A Lenten Meditation
John 9: 1-17
As he went along, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
“Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said.
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided. Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
It was traditional in early Hebrew faith. God rewards good behavior. God punishes bad behavior. Simple equation. Probably too simple. What about all those in-between equations?
Number One: Bad behavior that seems to go un-punished?
Number Two: Good behavior that does not protect good people from adversity. Good people who suffer illness, disability, pain. Good people who endure accidents. Good people who lose their jobs, income, homes. Good people who lose loved ones to addiction, disease, death.
Or a good person who for no good reason is born blind. Why? That’s not fair. There is no good reason.
Except . . . That it brings us to the third in-between equation:
We see our equation in the case of the man in John’s story. The man just happened to be begging in the spot where Jesus just happened to be passing on that very day. What are the chances? This was no accident.
It was an in-between Equation. Jesus explained it to his disciples. That man was born blind not as some punishment for sins committed by his parents, or sins that the blind man might commit if he were sighted. Rather, the man was born blind so that at that moment God’s works might be revealed in him.
Do not misunderstand. God does not cause adversity. He did not create it. Sin did, making adversity part of life on this planet. It was Christ’s intervention at that moment in history that transformed a tragedy into opportunity to reveal God’s work.
Here are the components of the equation:
The moment. The man. The blindness. And Jesus.
Let’s apply it to our own life.
The moment is now.
The man is any one of us.
His blindness is a tragedy that anyone of us has suffered. All have carried a cross.
And Jesus. The light in a dark world where adversity knows no stranger, even the best of people. There is Jesus, looking for the triumph in tragedy, transforming adversity into an opportunity to reveal God’s work in us.
How do we live this equation? How do we access an opportunity to transform the tragedy in our life into triumph? How can we transform our adversity into an opportunity to reveal God’s presence?
Maybe we can do what the man on the road did. Live our life as close to the path where Jesus walks so he will see us, maybe even stumble over us. Put ourselves in his presence, in worship, prayer, and study. Put ourselves in connection with each other to grow in faith and mutual healing, so that whatever cross we carry, the load will be lighter and Jesus will notice us. He will look upon us as an opportunity to show God’s work in the world. Maybe he will make a mud paste with his own saliva to soothe the inflammation and pain we hold. Maybe he will heal the disease, disability, loss. Maybe not. Maybe when we wash our face of the mud that clouds our vision, the blindness of depression, grief, resentment, and anger at the injustice of adversity, – that blindness will be lifted, and we will be like the man on the road, stronger than he was before his encounter with Christ, and capable of seeing what others could not see. Who, when confronted and questioned, “Who gave you your sight? What do you say about him?”
With the man on the road, we, too will say, “It is Jesus. The revealer of God’s work. He is the light of the world. He is a prophet. “