“Why is this man blind?” the disciples asked Jesus. Did somebody do something horribly wrong and bring upon themselves this tragedy?
Every moment of every single day the man’s parents lived with the stigma that they had sinned, or even more inconceivable, that the baby inside the mother’s womb had sinned. I image the guilt and shame were so great that these parents could not even lift their eyes to greet their neighbors. I imagine them going through life with eyes downcast, looking but not seeing, existing but not being known. I imagine them knowing every turn of the road not by the buildings surrounding them, but by the dirt, the rocks and curves of the roads themselves. Their son was blind and though they could see, the dark cloud surrounding them kept them just as much in the dark as their son.
It’s one thing to know that you are a sinner, falling short of God’s law, but it is quite another to find yourself exposed for the world to see. It is easy to judge another’s sin when the evidence of the sin is clearly obvious (think unwed pregnant mom), and though its possible you yourself have committed the very same sin (fornication), not getting caught (i.e. pregnant) somehow makes you feel better about your failure. The shame for the one “caught” is pervasive and impossible to escape without God’s intervention. Part of the shame is knowing that you fell short of God’s standard, how then could you approach God for deliverance? The consequence of the sin is God’s punishment, at least that is the human way of thinking. Crime and punishment – it is just. We are taught to lie in the bed of our own making. The people of Jesus’ day were no different. They saw God as a punisher and were shocked to discover the One standing in front of them dispensing mercy was nothing like the God they had formed in their minds.
I imagine these parents as newlyweds, full of hope and expectation. But their once beloved child, the embodiment of their hope and future, instead became the symbol of failure…somewhere a failure. Were they the contemplative type who inwardly examined every moment leading up to the birth of their child, desperately searching for a reason to explain the tragedy? Did one of them commit a sin unaware? If so, when, where, what was it? Or was it a rash act, anger acted out, or perhaps a careless word that brought regret every moment since?
Every time someone looked upon this family, they would wonder, what was their sin. What horrible act did they commit that God saw fit to heap punishment and public shame upon them? I cannot imagine the sad, difficult life this family endured. Yes, this kind of life would be one that was only endured and survived. It’s hard to imagine that in their culture they could’ve had any kind of joy or hope for their future. As rejects of society, they would not have a good job or a way to make a decent living because the perception was that everything any of them touched would be tainted with their sin. What a hotbed for self-righteousness. The blindness of this man was a sign for everyone around him to believe that they were somehow better, somehow not as dirty, somehow more favored.
I wonder what happened to these people when their sign was removed and their own blindness was exposed? The foundation upon which they had built their self-righteousness was suddenly destroyed causing every part of their justification to crumble to the ground. Did they blindly grope around searching for the pieces and found they were unable to recover them? Or perhaps they came clean and admitted their shortcomings.
Why is this man blind? Jesus quickly rejected the notion that the man or his parents had sinned, thus releasing them from responsibility for the condition. Then Jesus declared that the man was blind so that the glory of God could be revealed. Could it be that this man’s blindness existed for the sole purpose of it being made right?
If it is true that the condition existed for the purpose of being made right and thus bringing glory to God, then what are the implications? How should we apply that knowledge to our own lives?
First I want to look at the meaning of the prefix dis. We find it attached to all kinds of words and when it is attached, it is a powerful negative statement. As a matter of fact, that is what dis means. Dis means to be apart from something or to have a negative or reversing force. When we add the prefix dis to a word like ability, which means the power or skill to do something, we change the meaning to a negative. Disability means the condition of being unable to do things in the normal way, a condition that damages or limits a person’s physical or mental abilities. Dis is a powerful three-letter “word.” With it comes all kinds of negativity and difficulty. Let’s consider some other words that have dis attached to them. Ease becomes anything but, order becomes chaos, function becomes twisted, advantaged becomes not. You get the picture. It is not desirable to have dis attached to any part of your life. It is less than.
Second, I want to examine the Kingdom of God. I don’t see anything associated with God and His kingdom that is less than, twisted, or negative. Everything about God’s kingdom is good, whole, healthy and functioning in its design. God has designed our bodies and our beings to function a certain way. We inherently know that blindness, deafness, sickness, dysfunction, etc. are not a part of God’s perfect design! (We being evil know how to give good gifts – we know what is obviously stated even in our broken condition.) Somehow we know that wholeness is the norm – that eyes are designed to see and ears that hear are the perfect standard by which we measure things. When something falls short of the standard, then we know we need to add the prefix dis.
Why was the man born blind? There was a dis that didn’t measure up to God’s standard of ability. The dis existed for the sole purpose that it could be removed. Once removed the man was brought up to the standard of perfect design. This act exposed God’s heart and challenged the spiritually blind whose hearts were so disabled that they were incapable of even seeing God’s standard of complete wholeness: body, soul and spirit. They were blinded to the fact that they needed a healer, someone to open the eyes of their spirit. In their blindness, they were deceived into thinking they were righteous when in fact they were filthy sinners, just like everyone else, even the supposed guilty one. In the end Jesus told them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.” (John 9:41)
The act of removing the negative revealed God’s heart, His power, and His desire for all to live in the Kingdom standard. As He was revealed, He was glorified. Only God can remove the dis from ability.
