Theme: One Thing I Know
Bible Reading: John 9:1-6; 18-25 and Philippians 3:7-14
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
In a time of disruption and change, it is hard to be confident or certain about anything, and yet this Sunday we find two biblical characters who were rock solid in their beliefs. “One thing I know”, “One thing I do”. We finish off this “one thing” sermon series with an encouraging affirmation of our faith and the trust that we can place in God.
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The One thing … This is the last of our series looking at this interesting phrase only found 5 times in the bible … the one thing. So far we have looked at Psalm 27:4 where David in the midst of a tough time had the choice of pushing away God or leaning into God … and the one thing David was seeking was to be in the presence of God.
Then we looked at Martha who was trying to trying to say yes to too many choices, she was worried about too many things and Jesus suggested that rather than many, only a few things were needed – maybe just one thing was needed. Mary and Martha (and indirectly us too) were encouraged to reflect on the way we portion the time and investment into the things we prioritise. We also looked at the Rich Young Ruler … who was on the right track but was lacking one thing. One thing you lack, and we reflected whether we might be lacking something in our life which is stopping us experiencing the fullness of life that Jesus offers.
This week our readings contain the last two “one thing” statements, and to give away my punchline right at the beginning … these readings are about certainty vs uncertainty, about knowing, and ultimately about the assurance of faith.
Certainty is a bit of a rare community in today’s changing world. It is hard to be assured of anything. The last 18 months has taught us that. We have been turned upside-down so many times that we have become accustomed to not make any guarantees anymore, just because things are so uncertain. And yet, the last two ONE THINGS speak to us about certainty … or in words of the ex-blind person … about KNOWING.
Let’s jump into the first story of Jesus and the healing of the blind man and the line ONE THING I KNOW.
It starts off with a theological discussion about whose sin caused this man to be blind … Jesus said no-ones and to show that God is at work, heals the blind man and then chaos erupts. There is a lot that happens in this story which we are not going to get to, so I would encourage you if you have time to read all of John 9. When I read through it all, I found it to be a story of disruption, chaos, and questions. Lots of questions. People want to know things. And that’s the key word … KNOW.
Firstly the people gather around the now seeing blind man and they want to know … what has happened? And where did Jesus go? The blind man answers in verse 12, “I don’t know”
And so they take him to the Pharisees who also want to know things – How did you receive your sight back? Why did Jesus heal on the sabbath? How can a sinner preform signs? What does the blind man say about Jesus? What does his parents say? Is this really your son? Was he really born blind? How is that now he can see?
Questions, Questions, Questions. How do you cope when you are bombarded with questions? Too many questions can make you stress; to start to doubt your answers and you become less certain or assured of what you know. Like, I am normally pretty confident in myself, but the other day I confidently answered a question and someone said, “Are you sure?” and I thought to myself, “Well I am not now”. Well, I was pretty sure I was right but simply being asked the question was making me doubt myself. I became quite uncertain.
It’s like the parents of the blind man in second part of the bible reading. They get dragged before the Pharisees in verse 19 and almost incredulously are asked, “Is this your son” “Is this the one you say was born blind?” You think you would be fairly certain about your own children, but the questions keep coming, “ How is it that now he can see”?
Listen to their parents answer in verse 20-21, “We know he is our son and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know.”
Are you noticing how many times this word Know is used in this passage? The word is used in the context of questions – people want to know things; in confident answers, “We know he is our son”; and also in uncertainty, “We don’t know”.
And sometimes this confident knowledge is used as an attacking weapon. Listen to the statement in verse 24 of the Pharisees when questioning the ex-blind man for the second time. They say to the ex-blind man, “Give glory to God by telling the truth. We know this man (as in Jesus), we know that this man is a sinner.”
I am not sure if they do know, but they want this to be true, so they try to assure people that it is. Trust us, we know.
Which leads us to the key verse, verse 25, where the ex-blind man replies, “Whether Jesus is a sinner or not, I don’t know.” I am not going to get into that. I just don’t know. However, there is “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
This man might not know who Jesus is, or the politics of whether he is adhering to the sabbath rules. All of that is he uncertain. But there is something genuine about the confidence or certainty that the man has on the impact that Jesus brought. He knew it was Jesus who changed things. He knew it was Jesus who made a difference. I was blind, but now I see.
If we jump over to the second record from Philippians 3, we find that the Apostle Paul is also expressing this genuine confidence in Jesus. He has this unshakable assurance in his faith. Paul says that compared to knowing Jesus, all worldly accomplishments are like garbage. He knows what is most important in life – the reality of knowing and being embraced by Jesus. These are not just words, Paul is genuinely willing to give up everything, to know Christ.
