The Gospel of John chapter 9 records a unique account of Jesus healing a man born blind. It took place on a Sabbath day which stirred controversy and criticisms from the religious authorities. The disciples raised a question of causality. Who was responsible for the man’s condition? Was his blindness caused by his sin or that of his parents? In the minds of both disciples and religious leaders, the perception of blame for one’s sin was inevitable. Disease, sickness or disability were signs of divine judgment or punishment.

To everyone’s surprise, Jesus took the initiative in healing the blind man. However, in the process, Jesus presented significant lessons on the theology of suffering and healing. According to Jesus, neither the man nor his parents were to blame for his congenital blindness. It was not necessary to speculate on the cause of his physical condition. Human curiosity would suggest that somewhere in this man’s past specific transgressions might have led to this fate. We seek a reasonable explanation for our experience of pain, suffering and disease. We attempt to fix the blame on something or someone. By providing causal explanations, we feel justified in either accepting the condition or else protesting the consequence.

For some, if it is not the man’s fault nor his parents’ sin that caused his blindness, then God is somehow unkind and unjust. For others, God must have a reason or purpose for this undeserved condition. Either way, we are troubled by the problem of suffering and mystified by the act of healing. Why does Jesus heal this man? On many occasions, those who were sick or tormented by demons were brought to Jesus for healing. In this episode, Jesus heals the man even though there is no indication that he sought healing. According to Jesus, the glory of God was demonstrated in this case. In other words, this man’s healing was divinely ordained and Jesus glorified God in his healing action.

The story continues in John 9 with further testimony from the man who was healed, causing more controversy for the religious leaders as well as for his parents. Nevertheless, Jesus took the time to reveal his true identity to the man. As a result, the man believed and worshipped Jesus. Those who claim to see but fail to recognize Jesus as the Son of God remain blind in their guilt. But for those who admit to their blindness will see Jesus as the One who heals and sets them free from darkness and sin. The significant lesson in this episode focuses on the mercy and compassion of the divine healer. Jesus performed the impossible by healing someone born blind and giving sight. The miracle in this man’s life was more than the cure for blindness. He gained a whole new perspective on life that was no longer determined by his past, nor his religious tradition or genetic code.

Looking back at the man’s past might stir up sentiments of guilt and condemnation. Is he a victim or a culprit? Who is to blame for his condition? Why does God allow human suffering without just cause? But Jesus looks ahead into the new possibility of sight and wholeness for this man. By touching and healing the man, Jesus demonstrated the glory and power of God that overcomes human sin and suffering.  Given the man’s condition, Jesus anticipates his need and initiates the healing act of making this man whole again, restoring sight and faith while revealing God’s glory and purpose.

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