I’ve been working on a message from John 9 over the past few weeks. The text highlights one characteristic of God’s Kingdom that often goes unnoticed: Reversal. It’s a turning of the tables. A reversal is when something changes to the opposite position: from bottom to top, from out to in, from rejected to accepted. In a lot of ways, the gospel story is a story of reversals: from defeat to victory; from death to life; from sin to salvation – and often in the most unexpected of ways.
I love all the reversals in the text of chapter 9. Jesus is just peeling away layer after layer of misunderstanding.
* The disciples think it is about the blind man’s sin (which they assumed caused his suffering). Jesus says, “No, it’s about my work – and you serving with me.”
* The legalists think that it is about the spit (being spit upon made one unclean in the Levitical law). Jesus says, “No, it’s about me. I’m the one who gets to declare clean and unclean.”
* The Jews thought that it was about the ceremonial fire (at the Feast of Tabernacles, representing the Pillar of Fire that led Israel through the desert). Jesus says, “No, it’s about me! I’m the light of the world – whoever follows me will have the light of life!”
* The Jews thought that it was about the ceremonial water (at the Feast of Tabernacles, representing God’s provision of water from a rock during the desert wanderings). Jesus says, “No, it’s about me! I’m the source of living water – come and drink!”
All of these reversals have one purpose: to bring the spot light back onto Jesus. He is God’s provision to us (God’s solution to our sin problem); He is God’s guidance for us; He is the source of life; He is the source of healing!
During the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7-9), Jesus is saying with His words: “I am the true light; I am the true source of living water! I am the very provision of God – the true source of guidance and life!” And now out of this context, Jesus demonstrates the truth and power of those words through the healing of the blind man: Jesus directs the man to wash in the water that he might see light. The power to heal is not found in the water, but in the One who sent the man to wash.
Jesus Himself is very provision of God. You and I can wash our hands, you can clean up your house, you can even clean up your life… but we can’t clean our own hearts. You can’t cleanse your heart from the stain of sin.
By God’s grace, Jesus has already provided everything we need to find that cleansing, that forgiveness. Jesus can cleanse your heart; He can mend your broken heart. Not only does he heal it, He can fill your heart with His own goodness and righteousness – with new desires and new hope and new peace and new love.
How? The greatest reversal yet: Through His death, Jesus proved victorious over our shame and our defeat. Through His perfect sacrifice, Jesus trumped sin. Jesus didn’t go to the cross for His sins (He was sinless – the spotless Lamb of God). He was on that cross in our place for our sins. As scripture says of Jesus, “He was made sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21)! Hear those sweet words of reversal.
And we receive this grace – Jesus, the very grace of God, the very provision of God – we receive Him through faith. Not through what I earn, what I accomplish, what I know, what I can control – but through faith. That’s such a reversal from our culture’s fixation on self-help, self-actualization, and self-acceptance. What a profound reversal – no wonder we call it gospel!