The Cure For A Hungry Soul

The Cure for a Hungry Soul

John 6:25-40

Dr. Jim Denison

We have too many choices to consume. That’s the conclusion of Barry Schwarz, author of the bestseller The Paradox of Choice. His thesis explains why so many people tell pollsters they are unhappy despite living in a world of greater material prosperity than ever before. We buy something and then experience the second thoughts known as “buyer’s remorse.” We then respond with “regret aversion” by storing it rather than giving it away. “Maximizers” accept only the best and often experience the paralysis of analysis. “Sufficers” settle for whatever is good enough. More of us are “maximizers” than “sufficers,” to be sure. It’s never enough.

Now you can buy a lawn mower with an automatic transmission, cruise control and power-steering, a CD player and cup holder, all for $17,000. Or a robot to mow your lawn for $2,400. Or running shoes which adjust their cushioning levels automatically while you jog, for $250. Or a tiny digital camera for $3,900, and a chrome-plated MiniDisc player for $1,900. Or binoculars which instantly replay what you just watched, for $600. All in time for back to school. But it won’t be enough.

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (v. 35). His bread is enough—enough to feed our hungry lives.

So where is your soul hungry today? Where are you dissatisfied and disillusioned with your life? You’ve climbed a ladder only to find that it’s leaning against the wrong wall. You’re wondering if this is all there is.

You’ve been in school long enough to learn that there’s always another grade to make, a friend to impress, a touchdown to score. You’ve been working long enough to learn that there’s always another client to sell, another goal to achieve, another rung to climb. You’ve had children long enough to learn there’s always more that they need, that you’ll never be finished.

Where do you need something more? How do we come to his table to find the “bread” we need?

For what are you hungry?

Jesus has just fed the 5,000. Now they find him in Capernaum, his ministry headquarters. Meeting them there, perhaps in his hometown synagogue, he warns them, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:27). His words are not a suggestion, but an imperative.

The consensus of counselor, psychologists and philosophers is that you and I have four basic “hungers” in our lives. We need four kinds of “food.”

Once our essential physical needs for clothing, shelter and food have been met, these four hungers drive us. In fact, they drive all we do.

All our desires, hopes, and wishes reduce to these four: knowledge rather than ignorance, pleasure rather than pain, power rather than helplessness, and wealth rather than poverty. Whatever you desire today fits into one of these four.

In preparing this message I sought knowledge. Today I desire the pleasure of teaching God’s word well, and the power of being used by his Spirit to do so. You came to church seeking one or more of these four.

Now here’s my one request, my “ask:” take your hunger to Jesus’ table first. Whatever it is you need or desire. Go to him first. Pray first. Worship first. Seek his word first. Submit to his will first. Go to his table before you go to any other.

Why come to his table first?

Why? Because he claims to be the bread of “life.” Not the bread of church, or of religion, or of Sunday. “Bread for life” is another translation—the bread we need for every dimension of our lives. “The” bread—the only bread of life. We find our needs met with him first, or not at all.

Why come to his table first? Because he promises the bread of knowledge, meeting your intellectual needs in his will.

“The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2).

Christ is the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Wherever you need guidance, you can come to his table.

Why come to his table first? Because he promises the bread of pleasure, meeting your physical needs in his will.

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23).

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Wherever you have physical or emotional needs, you can come to his table.

Why come to his table first? Because he promises the bread of power, meeting your relational needs in his will.

“Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me'” (Matthew28:18).

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).

“On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16). Wherever you feel powerless, you can go to his table.

Why come to his table first? Because he promises the bread of wealth, meeting your financial needs in his will.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Wherever you have financial needs, you can come to his table.

No other bread will do. We seek that which humans cannot supply—that knowledge, pleasure, power and wealth which our fallen lives and world cannot fully find. They are found at only one table, from one Host. The One who died to provide what you need. The One whose death we remember with gratitude today.


How do we come to his table?

