“As he (Jesus) went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3
What on earth is this about? I would not be at all surprised if many pastors have shied away from this particular passage of Scripture. I can’t say I was a fan either…until recently. Of course, my favorite son-of-a-Jewish-Rabbi, turned Christian theologian, Alfred Edersheim, changed my mind.
First of all, what were the disciples asking here?
It was a widely accepted Rabbinical teaching of the time that blindness was punishment for sin. If a man was born blind, it was therefore assumed that he somehow sinned in the womb (what???) or that his mother had sinned while pregnant with him. The disciples were trying to sort all of this out.
Jesus was refuting this terribly condemning doctrine. The man’s blindness was no one’s fault.
What does Jesus mean when he says, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)
Is he saying God picks and chooses unfortunate individuals for misery and suffering so he can be glorified in their lives? That is a bit hard to swallow, isn’t it? Edersheim has a bit a different take on it. He says, in essence, that suffering is inevitable in our broken, sinful world. The power and victory of the cross of Christ is this…if we open our lives to his healing touch, he can redeem our suffering and bring beauty from it. He can transform our brokenness for the glory of God.
“Sin and it sequences are still the same,’ for the world is established that it cannot move.’ But over it all has risen the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings and if we but open ourselves to his influence these evils may serve this purpose, and so have this for their reason, not as, regards their genesis but their continuance, ‘that the works of God may be made manifest.” Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
“Sun of Righteousness,
Your creation, broken by the fall, is full of trouble. Thank you for the promise that though suffering will inevitably come our way, you have the power to redeem it. Your promise to us is to bring beauty from our ashes. With all your saints, I look forward to the day when you return and make all things new. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen”