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.
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?