The crowds asked the same question: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (v. 28). Jesus answered that there is only one “work”: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (v. 29). Don’t just “believe” with intellectual assent. Believe “in”—the preposition means to place complete trust in him.

Make this Host your Savior and Lord. Then “everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (v. 40).

Go to his table first. Pray first. Seek his word and will first. Not as a last resort, but as a first option. Develop the reflex of bringing every hunger to the table of Jesus. Start with your need, your worry or discouragement or burden today. Now.

And expect to find what you need: “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (v. 35). No exceptions. Everyone.

Until that day when we come to this table and receive its elements from nail-scarred hands. In the third Lord of the Rings movie, titled “The Return of the King,” war has come to the city of Gondor. The city is virtually surrounded by the evil hosts of Mordor. The cause is hopeless. The city’s inhabitants will soon be slaughtered without mercy.

The little Hobbit named Pippin comes to the wise wizard Gandalf. Pippin is terrified, and tells Gandalf that he is afraid to die. Elderly Gandalf leans back, looks into the distance, and tells Pippin, “Our journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path. One we all must take.” Gandalf explains that this grey world in which we live is rolled back to reveal “silver clouds. And then you see it.”

Pippin asks, “See what, Gandalf? See what?” Gandalf replies, “White shores. And beyond, a far green country, and a swift sunrise.” Pippin considers, “That isn’t so bad.” And Gandalf agrees, “No, no it isn’t.”

Until you come to that table, come to this table. Every day. Starting today.

The Cure For A Joyless Soul

The Cure for a Joyless Soul

John 10:7-11

Dr. Jim Denison

After my recent travails with my new electric trimmer and the two power cords I cut, one of our members sent me this story. It seems a pastor was out riding his bicycle when he saw a young boy with a lawn mower for sale. “How much do you want for the mower?” he asked. “I just want enough money to buy a bicycle,” the little boy answered. After considering for a moment, the pastor asked, “Will you take my bike in trade for it?”

After examining the bike, the boy made the trade. The preacher took the mower and pulled on the rope a few times with no response. He called the boy over and said, “I can’t get this mower to start.” The boy said, “That’s because you have to cuss at it to get it started.” The pastor replied, “I’m a minister, and I can’t cuss. It’s been so long since I’ve been saved that I don’t even remember how to cuss.”

The little boy looked at him happily and said, “You just keep pulling on that rope. It’ll come back to you.” We’ve all owned a mower like that one, I fear.

When Johann Sebastian Bach returned from a concert tour to discover that his wife and two of their children had died, he wrote in his diary, “Dear Lord, may my joy not leave me.”

Filmmaker Ingmar Bergman described a period in his life when his health was bad and his spirits low. He confessed to a friend, “I’m about to lose my joy. I can feel it physically. I’m running out. I’m just drying up, inside.” Bergman said he wanted to rediscover what Bach had called his joy.

Maybe you need to discover or rediscover your joy today, the “abundant life” Jesus said his followers would experience. A deep sense of well-being and purpose which transcends your circumstances. The feeling that all is well with your soul, no matter how things are with your life. A trusted friend told me this week, “Everybody’s hurting, or about to.” Despite it all, how can we find “life to the full” today?

Admit you need a shepherd

According to our text, we are sheep. Forty-four times, the Bible describes us that way. In fact, did you know that “sheep” is the most common metaphor for human beings in all of Scripture?

This is not a compliment. Sheep are beautiful animals to view from a distance, but among the dumbest animals on earth.

Have you ever seen a sheep in a circus? Can they be trained for anything?

Sheep are totally defenseless against every predator. Ever seen a sign on someone’s fence, “Warning: vicious sheep inside”? Sheep must be guarded and led every day. The shepherd must live with them and watch them constantly or they’ll wander into trouble. God is not trying to increase our self-esteem when he calls us sheep.

Well, surely this isn’t true of us all. Surely some of us are smarter and more self-sufficient than sheep. But listen to Isaiah 53:6: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” God thinks we’re all sheep, every one of us.

