The Man Born Blind

In the Gospel of John, the disciples ask Jesus why the blind man was born blind. This is roughly equivalent to our asking God why there is suffering in the world. However, more than asking why, they assume his blindness was the consequence of sin. Jesus' answer is interesting.
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him."
Whoa! That is a weighty statement! By dismissing the disciples’ wrong assumptions, Jesus is saying this happened so that God could be glorified. Jesus, as God, is taking Full Responsibility for this man's situation. At first this seems very unfair. Do you know what this man went through? He couldn't work. How do you think people might have judged him? Like the disciples, his agricultural community probably also assumed his condition was the consequence of sin; never mind that he was only a recipient of the condition that required him to beg. Adding to that stigma, let’s reference the Jewish culture briefly as outlined in Leviticus 21, starting in verse 16
"And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to Aaron, saying: "No man of your descendants in succeeding generations, who has any defect, may approach to offer the bread of his God. For any man who has a defect shall not approach: a man blind...
Continuing in verse 22:
“He may eat the bread of his God, both the most holy and the holy (Grace!); only he shall not go near the veil or approach the altar, because he has a defect, lest he profane My sanctuaries; for I the LORD sanctify them.’”
Let's take this in for a minute The basic Mosaic Law, of which Jesus says not one pen stroke will pass away until everything is accomplished, says a blind man can not offer bread or even come near God's house because he will "profane" it. Before you judge God here for being exclusive, remember: He’s a very good God and He knows the end of the story. I emphasize this because I'm about to break down the word "profane." According to Merriam-Webster, Profaning means
  • to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt
  • to desecrate
Desecrate is defined as:
  • to violate the sanctity of
  • to treat disrespectfully, irreverently
The Mosaic Law says the blind man's very presence in God's sanctuaries is sacrilegious. I emphasize this because it becomes important later. You may think this is judgmental on God's part, however, our preface verse of John 9:3 says this is so “that the works of God should be revealed in him.” Remember also that the Old Testament law is a measure of our inability to meet God's standards. This is explained in Hebrews 10. With this context, the Jewish application is understandable. Much like when we try to be perfect in our own strength, the Pharisees studied how to prevent breaking the law to the point where Jesus had to rebuke them for adding extra, over-burdening rules. Combine the social stigma of an agricultural community with the over-application of the Mosaic Law and the blind man's situation becomes clear. I would assume he was never allowed in the synagogue. If he was never allowed in the synagogue, he would never have had a bar mitzvah, never been respected by the community as a grown man, and would have only learned the scriptures by his own faithful listening. No doubt, Jews who valued their cleanliness according to the law would have avoided him. The most self-righteous even with awkward incivility. I'm not judging them either because I double lock my car doors pulling up to certain corners.

Point being – He was a COMPLETE OUTCAST.

This is quite the situation for God to credit Himself for. Continuing Jesus says:
"’I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.'" "When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” So he went and washed, and came back seeing."
Wow! He can see! But this is only the beginning of God’s work being revealed in him. You see while he was sitting on the side of the road begging, he was not idle. I submit to you that God gifted him not only with physical blindness (yes, gifted!), but also the intellectual vision of a richly blessed philosopher who has a deep understanding of God's principles and ways. This kind of vision generally comes from extensive time spent respectfully wrestling with and listening to God. This is a vision that outweighs "seeing" as Jesus Himself will remind us. So shocked by his opened eyes, the blind man’s neighbors question his identity. This makes sense to me because when I change from "curly-head" to "bunhead" the results are more transformative than the glasses of Clark Kent. Considering his blindness has been his life-long trademark, their double-take disbelief is understandable. Exceedingly surprised, the neighbors bring him to the Pharisees who immediately question the moral character of the healer for breaking their rules regarding the Sabbath! (Didn't I tell you about that?) When the Pharisees ask the man born blind to describe his healer, he rightly declares that Jesus is a prophet. Considering his limited knowledge of Jesus, this is a correct, pre-step to recognizing Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. The Pharisees, questioning the truth of his blindness, seek out his parents to verify his condition at birth. No doubt, they had avoided him and naturally would have no knowledge of his name, origins, or existence. In their blind devotion to their own self-righteous rules, they de-valued a human being. The parents of the man born blind testify to his identity and blindness at birth but leave the rest of the conversation to him as they want to continue going to synagogue.

This is where the work of God in him is revealed.

Picking up in verse 24:
"So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him ‘Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.” (How so?) “He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know (profound!). One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” “Then they said to him again, ‘What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?’ They're getting distracted by Jesus' physical actions and totally missing His purpose. Don't let wrong focus happen to you! “He answered them (boldly!), ‘I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?’
Whoa! Where did that come from?! Conversational rebound!
“Then they reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.’”
Why are they getting so offended? And why are they depending on Moses’ relationship with God? The man born blind gives them one more faithful reasoning in defense of Jesus' origin from God, a man he has only met once and still has not "seen." He does this with calm, confident chutzpah the disciples will not match until the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
"The man answered and said to them, ‘Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners (Biblical Truth!); but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind.’”
Historical context makes Jesus' healing all the more miraculous. Brace yourself for his final point, which is the thesis statement of the Book of John:

"If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing."

