John 9:1-10:21, Psalm 9
Jesus heals a man born blind. In response the local Pharisees interrogate this man with recently acquired sight, not to mention his parents. As the Pharisees accuse formerly blind man of dishonestly, we witness a great difference between those already hostile to Jesus and those lacking prior biases. What interests me most today, however, is the earlier question Jesus’ disciples ask about the origin of the man’s blindness. They ask, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The underlying assumption is that no one who experiences serious disease or illness does so without culpable sin from the sufferer or their ancestors. This belief find’s solid ground on God’s word. God said this to Moses, for example, “Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:7) The disciples read this and assume all suffering comes about because of particular sins. Jesus wants them to understand there is some suffering, one might argue most suffering, due to inherited sin, that is our innate propensity to rebel against God that brings all of creation under the curse (see Genesis 3, Romans 8:18-23). In other words, we can always say suffering is due to the fallenness of humanity, but we cannot always say someone suffers because a person or some recent ancestor sinned. In fact, Jesus doesn’t even answer the philosophical question about why this person was born blind. Jesus just wants these disciples to know the concrete truth, God intended this suffering for this moment where the Messiah would rescue one from lifelong blindness. Seen from this vantage, all of our sufferings can be perceived as an opportunity for Jesus to deliver us from bondage that we might know God’s loving power.