None of us wants to admit that fact. But we can never have a shepherd until we admit that we need one, that we are sheep.

We cannot find the abundant life until we admit that we don’t have it. We cannot experience the joy of Jesus until we admit that we need the joy of Jesus.

Self-sufficiency is the enemy of joy. Self-reliance is the enemy of “life to the full.” Imagine a sheep taking on a wolf by himself, or wandering through the wilderness by himself. You’re picturing most of the people you know. And maybe yourself as well. We think we’re shepherds, but we’re not—we’re sheep.

To find the joy of Jesus, begin by admitting that you need the joy of Jesus. Admit that you’re a sheep, in need of a shepherd.

Find the “gate for the sheep”

Now we come to Jesus’ fourth “I am,” the fourth time he uses God’s personal and holy name for himself: “I am the good shepherd” (v. 11). “Good” is emphatic in the Greek. The word meant to be lovely, attractive, not just moral but beautiful and desirable. How could he make this claim for himself?

Because “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep” (v. 7). “I am” is emphatic. “The” gate uses the definite article—he’s the only one.

Sheep in the countryside stayed at night in sheep-folds, walls enclosing a space. There was no door of any kind. When the sheep were in for the night, the shepherd would lay down across the opening. No predators or thieves could get in, and no sheep could get out, without crossing over his body. He was literally their only door.

Scripture consistently makes this claim for the Lord Jesus. He said of himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Paul said, “Through him we have access to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). The writer of Hebrews said, “we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body” (Hebrews 10:19-20).

Now Jesus is the gate for the sheep, the doorway to the Father. Think of him as the heavenly doorman, opening the way for us to come into the Father’s mansion.

How did he provide this door? He came to die for his sheep: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (v. 11).

That’s how much he loves us. Jesus is the shepherd who would leave the 99 to find the one lost sheep (Matthew 18:13). He’s come to find you, today.

Has anyone else died for you? Has anyone else offered to forgive your every sin and mistake, to redeem your every failure? To love you no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done? To like you even when you know you don’t deserve it? Has anyone else laid down his life for the sheep?

Make him your shepherd

Here’s the catch: we must walk through this “gate.” We must make this shepherd ours. How? First, as we have seen, we admit that we need his joy, that we are sheep in need of a shepherd. We repent of our own self-righteousness and self-reliance. We see ourselves as God sees us—sheep. And every sheep needs a shepherd. Wolves love to find self-sufficient sheep. Do you know that you need him?

Next, we make him the shepherd of our souls.

Peter described each of us before we came to faith in Christ: “You were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).

To make him your shepherd requires a personal decision, a personal relationship. Salvation is not joining the church, or being baptized. It is not trying harder to do better. It is not the product of your works and righteousness. No good deeds a sheep can do can replace its relationship with a personal shepherd.

If you’re not sure you’ve made that personal decision, you likely haven’t. But we’ll introduce you this morning, if you’ll let us. Wolves love to find sheep without a shepherd. Do you really know him?

Now we stay close to our shepherd. We start the day under his leading. We turn to him when the wolf comes near, or when the grass runs out, or when the water begins to rush by, or the storm clouds gather. We walk as closely with our shepherd as we possibly can. Wolves love to find sheep far from their shepherd.

So, when last did you spend a day, or an hour, practicing the presence of Jesus? Are you close to him today?

And we stay with the flock. You’ll never see a sheep out on its own. Where there’s one, there’s two or three or thirty. They know they’re not safe on their own. Some of us are not that smart. We don’t know that we need each other, that we cannot do life on our own. We keep our problems to ourselves, refusing to allow the body of Christ to be his arms and hands for our hurting hearts. But wolves love to find isolated, lonely sheep. So, what sheep is standing at your side today?


Here’s the payoff, the Shepherd’s promise: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (v. 10). This is not a feeling. Nowhere does the Bible describe what it feels like to have God’s joy. It is not a circumstance. The joy of Jesus is not “happiness,” which depends on “happenings.” You can have joy even in hard times. Nor is his joy a temporary experience. You can have the “abundant life” no matter what the past has been or the future holds. This is your shepherd’s will for your life, no matter how rugged the terrain or barren the landscape of your life. If you will stay close to your shepherd and his flock.

