The Purpose of Disabilities
A daily devotion for January 25th
Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
9 As he 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. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
The Pharisees Investigate the Healing
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”
28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him,Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?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)
The disciples had evidently been taught that sin and hurt, injury and handicap are linked together; that human hurt is the result of human sin. Notice that Jesus does not deny that. It is helpful to note right from the beginning that he recognizes there is such a link. However, it is not the one that many people think, as he will make clear.
What that indicates is that we are not living in a world where we can always expect perfection; that God does not try to operate the world in such a way that everything works out beautifully. We are living in a fallen world. The Scriptures declare that we are living in a broken world, a fragmented world, a world which is not what it once was and is not what it shall be. For the present we are afflicted with hurts, injuries, difficulties and hardships.
The Scriptures confirm that everybody is affected by human evil. Many of us think we have escaped it because we were not born with evident disabilities. But in fact we all have disabilities. Everywhere humanity reflects the weakness of the fall. This is why our minds cannot operate as they should. I tried to quote a poem recently and I could not think of the first line. It just fled from me. This illustrates how sin, the corruption of the fall, has attacked me, even in this simple way.
But Jesus makes clear that suffering is not always directly traceable to personal sin. Sometimes it is, but in the case of this man that is not true. Many people think it is rather strange that the disciples would even think that, since the man was born blind. How could his blindness be caused by his sin when he was born in this condition, before he ever had an opportunity to sin?
The disciples are probably thinking of the Jewish rabbinical teaching that it is possible for an embryo to sin. This may be what lies behind their question. But Jesus declares,
No, it is not that; nor is it the parent's sin. Why, then, was he born blind?
That the works of God might be made manifest in him, is Jesus' response. That gives a positive reason for this kind of affliction. It is an opportunity—not a disaster, but an opportunity—for certain things to be manifested in such a person's life, and in the lives of people who come in contact with that person, things that would otherwise never be brought out. The disabled frequently develop inner qualities of peace and joy and strength that
otherwise normal people do not have. They oftentimes show a tremendous strength of spirit that is able to take on challenges and endure difficulties that other people cannot. Fanny Crosby, that dear saint of the last century, was blind from her earliest babyhood as a result of an accident. She amazingly wrote when she was only eight years old, describing herself as a happy child, even though blind. She stated she was resolved to be contented, amid her many blessings that others simply did not have, and that she would not, even could not weep or sigh because she was blind!
Help me, Lord, to come, like this man, and worship at your feet, to recognize that you have come into the world to give me light in my darkness, to lead me through bewildering paths, and bring me to the place of cleansing and of opened eyes.
Life Application: Do we see and resent our disabilities as handicaps, or are we learning the freedom and joy of seeing them as opportunities for God to use them, and us, for His good and perfect purpose?
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