An honest “I don’t know” in faith-sharing is an asset, not a liability. Don’t be afraid of it. We have permission to admit what we do not know or fully understand about Jesus. The man we met in John 9 was not hindered in faith-sharing by what he did not know, but he was empowered to share what he DID know with confidence, because it was rooted in an undeniable personal experience with Jesus!
10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. 11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” 12 “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said.
This statement – “I don’t know” – it can be one of the most effective and legitimate tools to have in your faith-sharing tool box. This man has just shared his own personal testimony of his life-changing encounter with Jesus! The people do not reply-back with wow’s and applause and celebration. As we so often fear will happen, they replied back with a question. Theirs was not a theological question, in this case, but it was a question nonetheless. And this man did not know the answer.
He has just shared his faith, it has been received with a question, and he’s stumped. He is only 12 seconds into his first-ever faith-sharing experience, and it’s already falling apart on him. They’re asking him a question that he doesn’t know the answer to! What should he do? Should he try to come up with an answer? Change the subject? Answer their question with another question in order to buy himself some time to think?
No, the man simply tells them the truth: “I don’t know”.
“I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer when someone questions you about some aspect of Jesus, or God, or theology, or heaven, or whatever they may ask about. Listen to me: you have permission to humbly and truthfully say, “I don’t know”.
“I don’t know” shows honesty. It shows vulnerability. It shows integrity, and that you’re not hiding or trying to cover up anything. It shows humility in admitting you don’t have all the answers.
In truth, it shows an even deeper faith. “I don’t know” communicates the fact that even though there are aspects to this whole Jesus thing that I cannot personally explain, I still believe it with all my heart. But this is not an ignorant, wishful-thinking kind of belief. It is a deep and real faith that is rooted in a personal experience that is undeniable.
You can almost hear this guy saying, “Look into my eyes! You all know me! You know I was blind! Now, I can see! I can’t fully explain it all to you. I can’t answer all of your questions. But I can tell you this: Jesus is real, and He personally transformed my life forever.”
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
This man knows his own personal testimony, and he is confident in it. This is now his second time sharing his story, and he’s honing his message. It is short. It is simple. But it is very real and very undeniable.
16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
Now this interaction baffles me. Even in their division, the Pharisees do not even dispute the fact that a miracle has taken place. They just skim right over the fact that a miraculous healing has occurred, and they jump straight into the rule book!
That would be like if my 4-year-old Emma went outside, picked up a car with her bare hands, and carried it down the street. Then later when I come outside, see the car moved, ask what happened, and hear what she did, I said, “Young lady, you know better than to go outside by yourself! You are not to go outside without an adult, do you understand me?”
The Pharisees are looking into the face of a miracle, and yet they can’t even stop for one second to acknowledge what they are seeing. How ironic… Who seems blind now?
17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
Now, think about what he said, “He is a prophet.” Is this a wrong answer? No… Jesus was indeed a prophet. But that’s not all He was. This is not a wrong answer, it is just an incomplete answer. But remember how very little this man knows about Jesus so far: all he knows is that some man named “Jesus” touched and healed his blindness. That’s it. So he’s giving the best answer he can. It’s not completely correct, but he is doing his best.
This is where I may have my greatest fear in sharing my faith:
- What if I say something wrong?
- What if the answer I give isn’t completely correct or accurate?
- Will I be leading the person astray?
- Will I be doing God a disservice?
- Will I do more harm than good?
Y’all, there is grace for this. God wants us to do our best, as we are humble before Him, available to Him, and listening for His guidance, directions, and words. Remember: we do not save people. Our words do not save people. Christ alone by the power of the Holy Spirit saves people.
It’s not your responsibility to make sure that every single theological statement out of your mouth is 100% flawless and without error. Now, we need to do our very best to be as truthful and accurate as we can be, but if we make an honest mistake, God’s big enough to handle it.
Besides, it’s less about what you say, and more about how you say it. In verse 17, the man says, “He is a prophet.” He does not doubt. He does not second-guess. This man believes whole-heartedly that there is something special about this Jesus, and he automatically connects Jesus with God using the vocabulary that is common to him: He is a prophet – He is a man of God.
But listen to the confidence. This man doesn’t just say that he thinks Jesus is a prophet, or that Jesus might be a prophet. No, this man makes a declarative, definitive statement: “He is a prophet”. It’s not the total truth about all that Jesus is, but it is the best he knows, and he states it confidently and without hesitation.
By worldly faith-sharing standards, this guy is not doing a very good job: he can’t answer his neighbors’ or the Pharisees’ questions; he gives an incomplete description of Jesus; he hasn’t won a single convert to the faith… But in the next post, we will see what kind of a response Jesus gives to this man who is humbly and faithfully sharing his faith as best he can. Jesus’ response to this man is a wonderful encouragement to all of us who feel weak or ineffective in our faith-sharing…