The disciples saw a theological proposition—who sinned? Jesus saw a person, someone who had labored under unjust prejudice, who had been reduced to begging, who was loved by God and who had been born that God would be glorified. And he saw someone who needed help.
But, I think the reason this story was chosen for John’s gospel is because it has to do with blindness and seeingness. Here we are, at the very heart of God’s earthly presence, as that was understood. In God’s holy city Jerusalem, on the summit of God’s holy Mountain Zion, in the very precincts of God’s holy habitation the temple.
Here, the entire collection of the word of God was kept, as well as the records of God’s people, their genealogies reaching back to the days of Moses and the wilderness.
Here, the holy lampstand was lit day and night, its soft gleaming light illuminating the Holy Place. Here, the giant menorah spread the glow of the temple’s glorious golden walls so that literally the temple was a lamp lit on a hill.
If ever there was a place that gave sight, it was right here.
Here a blind man came to see, while other blind men would examine him and declare his sight wrong. Sight and insight. That is what this story is really about.
Jesus is the Light of the World. Think about what Jesus has helped you to see recently. I am doing the same thing, thinking about the insights Jesus has revealed to me. To be honest, not every insight feels celebration-worthy.
For example, when I see a blind spot I have, that I had not been aware of before, oh! What a humbling experience that is. My first reaction is seldom to thank God I can now see where I had before been blind. No, my first reaction is usually to feel terrible.
Thankfully, often my second reaction is to thank God, because God had been preparing me all this time to have the wisdom and faith to see what I was not able to see before. God had been crafting me into the kind of person who would handle new sight well.
God requires some response of faith through a definite action of obedience before going to the next step. So often, being able to see, spiritually, is a process of insight, obedience, and understanding.
What is God waiting for you to do in order to bring you to the next step?
Overcoming adversity is not just a matter of willpower. The man born without physical sight faced adversity from his infancy. Everything would be harder for him, because he had one less faculty than others.
All around him were abled people, and it was in their abled world that he had to navigate with his disability. He had made it to adulthood, which was a fifty-fifty proposition in his day, even for strong, healthy, fully abled people. Yet, he had survived, a testimony to his parents, to the community, and to his own resilience and ingenuity, not to mention God’s love and care.
There was nothing about his lack of sight that he could change.
Of course, sometimes people can change things by sheer dint of will, but not always. The only Person Who can always overcome adversity and bring good out of it is God.
God alone always has the power to bring good out of bad.
Though, you and I need to understand what that really means. The apostle Paul would one day write,
if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to [God’s] purpose.Romans 8:28 (NRSV)
Many of you reading that recognize the verse. Plenty of times, we see it all by itself, but that is a misleading way to present Paul’s words.
We need the first part, the part about hope, and praying so deeply the Holy Spirit actually is praying for us with words because we do not even know what to say. That helps us to see God at work from the very beginning, as we hope in faith.
And we have to have the rest of it to understand what the good is.
For those whom [God] foreknew [God] also predestined to be conformed to the image of [God]’s Son, in order that [Jesus] might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom [God] predestined [God] also called; and those whom [God] called [God] also justified; and those whom [God] justified [God] also glorified.Romans 8:26-30 (NRSV)
[The brackets are mine. Because our English language does not provide for a respectful third person neutral, I choose to translate the third person pronoun for God as “God.” God is Spirit, neither “he” nor “she,” and I feel we anthropomorphize God when we use either “he” or “she” (as some do). “He” and “she” are inadequate words for God, who is supreme above all life, including human life.]
The Lord promises to those who come to God in faith that God will bring good out of every single misfortune you and I encounter in life, and will turn every instance of suffering into an opportunity for greater and deeper joy—wait for it—by being conformed to the image of God’s Son, in order that Jesus might be the firstborn within a large family.
If it weren’t for the bad experiences—failure, humiliation, tragedy—sometimes the very best experiences would never have happened. Nothing is truly all bad unless we decide it is all bad. For a believer, there will always be something good that God can work out of what is happening to us.
Maybe you are wondering how can that possibly be true?
- How can losing my job be good?
- How can my house going into foreclosure be good?
- How can getting cancer?
- Or losing a child?
- Becoming permanently disabled?
- . . . Or being born blind or any other hardship be good?
When you and I are right in the middle of suffering, it is very hard to calmly consider all the wonderful things that might come out of whatever is happening. You and I probably cannot fully grasp how God can pull good out of every bad situation, but we can know that God has already shown that God can do it.
Think about the worst evil that has ever happened. The murder of God, in the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son. The single greatest crime ever. And out of that worst of all wrongs came our redemption, salvation from sin. God did not allow people to remain hopeless and lost in sin, but instead brought untold good out of untold evil.
There’s a great lesson for you and me in that. If God is able to turn the worst kind of evil into the best kind of good, then God can certainly turn lesser kinds of evil into good as well. God can certainly take the bad things in your lives and mine, and bring some kind of blessing out of them. If not now in this life, then in glory.
Somehow, some way, God is able to orchestrate what freely happens in our world in order to produce the outcome that God desires without taking away any of our freedom to make moral choices.
The good may not always be recognizable to us. It may not be the good we were looking for, or hoping for, or expecting. You and I may not see it for a long time. But it will be there.
- In what way might our suffering be making us more like Jesus?
- What opportunities have other people had to love you and me and bring kindness into our lives?
- Who will be affected by our willingness to believe God and keep faith with God? Perhaps people you and I may never even meet .
- What trouble is God allowing in our lives so that you and I can encourage other people who are going through the same thing?
God’s timing will be perfect in bringing the good out of what’s happening right now.
[The LUMO Project | http://www.freebibleimages.org]