What does the blind man’s healing mean to us? How are we to approach this event and subsequent conversations between all the involved parties? The religious leaders, the people amongst themselves, the parents, the man, and Jesus all had something to say and a response to the situation; but what does any of those have to do with us?
There is an absolute spiritual application that should not be ignored. Having spiritual eyes opened is a miracle and one that should be celebrated every day. Salvation is the ultimate healing! But should we ignore the one in favor of the other? The man was physically blind and Jesus took a sub-standard situation and recalibrated it to original factory settings. We are triune beings. One third of our being is physical. Should that major part of our lives be ignored so that the spiritual part of us can receive all the attention?
If the blindness existed so it could be removed, then that act revealed God’s heart. God’s heart has not changed since that moment in time. It is our hearts that are hardened, sometimes with unbelief and skepticism. It is easy to form doctrine around our personal experience and place a higher value on the spiritual application rather than the physical. Jesus didn’t only emphasize the spiritual, but he always demonstrated a spiritual principle by manipulating a physical impossibility. He knew that a physical miracle would grab attention and while He had the attention, He pointed to an additional, spiritual truth. He turned water to wine, He healed a lame man, He healed a boy just by speaking, He multiplied five loaves and two fish in order to feed the 5,000, and so on.
The sign is to point to Jesus. Signs are spotlights that guide our eyes to the source of life. But signs are not meant to sustain us in our relationship with Jesus; faith is the sustainer. Jesus, not the sign, is the point.
We as believers are not to rely on signs, wonders, and miracles in order to have faith in God. Yet, we still have physical needs. We must have shelter, food, and finances. We must have corrections for physical ailments, thus there are surgeons and medications. When something is broken, including our physical bodies, we seek out a remedy, a fix for the problem. I don’t believe God rejects the physical needs of His people in favor of meeting spiritual needs. If He did, then it would be sinful to seek medical treatment. Again, we know the standard and seek to have it in our lives. God has demonstrated His heart for wholeness by sending Jesus and if you will, medical knowledge is a demonstration of God’s heart for wholeness and health. God is the one who gave man intellect and set knowledge in a place where it could be found. God doesn’t make us choose between the spiritual and the physical. He is able and willing to give both!
But, consider what a sign does for unbelievers. When a work of God grabs their attention and puts the focus on Jesus, it makes the reality of His existence and love obvious! Unbelievers need signs, wonders, and miracles because they need the demonstration in order to kick-start their faith. And let’s face it; even as believers a sign every now and again is a great boost to our faith.
The reality is we live in a world of dis. How do we reconcile the known standard with a substandard situation? In other words, how do you live with a dis in your life knowing that isn’t God’s best? As one who lives with a mental dis-ability in my home, I have had plenty of time to contemplate this situation. On the one hand, I believe the dis in our life is not of God or of sin but a result of living in a fallen and a broken world. I believe God’s will is to make right and heal. But on the other hand, I have come to realize and believe that no matter what, God is able to overcome ‘dis’ in any way He desires. His glory is revealed through weakness too. He is bigger. He is stronger. I have had to realize that if God has plans and purposes for one with a ‘dis,’ then He is capable of causing those things to come to pass in spite of what seems to stand in the way and make fruition impossible. I hold on to the fact that no matter what happens or doesn’t happen that God is trustworthy and able to shine through any circumstance. I believe what I see demonstrated through the life and ministry of Jesus: to make wrong things right. I believe His heart is to bring everything to the kingdom standard of original design, after all, nobody I have ever met thinks that dis will continue once we are in heaven. All is restored to perfection in heaven. So why not “here on earth as in heaven?” Heaven is our standard for life on earth!
When the blind man encountered the perfection of heaven through his healing, I wonder what it was like for him to see with his eyes for the very first time. I wonder what it was like for him to have found his way to the pool of Siloam using only his hearing, sense of smell, sense of direction, and sense of touch, then to wash the clay off his eyes and suddenly have brilliant light and color invade every other sense? I wonder how long he lingered at the pool taking it all in. How long did it take him to put the images of sight together with whatever he had imagined in his head. How did he reconcile all of that and how long did it take him? I wonder how he found his way back to his home…did he have to close his eyes along the way to block out all the “noise” from his new eyesight in order to get his bearings? Did he have to close his eyes in order to “see?” How did he know people? By their voices? By their scents? I can only imagine what it might have been like for this man.
Such a miracle; and I love the end result. The demonstration of the purpose of the sign became manifest when he conversed with Jesus and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” Then, when Jesus told him that He was He, “Lord, I believe!” Jesus didn’t leave one thing undone. He touched the physical need without leaving the spiritual need unsatisfied. He loves us wholly and completely, both inside and out.
I don’t know what the ‘dis’ is in your life but since you live in the same broken world as I, I know you have at least one. Jesus came to make wrong things right and broken things fixed. The solution to all our negatives and sub-standards is the application of Jesus and His kingdom standard. How that is made manifest in each of our situations will vary but the end result is the same: God is glorified. Maybe He is glorified through a miraculous healing or maybe He is glorified in the process of perfect trust, or even He is glorified by a demonstration of His strength and ability in weakness. However the situation plays out in your individual life, I want to encourage you to remain faithful to the standard of Jesus’ life here on earth and His kingdom, not allowing yourself to be dissuaded by contradictory circumstances. Faith is what allows us to live with a contradiction without discontinuing our belief and hope for the perfect Kingdom standard to be made manifest.