Summary: The promise and hope of our darkness being turned into light, our blindness into sight.
Ann Landers wrote this story in The Washington Post: “Mrs. Smith was stark-naked and just about to step into the shower when the doorbell rang. She hollered, ‘Who is it?’ He shouted back, ‘It’s the blind man.’ She figured it was safe, so she opened the door. He looked at her in shock and asked, ‘Where do you want me to hang these blinds, lady?’” He was a blind man, but he could see!
Some people are better at seeing than others. Sue and I have some friends who are bird watchers. They wrote the other day and said that they had seen an Eastern Towhee. I wouldn’t know an Eastern Towhee from a Western Towher. Then more recently they wrote that they had been walking in Knox Woods and had seen a Golden Crowned Kinglet. When I read their note I realized that I could have been in those same woods and walked by not even noticing the birds, because I would not have been looking for them. And if I had seen them, I would not have not thought much about it other than to say, “Oh, look, a bird.” There were two things about our friends. 1. They actually had their eyes open and were looking for birds. 2. They could recognize the different varieties of birds because they studied them. In other words, unlike me, they had eyes to see.
In the Scripture today we have two types of people: One who was blind, but would see; and others who could see, but would become blind. The story begins as Jesus and his disciples come across a man who has been blind from birth. He is begging. It is the only thing he can do to get enough money to survive. The first reaction of the disciples is to assume, as all those in that culture did, that because he was afflicted with blindness it was a punishment for some sin he or his parents had committed. “Who sinned?”, they asked. It is an interesting question.
The people of Japan who were interviewed on television were frequently asking, “What have we done to deserve this?” After an earthquake and several powerful aftershocks, a devastating tsunami, and a blizzard to boot, they began to wonder if the Powers in charge of the universe had something against them. Was this man’s blindness and the tsunami in Japan some kind of punishment?
The Pharisees also assumed that his blindness was due to some sin. They said to him, “You were steeped in sin at birth” (John 9:34). It was a convenient way of not blaming God for the evil and suffering in the world. It wasn’t God’s fault that he was blind; it was his own fault. If a person suffered, they must have deserved it, and it was only just that God would punish them in this way. But Jesus gives us the assurance that this is not how God operates. The Bible says, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). God treats sinners just like he treats saints. If something bad happens to us, it is not because God hates us or is angry with us about something. It is not a punishment for some sin in our lives. There is no connection whatsoever. When evil like this happens there is no hidden reason for it, and we make a mistake in trying to search for a reason. God still is very much in love with you and has not abandoned you. The day will come when he will deliver you.
Jesus gives a definite answer to the question of who had sinned. He said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3). Jesus said, “No one sinned. Not this man, not his parents or anyone else. This isn’t about sin. It is about what I am going to do. It is about what happens when light meets darkness. I am the light of the world.” And then Jesus proceeded to heal him. Light began to shine in the man’s eyes.
So the next time you begin to think that God is punishing you for something, knock it off. It isn’t true. That is not who he is and it is not how he operates. This man’s problems were not a result of his sin and neither are yours.
It is interesting that every healing that Jesus performs is done differently. Sometimes he touches the person; at other times he merely speaks to the person without touching them, and sometimes they are even in another place and he heals them without ever seeing them. Once he spit on his finger and touched a man’s tongue who could not speak (Mark 7:33). Here he spits on the ground, makes mud, and applies it to the man’s eyes. A lot of people like to make neat little formulas and say, “When Jesus healed people, he always did it this way, and that is the method that should always be used.” And so we would have little jars in our church sanctuaries filled with mud made out of spit. Then we would smear it on people who came for healing. We would use the same words that Jesus spoke and do it in the same way. But Jesus sabotaged that (on purpose I believe) so that we would not reduce the work of God to a formula.