“Lord, I Believe”
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“Lord, I Believe”

John 9:38  (ID: 2526)

The beggar’s trajectory in John 9 offers a glimpse of a life truly lived in Christ. Sought for and healed by Jesus, he declared his belief in the Son of Man before casting himself at His feet in worship. Such devotion, Alistair Begg explains, is both a response to Jesus’ kindness and evidence of authentic belief. This is the trajectory our lives ought to follow as well: faith, resulting in worship, and finally, evangelism.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Light in the Darkness

A Study of Christ’s Encounters with the Lost John 9:1–41, Mark 5:1–20, Mark 6:30–43 Series ID: 25401

Sermon Transcript: Print

We’re going to read from the Bible, again from John’s Gospel and from chapter 6 tonight. Verse 25:

“When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’

“[And] Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’

“Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’

“Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’

“So they asked him, ‘What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our [fathers] ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’

“Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’

“‘Sir,’ they said, ‘from now on give us this bread.’

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never [grow] hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.’”


And our text for this evening is, “Then the man said,” verse 38, “‘Lord I believe,’ and he worshiped him.”

Now, if you could see my notes up here, you would realize just how important it is that I say, “Why don’t we pause and pray?” Let us pray:

O Lord our God, you have known about this day and about this evening, and so our trust and our confidence is in you as we turn to the Bible now. Teach us, Lord, we pray. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

The danger in speaking so quickly after thinking, insofar as it was not my intention to address ourselves in this way tonight, is that I may speak more quickly than I should and may not have thought as properly as I ought. But that is one of the risks involved in this kind of venture. But as I thought this afternoon, I wondered, Would it be wrong to suggest that we could somehow pry in, as it were, to the communion of Jesus with his Father? Given all that he has revealed of himself in the Bible, is it wrong for us to think that we might get an inkling of something of what passed between God the Son and God the Father in the exercise of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ? Because when we read the Bible, when we read the Gospels, it becomes clear that a large part of Jesus’ life was directly related to his communion with his Father—that from the very outset of things, the disciples are perplexed because they can’t find Jesus, and when they finally locate him, they discover that he has been out and he has been spending time in prayer with his Father.

Some of the prayers of Jesus we know, because they’re recorded for us in Scripture. For example, what we refer to as his High Priestly Prayer in John 17 is an insight, it gives us an inkling, of the communion between Son and Father. We also have, as he approaches Gethsemane and indeed find him in Gethsemane, speaking to his Father in a way that is then disclosed for us in the record of the Gospels: “Lord, if you’re willing, let this cup pass from me. But nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”[1] And what is essentially a prayer from the cross when he says to his Father, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”[2] And with those instances we can speak with clarity, because we have the text before us.

But it is not about those things that I’m wondering. It is about the undisclosed times. It is about the occasions in which Jesus, at the beginning of the day, committed his day to the Father and went out to do the Father’s will. It is that kind of thing I found myself wondering about: Jesus beginning the day, presumably saying to his Father, “Father, thank you for a good night’s rest. Thank you for the gift of this new day. Thank you for another day in which to serve you, in which to do your will. Father, you know that I have come to do your will, and I do know that your will is that all who look to me may have eternal life, that all who believe in me may have eternal life. And I’m going out into this day, Father, and I’m going to meet a lot of people. And I want you, Father, to guide me, to prompt me. You have poured out the Spirit upon me at my baptism, enabling me and quickening me, and I want you to help me to know those with whom I should spend time, and those with whom I should stop and talk, and the others that I should simply leave and keep moving past.”

Now, for us to think in those terms may be unsettling, but as I say, I think it’s all right to do. And when we think in those terms, we then have confidence in recognizing—and this is why we read from John 6—the perspective of Jesus in looking out on the prospect of his ministry: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven”—he is the Messiah from heaven; he is the Son of Man, as we saw this morning—“not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. Father, I commit the day to you. I’m going to join the rest of the gang now, and we’re off into the day.”

