clearer, and his courage to defend him becomes stronger, until we reach the climax in verse 38 with worship.

1) The Beggar and His Neighbors (Verses 8–12)

The first conversation in verses 8–12 is between the man and his neighbors. They were arguing about whether he was the blind beggar. He insisted he is the one who as blind. So they ask in verse 10 how his eyes were opened. And he answers in verse 11, "The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes." So at this point, he simply calls him "the man." He knows his name, Jesus, but he simply calls him "the man."

2) The Beggar and the Pharisees (Verses 13–17)

The second conversation in verses 13–17 is between the man and the Pharisees. They too ask him (verse 15) how he could be seeing if he were blind. He tells them. They are divided by his answer. He can't be from God; he broke the Sabbath. How can he do this sign if he is a sinner? So they ask the beggar in verse 17, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?"

Something has happened in this interchange. Something is happening in the man's heart. He answers in verse 17, "He is a prophet." Not just an ordinary man, but one sent by God. He is a prophet.

3) The Pharisees and the Parents (Verses 18–23)

The third conversation in verses 18–23 is between the Pharisees and the man's parents. They ask in verse 19: Is he your son? Was he born blind? How does he see? They answer (verses 20–21): He is our son, and he was born blind, but we don't know how he was healed. And John says in verse 22 that the reason they said this was because they feared the Jews. (See also 7:13; 19:38; 20:19).

I think the point here is not to be hard on the parents, but to make the son's courage all the more amazing. The parents are like Nicodemus who in John 3:2 came to Jesus at night to avoid being seen, but in John 19:39 was openly assisting in his burial. They are on their way. But their son is moving much faster.

4) The Beggar and the Pharisees (Verses 24–34)

So in the fourth conversation in verses 24–34, we see the full-blown courage of the beggar - a mere beggar standing up to the most religious and educated people of the land! And we see the full-blown blasphemy of the Pharisees.

Verse 24: "Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner." Join us in our blasphemy. Or we will excommunicate you from the synagogue. Glorify God by calling Jesus a sinner. Amazingly he responds to this threat with his most famous statement of all: "Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." The power of a personal testimony over a bad argument is very great.

The truth about Jesus was going deeper all the time. He is seeing more and more. And his courage becomes scorn. Verse 27: Why do you want to hear my story again, "Do you also want to become his disciples?"

And now they become hostile. Verses 28–29: "They reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." The controversy exposes another deceit. No, they are not disciples of Moses. Because Jesus said in John 5:46, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me." Now we start to see who is really blind in this story.

His courage for Jesus continues to grow. Verses 30–33: "Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."

This is simply astonishing what has happened in this man's soul. They can't handle it. So they cast him out with contempt. Verse 34: "‘You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?' And they cast him out." Yes, he had become their teacher. The blind man was seeing more and more clearly. And their blindness was hardening.

5) Jesus and the Beggar (Verses 35–38)

Which leads to the last conversation in verses 35–38 between Jesus and the beggar. And one thing that makes it so significant is that Jesus initiates it. The man has been threatened and cast out of his lifelong religious community. But Jesus seeks him and finds him (it's no accident that the next chapter is about Jesus as the Shepherd who gathers his sheep). Verses 35–38:

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you." He said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him."

And that's the last thing we see or hear of him. That is the point of the story. Jesus does the works of God. Jesus is the glory of God. Jesus is to be worshipped. The man was blind. And then he called Jesus "the man." And then he called him a prophet. And then he defended him at huge risk. And then fell down and worshipped. This is why Jesus came into the world. He is seeking worshipers.

Four Questions

So I close with four questions for you, and three statements.

1. Do you worship Jesus?
2. Do you find your worship of Jesus deepening or weakening in the midst of threat and danger?
3. Does your worship falter or flourish when your family is fearful or unbelieving?
4. Do you confess him openly and defend him with your simple testimony, I was blind, but now I see?

Three Statements

To encourage you in each of those four ways, here are three statements:

1. God has a wise, good, and Christ-exalting purpose for everything that happens to you.
2. Jesus is the only path to the full, final, joyful experience of that purpose.
3. Jesus sought out this rejected blind man - this nobody, this beggar - and he is seeking you out right now. To make you a courageous worshiper of Jesus.

©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission. Website: desiringGod.org

For Judgment I Came into This World

by John Piper

Scripture: John 9:35–41

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you." He said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him. Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, "Are we also blind?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains."

