Why Was The Man Born Blind?
My guest blogger today is Richard Murray. This is a discussion about the man who was born blind as discussed in John chapter 9. The original message was posted here.
This passage is so twisted by wrath-mongers. They love to cite it for the proposition that God struck this poor man at his birth with blindness so that Jesus would get the glory thirty years later when healed him. This is insane! God gets the glory for healing a man He struck blind to begin with? Thirty years of this man’s stumbling in the darkness brings God glory? We must avoid the trap of becoming too caught up in the exact cause of a current evil situation. Millions of tangential factors could be working in complex combination to sow the harvest of the particular destruction we are considering.
Let me use the metaphor of a large lake. Every thought or action we take is like a rock thrown into this lake of causation. It causes ripples which affect ourselves and others. Now multiply these ripples by the trillion other rocks of thoughts and actions hurled into the lake 247 by billions of other people past, present and future.
Also consider how those ripples may work together to cause a single tidal wave of calamity, or the waves may violently crash into each other causing multiple minor chaotic events and buffetings. Only God can know and safely navigate through and around all the interference patterns of sin, sickness and unbelief.
Why anyone wave of affliction crashes at any time on any one person is beyond our ability to know. But we can trust that God knows and always hastens to the highest available good.
Jesus only occasionally cited the source of a sickness or demon-possession, and then only in the most general of terms. Once He cited the sin of the afflicted as a causative factor. Jn. 5:1-14. Another time He stated Satan as the cause. Lu. 13:11-16. Peter was clear that Satan was always involved in every sickness and affliction at some ultimate level: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” Acts 10:38.
Yet, on still another occasion (Jn. 9:1-7), Jesus stated that the cause of a man born blind’s affliction was irrelevant and NOT due to either the sin of the afflicted or his parents. When asked by onlookers whether it was the man’s own sin in the womb which caused his blindness, or, alternatively, was it his parents’ previous sin which caused the man to be born blind, Jesus, in the original Greek, answered: “NEITHER, nonetheless let the glory of God be revealed” (literal translation of Jn. 9:3; “Grammatically ‘hina phaneroo’ could be construed as an imperative: ‘Let the works of God be displayed in him!’ For such a construction cf. Mk. 5:23; Eph. 5:33; 2 Cor. 2:7; possible Johannine instances are 14:31; 15:25; see C.F.D. Moule, An Idiom Book of NT Greek [Cambridge: Cup 1953] 144-145, with literature there cited, and N. Turner in Moulton’s Grammar of NT Greek 3:95 . . .” World Bible Commentary, Vol. 36, George R. Beasley-Murray, Word Books (1987), p. 151.).
Also consider the Contemporary English Version’s alternate translation of these verses: “As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who had been blind since birth. Jesus’ disciples asked, ‘Teacher, why was this man born blind? Was it because he or his parents sinned?’ ‘No, it wasn’t!’ Jesus answered. ‘But because of his blindness, you will see God work a miracle for him.'” Jn. 9:1-3.
Another well-respected translation by renowned scholar George Lamsa based on the Peshitta, the ancient Aramaic version which serves as the authorized Bible of the Church of the East, reads as follows: “Jesus said to them, ‘Neither did this man sin nor his parents. But that the works of God might be seen in him, I must do the works of Him who sent me….'”John 9:3.
The point is that there are many alternative renderings of this passage which are much more in line with God’s character as revealed in Jesus Christ. The other translations which suggest that God cruelly struck the man blind at birth so that His OWN glory would somehow be revealed thirty years later, are simply untenable and dishonoring of the divine nature. If scholars disagree on translation issues, we should always go with the translation which best honors God and more closely resembles the heroic view of God Jesus revealed.
Getting too caught up in the specific cause of the current affliction can cause blame, condemnation and shame to pollute the atmosphere resulting in faith not being released. This is not to say prior sin of the afflicted is never to be broached, but only if the Spirit wills it. The vast majority of healings Jesus ministered never involved specific sin being exposed, but rather focused on the release of God’s glory.
Let us likewise be glory-focused. Rather than looking back on what seeds caused the evil harvest, we must hear God about what seed of faith is needed NOW to sow salvation into the situation. Sometimes that seed will be repentance over some sin by the afflicted, and sometimes it will not. Jas. 5:14-16 seems to put this burden on the afflicted as to whether a particular sin should be confessed as a cause of the current illness.
Our primary focus should always be on the “how” (to release healing) rather than the “why” (is the person afflicted). The healing is always in the “how,” not the “why.” It does not appear Jesus required repentance over sickness-causing sins before He would heal the afflicted. Of course all men need to repent for all sins, whether it be sooner or later. Yet, Jesus never made it a precondition for His healing glory to be released. However, repentance is crucial to keep the same or worse affliction from returning. (Jn. 5:14).