In this age of scientific advancement, few believe in a direct cause/effect connection between sin and all sickness. That wasn’t always the case. Even back in Jesus’ time, an assumption that sin directly caused illness thrived. The presumption was that if something was wrong with you physically (and perhaps even financially), then either you or your parents sinned. We see a glimpse of it as Jesus told the healed man from the pool of Bethesda, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” (John 5:14, NASB95) On the other hand are the events in John we are considering today.
John chapter nine begins with a miracle. “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 would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, “Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?” Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the one.” So they were saying to him, “How then were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight.” They said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.”” (John 9:1–12, NASB95)
I like to think that this passage has a three-fold purpose. The first is it breaks the pattern of sin’s cause and effect. What sin caused the man to be born blind? Jesus said that his blindness wasn’t a direct result of sin, although we can recognize sin as the general cause of this fallen world. But Jesus goes one step farther, the man’s blindness is an opportunity to demonstrate the works of God. It is as if Jesus is saying that God is in the healing business, not in the punishment business.
Some of our illnesses and difficulties are a direct consequence of our sin or someone else’s. They aren’t really punishments from God, just the natural result of sin. Likewise, there are illnesses and difficulties that just happen, no one is directly at fault. Those are also a natural result of living in a fallen world. Neither are direct punishments from God. Even in the Book of Job, we see that it is Satan which causes Job’s problems and not God. And God’s permission for Satan is to test and not to punish. While it makes us feel self-righteous to declare someone’s troubles are their just deserts, that is not God’s heart.
The second purpose of these verses is the breaking of patterns. To see this, we must consider the other times Jesus healed the blind. (compare Matthew 12:22, Mark 8:22-23, Mark 10:47-52) Not once did Jesus heal the same way twice and once He even had to pray for a man twice. There is no formula or pattern to discover. Just following Jesus’ actions of making mud of spit, rubbing it on their eyes, and tell them to wash in the pool of Siloam does not mean healing will follow. Sometimes God answers immediately and miraculously. Often, however, God moves over time and the answer sneaks up on us. Our faith must rest in God and not in a pattern or formula.
The third purpose of Jesus’ healing the blind man is as a powerful illustrative example of the truth revealed in Chapters 8 and 9. Jesus is the light of the world, and some are blind to it. We covered some of that in our previous entry and will also look at it again in our next entry.
The takeaway for today is this: God is not punishing you. The (fill in the blank) you are facing today is not punishment. Yes, it may have been caused by your sin or someone else’s. But the result isn’t a punishment from God. Someday, yes, if our sins are not forgiven in Christ, we will face punishment. But that is not God’s desire. (see 2 Peter 3:9) Yet, we’d all like to know why and understand the beginnings of a problem (and who to blame). Jesus didn’t approach the blind man in that way. He instead saw an opportunity to extend God’s grace and bring healing. To correct a wrong and, in so doing, bring glory to God.