Pay Attention

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Our capacity to go through life without paying attention is staggering. Yet, paying attention to people shapes their behavior, and often, their lives.

In John 9:1-8, we find a man who had spent his entire life being ignored. He simply was not worth noticing. He was a blind beggar. Let’s look at a couple important thoughts from this encounter with Jesus.

Ever drive by an intersection and see a guy standing with a sign, "Will work for food?" Watch what happens to people in the cars and this guy. He will try to catch their eyes. They will avert their eyes and try to pretend they don't see him. Once they pay attention, then they feel more obligation to respond.

That was this guy's life. People would try to look the other way. He would try to do something to catch their eye.

What he did for a living was to be ignored. "As Jesus passed by, He saw a man." The chapter is full of the verb—to see.

In the story, Jesus compares physical sight and spiritual insight. He contrasts the ability to see spiritually with spiritual blindness with people who think they can see but can't see at all. Even the smallest detail of your life is of immense interest to Jesus. Jesus pays attention to you. He notices you. You may be boring to some people, but you are never boring to God.

So, the disciples notice this guy and ask an interesting question. "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?" How could his blindness, which existed since his birth, be caused by his own sin? There was a belief in Jesus' day, that it was possible for a fetus to sin. If a mother-to-be worshipped in a heathen temple, there were rabbis who taught that the unborn child was judged to be guilty of idolatry. Somehow it made people feel better if they could think that a suffering person deserved his suffering.

In those days, people believed there was a cause-and-effect relationship between suffering and sin. This guy spent his life with people trying to ignore him because of some alleged pre-birth sin. Or some sin the parents committed. A good theological answer is this is a consequence of the Fall. Jesus answers it clearly and completely.

Mothers would walk by him with their children and say, "Don't look at him. Don't listen to him. Don't go near him.

I think one of the hardest things for human beings to believe is that they were created to do the work of God.

Don't pay any attention to him. He wants something, and he doesn't deserve it." Jesus comes to this man who everybody else ignores. He stops. The disciples ask, "Who sinned?" Jesus says to His disciples, "You have not been paying attention. God has not forsaken him. God has come to him." This is just the kind of guy that Jesus is looking for.

He wants something, and he doesn't deserve it.

Jesus answers the theological question by saying "We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." The reason is so that the works of God can be revealed. What does Jesus mean by saying "it is day"?  There is now an extraordinary opportunity, but it is time-limited. Like daytime, it will not last forever. It's possible to miss it.

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I think one of the hardest things for human beings to believe is that they were created to do the work of God. I love the classic movie The Blues Brothers. The two central characters in this film are two bumbling musicians on a cause. People periodically throughout the film asked them, "What are you doing?" They have a stock answer they give. We’re on a mission from God.

It's hilarious to think that these two ordinary, mediocre, music wannabes could have been commissioned by the God of the universe. That's the point of the joke. Everything in our world is designed to keep us from believing that we're on a mission from God. If you don't believe me, the next time you get stopped by a policeman and he asks you, "Where are you going so fast?" just tell him, "I'm on a mission from God."

The alternative is that God has no interest or attention devoted to what your life is about. Notice when Jesus did this…

"as he passed by." (v. 1) Did you ever hear that expression when you want something at a restaurant or store? 'It's not my job.' Jesus was not in the synagogue. He was not giving the Sermon on the Mount. He was not feeding 5,000 people. The main place you will do the work of God -- as you live the dailies of life.

This is your day. Don't miss it. You don't get it back. Night is coming. You are on a mission from God.

One of the great barriers to experiencing our lives as a mission from God is the illusion that we must somehow have an important job, an impressive title, a significant portfolio. Mostly this business of doing the work of God happens in the routine, unspectacular corners of your life as you go along.

It happens with the people and the opportunities that God brings into your daily existence. God will not ask you one day, "Did you achieve financial security? Did you live in the right neighborhood? Did you get the promotion?"

God will ask you, "Did you do My work?' in your job, whatever it happened to be, with your family or friends, in your neighborhood or your school? Did you extend My kingdom into your kingdom?"

This is your day. Don't miss it. You don't get it back. Night is coming. You are on a mission from God.

The great question is, what is the work of God? There was disagreement between Jesus and the Pharisees.

It was the Sabbath. Jesus has broken the Sabbath. The religious leaders had a list of 39 things you could not do on the Sabbath. The critical part was avoidance. Jesus says the work of God is not about rules. It is about people. If you want to do the work of God, start by paying attention to people, especially people that others around you ignore.

Who are some of the people that are easily ignored by Christ followers? People who don’t vote like you, think like you, look and talk like you. Maybe they’re pro-choice or pro-life. Pro-gay marriage or it’s between a man and a woman. Drink too much, or don’t drink, sleep in the wrong bed, generally hold very divergent values than you.

The religious leaders of Jesus' day were so devoted to showing their righteousness that they missed the essence of the work of God. Love. The place where love starts is paying attention.

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And in paying attention, Jesus performs one of the miracles we have recorded for us in Scripture. He heals the man of his blindness.