Jesus sits enthroned in heaven as the ascended King, and it is from there that he will come a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Now look at the beginning of John 9: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.” And the disciples made this man the occasion of a stop. He perhaps saw the way in which the disciples looked at the man, and he then was able to respond to the question that the disciples asked of the man. And this is a rather mind-blowing point, but the incident in John chapter 9 falls within the great panorama of God’s redemptive purpose from all of eternity—that this moment in time with a man born blind and what is an apparently inconsequential stop at the middle of the day or the commencement of the day is part of the fulfillment of the promise of God to Abraham that “through your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”[3] It is part of the great, ongoing, consummating purpose of God to put together a company of people that no one can count from every tribe, and nation, and language, and people, and tongue.[4] It is part of the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus as he recounts it here in John chapter 6. So that although we have looked at John chapter 9 in a kind of atomized way, in a way that has not only picked it out of the surrounding chapters of John but indeed has picked it out of everything, I have the opportunity to remind you tonight that this is in the unfolding drama of God’s redemptive purpose. And what a chapter John 9 has proved to be! I certainly have learned a lot from it. I hope that some of you have too.

And the event of the healing of this man, and what follows from it, is remarkable. I found myself sitting and saying, “How did Jesus find this man?” And then, “How did Jesus leave this man?” And in considering how he found him and how he left him, there is actually the description of how Jesus finds men and women in their lostness and how he then leaves them as sheep that have been found.

Now, we don’t know the amount of time that is involved in John chapter 9. We don’t know whether it’s a day or a few days; we’re not told. But whatever the period of time is, think with me just for a moment, as we review chapter 9, about what has happened to this man. Think of how he was when Jesus addressed him: he was helpless and he was hopeless. He was a blind man and a beggar. Consider the fact that Jesus sought him out. Consider the fact that Jesus asked him to do something which was so strikingly dramatic that there must have been something in the very authority of Jesus’ voice that caused the man to allow this stranger, whom he couldn’t see, to spit on the ground, to make a paste, and to rub it on his eyes, and then to be prepared at the word of this stranger to go and wash off the mud.

Consider the fact that he was made the object of God’s supernatural intervention in that his sight was restored. And as a result of that, he then was given the opportunity to go back to his neighbors and to his family and to appraise them of this dramatic thing that had happened. He was severely tested as a result of this by the neighborhood community. He was denied the support of his parents, who refused to answer the question and passed the buck. As a result, he was cast back afresh on the mercy of God. When challenged again by the religious authorities, he confounded them by his answers, and as a result of that, he was reviled by them and then thrown out by them. He is then sought out again by the Savior, and he is taught by Jesus, and as a result, he falls at his feet in devoted worship.

And it is there that we leave him. That’s where the Holy Spirit finally draws this picture to a close—begins the picture at the outset of the chapter with a man in all of his hopelessness and his helplessness, and ends the picture, leaves him, where this man will always and ever be: as a worshipper of Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the King.

Because actually, that’s where that man is tonight. You understand that, don’t you? That having died, he has been ushered into the company of those, having come to eternal life—a life which begins in the now and leads to the then—having been ushered into the reality of that, he now takes his place in that company in Revelation 7 who are worshiping the Lamb, who are declaring that salvation belongs to the Lord our God and to the Lamb who sits on the throne.[5]

He perhaps knows now—although I can’t say with certainty—that he is actually one of the early fulfillments of the statement made by Jesus to another lady that he sought out, in John chapter 4, when she asked a question concerning the nature of worship—whether in Gerizim with the Pharisees or in Jerusalem with the Jews. And remember Jesus’ amazing statement? He said, “That’s really not the issue, Madam. It’s not about geography. The time is coming and has now come when those who worship the Father will worship him in spirit and in truth, for those are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.”[6]

Now, again, remember, in the morning he prays to his Father, “Father, I’m going out today seeking worshippers.” And the blind beggar is addressed, and the blind beggar’s life is changed, and the blind beggar’s mind is taught, and what does he become? A worshipper! In fulfillment of the direct purpose of God. God is seeking those who will worship him.