It continually amazes me that the Gospel of John, even though it has the reputation for being the simplest Gospel, nevertheless, again and again tackles some of the hardest and most complex issues in life and doctrine, even in philosophy. These are always issues that really matter. And the Gospel does that again today in John 9:39–41.

One of the issues that troubles us when we start to take the sovereignty of God seriously - which this Gospel does, perhaps more bluntly than any of the others, especially in regard to our salvation - is that human beings seem less responsible, less accountable for what we feel and know and do. The more complete and the more extensive the sovereign power of God over our lives and our hearts, the more we start to wonder if we really can have any accountability for our own actions. If we sin are we really responsible for our sinning? That's what these verses are about when you scratch just a little beneath the surface.

God's Sovereignty in Our Salvation

Here's a glimpse of what I mean by this Gospel's emphasis on the sovereignty of God in our salvation.

In John 3:3, Jesus says, "Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." And then he says in verse 8, "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." The Spirit gives life and sight where he wills. When we are aware of being awake spiritually, we have already been awakened. God did it before we did it.

God Goes Before

In John 6:37, Jesus says, "All that the Father gives me will come to me." And in verse 44, he says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." And in verse 65, he says, "No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." So coming to Jesus is a gift. We don't do it on our own then get the gift. Our coming is the gift.

Or in John 10:26, Jesus says, "You do not believe because you are not part of my flock." And in John 8:47, he says, "The reason why you do not hear [my words] is that you are not of God." And in John 18:37, he says, "Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." So our listening to his voice and our hearing his words and our believing on him are all owing to something that went before. Something God did.

Then How Are We Accountable?

That is what I mean by the sovereignty of God in this Gospel of John. And the more you see it and the more seriously you take it, the more urgent becomes the issue raised in John 9:39–41 - the issue of human accountability, human responsibility. If God must act first and decisively to give me life and sight and faith, how am I accountable to act?

Let's read these three verses again. John 9:39–41:

Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, "Are we also blind?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt [literally, sin]; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt [literally: sin]; remains."

Blindness as a Spiritual Picture

This chapter began with Jesus healing a man born blind. A physical miracle happened. Jesus did it on the Sabbath, and he did it by making mud (which the Pharisees said was against the Sabbath law). And so a conflict is unleashed. And as the conflict progresses, it becomes plain that the blind beggar is seeing reality more and more clearly, and the Pharisees are seeing reality less and less clearly.

The beggar moves from seeing Jesus as a man (verse 11), to seeing him as a prophet (verse 17) to worshiping him (verse 38). But the Pharisees move the opposite direction. Verse 16: "This man [Jesus] is not from God." Verse 22: "If anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue." Verse 24: "This man [Jesus] is a sinner." Verse 34, to the beggar: "You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?"

And what becomes plain as we come to the last three verses is that what began as a miracle of healing physical blindness has become (as so often in this Gospel) a picture of healing spiritual blindness. And that's what raises the question. If we are spiritually blind, how can we be responsible to see? How can we be judged for not seeing if we are blind? That's where Jesus is going in verses 39–41.

Did Jesus Come to Judge or Not?

Verse 39: "Jesus said, 'For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.'" This is at first jarring because Jesus said in two other places that he did not come to judge the world. In John 3:17, he says, "God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." And in John 12:47, he says, "I did not come to judge the world but to save the world."

But the contradiction is only apparent. It's not real. When Jesus says that he did not come to judge, he means that condemnation is not his first or his direct purpose. He is coming to save. When he says, "For judgment I came into the world," he means that inevitably, as I save people by truth and love and righteousness, a division happens and rebellion is revealed and people are confirmed in their unbelief.

Mission: Salvation

It's like a doctor being called to amputate a man's arm, because of a horrible infection, in order to save his life. Just before the sick man goes under the anesthesia, he asks the doctor, "Did you come to cut off my arm," and the doctor answers: "I didn't come to cut off your arm, I came to save your life." And we would all know what he meant.

Or it's like a military special forces team being airlifted behind enemy lines to rescue of POW from certain death. They have grenades and guns and knives, but the commander says, "Your mission is not to kill. Your mission is to get the prisoner out. Do what you have to do."

Jesus' Ministry That Saves - And Condemns

The mission of Jesus was not to condemn. It was to save. But he saves by being the truth and speaking the truth and doing the truth. And those who are not "of the truth" (John 18:37) refuse to embrace him as Savior, and therefore are condemned. The ministry of Jesus, which aims to save, inevitably reveals and confirms the blindness and unbelief that condemns.