I was discussing this sermon recently with Tommy Sanders, our Minister of Childhood Education, and he sent me this story:

“Children who are sick or handicapped have a special sensitivity to [the Good Shepherd picture]. Maria, two years and ten months old, was being treated in the cancer ward of the Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital in Rome. She came from the south of Italy, so her parents lived far away.

One cannot describe the sadness in her small, pale face nor the impossibility of establishing any rapport with her. ‘She is always on her own,’ related the other children, ‘sometimes she cries and cries but she says nothing.’ A [teacher] went to the hospital with the intention of speaking to Maria about the Good Shepherd’s love, but her endeavors to make contact with the little girl seemed completely in vain. While the [teacher] presented the parable materials to a small group of children who had gathered around her bed, Maria appeared to be far away, if not actually asleep.

However, as the [teacher] read the parable, Maria’s breathing became gradually calmer; when the [teacher] started to rise slowly from the chair beside her bed, Maria stood up abruptly, threw herself into the [teacher’s] arms and kissed her. Discarding her doll, she cleared a space on her bed for the materials and indicated in an obvious way that she was waiting for a new presentation of the Good Shepherd.

Then she took the parable book herself and suddenly began to say a number of things that unfortunately the [teacher], who was a foreigner, could not understand. But communication had been established just the same: Maria wanted to be held in her arms, carried around the room, and fed when the dinner arrived. When it came time for the [teacher] to leave, Maria refused to let anyone else hold her and let her leave only after she promised to return the next day. The night nurse heard Maria singing softly: ‘He knows my name.'”

Maria was right.

There is an old story of an elderly pastor and a young man in the same worship service. As part of the program each of these speakers was to recite the Twenty-third Psalm from memory. The young man, trained in the best speech technique and drama, gave the words of the Psalm. When he had finished the congregation applauded loudly, amazed by his resonant voice and remarkable talent.

Then the elderly gentleman, leaning on his cane, stepped to the pulpit and in a weak, shaking voice repeated the same words. But when he finished no sound came from the congregation. People seemed to be deep in prayer and worship. In the silence the young speaker stood and said, “Friends, I wish to say something. You clapped when I quoted the Psalm, but you remained silent and moved when my friend was done. The difference is simple. I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.”

You know the Psalm. Do you know the Shepherd?

The Cure For A Lonely Soul

The Cure for a Lonely Soul

John 4:21-26

Dr. Jim Denison

My father-in-law recently sent me this story. It seems that a young preacher was asked by the local funeral director to hold a graveside service at a small local cemetery. The deceased had no family or friends. The preacher got lost getting to the cemetery. Half an hour late, he saw a backhoe and its crew, but the hearse was nowhere in sight and the workmen were eating lunch.

The diligent young pastor went to the open grave and found the vault lid already in place. Taking out his Bible, he began to speak. Feeling guilty because of his tardiness, he delivered an impassioned and lengthy message. As he was returning to his car, he overheard one of the workmen say, “I’ve been putting in septic tanks for 20 years and have never seen anything like that.”

At least the preacher was passionate. We could do worse today.

This morning we begin a biblical series titled, “Knowing the Great ‘I Am.’” In these weeks we will see God as he really is. Not the God our culture imagines, a kindly Grandfather in the sky who never interferes with our lives and makes no demands of us. Nor the God some religions imagine, a Judge with religious requirements and legalistic rules.

I’ll be showing you God as he really is. How do I know? Because we will study Jesus’ own autobiography. Eight events where he says, “I am.” Eight stages where he pulls back the curtain and reveals himself to us. Eight invitations to worship him as he requires, and to be transformed by the experience.

We begin today with the first “I am,” and its call to worship God “in spirit and truth.” This morning we are called to worship the Great I Am with personal passion and intensity. Unless we offer such worship, our souls are lonely, weak, and impoverished, more than we may know. Here is their cure.