To see how ignored this man was, who has been begging by the side of the road, the neighbors notice that he is no longer blind and ask, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?"  Some were saying it is. Others were saying no, it's someone who looks like him. Day after day, he's been a part of their world. They have paid so little attention to him that when the miracle happens, and he receives his sight, they're not even able to identify him. Totally blind. Our capacity to go through life without paying attention is staggering.

Do you pay attention to God? We typically don’t pay much attention to God and think He also does not pay attention to us. That’s a total misunderstanding about the God of the universe. Do you pay attention to people?

If you want to do the work of God, start by simply noticing people. Especially the people nobody else notices.

That's what Jesus does for him.

Someone once said that love is not the opposite of hate. But the opposite of love and hate is indifference. Jesus pays attention to this man and changes his life. The Pharisees are opposed to this type of contamination from a sinful man. So, a different kind of blindness enters the story.  Spiritual blindness. They call in the guy's parents and they say… "We know this is our son, and that he was born blind. But we do not know how it is that he now sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him. He is of age. He will speak for himself."

The Pharisees called him back again. Suddenly, everybody is falling all over themselves to get at him.

Jesus sees him, then the disciples, then his neighbors, finally the Pharisees or religious leaders. They want to know who opened his eyes. Look at his response: "I don't know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know is that though I was blind now I see." This guy is a remarkable character for somebody who has been ignored his whole life.

They say to him, "We know that God does not listen to sinners.” It gives you an insight into their list of people who don’t matter. And they drove the man out of their presence. Now you begin to see their blindness. They think of themselves as being totally devoted to the work of God. They are so busy with it that God comes, and they never notice.

There are no little people and no little places. We must be willing to see.

The Religious are interesting people. They’re more obsessed with the sins and shortcomings of others and make it their business to point out other’s faults so that they do not have to deal with their own.  They make it their goal to catch people doing something wrong and condemn them rather than seeing them with the same eyes that Jesus sees them, causing them to reach out with compassion. They only hang out with people who think just like them. They are known more for what they attack rather than what they build up.

So, we conclude this amazing story. John is very careful to show a picture of the man's increasing understanding of and insight into who Jesus is. His name was Jesus. (v. 11) He's a Prophet. (v. 17) He is God’s messenger. (v. 33) He is in the presence of the Son of Man. (v. 35) He calls Him Lord. (v. 38)

When the disciples looked at this guy by the side of the road, they found an interesting, theological question:

"Who sinned that he was born blind?"  When his neighbors looked at him, they saw an eyesore, a reminder of suffering and poverty that they had learned to ignore. When the Pharisees looked at this man, they saw a threat to their spiritual authority. When Jesus looked at this man, He saw an opportunity to do the work of God.

Jesus said, "I have come into this world for judgment." (v. 39) A response to that is....  it presents people with a choice. So that somebody who is blind and insignificant on the side of the road like this guy can be given sight -- not just physical sight, but spiritual sight to see Jesus for Who He really is. Those who do not see, those who are blinded, can be forgiven and given the gift of sight.

"And those who do see." Those in their smug self-righteousness, who claim to be the spiritually insightful, may be shown to be as blind as they are.

There has never been anyone in human history who has displayed a greater preoccupation with people than Jesus. He always paid attention to people. Jesus is saying is that lost people, people who are spiritually confused, who are wandering away from Him, matter. They’re valuable and warrant a search. We must invest the effort to search them out and tell them the good news about the hope that is found in Jesus Christ.

If you are a follower of Jesus, then we need to be about the mission of seeking and communicating His message of hope to those who are spiritually confused and ignored. When we begin to look at other people through Heaven’s eyes, we can see them as people who are loved by God, who are valuable to Him. When Jesus walked into a room filled with people far from the Father, He was not offended by their behavior, He wasn’t put off by their choices.

He just looked at them the way He knew the Father looked at them. As missing children whose names He knew, whose stories He knew, whose life in eternity the Father was concerned about. Jesus kept believing in the power of God to transform human life.

Who's at work? God.
Who's too far away? Nobody.
Who matters? Everyone.
Who's got the job? Me.
What's at stake? Eternity.
What have I got to offer? Jesus.
What have I got to lose? Nothing and they have an eternity to gain!

There are no little people and no little places. We must be willing to see.


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Rick Iglesias

Rick joined the Orchard Hill staff in 2015 and serves as The Life Stage Pastor and Director of Ministries, providing broad oversight to the ministries and operations of Orchard Hill.
 
Prior to becoming part of the staff team, Rick was the Senior Pastor at Pleasant Valley Church in Winona, Minnesota. He served as an English Pastor at Grace Church in Wheeling, Illinois, directing the student and young adult ministries at this Korean-American Church. Previously, he was a College Pastor at Wheaton Bible Church in West Chicago, Illinois. Rick has been very active in overseas mission work in Romania and England. He earned a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.
 
Rick was born in Cuba and loves to cook and eat! Rick, his wife Nancy, and his son Brennan live in Adams Township.