28 April 2014

Encountering Jesus ~ Why? (Part I)

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. 
The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” (John 9.1-12)

Why does it surprise that this is the first question most littles begin to consistently ask... 

...when it is probably the most persistent, 
most common question we ask God?

curious giraffes hunt in packs ~ Harold Lloyd 

If God is really there, why on earth won't He prove it?

Why is there so much evil in the world?

Why is the church full of hypocrites?

Why is there suffering?

Why should I believe the Bible?

Why should I believe there's life after death?

If God is love, why would He send anyone to Hell?

Why does God say I'm not good when I really try to please Him?

Why is Christianity so exclusive? What about other religions?

Why would God kill His Son... for me?

We aren't alone as we ask those questions, either

Many great men of the Bible asked, "Why?" ~ David, Job, Moses, Elijah, the disciples, Peter, Jesus...

Why questions aren't necessarily bad. 

Sometimes they are an expression of curiosity and a desire to know. They often give voice to otherwise inexpressible suffering and anguish and every so often actually signify a turning to God for help and comfort. Other times, such questions identify a lack of faith and trust. At the very worst, they indicate rebellion and a desire to put Jesus on trial.

Was "Why?" what the disciples were really asking in this passage? 

I believe that is possible, particularly when I look at Jesus' answer. As I've been studying (slowly, very slowly) through John, there have been other instances where Jesus' response has surprised me: His answer hasn't been as gentle as what I would have expected or it hasn't seemed to answer the question that was actually asked.

photo credit: esbesb via photopin cc

But back to today's text. Here are some things that I note.

1. The previous chapter ended with listeners picking up stones to stone Him... and Jesus hides Himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
2. There is no indication of the passage of time from the end of the last chapter to the beginning of this one - so seeing the blind man could happen as He is "slipping away," or it could happen later, as He passes through.
3. He sees a man blind from birth.
4. Obviously, His disciples either note that He sees this man, or they see the man and are curious themselves, but I love that the Bible reminds us that Jesus saw him first... and saw that he'd been blind from birth. Jesus always sees me before anyone else does... including both those who see me and want to help me, or those who see me and look to accuse or to blame me.
5. The disciples ask their question.
6. It really isn't a surprising question. According to Gill's Exposition of the Bible notes on this verse
"...the first of these questions, whether the man himself had sinned before he was born, which might be the occasion of his blindness, proceeds not upon the doctrine of original sin, though the Jews then believed that; since that was common to all men, and therefore could not admit of such a question; but either upon the notion of transmigration of souls into other bodies; and so the disciples might ask whether this man had sinned in a pre-existent state when in another body, which was the reason of this blindness, or of his being put into a blind body. This notion, Josephus says (a), was embraced by the Pharisees; though, according to him, it seems, that they only understood it of the souls of good men; and if so, this could lay no foundation for such a question, unless these disciples had given into the Pythagorean notion of a transmigration of all souls, which was to be known by defects, as blindness, &c. (b); or else this question proceeded upon a principle received by the Jews, that an infant might do that which was faulty and criminal, and actually sin in the womb: the second question proceeds upon the methods which sometimes God has taken with men, by visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children; or, as the above learned writer observes, upon a notion the Jews had, that a child might suffer for what the mother did whilst it was in the womb; or on another, which prevailed among them, that there should be neither merit nor demerit in the days of the Messiah; that is, that neither the good deeds, nor bad deeds of their parents, should be imputed to their children, neither the one to their advantage, nor the other to their disadvantage: and therefore since he the Messiah was come, they ask, how this blindness should come to pass? what should be the reason of it? 
7. The first word of Jesus' response:  "Neither..." 

Wouldn't it be nice if we could tie up all the suffering, all of the whys - and link it directly to someone's specific sin, and then lay the blame at a specific someone's feet?  The disciples try and do that in this situation. Jesus clearly tells us that THAT isn't always the case...

In fact, He continues by saying that the blind man's suffering had occurred for one reason: "...that the works of God might be displayed in him."

I wonder ~ Did the blind man hear Him? I wonder what he thought if he did... Jesus says that the blind man had suffered blindness since birth simply so that God could do His work. It doesn't seem very fair. At least that is the way I think many in our day, our time, our culture would interpret it. However to a first century Jewish man, who probably believed and accepted completely the absolute sovereignty of God... if he believed Jesus was the Messiah, as many were saying... that might have been the best news ever...

...that his suffering wasn't a result of a specific sin and it was because God had plans to do something amazingly special with him and his life...

(will continue with this passage next week)

this week's gratitude list

(#'s 4501 - 4523)
this quote by Bono: "“Stop asking God to bless what you're doing. Find out what God's doing. It's already blessed.”

colds getting better, we hope

a delightful opportunity to help with Easter breakfast, as a family, at our church

my daddy's continued improvement

afternoon naps with a snuggly sick one this past week

spring weather

trees budding

flowers in gardens beginning to bloom

fields of wild buttercups growing along the highway

figuring my way driving in and out of the Detroit airport for the first time, by myself!

Nadia and Anna both did really well at JR High MACS this past week

amazing to listen to Nadia recite the book of Jonah in KJV English to just a few minutes later recite her part in a reader's theater of Happy Birthday to You by Dr. Seuss...

Brendan's acceptance at a college so much closer to home and his decision to transfer - he still loves Messiah and we recommend it without hesitation - expense and distance and missing his family have played enormously into this decision

finding my old cake stand and wondering how I'm going to first use it again


homemade chicken noodle soup for spring colds

History Day state competition

Vitamin C

clean house

finding old knickknacks and taking a trip down memory lane

knowing what we'll need to raise as far as support for future ministry in Québec

fun game nights... looking forward to more of them

friends packing up and getting ready to leave for the mission field - first time as a family!

Ten most recent posts in this series: 
Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.

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