So in the second half of verse 39, Jesus explains how he has come for judgment. He has come for judgment "that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind." On the one hand, the judging sword (or scalpel) of Jesus is going to cut away the blinding calluses of the heart, and the blind will see. But on the other hand, there is a blinding effect of this saving work. Verse 39 at the end: "and those who see may become blind."

The Blinding Effect of Jesus' Saving Work

What does that mean? That's what the next two verses explain. And that's how the issue of our accountability is raised. Verse 40: "Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, "'Are we also blind?'" At this point Jesus sees straight through to where their minds are going. And we know what he sees because of the way he responds in verse 41.

The Pharisees are thinking (and Jesus sees through it), "Well, if we are blind, then we don't really have any sin or guilt. You can't judge a blind person for not seeing." That's where their minds are going. They are raising our objection for us―not that I like the idea of a Pharisee raising my objections for me.

We know this is what Jesus sees in their minds because here is the way he responds. Verse 41: "Jesus said to them, 'If you were blind, you would have no guilt [sin]; but now that you say, "We see," your guilt [sin] remains.'"

What the Pharisees Mean by Blindness

I will try to make this simple, but it is very subtle. In the first half of verse 41, Jesus is using the word blind in the sense that they just used it in verse 40. We have to do this many times when talking to people. Figure out the definitions they are using and then answer with those definitions.

Their definition goes something like this: Blindness is a condition of the mind that if you have it, you are not guilty of sin. And Jesus says, "Okay, I see where you are going. Using that definition, no, you are not blind." The first part of verse 41: You're right, given your definition of blindness, "If you were blind [using your definition], you would have no guilt [sin]." So you are not blind in that sense.

And, of course, the reason he says this is because they really are guilty of sin - unrelieved, unforgiven sin. Sin that will condemn them if they do not turn to Jesus for forgiveness.

Jesus' Unexpected Response

He's about to say that in the last part of verse 41. And what we expect him to say is this: "But now that you see, your guilt remains." But that's not what he said. He could have said that: Given your definition of blindness (that it removes accountability), it's plain that you are not blind; you see; and because you see, you are guilty, and no such blindness removes your accountability.

But that's not what he said. What he said was, "But now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt [sin] remains.'" In other words, according to what you say - according to your definition of blindness (as taking away responsibility), you're right; you are not blind. You see.

Another Kind of Blindness

But, in fact, you don't see. You are blind. And your guilt remains. Behind that little phrase, "you say that you see," is the profound statement of Jesus about our accountability: In reality they do not see. In reality they are blind. And their guilt remains. And they are accountable.

Which means that there is a kind of blindness - a blindness rooted in willful rebellion against the light of God. It is a moral, spiritual blindness, not a physical one. We are blind because we love the darkness (John 3:19). We are blind because we don't want to see the light or be guided by the light or have to confess our works to be works of darkness.

And this blindness does not diminish our guilt or remove our accountability. It is part of our guilt.

The Fork in the Road

To close, return with me to verse 39: "Jesus said, 'For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.'"

There's the fork in the road at the end of this message. We all walk down one path or the other. What does he mean, "He came that those who see may become blind?" Now we know from verse 41.

I take him to mean: Those who have perfectly good eyes in their heads, who can think and reason, who can see the evidences, and hear the sermons, and read the Bible, and get acquainted with Jesus, but who will not admit they are blind and need to be born again with spiritual life and light, they "become" blind - that is, their blindness is revealed and the more light that they resist, the harder and deeper becomes their blindness.

Let it not be so with you. Lay hold of the first half of verse 39, and believe in Jesus. "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see." He came to give you sight.

©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission. Website: desiringGod.org

Do You Still Not See
(Even After Witnessing All The Miracles)?

by Jill Carattini

"Give us a sign," demanded the Pharisees. "Give us a miraculous sign from heaven to prove yourself."

Jesus sighed deeply. "Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation." And Jesus turned away and got into the boat with his disciples. But the disciples soon discovered they had forgotten to bring any food; there was only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. Knowing what his disciples were thinking, Jesus questioned them. "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand?" It was a day of sighing.

"Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?" he asked. "When I broke the five loaves of bread for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?"

"Twelve," they replied.

"And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?"

"Seven," they said.

