Many of you know that my mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. In the few years before she died, I would visit her in the nursing home whenever I was in Michigan. I would talk with her and then almost invariably she would say, “Jerry! I haven’t seen you or talked with you in over 17 years!”, when in fact I had just been there a couple of days before. There are times when I thought, “What difference does it make? She doesn’t remember anyway! Why even bother?” What difference does it make? We may ask ourselves that same question in different areas of our lives. Perhaps you spent hours and hours on a project, but then after your boss looks at it, she decides to do something completely different. Maybe you have similar feelings as a parent or spouse when your efforts within a relationship don't seem to make that much difference. There are times when we may be tempted to say, "What difference does it make?"
However, there is something that really does make a difference in our lives. The way we respond to Jesus in faith makes all the difference in the world. Last week in our study of the Heidelberg Catechism, we looked at the basics of our salvation which Christ’s death and resurrection bring. Today we see how our response of faith makes all the difference in order to receive that salvation. Let's read John 9:24-4.
John 9 relates the story of how Jesus healed a man who was blind from birth. This healing irritated the Pharisees because Jesus had healed the man on the Sabbath. After a great deal of discussion, they kicked the man out of the synagogue. Why? The blind man had said was that he believed that Jesus was a prophet. He also said that he believed that Jesus was sent to them from God. He also accused them of being ignorant of what seemed so plain to him. After the Jewish leaders kicked him out of the synagogue, verse 35 says that Jesus searched for him and took him in, which in itself is comforting to us. When others reject us or ridicule us for what we believe we can have the assurance that Jesus will find us to help us in our time of need. But when Jesus finds him, He doesn't just comfort and coddle him; He calls the man to believe in and follow Jesus as one of His disciples. To believe in is more than believing that something is true. For example, I could tell you that I am 59 years old and that I have a wife and three children; you would believe me but that is no basis for you to believe in me. To believe in someone is to completely entrust yourself to that person.
James Edwards writes: “Picture yourself in a position in which I have been many times as a mountaineer. You are perched high on a rock face, about to begin. Sixty feet, perhaps hundreds of feet yawn between you and the ground. You have checked the piton to which the rope is attached several times to see if it is secure. You feel the rope in your hand, and you know from every spec sheet available that the doubled three-eighths-inch nylon strands in your grip have a combined tensile strength of 8,000 pounds. There is no way the rope can break. You glance over your shoulder to make sure the rope reaches the ground, or at least to another ledge from which to continue the rappel. Everything is in order. Technically, statistically, your descent is assured. Now is the moment of truth. Do you believe it – believe it enough to entrust your entire weight to the piton and rope, and to jump back into empty space? The specs on your equipment are mere knowledge now. You’ve got that in your head. But to act on that knowledge, to jump backwards off the precipice – that takes more than your head. It takes something lower down – in your stomach perhaps – called faith.” Jesus is asking the man if he was ready to entrust his life completely to the Son of Man, who is Jesus.
Jesus calls himself the Son of Man because of what he will say to the Pharisees shortly. The main function of the Son of Man is to judge. He is not only asking this man to respond in faith, he is also hinting that the response given is one on which judgment will be based because Jesus is the judge. But for now, Jesus asks this man to respond in faith: "Do you believe in me?"
II. The next exchange in the conversation reveals the content of faith.
The man asks Jesus, "Who is he, sir? "Tell me so that I may believe in him.” By now he knew that Jesus was the one who had healed him because of Jesus' voice. And he knew that Jesus is a very special person sent by God. He also knew that the Son of Man is the promised Messiah. He may have had a strong suspicion that Jesus actually was the Son of Man, the Messiah, but he does not yet know for certain. Now he needs to know if Jesus is the Son of man so he can place his trust in Him. This man's question shows that he is ready to believe in the Son of Man but he needs to have the knowledge to base his faith on.
III. The act of believing is seen in the man's response.
The man gives a very simple statement of belief: "Lord, I believe." This time the man does not call Jesus "sir" but "Lord." You call a leader “sir" or a police officer "sir,” but you can only have one Lord. This man now recognizes that Jesus is the Lord, the One sent from God. This man's insight into the person of Jesus has been growing. Now this final revelation puts the capstone on what has gone on before. The man sees Jesus as the object of faith and so puts his trust in Him. And then he worshiped Jesus, which is an act which is only reserved for God.
Commenting on this statement, James Harnish writes, “I can assure you that to follow Jesus means entering into a journey with many dangers, difficulties and fatigues, but there is no other person with whom I would rather make that journey than with Jesus.” Very frankly, the response we give to Jesus is vitally important.
IV. The Dividing Response - It is a response that divides all people.
Jesus concludes by adding: "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." Jesus' purpose for coming into the world was to divide all people into two groups: those who believe and those who don't believe in Him. Those who believe in Jesus and trust in Him fully receive sight. They know that they are blind without Christ and are lost. If they believe in Jesus, Jesus promises that they will receive sight.
True faith is the key. Look at Question and Answer 21: “What is true faith?” Answer: “True faith is not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his Word is true; it is also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation.” It is a knowledge like what the former blind man needed to have before he believed. But it also a deep-rooted assurance that God in Christ forgives us and grants us salvation. Faith means that we can say to ourselves: "All the marvelous promises that the Bible contains are true, and more importantly, they are true for me!
The other side of the judgment is seen in the Pharisees as we see in verses 40-41. The Pharisees claimed that they could see things just fine. They believed they knew exactly what God wanted from them. And they believed they did exceptionally well in doing what God wanted. The problem was that while they claimed to have eyesight, they were actually blind. They failed to see Jesus, the Messiah, the One who came to be their savior. They were like a person who needs to wear glasses but refuses to admit it. He may be walking into walls and tripping over things, but he maintains that he has no need for glasses because he can "see" just fine without them. The Pharisees said that they had no need for Jesus which proves their real blindness and makes a mockery of their supposed spiritual insight. They are unwilling to understand and accept Jesus and Jesus says that their guilt remains. The Catechism in Question 20 asks: “Are all saved through Christ just as all were lost through Adam?” Answer: “No. Only those are saved who by true faith are grafted into Christ are saved and accept all his blessings.”
What is our response? Let's reaffirm our faith this morning and say, "Lord, I believe in you." Let's be deeply reassured that all that the Bible teaches about our salvation is real and true for us. Let's bow before the risen Lord this morning and worship the One who has saved us by His grace. Let's also rededicate ourselves to living out what that really means. That means that Jesus really is our Lord in every part of our lives. Let's worship our Lord by living a consistent life of gratitude to Him.
Do you have the kind of faith that we have been talking about this morning? That is more than just Biblical teaching and facts. That is something you know and are assured of for yourself. If it is not there, but you would like it to be; listen to Jesus' invitation. Then say, "I BELIEVE" and worship the Lord in every part of your life.