And as we think of the nature of this whole progression, it certainly speaks to us concerning not only the dimensions of what it means to come to Jesus but also what it means to live in Christ. When it says here that the man inquired, “Who are you, that I may believe?” we said this morning, quoting Carson, that mature and knowledgeable faith is far more a consequence than it is a condition of that decisive entry into the promises of God.[7] And for however long this man would have lived, he would have grown in a knowledge and in an understanding of who Jesus is.

And if you have recently become a Christian—if you have, like this man, said, “Lord, I believe” and have become a worshipper of God—then as you are growing in grace and in a knowledge of Jesus, you will be learning the main things of the gospel. Oh, you may be exactly trying to learn them. I hope you are! Reading books, and listening to tapes and CDs, and inquiring of those further along the line. And as you think, you’re beginning to put the immensity of the picture together: that being God, in his infinite mercy, Jesus came and took upon himself our nature, and he lived as a man amongst men and women. You’ve been learning that his life was unique, that he was absolutely perfect. That by his death he dealt with sin. That he took upon himself the sin that he had never committed; he “was numbered with the transgressors.”[8] He died, the “righteous for the unrighteous, to bring [us] to God.”[9] You’ve been learning that the Father accepted the sufferings of Christ as the propitiation for all who believe in him. And you’ve discovered that tonight, Jesus sits enthroned in heaven as the ascended King, and it is from there that he will come a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

And if you have begun to get a modicum of that, if you have begun to grasp the smallest part of that, then you will understand why it is that the man cast himself before Jesus. The Greek verb is proskuneó. It is the same word as in John 4. It is the same word as in Revelation 7: “And they cast themselves and their crowns before him, declaring, ‘Salvation belongs to our God!’”[10] One of the commentators says, “The ultimate reason for the decline in Christian worship must always ultimately be a failure to recognize and experience the redeeming work of Jesus.” I think that is absolutely dead on. You can talk all you like about style of worship—whether you’re singing accompanied or unaccompanied, whether you’re singing in the twenty-first century or the fourteenth century, whether you are singing Gregorian chants or whether you’re doing it antiphonally, or whatever in the world you are doing. But if you are in Christ, you understand that worship is a reflex action, that praise is a genuine reality. And he said, “Lord, I believe,” and he cast himself down in obeisance.

If you are not a worshipper, check to see whether you are a believer.

And when you have men and women who do not understand what it is to praise, who do not understand what it is to throw themselves down, as it were, at the feet of Christ, you are dealing with a group of people who do not understand who Jesus is or why he came, or certainly they have lost sight of it along the journey. A congregation of God’s people, if they are in Christ, must—must—be a worshiping, praising congregation. And the decline in worship in the twenty-first century is because of the ascendancy of man and the diminution of God, because we are stuck on ourselves, and our expectations, and our hopes, and our dreams, and our affirmations. And it is not all about us! It is all about God! And it is not all about you and the songs you want to sing, or about me and the songs I want to sing. It is all about God and getting glory to his name.

And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul…[11]

But not until then!

If you are not a worshipper, check to see whether you are a believer. Check to see whether the first part of the sentence is yours. Because the absence of the second part is directly related to the absence of the first: “Lord, I believe in you,” and then he worshiped him.

Well, let me give you a second sermon to finish. You know I’ve told you before that “there once was a preacher called Spurgy, who really detested liturgy,” but that “his sermons are fine, and I use them as mine, and so do most of the clergy!” And every pastor worth his salt knows: if you run up against it, find Spurgeon. And I have a very faithful assistant who knows I’m up against it so often that she finds Spurgeon for me frequently. And often, unbeknownst to her, I have benefited far more than I’ve given her credit for.

But I went to Spurgeon, and I said, “What did Spurgeon do with this little section?” And I won’t preach it all to you; it wouldn’t be fair. I’ve thought of preaching it and not telling you. And then I thought, “Well, that would be horribly deceitful.” And furthermore, somebody would find it and come and tell me afterwards, because you’re such an industrious group.