Unlike Matthew and Luke, who each provide detailed information about the historical scene or genealogical lineage of Christ, Mark, the teller of this story, seems to hit the ground running in his storytelling. The shortest of the Gospel accounts, Mark proceeds with intensity - skipping introductions, delving into events, speaking with immediacy. In fact, he uses the Greek word euthus - meaning immediately, straight away, at once - 42 times in 16 chapters. With a breathless pace, Mark’s utmost concern appears to be getting the story out and message across so that hearers hear and seers see the person before them. And yet ironically, in this Gospel of action and miracles and astonished crowds, he repeatedly takes note of the world of people who remain unseeing, a people forever demanding signs, forever missing the message. Sighing deeply, Jesus seems to ask repetitively: Do you still not see?

I fear how many times Jesus has asked of me this same question.

Yet with the words of Jesus still ringing in our ears, Mark wastes no time in getting to the next scene. Moving from the boat, Jesus is confronted by some people who ask him to touch their blind friend. Leading the man away from the crowd, Jesus put saliva on his eyes and placed his hands upon him. "Can you see anything?" rings the now familiar question. The man looked up and said, "I can see people, but they look like trees, walking." Putting his hands on the man’s eyes once more, Jesus restored the blind man’s sight. And he walked away seeing clearly.

Apparently, seeing takes time. Undoubtedly, we are all too often satisfied with walking trees. "Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?" It is the question Jesus placed before disciples and blind men, the very wise and the very wicked. What do you see? What do you hear? Do you understand? The blind man knew enough to know that what he saw was not as clear and coherent as eyes were intended to see. Though partial sight for him was itself a miracle, the one who touched his eyes was able to offer more.

That we might see, that we might see Christ, is the desire of God for every eye. What we see now may be like trees walking, though the Spirit is willing to open us up to further sight, and Christ remains to offer us more. As if pleased to answer his own question with lavish mystery, the divine reply comes again and again: No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.

About The Author:

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Source: A Slice of Infinity. Copyright © 2012 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, All rights reserved.

Orthodox Man as The Image of God

By Fr. George Rados

Recently, after celebrating a Sunday Liturgy, I returned home, had a light lunch, and fell asleep in the den. My four sons, who I had previously promised to take for a drive, were not all too anxious to allow me to sleep and your wildest imaginations would fall short of what they concocted in the way of noise to awaken me. Finally my six year old son pried open one of my eyelids, peered carefully, then replied : "He's still in there."

I could not help but equate this event with the topic of my sermon, Orthodox Man As The Image Of God. All too often do we, as creatures of the Almighty, forget that in each of us, no matter how spiritually depraved or perverted, is the ever present image of God. In some of us its very brilliance overshadows everything that we come in contact with and thus brings admiration and greater glory for God. On the other hand, there are those of us who live as though our existence depended only on our own initiative void of any spiritual power and thus denying the deity within us. Nevertheless, whether we recognize the fact or not. God's image pervades our natures from the very moment of our conception.

What then is the image of God in man and how are we as Orthodox Christians to understand our unique role in human history in relation to the image of God within us?

If we attempt to discover in the Church Fathers a clear definition of what it is in man which relates or corresponds to the divine image, we run the risk of losing ourselves amidst varying assertions, which, though not contradictory, cannot he applied to any one part of human nature. Sometimes the image of God is sought in the soul, or the principle, ruling part of man's being, in his mind, in the higher faculties such as the intellect, the reason, or in the freedom proper to man, the faculty of inner determination, by virtue of which man in the true author of his actions.

Saints Iraneus, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Palamas go even one step further in asserting that the body as well as the soul shares in the character of the image of God.

Holy Scripture, on the other hand, gives no precise account of the nature of the image, but it does, however, present the whole creation of man as an act apart, different from the creation of other beings. Like the angels, who as St. Isaac the Syrian puts it, were created 'in silence,' man was not formed by a divine command addressed to the earth. God did not command the earth to bring forth man as He did when he created the "grass and herb yielding seed after his kind, etc.." but rather, "God said : Let us make man according to our image and likeness."

All of mankind, however, as exemplified in Adam, was led astray by deception and deliberately drew upon himself that catastrophe which all mortals now share. So the image that had been made by God had been distorted by sin. We are all familiar with the narration of the fall of man in the book of Genesis, so it will not be my purpose to belabor the details of this well-known story. There is only one important fact to bring to light . Although the image of God was distorted by sin, it was never destroyed. This image resides in man insofar as he has an intellect and a will in his very nature. This can never be taken away. No matter how much man may sin, this image will always remain. From our own funeral service we hear: "I am the image of thy glory ineffable, though I bear the brands of transgressions."

