Tag Archives: why

John 9:1-41 a bit deeper

So remember my upset about how this story starts? Let’s review:

As he walked along,
he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

And I was upset because the idea that God caused the man to be born blind just to reveal God’s glory is …. upsetting to me.

Well it turns out that, if I had remembered to read the footnote, that might not be how the lines “really” go. It might be:

So instead Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; we must work the works of him who sent me …. ”

That it doesn’t matter to Jesus “why” the man was blind, nor does it matter to him “why” is this world so broken”. It just is. So Jesus aims to hurry and work to fix the problem.

A pastor friend of me, not knowing I was studying this, wrote about this in her blog and then there it is in the footnotes. Well. Don’t you love that? God found a way to “answer” me. 😉

I know that, just my life experience anyway, that “why” can be a trap. “Why did you do that?” says the parent to child. “I dunno,” says every child everywhere. “Why” can have you going around in circles. Instead, I can imagine Jesus (once again) shaking his head a bit at the disciples, smiling gently, and basically saying, “Let’s not waste time. Let’s get to work on healing.”

___

I also want to point out that right after the healing the point of view changes from Jesus to the blind man. So when I told this story at church, I put my hands over my eyes to “wash” them and then moved them away (like jazz hands a little bit) to reveal my sight — and to “show” that I was now a different character in the story.

For the glory of God!

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The beginning of John 9:1-41

So here’s the beginning verses:

As he walked along,
he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 

Now on one level it is a very clear thing — in those days the reason someone might be born blind was because of a punishment for sin. Jesus is saying no, that’s not it. And that was considered (I am told) a radical thing to say and believe.

Yet would Jesus’ reason for the man being born blind might really be comforting? God made this man born blind so that eventually he will be healed by Jesus and thus show and serve God’s glory? Isn’t that really mean of God? Isn’t that God using bad for good; isn’t that unfair?

The man born blind makes no complaint. He’s glad to be healed, he’s frustrated at the confusion of his identity post-healing (as you would be), he’s frustrated by being asked over and over how “that man” healed him and who (and where) “that man” is. He ultimately believes “that man”, Jesus, to be the Son of Man (a declaration of being the Messiah) and worships him. You do not worship someone who is only human. The formerly blind man ends up seeing very clearly indeed.

So if he has no complaint about being used by God to reveal the glory of God, perhaps I should not either. It might be patronizing of me. Or it might be me stuck in this endless loop I seem to be in about wanting the world to be fair and nice and just and safe and good and when bad things happen, I don’t blame people*, I blame God.

Here’s what I imagine. Imagine the man’s mother, so young and hopeful and delighted to be okay after giving birth, and delighted to have her baby and delighted he is nursing and thriving. Except unlike other babies, his eyes don’t seem to learn to track. He doesn’t seem to recognize the light when it shines in his face. She holds him to the sun, putting her hand gently over his eyes and moving her hand away, and he laughs because he feels her hand, and the strength of her arm holding him, and the breeze blowing against his face. But his little eyes don’t get upset by the bright shine of the sun. It might take more months before she admits that he can’t see, that he will never see her face, he will never be the son they so longed for, that all he can be (in that place and time) is a beggar, an object of mercy and charity, or in bad circumstances, an object to ridicule and even steal from, take his money right out of his cloak spread on the ground. Imagine the tears she shed, no matter how many other children they had or have, because this child is facing a literally dark future. Imagine Jesus telling her — it was all set up just so I could prove that I am.

Would she be angry at Jesus/God?

Would she be glad to know why this happened to her son, and that it was set up as an honor?

All we end up knowing from the story, is she and her husband are afraid.

Would it help me in suffering, to know that it is for the glory of God? I hope so. I think it might. I pray that I never need to know. I think fear is a pretty honest and appropriate response to seeing the power and healing of God!

 

*Mostly. Sometimes, some things, sure. But not for being born blind, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luke 15 and how God works

I had this thought today — In Luke 15, first we have a shepherd who values the one lost sheep and goes and hunts for it. This image, perhaps, is a Shepherd-God who hunts, searches, looks, seeks out, protects, carries — even if the “sheep” doesn’t know it needs finding, doesn’t know it is lost. A God so determined maybe the other 99 sheep are now in danger because He left them “in the wilderness”?

Then we have a woman who searches diligently for a lost coin. She isn’t rushing about — she has a careful plan, lights a lamp to help see the gleam of metal in the dark house, and uses a broom to sweep. As an image of God, she isn’t leaving others in danger or going into the wilderness — she knows the coin must be on the floor somewhere and so she uses logic and effort until it is found.

Finally, we have the Father who had two sons, perhaps another image of God. He does not search out the prodigal son even when he’s in danger of dying of hunger — but the father is ready with love, care, and rejoicing when the prodigal returns. The father does go out to plead with the older son. But he isn’t forcing either son. He is a father of amazing love and generosity who is ready to pour that out, in abundance, but he isn’t using force.

So sometimes: God will find us in danger and lift us up; God will carefully hunt for us even in the dark; sometimes God will just wait until we return to ourselves, wait until we are ready to join the party, and then lavish us with love.

We all wonder, I think, how does God work. If He’s doing good, why is there so much hate and horror and terrible things going on, like today’s newspaper headlines? If He isn’t doing good, why not? The problem of evil is well above my pay grade. This world is good but not perfected — it is “all ready and not yet” saved, redeemed, reborn. But — then these horrible things? So perhaps sometimes, like with sheep, He saves us, restores us, and we don’t even know we were lost. Although there were plenty of other sheep, the lost one was not ignored or forgotten or written off. Perhaps sometimes God (in some way) is methodically sweeping for a glint of gold in the darkness, something of value, no bit of value too small, to lift up, to save? Perhaps sometimes God is waiting — patiently, hopefully, fully awake — waiting for us to just come home. Waiting for us to join the party. And perhaps like all metaphors or images this isn’t enough or isn’t quite right or is going too far or just doesn’t make sense all the time. Because sometimes things just don’t seem to make sense.

The older brother needs to forgive, turn his thoughts around, and in many ways this seems to me harder than the prodigal coming home. The older brother has to forgive and be reconciled; in joy, because his brother is alive again. Let us remember there is no ending to the parable. But the Father is waiting, arms open.