But Spurgeon wraps this material up by suggesting—and I’ll only take a moment on this—that not only do we have here an illustration of saving faith, and not only do we have here the impact of saving faith in a life in that he worships, but Spurgeon also says, with his great mind—if only we had a small piece of his gray matter, it would be such a help—but he’s able to pick up the material and turn it around in ways that most mortals do not have the capacity. But he picks it up for one more time, and he says, “And what we have in this section is an example of what we may do in endeavoring to lead men and women to faith in Jesus.”[12] And since this whole series began at that point and will eventually end at that point, probably, at the twenty-first verse of chapter 10, we do well just to end in this way just now.

And this is what he says: he says if you want to follow this example in reaching people for Jesus, number one, “seek out the oppressed.” Seek out the oppressed. (Some of this is Spurgeon; a little of it’s me. Any good bits will definitely be Spurgeon.) The Bible says that we’re to go into all the world and take the message to every creature.[13] Spurgeon says, “However, if you have any opportunity to look specially for some more than for others,” then, he says, “seek out the sick, the sad, the weary, the poor, the broken-down ones, and especially such as have been thrown out by their systems of religion.”

Not only did Spurgeon understand that, but the cults understand that, and they come and prey on those who are disenfranchised and despondent in relationship to whatever system of religion they have been reared in. We should consider that when Jesus decided to have a new disciple and a new missionary in the Samarian region, in the region of Sychar, he did not go to an illustrious woman like Lydia of Philippi, whom Paul met, but he actually went to a very strange lady from that perspective, and somebody with a checkered past who’d had five husbands and a live-in lover, and Jesus went to her, because she was going to be his missionary in the region. Says Spurgeon, “You should go to those people and find those people. You should go to those who are the out-of-the-way sinners”—what Whitefield referred to as “sweeping up the devil’s castaways.” The people that no one wants and no one will have, Jesus wants and Jesus will have, and Jesus has every right to anticipate that his followers will do the same.

“Ask them questions, then,” he says. “When you reach these people, ask them questions, just as Jesus did.” Direct and pointed questions. “Who is he, sir?”[14] the man asked. Why did he ask? Because Jesus asked him a question: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”[15]

Spurgeon—and I must just quote Spurgeon to you here, because it is quite compelling—he says, “You know, it is one thing for Jesus to ask that question. It is one thing for the evangelist to ask the question to the crowd. It is one thing,” he says, “for me to ask you, the members of the congregation. But,” he says, “this is my suggestion.” And he’s speaking to his congregation. He says, “Put the enquiry pointedly and personally. Here I am, up in the pulpit, firing the gospel gun, and the shot flies where God directs it; but you,” in the congregation, “who love the Lord, can, as it were, hold a pistol close to the sinner’s head.” You think I’m direct?

Take them separately, one by one; and make them “stand and deliver.” Put the question as our Lord did, “[Do you] believe?” “See, friend,” you can say, “the minister has been preaching about faith. ‘[Do you] believe?’” This is what nine out of ten want,—somebody to come and make a personal application of the truth to them. They are like soldiers out on the battlefield; they lie there, wounded, bleeding, dying. Close by, there is all that is needed to bind up their wounds, and plenty of it; then, why do they lie there in agony? They need personal attention, and it is your business, as an army surgeon, to go and put on the lint, and bind up the wounds. Oh, that we had multitudes who would do this, and that all God’s people were constantly looking out for opportunities of making a personal application of the truth to those who hear it! “[Do you] believe?” said the Lord Jesus to this man, and by that question he held him fast. That is the way to win souls, begin with a personal question.