Rejoice in his grace (vs. 1-6)

Jesus is in the first year of his public ministry. The Pharisees learn of his growing success; to avoid conflict at this early stage of his work, he leaves Judea for Galilee. And so “he had to go through Samaria” (v. 4). Not geographically, but spiritually.

Samaria was that land between Judea to the south and Galilee to the north; it was the most direct route for Jesus’ journey. But most Jews avoided it like the plague, for reasons we’ll soon see. They crossed the Jordan River to the east, traveled north through Perea, and then re-crossed the Jordan into Galilee.

But not Jesus. He was compelled by the Spirit of God to go through this forsaken, despised, rejected region.

He found himself at Sychar, the modern village of Askar. It was an important place historically; Joseph’s bones were buried there (Joshua 24:32), and the “well of Jacob” was located half a mile south. The well is 100 feet deep; you can still drink its water today.

It is the “sixth hour” (v. 6), 12:00 noon, the hottest part of the day. So Jesus sits on the wooden platform built around the mouth of the well. And talks to a Samaritan woman, one of the most shocking things our Lord ever did on this planet.

Why the shock?

She is a Samaritan, and “Jews do not associate with Samaritans” (v. 9). When the Assyrian king captured the Jewish Northern Kingdom, he replaced the Jews in Samaria with foreigners who worshiped the Lord but also their own idolatrous gods. The Jews despised them, so they built their own Temple on Mt. Gerazim to rival the one in Jerusalem, rejected all the books of the Jewish Bible except the first five, and made their own high priest.

In 129 B.C., John Hyrcanus led the Jews to attack Samaria and destroy their temple. In retaliation, the Samaritans worked with the Romans against the Jews. They welcomed all who had been excommunicated by the Jews. And so the Jews considered them the worst of the human race. And this woman is one of them.

She is a woman. And no Jewish rabbi would speak to a woman in public—not even his own wife, daughter, or sister.

And she is a sinner. She has had five husbands, and is living with a sixth man now. She is so rejected by her society that she must walk half a mile, past 80 springs in the area, to get water during the heat of the day.

What would people think if they saw a visiting rabbi, a single man, alone with the most notorious adulteress in town?

Jesus doesn’t care what the crowds or disciples will think. He cares only for this lonely soul. If he cares about her, he cares about you. And me. If he knows her past, he knows ours. If he knows her failings, he knows ours. He knows our troubles at work, our problems at school, our frustrations with our parents or our children. He knows our temptations and weaknesses. He knows who we are when no one else is looking. And if he would accept her, he will accept us.

But there’s a string attached.

Worship him with the passion he deserves (vs. 21-26)

The woman has asked Jesus where they should worship—on Mt. Gerazim or in Jerusalem. Hear his reply: “…a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (v. 23). Why? Because “God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (v. 24).

Anyone can worship God. As Augustine said, we can trust our past to God’s mercy, our present to his love, and our future to his providence. Any of us can know God as he truly is. But only if we worship him “in spirit and truth.” Let’s explore both.

First, we must worship God “in spirit.”

Ancient religion specialized in rituals and routines, in physical acts and appearance. If you went to the right temple, offered the right sacrifices, and performed the right religious actions, you had worshiped God.

Most world religions still focus on such externals. A good Muslim is one who prays five times a day, gives 2.5% of his goods to the poor, visits Mecca, observes the fast of Ramadan, and says out loud that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet. A good Buddhist or Hindu is one who observes the ascetic disciplines of his or her faith tradition. A good Jew, especially in the Orthodox tradition, is one who keeps kosher dietary laws, Sabbath regulations, and the rest of Torah.

A good Baptist is one who comes to church services each weekend, gives some money, fulfills his or her responsibilities to the choir or Sunday school class or committee, and lives morally. At least that’s what some of us think.

