Scripture: 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 was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
John 9:1-7 ESV [Click here to read the entire chapter.]
Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, offended by Jesus’ accusations, the Jewish leaders question whether Jesus is demon-possessed. Ignoring their insult, Jesus calls them out for dishonoring him, clarifies that he does not seek his glory, and adds that all who keep his word will gain eternal life. Shocked by Jesus’ bold claim, the religious leaders insist Jesus is delusional, but Jesus maintains his authority to grant eternal life to those who obey his commands. Appalled, they demand he state who he thinks he is. So Jesus declares that Abraham envisioned this day of his incarnate mission and, more to the point, Jesus is the eternal “I am” (v.49). Enraged that Jesus would appropriate the sacred name of Yahweh, they pick up stones to pummel Jesus. Still, he disappears into the background and leaves the temple.
Today’s devotion is likely a continuation of Jesus’ Jerusalem ministry after the altercation in the temple. As Jesus and his disciples walk through the city, they see a man blind from birth. So his disciples, assuming that all misfortune results from sin, ask Jesus whether the man or his parents caused his congenital disability. So Jesus debunks this cause-and-effect relationship and clarifies that God intends to reveal his works through this man. And he cryptically adds that they must get on with the mission ordained by his Father as long as his light remains on this earth, but the darkness looms (referring to his crucifixion) when work ceases.
Jesus then gets on with the task before him: to create functioning receptors and neurons that will permit this man to see for the first time. So he spits on the ground, makes mud with his saliva, anoints the man’s eyes with the paste, and “sends” him to the pool whose name carries the same meaning. The man obeyed and returned by sight for the first time.
Takeaway: Theologian Gary Burge argues that while some interpret verse 3 to imply that God inflicted this man with a birth defect to reveal his glory, the better interpretation is that “Jesus must work so that God’s work may be displayed in this man’s life.” Moreover, “God had not made the man blind in order to show his glory; rather, God has sent Jesus to do works of healing in order to show his glory” (NIV Commentary: John, p.273). That said, Scripture tells us that suffering serves to draw us closer to God by:
- Testing us in our faith (Job).
- Teaching us the consequences of sinful behavior that leads us to repentance (David).
- Mobilizing us to “go” and provide relief so our works might reveal God’s glory (above example).
Also, the above story reveals three elements of restoration:
- Resources: Jesus makes a balm of saliva and mud.
- Personal contact: Jesus touches the man’s eyes.
- Action: Jesus sends the man to a pool to care for himself.
Our takeaway? The healing path, whether recipients or caregivers, is the same. It requires us to build a foundation on the person of Christ where we receive or extend his resources (spiritual, relational, intellectual, emotional, and material). We offer or receive personal contact as appropriate, whether through actual touch, drawing near others through a ministry of presence, or by our various forms of communication (tele and written). And we take action; we discern God’s direction and go across the room, the street, or the other side of the world. And through our good works, we deepen our understanding of God’s grace working in and through us that reveals his glory.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who, through his faithful works at the expense of his comfort and life, revealed your glory to us. And we thank you for your Holy Spirit, who equips and guides us to continue your Son’s good works so that we, too, might reveal your glory. Still, we sometimes struggle to submit and make the necessary sacrifices to bring healing to others or ourselves. So would you please help us to build a foundation of trust and reliance on your Son so that when he sends us, we will move beyond our fears or selfish attitudes and go? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling