Summary: Jesus’ healing of the man born blind forced his disciples to rethink their theology, forced his neighbors to rethink their perception of him as victim, and forces us to rethink our posture toward healing ministries.
Have you noticed that when you get sick, you get sick all over? When some part of your body isn’t up to par, then the whole person, the whole self, feels bad. When we get sick, we get sick all over.
Now you may speak of having an upset stomach, but it’s really an upset you. The physician might identify a diseased kidney, but the way you feel, it’s a diseased you. And it’s not simply a cancerous organ, it’s a whole person, a spirit, mind, and body who is sick. We are whole persons, mind, spirit, and body. And when we are sick we feel sick all over.
But now the Bible tells us that not only may we be sick all over, but also that God’s desire is that we be well all over. When we are sick in body, we tend to get sick in spirit and in mind also; but the will of God is wholeness and healing for the whole self.
You will remember that wherever Jesus went he went teaching, forgiving, and healing. He went about bringing wholeness to the mind, to the heart, and to the body. And if, as the Bible teaches, Jesus Christ is a sign of the kingdom to come, then we know that it is God’s ultimate desire that we be well. If Jesus Christ is giving us what God wants us to have, then God’s gift of redemption includes the healing of our bodies as well as the salvation of our souls and the renewal of our minds.
Each week during the last four I have referred to a verse of the hymn, "Just As I Am", and have told and retold the story of its author, Charlotte Elliott. I have spoken of her discovery that her sickliness had come to be a crutch, an excuse. Her illness had come to be her only identity. She was not just plain Charlotte, she had become sick Charlotte, invalid Charlotte, unhealthy Charlotte. That’s all she was. When she finally realized that in some sense she was depending on her sickness, obsessing on her sickness, she experienced renewal and hope, turning to Christ, and wrote this insightful hymn.
Now today listen to her fourth verse:
"Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; Sight, riches, healing of the mind, all I need in thee to find, 0 lamb of God, I come." Miss Elliott had discovered that in the will of God for her to be whole and in her willingness to receive it there was everything she needed to be well. All I need in thee to find.
One day Jesus came across a young man begging by the side of the road. As he came closer it became obvious why the young man was doing this. He was blind. In fact, he had been blind from birth. And there was no useful work that his society offered him, nothing that he could do. Thus not only was he blind, but his blindness created poverty; and if his blindness created poverty, so also his poverty created a broken and a battered spirit. He was a broken person. In the words of Miss Elliott’s hymn, "poor, wretched, blind".
But Jesus healed him, healed him so that God’s work might be revealed. When Jesus healed this man born blind, everyone around learned something important about wholeness. I think that we need to learn exactly the same lessons.
For example, Jesus’ own disciples encountered this healing and learned from it. The disciples learned that the old theology, which made you feel guilty for being sick, needed to be replaced with a new theology, which made you feel grateful for being the channel of God’s grace.
Let me repeat that. The disciples learned to discard their old theology, which made you feel guilty just for being sick. And in its place they learned a new theology, in which it was possible to feel grateful for being sick, because your very sickness made it possible for God’s grace to work.
"Master, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" The commonplace theology of their day was that if you were sick, it meant you were a sinner. If you hurt, it was because you or maybe your parents hurt somebody else or broke one of God’s laws. In their wooden, rigid, thinking, you get what you give. You get paid in the same currency that you give out. In the theology of their day, sickness was a result of sin.
But Jesus helped his disciples turn this around. Jesus helped his disciples look at sickness from the positive side, not the negative side. He taught them that they didn’t have to look for somebody to blame for the sickness. What they needed to do was to see illness as an opportunity for the mercy of God to work.