So, God's image may very well be covered over, it may not be truly operating to the fullest of its power, but it can never be obliterated, never be really destroyed. Therefore, the whole aim or thrust of the Christian life is precisely to allow this seed of deification, filiation in Christ, to be developed through a lifetime of submitting to the will of God.

In this fact and this fact alone there is direction. God through Jesus Christ, His express Image, makes restoration possible. This is the great truth that the early Christians seized, and this is what made them so optimistic and so joyful in regard to God's created universe. Christ came to give us this tremendous revelation that God so loved us as to give us the possibility of becoming truly sons of God.

Life, therefore, is conceived as a battle, a struggle against the evil one and Christ opposes that evil one. We find ourselves between heaven and hell, yet no one can touch us, not even Christ, not even the devil, unless we really want to yield ourselves. Our whole life is patterned on this idea of restoring our original state, an reintegration into Christ. Christ came to restore man. He effects a recapitulation as St. Paul describes it.

The Word of God was made the Son of man in order that man might become God. He had to become all things to all man except sin. So, He comes as the perfect image of God and He gives us the possibility of restoring this likeness to God within ourselves.

The glory of all this revelation is that it is revealed to us, the Christian faith of Orthodoxy, through our sacred channels of truth, our Holy Tradition and our Holy Scripture. What an awesome responsibility lies upon Orthodox Man as the Image of God. It is left to us to bring all men to the knowledge of the truth. Is it any wonder that our rite of Baptism is also thought of as the layman's ordination? St. Peter tells us: "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people . . ."

God blessed the faith of the Hebrews and chose the Israelites to be a guide in the Old Testament world. The new dispensation, however, reveals to us that the Christian religion in general and the Orthodox Faith in particular has been the fulfillment of the law, of prophecy, and of salvation. How then do you as faithful Orthodox Christians understand your unique mission in life?

If you recognize your personal mission as being a means or a vehicle, or an example towards bringing others to that image, that likeness of God, are you yielding yourselves to Christ's influence, to His presence, and to His activity. In other words, are you living accordingly.

God has created all men with this basic drive towards union with him. God has implanted in every man this yielding, this drive. This image that will only be satisfied in the full fruition as a son of God. Our lives must be candles in the hands of these in darkness. Let us not slumber nor sleep, nor expect those in search of truth to pry open our eyelids to see if God is still within us for: "Behold the bridegroom cometh at midnight and blessed is the man whom He shall find awake."

Source: Word Magazine June 1972

When You Feel Like You're Not Enough

by Renee Swope

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.' (John 8:12 NIV)

I had that awful yucky feeling of not being enough ... not smart enough or good enough. For weeks I felt inadequate and incompetent about everything–from the way I parented to the way I served God in ministry to the way I organized my time and my life.

I had begged God to take away my feelings of insecurity. Though He didn't answer the way I hoped, He showed me what I needed to see in the most unexpected way.

One afternoon, I was putting on make-up in my bathroom when I noticed a huge nine-foot shadow on the wall behind me. And as I stood there looking at the humongous shadow, it dawned on me: all of my insecurities were creating a huge shadow over my soul-a shadow of doubt.

That day in my bathroom, I came to two important realizations. First, I could only see the shadow when I turned away from the light. And second, I was creating the shadow by blocking the light from the wall.

Shadows are created all around us when something blocks light, and so it is with the shadow of doubt.

When we focus our thoughts on ourselves and how inadequate we feel, or what others think about us and how we're performing, we cast a shadow of doubt in our minds by blocking the light of God's Truth in our hearts.

But we were not designed to block the light. We were created to live in the Light by focusing on what God thinks about us instead of what we think about ourselves.

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12b NIV) When we follow Jesus closely and completely in our thoughts, turning away from doubts and lies, we can find lasting security and confidence in Him.

That afternoon, I realized my self-doubt wasn't going to just go away. I had to purposefully shift my focus from my feelings of inadequacy to God's promises of His all-sufficiency and grace in my life.

I had to choose to focus on truth {the Light} so I could exchange my feelings of low self-confidence with lasting "God-fidence."

Feeling paralyzed and stuck in a place of insecurity is not where God intends for us to live. When Jesus spoke to the people in John 8:12, He called them out of darkness.

Now He's calling you - to step of out of the shadows of doubt so that you can become the God-fident women He created you to be. A woman whose assurance and soul-security is found in what He says and thinks about her.

And, the next time you feel your heart dwelling in the shadow of self-doubt, ask God to replace your lack of self-confidence with lasting soul-confidence as you turn towards the Light and focus your thoughts on His truths:

When you feel inadequate, God says: You are CHOSEN. "'You are my witnesses,' declares the Lord, 'and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.'" (Isa. 43:10a NIV)

When you feel unstable, God says: You are ABLE. "The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights." (Hab. 3:19 NIV)

When you feel unworthy, God says: You are PRECIOUS and LOVED. "... you are precious and honored in my sight, and ... I love you." (Isa. 43:4a NIV)

Dear Lord, You say I am a chosen woman, a royal priest, a holy daughter, a woman belonging to You. Help me believe that and live beyond the shadows of my doubts as I follow and focus on the Light of Your truth today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Reflect and Respond:

"I had to choose to focus on truth {the Light} so I could exchange my feelings of low self-confidence with lasting "God-fidence."

What are your most common thoughts of self-doubt? How do they make you feel? (inadequate, uncertain, indecisive, etc.) Click here for a list of more promises truths to replace them.

Power Verse:

Romans 8:6, "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace ..." (NASB)

© 2012 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

Source: Encouragement for Today, Proverbs 31 Ministries

Recipe for Chorukka (Bitter) for Good Friday

Here is the perfect recipe for Chorukka by Rev. Fr. Jose Daniel Paitel, Philadelphia, PA. Achen is a distinguished scholar in our church. He assisted Kaniamparambil arch corepiscopos in preparing the original translation of Peshetta Bible into Malayalam (Vishuddha Grandham). He also served several years as vicar of St. Peter's Syriac Orthodox Church, Philadelphia, the second largest church in MASOC.

Since the article is written in Malayalam, we are providing a link to the pdf file. Thank you Jose achen.

Recipe for Chorukka (pdf, Malayalam)

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Passion/chorukka-recipe.pdf

Family Special: What We See in Each Other

by Jennifer Schuchmann

Scripture: 1 Samuel 16:1–13

"The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
1 Samuel 16:7

Samuel was sent to the house of Jesse to find a new king. When he got there, Samuel saw Eliab, one of Jesse's sons. "Surely, he is the one God has chosen to be the next king," Samuel thought. Evidently, like the previous king, Saul, Eliab was tall and striking. But Eliab was not the one God had in mind.

God warned Samuel not to assess people by their physical appearance. God reminded the old prophet that he doesn't look at the outside; he looks at the inside. So each of Jesse's sons passed before Samuel, but God did not indicate that any of them was the man God had sent him to find. Finally, David, the youngest son, came in from the fields. Then the Lord spoke to Samuel, telling him this was the right one.

When we look at someone's outward appearance, we often fail to see what God sees. This message was clearly illustrated to writer John Fisher when he was speaking at a seminar. "A couple came in late, and I could see that they were in love," Fisher said. "I couldn't help but notice the woman was very attractive, while the guy was a real nerd.

"What could she see in him?" Fisher wondered. From the outside, this couple didn't look like a match. "Then I realized she was blind," Fisher said.

"What did she see in him? She saw everything that was important in a person. She saw love. While another woman might not have gotten past this man's unimpressive exterior, she was blind to that. She only saw his heart. Blessed are the blind, for they can see people as they really are."

Like Samuel, we often make judgments based on what people look like. But God doesn't use looks as his criteria. He evaluates people by what's in their hearts. He sees their character, their faithfulness and their commitment to him.

During courtship, we can be charmed by someone's good looks, attentiveness or flattery. All of that can be fleeting. Over the course of a marriage, the real person breaks through. Perhaps as your marriage ages, your spouse's outward appearance starts to change. Your spouse grays, loses hair or gains a little weight. Perhaps the two of you fall into a rut, and the special treatment that marked your dating period begins to wane. That's when we need to remember what the Lord said to Samuel about focusing on what's in the heart rather than what's physically noticeable.

The success of a marriage comes, not in finding who we think initially is the "perfect" person for us, but in our willingness to adjust to the real person we married.

Let's Talk

What characteristics initially attracted us to each other? What qualities do we treasure most today?

The blind woman never saw her partner's appearance. Like God, she only saw his heart. Would we rather have people look at our appearance or at our heart? Why?

What steps are we taking to improve our faith, our character and our commitment to God?

Source: NIV Devotions for Couples; Bible Gateway
Today's reading is from the NIV Couple's Devotional Bible by Zondervan

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