I will confess that “worship” for much of my Christian life was defined by such religious, external actions. Worship equals going to church, singing hymns, listening to the choir and pastor, giving money. It is a noun, an activity, a thing. Answer honestly: is that “worship” for you?

It is not for Jesus. He says we “must” worship God “in spirit,” not in “flesh.”

Worship “in flesh” is worship in externals, in appearance. Worship in “spirit” is worship with personal passion. It is worship with intensity, with internal commitment and interaction.

Because God is Spirit, he knows our spirits, our thoughts and minds and attitudes. He is the “righteous god who searches minds and hearts” (Psalm 7:9). These must be right, or our worship is not real, and he knows it.

William Barclay got at this issue well: “A man’s spirit is the highest part of him. That is the part which lasts when the physical part has vanished. That is the part which dreams the dreams and sees the visions which, because of the weakness and faultiness of the body, may never be carried out. It is the spirit of a man which is the source of his highest dreams and thoughts and ideals and desires. The true worship is when man, through his spirit, attains to friendship and intimacy with God. Genuine worship does not consist in coming to a certain place or in going through a certain ritual or liturgy or even in bringing certain gifts. True worship is when the spirit, the immortal and invisible part of man, speaks to and meets with God, himself immortal and invisible” (The Gospel of John 1:161).

If you have encountered God “in spirit,” with personal passion and intensity, you have worshiped him. If you have not, you have not.

We “must” worship God “in spirit” but also “in truth.” With biblical and theological integrity. And with our minds engaged.

Jesus commanded us to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds (Matthew 22:37). We do not leave our intellect at the door. We do not merely sit through a sermon. We come to worship each week expecting to hear his truth for us. To read the Bible as “God preaching,” as J. I. Packer says. To hear its truth as “love letters from home,” as Augustine put it.

And to think hard about what we discover. I grew up thinking that I wasn’t supposed to think about my faith. If I had questions or intellectual issues I was to keep them private. Faith meant that I had no doubts or questions. Then I realized that Jesus cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” If he could ask his question, so can I. So can you. If he could struggle, so can we.

To worship God “in truth” is to seek his truth with our minds and hearts. It is to listen intently to his Spirit as we study his word, to wrestle with what we hear, and to work with its truth until we have found its relevance for our lives.

If you have encountered God today “in truth,” hearing his personal word for you and applying it to your life, you have worshiped him. If you have not, you have not.


When we worship God with personal, passionate, intellectual engagement, here’s what happens: we encounter Jesus. This woman and her fellow Samaritans have been waiting for the Messiah, for centuries. Now she hears this Jewish rabbi say, “I am he.” I am God’s Anointed, the One he promised would redeem his people and purchase their eternal life. Not just a rabbi or a prophet, but the Messiah himself. God himself.

Have you heard from God today? Not from a rabbi or a prophet, but from the Messiah? Here’s how to know: you will leave changed. You cannot meet the living God and stay the same.

The woman had to take the news to her town, and the town to her new Lord. They saw a change in her life which they wanted in theirs. They “believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (v. 39); when last did that happen with your life?

Then they concluded: “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world” (v. 42).

Changed people change the world. No one else can.

I found an interesting item in this week’s newspapers. It seems scientists have identified the origins of a meteorite which landed in Oman about 10,000 years ago and was discovered in 2002. Its chemical composition leads them to know that it came from the Lalande Crater in the Imbrium basin, a large area on the near side of the Moon. It was impacted by other asteroids 2.8 billion and 200 million years ago. 340,000 years ago, something struck it and hurled it into space, sending it to Earth.

And that’s just one very small part of a very small moon of a very small planet in a small solar system of a small galaxy of the universe made by the Great I Am. The One who is sitting beside your well today.

How the conversation goes is up to you.

The Cure For An Injured Soul

The Cure for an Injured Soul

John 9:1-7

Dr. Jim Denison

Readers’ Digest recently reported on the Wacky Warning Label Contest and some of the actual warning labels it recognized this year. In 4th place: a five-inch fishing lure with three steel hooks and the label warning that it is “harmful if swallowed.” Let’s hope fish can’t read the label. And the Grand Prize winner: a bottle of drain cleaner which contains this warning: “If you do not understand or cannot read all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product.” If I couldn’t read or understand the label, how would it help?

