Without the Holy Spirit we are spiritually blind and dull and unresponsive


Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” —John 4:31-33 ESV

John Piper:

For the fourth time in this Gospel, John shows us the spiritual blindness that Jesus deals with in us humans almost all the time—either because we are dead in our sin and unbelieving and need to be born again, or because as believers our spiritual eyes have grown dim and unresponsive to the glory of Christ because of worldliness.

Four Glimpses of Our Blindness

First, in John 2:19, Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” And the Jews said to him, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” They had no spiritual sight for what Jesus was talking about, namely, his own death and resurrection. They were blind to the glory of what he was revealing—that he himself is the presence of God more than the temple is, and that when he rises from the dead, from then on, he will be the place where people meet God.

Second, in John 3:3 Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Nicodemus had no spiritual sight of what Jesus was talking about, namely, there is a second birth that is spiritual. It brings into being something that did not exist before in you—a living spirit and the ability to see the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Third, in John 4:10, Jesus says to the woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” And the woman says to Jesus, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep.” She has no spiritual sight of what Jesus is talking about, namely, the supernatural spiritual life that that comes from receiving Christ himself—indeed, the supernatural life that he himself is.

And fourth, here in our text, John 4:31, his disciples say to Jesus, “Rabbi, eat.” And Jesus says to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” And the disciples said to each other, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” They had no spiritual sight of what he was talking about. Verse 34: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”

  • I will raise this temple in three days. It took 46 years to build this temple.
  • You must be born again. How can a man enter into his mother’s womb?
  • I will give you living water. You don’t have a bucket.
  • I have food to eat you do not know about. Who brought him something to eat?

We Need Holy-Spirit Help

Why does John keep showing us this pathetic response to the glory that Jesus reveals? He does it, first, to remind us over and over that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, so that we might see his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth . . . and from that fullness, that we might receive grace upon grace” (John 1:14, 16).

And he does it, second, to remind us that without the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in our lives we are spiritually blind and dull and unresponsive—just like the Jews, and Nicodemus, and the woman at the well, and the disciples.

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). We need the mighty, sovereign, life-giving, eye-opening, heart-wakening work of the Holy Spirit. That’s why we need to pray.

Father, have mercy upon our worldly, deadened, numb, unseeing, unresponsive, hearts. Breathe spiritual life into our souls. Open the eyes of our hearts. Shed divine, spiritual light into our minds. Awaken our Spirit-given ability to see and taste and know and understand and treasure the glory of Christ in your word. In his merciful and strong name, we pray. Amen.

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