by DanWolgemuth on October 25, 2013

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1-2)


Who sinned?

The question raised by the disciples in John 9 exposes a flawed and dangerous perspective of God.  It challenges the powerful concept of a sovereign God and it reflects my own tendency to manipulate the hand of God. 

“If I… Then God.”

Jesus’ twelve remind me of Job’s three.  You’ll remember the story of Job and the fact that when his world collapsed in catastrophic proportion, three of his friends worked to diagnose the cause of the trouble.  Certainly, the root cause of such calamity and devastation had to be disobedience or defiance.  It was their voice that the disciples echoed in John 9.  Who sinned? 

But Jesus does more than just answer their question; He hijacks their theology. 

Jesus responds with an informed and gentle rebuke.  Neither this man nor his parents brought this on.  Blindness was not the retribution from a vengeful God.  The scale had not been tipped, the account had not been overdrawn, the score had not gone over the limit.  God wasn’t watching instant replays of personal failure to analyze when it was time to lash out. 

No, God and only God can redeem pain and suffering and disappointment.  He overpowers the forces of evil, not by eliminating them, but by entering in.  He is always present.  In the valley of the shadow of death… He is with us. 

He makes no exception to His promise that nothing can separate us from His love.  Nothing – tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword are no match for His love and they are not the divine revenge for personal failure.

Certainly there are natural consequences to our foolishness.  Sometimes the pain and suffering in our lives and the lives of others is directly connected to sin… but not always.  That is in part why Jesus took this on… why He made a clear and clean point.

We all know of situations where, like the John 9 or Job story, somebody is experiencing pain and suffering – somebody is shouldering grief – somebody we love is suffocating with uncertainty – somebody that we care deeply for has been wounded by others asking “who sinned” questions. 

Figuring out why is not a part of our job description; compassion and mercy and love and justice and humility are.  We’re not negotiating with God… we’re authentically and honestly walking through a sin-filled world with Him… yes, with Him. 

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  (John 9:3)

Our suffering, our pain, our blindness… provide the canvas on which God’s glory and power can be displayed. 

When we ask, “who sinned?” – we miss the point… we miss God’s point.  God help us to enter into the place of pain and discouragement and disappointment without the mind of a defense or prosecuting attorney. 

Less questions… more trust – so that the works of God might be displayed.

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