These examples aside, life really does need warning labels. Florida is still recovering from Hurricane Charley. The fledgling democracy in Iraq is still under constant barrage and terror attacks. The three-year anniversary of 9-11 is approaching. Our world has never been more fallen or flawed than it is today.

This morning we will discover the cure for injured souls. In our text Jesus claims, “I am the light of the world.” The “I” is emphatic. He is the light of the “world,” not just the church, or religion, or Sunday. Light for every room of our lives, no matter how dark.

Where are you in the dark today? What guilt from the past or fear of the future plagues you today? Are you worried about the new school year for yourself or your kids? Are you worried about the economy and the election? Is your marriage or body in pain? Do you know someone whose eyes need healing today? Here’s what to do.

Know that God knows your pain (v. 1)

Our story occurs on a Sabbath (v. 14). Jesus has returned to Judea, where he has been teaching in the temple courts (John 8:2). It is mid-October; the annual Feast of Tabernacles has just occurred.

Now Jesus notices a man who could not see him: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth” (John 9:1).

The Greek word translated “saw” here means to fix the gaze, to look earnestly. Jesus gave him more than a passing glance—he paid attention to his predicament.

And when he saw the man, he saw his need: he was “blind from birth.”

Simple observation could not have told him this. How would anyone know when the man’s blindness had begun?

It’s possible that the man told him, or that his reputation preceded him (cf. v. 8). But the syntax suggests to me that the instant Jesus saw the man he knew that his blindness was congenital. If he could heal this man’s blindness, he could certainly determine its source. And he knew this man had no medical options. He needed not a physician, but a miracle.

What Jesus knew of this man, he knows today of you: “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious concerning me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand” (Psalm 139:15-18). The Physician who saw this man and his need sees yours. The blind man could not see Jesus, as we cannot see him today. But the one who cannot see is visible to the One who can.

He sees you and your problems today: “…your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). Our prayers do not inform God of our needs; rather, they yield them to the only One who can solve them.

Pain is isolating. We think no one knows our problem. But the One we cannot see, can see us. Where you are, at this moment. He has stopped at your side today, whether you know it or not.

Bring your pain to your Father (vs. 2-7)

The disciples relate to the man not with compassion but curiosity: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (v. 2).

The rabbis taught the same: “There is no death without sin, and there is no suffering without iniquity” (Rabbi Ammi, Shab. 55a). The Pharisees said to the man, “You were steeped in sin at birth” (v. 34).

Hindus believe that present suffering is punishment for previous wrongs. Buddhists teach that all suffering is due to wrong desire. Muslims believe that the pain we experience is part of Allah’s will for our lives.

Christians know that much of life’s pain is the result of our own misused free will. We’ve seen marriages end because of adultery, drug users contract AIDS, alcoholics die of cirrhosis of the liver.

And so it is easy to think that all suffering is our fault and God’s punishment.

But Jesus disagrees: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (v. 3). A better translation is, “this happened with the result that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

Some suffering is the result of sin. If that’s the case for you, God is waiting to forgive every sin you’ll confess, and give you his healing and hope (1 John 1:8-10).

But much of the world’s grief and pain is not the result of anyone’s sin or failure. Remember Job’s plight; think of the 9-11 victims; remember Jesus’ innocent crucifixion. To attribute all suffering to sin often increases the suffering of the innocent.

So bring your hurting eyes to your Father, however they were blinded. Do not allow your grief or guilt to keep you from him. We need a doctor most when our pain is at its worst. We don’t wait to bathe until we’re clean. We don’t avoid the kitchen until our hunger passes. Come to God with your pain today.