BOOM! The Pharisees are without excuse for disbelieving the claims of Jesus as Christ. And yet their self-righteous mindset continues...
“They answered and said to him, ‘You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?’ And they cast him out.”
How’s that for a backhanded acknowledgement of his successful use of godly truth and logic? I’m not sure this was a big deal to him; he has a lifetime of practice dealing with rejection. Those of you experiencing consistent life lesson's in one particular area, take note: this last big rejection is the final one before his complete and permanent acceptance.
"Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” “He answered and said, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?’ “And Jesus said to him (I imagine a smile on his face!), ‘You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.’ “Then he said, ‘Lord, I believe!’ And he worshiped Him. “And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.’”

_________________

The Story of the Man Born Blind is Evidence

We can Trust the Divine Jesus We Cannot Physically See.

Photo by JordanAnthony, Flickr Creative Commons

One question remains, however, from the beginning of our discussion

"Why is there suffering?"

For the man born blind and for many of us who are faithfully pursuing God despite unfair trials in our lives (and I hope you agree that the life scenario of the man born blind is very unfair), the answer remains:

"... that the works of God should be revealed ..."

In him. In us. What does this mean for the purpose of inexplicable suffering? It is for the Glory of God. What does this mean for the purpose of Jesus' healing? It is for the Glory of God. Think on that. One more question: How does this change our perspective on pain and freedom from pain? It's not about us. Or about our experience in the "right here, right now."

God Divinely Plans Our Trials for a Much Greater Eternal Purpose.

Sometimes we get to see that purpose quickly. Sometimes like the man born blind, we must wait our entire lives to discover that purpose. Sometimes, like Jim Elliot, Steven the Martyr, and Jesus Himself, God's plan for our purpose requires our death. Regardless of our callings, we have nothing to fear. As Jesus says later:
"This sickness is not unto death ..." John 11:4 "... whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die." John 11:26
The glory God gains through our lives is the treasure He stores up for us on the other side of this life, the InverseDream. He has promised us Life; we cannot die. Healing, therefore, is subject to His definition - be it physical, emotional or spiritual - and His timing - be it today, tomorrow, next year or next decade. Whatever His choice, we can trust that the good God who loves us and commands us to “go therefore and make disciples" will also be with us “even to the end of the age." Mathew 28:19-20 Even if the healing doesn't come. This blog is a follow-up post to "Anxiety and Healing" where I share the beginning origin of my paranoia and how God began my emotional healing. To clarify briefly, God's methods of healing vary greatly from person to person and even season to season. One thing that will be consistent is a comparable example for reference in the Word of God. However He intends to heal you, because He does promise to bind up the brokenhearted, He will verify His method in His written Word. So don't be afraid to ask for truth, for veracity or healing. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. God's blessings be with you.

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  • Good post! I like how you discussed the blind man’s life before healing, how he would be a beggar and an outcast- and how can God take credit for that?

    And I love how the blind guy understands way more than the Pharisees do, and they end up kicking him out for just stating the blatantly obvious facts about what happened to him. They’re the one who are really “blind.”

    • Thanks PerfectNumber! I remembered reading that in one of your posts and thought his testimony really stood out myself.
      And when God showed me His intentional use of suffering in the blind man’s life it was like my brain exploded.
      It’s so hard to see His perspective, you know? But when we finally do it’s like everything makes sense. I love that.

      • Yeah. And it really makes me wonder, if this guy was blind for his whole life and had to deal with that, and then Jesus healed him “for God’s glory”- well, was it worth it? Is that BETTER than being able to see for his whole life?

        And then someone could argue “God doesn’t owe us anything- it’s not like God ‘took away’ this guy’s sight and gave him a miracle, and we’re judging whether that’s a fair transaction- God didn’t ‘owe’ him the ability to see.” But I don’t know if I believe that or not. Anyway, I don’t have an answer- this is the kind of stuff I think about. :)

        • Haha! I love how you think about things … two of my favorite words are “how” and “why.” ;-)

          Is suffering and being healed “for God’s glory” worth it? Well I can’t speak for the man born blind, but one of my favorite verses is Romans 5:1-5. Excuse me while I gush …

          “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

          This passage was the longest set of verses I ever memorized … which I did right before a VERY hard season of brokenness. We’re talking 4 years of near hopelessness …

          It wasn’t that I did anything wrong, I know now God was just showing me how much I NEED Him! And if I hadn’t been through that season … I wouldn’t have anything to say. Without it I wouldn’t have any meaningful life experience with which to understand others. I’d be so shallow. Of course I pray I never walk through that again but would I change one heart breaking minute? Nope.

          The joy He’s given me … The glory He’s revealed in me softening my soul … I wouldn’t trade that for the world. For myself I say, yes, it was definitely worth it. :-)

          • ^_^ Glad to hear how God has worked in your life. I guess the only people who can answer “was it ‘worth it’ to go through suffering for the purposes of seeing God’s glory” are the ones who actually went through it.

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