Think about it! If when the service ended, by the prompting of God’s Spirit and not in an offensive way, the congregation were to turn to each other on the basis of what had been said—assuming that the pastor had not been on a fool’s errand in the disbursement of the truth—and to ask, “Do you believe in this Jesus?” Oh, you may have the first opportunity to lead somebody right to Christ before you head out the door. Because they’ve managed to wiggle away from the pastor. They’ve managed to say, “Oh, we sang a hymn; we’re out now. We’re going to lunch.” But if you were to turn and just say, “I am sorry, I don’t know you, but it seems that this is the issue: Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

Seek the oppressed. Ask them questions. Be prepared to answer their questions. That’s what Jesus did: “Tell me, sir, so that I can believe.” Says Spurgeon, “We need to be able to answer their questions. Tell them everything you know; and if you can’t tell them all that they want to know, then take them to someone who can.” What a wonderful bookstore we have. What a phenomenal resource! Tapes, CDs, all kinds of materials right at our fingertips, ready to be given to those who are asking questions. And then, ask the Lord Jesus to reveal himself to them. Ask Jesus to reveal himself to them. Because we can’t speak of Christ as he should be spoken of. It’s only when he reveals himself that people will see him.

And finally, he says, glorify Christ by sharing your personal testimony. And he quotes from the High Priestly Prayer, John 17, where Jesus says, “My prayer is not for them alone”; that’s for his disciples. “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one.”[16] “Through their message.” Their message? Says Spurgeon, “It was so kind, yet just like him, not to say, ‘through my [message].’” Of course, it is his message! But to share your testimony of who Jesus is and what he means to you is to take the truth, the unerring truth of the message of the gospel, and to pass it, as it were, through your own human personality and experience, telling others of how you came to believe and the change that Christ has wrought in your life.

Well, I think that’s enough for now, don’t you? The challenge, first of all, to believe—a believing that issues in worship, and a believing that issues in a genuine sharing of our faith. The real test of our interest in the return of Jesus is not our ability to articulate schemes of eschatology, but the real test of my interest in the return of Jesus can be traced, I think, probably to three things. One, it will be revealed in a genuine, deep-seated concern for personal holiness: “He who has this hope within him purifies himself, as he is pure.”[17] It will reveal itself in a genuine commitment to the praise and worship of God. And it will reveal itself in a compassionate, convicting, clear commitment to hold the gospel gun to the heads of our friends and family and colleagues and ask them, “Do you believe in Jesus?”

Father, we ask that you will take what is of yourself and write it in our hearts. Whatever is extraneous or irrelevant, unclear, untrue, you just banish it from our recollection. I pray for some who came this morning, and they never knew what they would be up against or what they would find, and they just have one question running through their heads right now. And they’re personalizing it; they’re saying to themselves, “Do I believe in this Jesus?” And I pray, Lord, that they will, either tonight, today, trust in Christ—turn from their sin and trust him. Or that as they talk with friends and family members, that they might come to believe in Jesus.

And we pray that those of us who are able to affirm our belief in Jesus may become these worshippers. It’s only knowing ourselves to be lost that we understand what it means to be found; to be helpless, to understand what it is to be made strong; to be sinful, to understand what it means to be set free. And then, since it is a day of good news, surely we wouldn’t keep the good news to ourselves. Help us, then, to go out and tell the world that Jesus is alive and that he seeks and saves those who are lost. For we pray in his precious name. Amen.

[1] Luke 22:42 (paraphrased). See also Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; John 18:11.

[2] Luke 23:34 (KJV).

[3] Genesis 22:18 (paraphrased).

[4] See Revelation 7:9.

[5] See Revelation 7:10.

[6] John 4:23 (paraphrased).

[7] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester: Apollos, 1991), 375.

[8] Isaiah 53:12 (NIV 1984).

[9] 1 Peter 3:18 (NIV 1984).

[10] Revelation 7:10 (paraphrased).

[11] Carl Gustav Boberg, trans. Stuart K. Hine, “How Great Thou Art” (1949).

[12] This, along with much of the following material, is based heavily on Charles Spurgeon, “A Pressed Man Yielding to Christ,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 46, no. 2667, 142–44. Excerpts presented as direct quotations are sometimes lightly paraphrased.

[13] See Mark 16:15.

[14] John 9:36 (NIV 1984).

[15] John 9:35 (NIV 1984).

[16] John 17:20–21 (NIV 1984).

[17] 1 John 3:3 (paraphrased).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.