He’ll meet you where you are. Jesus “spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes” (v. 6), even though such work was forbidden on the Sabbath. But ancient doctors believed saliva could cure illness; the blind man knew this action to be accepted medical practice. To our knowledge, he had no previous information regarding Jesus’ healing powers. Had the Divine Physician not acted as a human doctor, it is likely that his patient would not have accepted his cure.

He touched the man, even though the theology of the day said such contact with a “sinner” would contaminate him. He will touch us wherever we hurt, even when no one else will.

Then he gave the man something to do: “‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing” (v. 7).

Jesus asked the man to trust him. Washing in the pool of Siloam was not part of any accepted medical practice, so it required obedient faith on the part of a blind man. Not to earn God’s help, but to receive it.

The man immediately “washed” his eyes—the word means that he bathed his eyes, not merely splashing or washing them. And he “came home seeing.”

Jesus healed his eyes, so he could heal his soul. He found the man later in the story and led him to saving faith: “the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him” (v. 38).

And he used the man to touch others.

The authorities were dumbfounded that a blind man has been healed, and by an itinerant Galilean who broke the Sabbath to do it. They called them man before their court and tried to get him to agree with them: “Give glory to God” (an ancient legal oath)…”We know this man is a sinner” (v. 24).

Now comes my favorite act of witnessing in the entire Bible: “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (v. 25). People may reject our theology, but they cannot dismiss our experience. Changed people change the world. No one can deny the fact: “I was blind but now I see!” Can you say the same?


Now Jesus stands ready to do the same with us. To heal us, and then to use us.

He knows your pain and is ready to help. He will meet you where you are, touch your hurt, and tell you what to do next. He will heal you on earth or in heaven. He will remove the pain or give you strength to endure it (perhaps an even greater miracle).

But you must be humbled and obedient enough to receive what he wants to give. If the man had chosen to heal himself, he could never have been healed by Jesus. A doctor can only help a patient who is willing to do what the doctor says. The self-sufficiency and consumerism of our culture are the worst enemies to the power of God in our lives. You can mark it down: the Lord will not do for us what we try to do for ourselves.

The only plight worse than being blind is being blind and not admitting it. Pretending we’re just fine. Running into walls and denying that we did. Pretending we’re fine when we’re not. Keeping up appearances at all costs.

The Bible is often misquoted to say “Pride goeth before a fall.” In fact, God’s word warns, “Pride goeth before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18). We are all blind unless our eyes have been healed by Jesus. We are all broken people unless we have been helped by him.

The first beatitude says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mathew 5:3); a better translation is, “Blessed are those who know how much they need God.” Are you that “blessed?” When last did you admit your brokenness to the Father, your blindness to his Son, your need to his Spirit? What pain should you trust to him this morning?

He will heal and help us, and he will use us, for God never wastes a hurt.

If Jesus has saved your soul, he wants to use you to save other souls. If he has comforted your grief, he wants you to comfort others in mourning. If he has strengthened you in trials, he wants you to strengthen others.

The One who called himself the “light of the world” also taught his disciples, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). We are to reflect his light as the moon reflects the sun. And so our mirror must be clean, and pointed at its Source.

We are instructed to “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (v. 16). We are wounded and need healing, or we are wounded healers—there’s no third option.

Thursday morning, Janet and I drove Ryan to Baylor University, then drove home. But “home” will never be quite the same again. His bedroom is cleaner than it has been for 18 years. Our food budget will be lowered significantly. And things will never be quite the same again.

The 18 years of his life have been the best 18 years of my life. Every morning for 18 years I have prayed for God to bless and protect our son; I’ve never missed a day. But I know he belonged to his heavenly Father before he was given to his earthly father and mother. We now must trust his future into his first Father’s hands. We must trust that the God we cannot see is the God who can see us, and him. The God who will walk at his side for the rest of his life. We must trust our son to his Son.

So many of you have helped us. You’ve walked this path and have called or written to help us walk it. Your encouragement has been a gift to our hearts, more than you may know.

It’s that way for us all of life. Each of us is either blind needing help to see, or sighted needing to help the blind. Which are you today?