So, where did Paul get this certainty from? As I mentioned before that we live in a era where things have become so uncertain and disrupted … that this question is even more pointed. Especially when it comes to our faith. How can we also be certain about our faith? How do we have that assurance of our salvation? How can we know that Jesus is indeed worth pursuing?
Paul gives us some hints with this passage from Philippians 3 and the first is the word KNOW. Did you notice that the word “know” is also featured a lot in this passage too? Paul’s certainty comes from knowing Jesus as his Lord (v8). But this knowing is not a once off thing, but Paul wants to know Jesus more and know the power of his resurrection in his life (v10). He considers it everything to know Jesus.
This knowing has a read personal aspect to it. The Greek word that Paul uses is (Gin-osko) which is a process of learning, or coming to know. It sometimes is used as an idiom to refer to the process of a couple growing closer in a relationship. They are getting know each other. Paul is saying he doesn’t just want a theoretical knowledge of Jesus, he want to KNOW Jesus as Lord – and Paul does this by doing ONE THING. Paul says, the ONE THING I do is …
and then Paul uses a piece of creative writing which is totally lost in English but is very clever in Greek. Paul says THE ONE THING I do … and then gives two Greek words which sound almost identical to other but have different meanings.
ἐπιλανθάνομαι/ epilanthánomai (ep-ee-lan-than’-om-ahee )
ἐπεκτείνομαι / epekteínomai (ep-ek-ti’-nom-ahee)
The first word means to forget, no longer care for, let go of and the second means to stretch out towards. Reach forward.
Paul is saying, the one thing I do to help him in reaching his goal of KNOWING JESUS is to let go of what was and reach out, to stretch forward to what is ahead.
A bit like Isaiah 43:18-19 where God through the prophet is saying, “Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already—you can see it now!”
Part of what it means to knowing Jesus is looking forward to what God is revealing, reaching forward to be part of the new thing that God doing.
Isn’t it interesting how these two ONE THING statements from our reading today intertwined? They are both certainty of knowing. The ex-blind man didn’t have many answers but ONE THING he knew was that Jesus made a difference, I was blind but now I can see. Paul affirmed that knowing Jesus is everything, and in a desire to know Jesus more, the ONE THING he does is to let go of what was and reach out to what’s ahead.
I want to finish with two hidden gems in the blindman story.
If you keep reading to the end of Chapter 9, you will see that after all the chaos and questions, the ex-blindman get thrown out by the Pharisees … and when Jesus hears this, Jesus goes and find the man and asks “Do you believe in the Son of Man”. Do you believe. After all the talk about KNOWING, I am a little disappointed that Jesus doesn’t ask, do you know the son of Man. But maybe that’s the point. The ex-blind man was just on the beginning of his journey with Jesus and it would be unrealistic for him to declare that he knew Jesus at this point. But maybe this is where Faith comes in … he believed that Jesus could make a difference. He believed that Jesus was someone worth knowing. He believed that there was something divine in Jesus, that Jesus might have the answers to eternal life. So if you have been challenged by the idea of getting to know Jesus more today, maybe the first step is to make the declaration the man made in verse 38. “Lord, I believe”.
The last hidden gem link back to the word KNOW. I have mentioned that this word keeps on coming up in both the bible readings but what I found interesting is the Greek word for KNOW that Paul uses in Philippians (Gin-osko) is different to the Greek word for KNOW that Jesus uses in John (eh-do).
As I already mentioned, Ginosko refers to the process of growing in our knowledge … but John when writing the story of the blind man uses a different word for know (eh-do) which means … wait for it … to see. To perceive with the eyes, to notice, to discover by close examination.
John, when writing about a blind man, keeps hinting … can you see? Are you seeing this?
Jesus in verse 39 goes as far as saying that he has come into the world so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind. Jesus is not talking about physical sight but eh-do … the knowledge that comes from discerning correctly what you are seeing.
We have spent three week looking at these 5 ONE THING statements. We have been challenged about priorities; about the way we portion our time and focus and what we might be lacking; and today we have been challenged in how we KNOW Jesus as Lord.
So I finish with this encouragement to open your eyes and see the message that Jesus is revealing to you.
May we all continue in our ginosko – the journey of not only believing in Jesus but getting to know Jesus more and more. And the ex-blind man said, “I have not been able to see much up to this point, but ONE THING I know, I thing I do see … I was blind, and after encountering Jesus, I can now see.” And may we too, in the uncertainty we live, see and know and embrace the difference that Jesus can make in our lives. Amen.