A man born blind
9th September 2016
This week, let's consider the healing story at the beginning of John Chapter 9:
Jesus, our example, wasn't planning to help this man. He was just walking along the road, and he happened to see that the man was in need. He wasn't too busy to stop and help, and we shouldn't be too busy to help, either.
Although this man obviously needed help, the disciples were more interested in theological speculation than in helping him. They asked Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" It was an interesting point of doctrine. Can a person sin while in the womb? If so, will God punish Him for it? Or does the punishment for sin still pass to the next generation?
Does this part of Exodus 20:5 still apply? "I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me"
Or has that been replaced by Jeremiah 31:29-31 "In those days people will no longer say, 'The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes - their own teeth will be set on edge. The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah."
But this was not the time to wonder about the theology. This was the time to help the blind man. Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him".
How literally do you read the Bible? I know the Bible is 100% inerrant, but I also know it's not 100% literal. For example, some of the Bible is poetry. And some of it reports speech that is the way we really talk. When Jesus said, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned", I don't think He meant it literally. I don't think Jesus was telling his disciples that these three people - the man and his parents - were completely without sin. Romans 3:23 tells us "all have sinned". Jesus was the only exception. I think Jesus meant "Neither this man or his parents sinned in a way that caused his blindness".
And then Jesus said, "This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him". There are two reasons for everything that ever happen: one reason is the cause, and the other reason is the purpose. If you see me carrying an umbrella, there are two reasons. One is the cause - because I picked up the umbrella before leaving my house. The second is the reason - to prevent me from getting wet.
Jesus was teaching His disciples that the important question isn't "Why is he blind?" as in "What caused his blindness?" The important quesion is "What purpose is there in his blindness?" That is, "What does God want to do about it?"
And that's an important lesson for us, too. When we see someone with difficulties - whether spiritual, emotional, relational or physical - we can spend too long wondering what caused those difficulties. That can degenerate into judgementalism. It's better to concentrate on the question, "How can we help?" or, better still, "What does God want to do for this person, and how can we co-operate with Him".
Jesus said, "As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no-one can work." He knew than in a few months He'd be dead. He was determined to spend the time He had on earth doing as much good as possible. Again, Jesus is our example. We - His disciples - should do as much good as we can, while we can. As John Wesley once said:
Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.
We only have a limited number of years on earth. We should make the most of the time. As George Muller said:
No-one ever lies on his death bed thinking "I wish I'd served God less"
Jesus also said, "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." When Jesus came to earth, it was a unique display of the truth about God, and Jesus would never waste an opportunity to show God's love and mercy.
Verses 6-7 tell us, After saying this, he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means "Sent"). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing."
We're not told why Jesus did this. Perhaps He made mud from a mixture of spit and dust to remind the man that:
If God can make a man from dust, then He can heal a man using dust. God can do anything with anything. God can heal you.
Or perhaps Jesus saw in the man a need to learn obedience. Perhaps He smeared mud on the man's eyes so He'd have to wash it off. He told the man to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man obeyed and he was healed.
Naaman the Syrian had a similar experience in 2 Kings 5:1-14. Elisha the prophet told Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan, in order to be healed. Naaman was reluctant to obey, because the instruction didn't seem to make sense. After all, God can heal us whether or not we take a bath (or seven baths). But sometimes, God will not heal us until we learn obedience.
Perhaps the man born blind was the same.
I'm not saying that obedience is the key to healing. I'm not say God always heals the obedient. And I'm not saying that God never heals the disobedient. But I am saying that sometimes God will heal us if we're obedient, and won't if we're not. Obedience is one key to healing. There are many others, and God treats us as individuals.
Sometimes, as with this blind man and Naaman, God tells us to do something that seems irrational. Moses must have thought it was irrational for God to tell him to hold up his staff over the Red Sea, but he obeyed, and the seas parted.
God knows what He's doing. And when he tells us to do something - or believe something - that we can't understand, He's right. God's always right. It's not like God is less rational than us, is it? When God tells us anything that doesn't make sense to us, it's us who are less rational than Him. There was a reason why the blind man and Naaman needed to wash. There was a reason why Moses had to hold up his staff. And there's a reason why you and I need to do whatever God tells us to do.
I wonder how many Christians would be healed if they would obey God.
And I wonder how many non-Christians would be healed if they would submit themselves to the Bible, repent of their sins, and accept Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.