A man who goes blind loses what he knows, and that is precisely the loss. The man, having gone blind, remembers what the look of the sunset, a Father’s hands, or a lover’s smile. He loses what he has had, and that is the regret.
The man who is blind from birth never knew it, and that is precisely the tragedy. He recalls no sunsets, knows his father’s hand by its texture alone, and if he has a lover, that love is blind in truth. This is not to say going blind is better or worse—only different than having been blind from birth. The one is a loss of the chief of the senses; the other is to have never possessed it in the first place.
Jesus came across such a man who had never possessed sight. The “Man Born Blind,” as he has come to be known, didn’t hear Jesus coming, but instead the disciples noticed him and posed a question to Jesus:
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2)
There are no stupid questions, I’m told. However, I do wonder if some questions might be inappropriately worded or timed. Some questions hurt. I was at a party once where a friend of mine went up to a woman he hadn’t seen in some time, and growing wide eyed while looking at her stomach, he blurted out his question: “When are you due?”
You guessed it: she wasn’t pregnant. Perhaps there are some stupid questions after all.
The question the Disciples ask is loaded with many assumptions we might consider stupid at face value. They see this man blind from birth and in their minds there are only two options:[highlight class=”highlight_yellow” style=””]Option A: He sinned.[/highlight] The man born blind was born on the wrong side of the good and evil tracks and there was just something about him that cursed him from birth. It’s his fault. If we’re assigning blame, one option is to blame the man himself. This is the Karma approach to bad things happening: bad things happen to bad people—so if bad things are happening to you, well, I hate to judge, but it makes you wonder. [highlight class=”highlight_yellow” style=””]Option B: His parents sinned. [/highlight]The parents must have done something wrong. They didn’t read the right pre-natal care books. They didn’t use the right baby sleeping method. They didn’t keep the kid on the right schedule. They were bad, evil parents, and they were cursed with a son born blind. This is the Genetic approach to bad things happening: bad things happen to bad families—so if bad things are happening to you, well, so sorry, but let’s talk about how your mother messed you up again.
Hard to imagine making such stupid assumptions isn’t it?
But wait. Don’t we do this as well? Don’t we take responsibility for assigning culpability all the time? We see people in bad situations and we play like hall-of-fame blame gamers. When we see someone hit rock bottom our response is more serves them right than how can I rightly serve them? We reason: they did this to themselves. Or their parents did it. They are in a cycle of evil that is either their fault or their parent’s fault. With a smug sense of our own success we think: aint’ it a shame some people just don’t get it?
Jesus doesn’t seem to think this way. The disciples wanted to have a theological discussion about blame, but Jesus wants to display a practical experience of God’s glory. Jesus doesn’t like Option A or Option B… he chooses…[highlight class=”highlight_yellow” style=””]Option C: Neither.[/highlight] Jesus seems to say: Dear Disciples, don’t assume that all who hit rock bottom threw themselves there. Oh and his parents aren’t to blame either. Instead, he makes it clear that assigning culpability is not our responsibility.
“‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” (v3)
The works of God were indeed displayed in him. Jesus heals the man born blind. Right then and there. The diagnosis? Merely a light case of blindness with an added opportunity for God to be glorified. The prescription? 1 part dirt + 1 part spit = sight.
That sounds about right. That’s the Jesus you and I know. Jesus makes miracles out of mudpies.
A man who goes blind loses what he knows, and that is precisely the loss.
A man who is blind from birth never knew sight, and that is precisely the tragedy.
A man who was blind from birth but now can see? That is precisely the work of God displayed in him.
Let’s be Option C people. When we find the marginalized that everyone assumes got themselves into this mess, let’s see them as human beings that God wants “works of God to be displayed in.” Then perhaps God might display his works through us as well.[divider type=”dots”]
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