“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” (John 9:1-3 ESV).
It has never been uncommon for people to make assumptions about those who suffer, that they must be receiving bad things for bad behavior, similar to the concept of karma. We see it in the life and trials of Job.
In Luke 13, Jesus makes reference to some other situations where similar assumptions were made. “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish’” (Luke 13:1-5 ESV).
In saying that “you will all likewise perish”, Jesus wasn’t affirming that they were killed because of their sin, but rather that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 ESV). Repentance and faith in Him results in life, not death. Everyone who sins dies.
This brings us to the man born blind. The disciples, characteristically for the times, assumed that sin was behind this man’s blindness. He was obviously paying the price for sin. Jesus gave them a lesson about God that can easily be overlooked. This man had been born blind “that the works of God might be displayed in him!”
It could be assumed that the disciples’ question and Jesus’ answer were both said in the man’s presence, since after Jesus’ answer He immediately makes mud and anoints the man’s eyes. I can picture the man, upon hearing the disciples’ question, replying, “Ummm… Hello, I’m right here!”
Yet when he hears Jesus’ reply he isn’t angry that he has spent his entire life blind for an object lesson for the disciples. He didn’t storm off to spend the rest of his days in bitterness. He went gladly and did as Jesus had instructed him; and he was healed.
Far too often I have played the “why me?” card, allowing myself to be angry at a God for allowing me to suffer some perceived slight. I forget that God created each of us for a purpose (Romans 8:28)! He has plans for each of our lives “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
When we face adversity, when bad things happen, when we don’t understand how God could allow us to go through certain things in our lives, we need to remind ourselves that we are being given an opportunity to put “the works of God” on display. Like the man born blind, we don’t have to know the “whys”. We simply need to obey. God will see to it that He receives glory through our obedience regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
You are not being punished by God for your sin. Allow God to put His fine handiwork in you to be put on display that others might see and believe. Trust Him. Obey Him, and you will see His glory.
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