Welcome to our Wednesday podcast. Our Bible passage today is John 9 vs1-23, focusing on verses 1-4, from The Message translation:
Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines.”
Sometimes writing a podcast is hard, because you find yourself having to speak and write about a topic that is personally challenging. This happened when I was on the podcast rota about 6 weeks ago. The Bible reading then was Jesus healing a blind man called Bartimeaus. I knew that God wanted me to write about those verses, but I ignored Him, and wrote about something else instead. However, as is often the case, God clearly had other plans, and this week I have 2 podcast passages looking at the healing of a man who was born blind. I really can’t write about some other verses!
So, this is the podcast for today, and for 6 weeks ago, and it is a personal reflection on 3 truths that God has taught me through verses in John Chapter 9.
On 22nd October 2008, Alan and I were blessed by the birth of our beautiful baby girl. We called her Faith. In the hospital, midwives came from other wards just to see her; because word had got round that there was a baby with the most amazing white hair.
Six weeks after she was born, we received the diagnosis that our daughter had albinism, that she was visually impaired, and that this was a lifelong condition that could not be changed or improved. Alan asked the doctor how severely she thought Faith was affected. She replied, “I think your daughter is going to have significant problems.”
Over the next few weeks I learnt many things. I learnt that albinism is a rare genetic condition where both parents have to be carriers of a gene mutation, for children to be affected. I learnt what it feels like to look at your baby and think “It’s all my fault.” I learnt what it feels like to acknowledge that your child is going to be disabled. I learnt what it feels like to get very angry with God and cry and shout “Why me and why her?” and “How could you let this happen to us?”
The first truth is that Jesus doesn’t mind when we ask difficult questions, but he is concerned with our response.
In verse two, we see the disciples asking Jesus why the man was blind – who was to blame? Today, with advanced medical understanding, we may not ask the exact same questions, but when faced with suffering, illness or tragedy, we often ask, “Why did this happen?” “How could God allow this?” or “Why me?” or “Why them?”
It is okay to ask questions. Jesus does not rebuke the disciples for doing so. However, in his response, Jesus doesn’t actually answer the disciple’s question as to why this man was born blind.
And it’s in situations like this that we, as Christians, have to make an active choice, a personal decision, to trust and believe, and have faith in God anyway…..even when we face difficult questions, and even when we may never get the answers that we are looking for.
I remember where I was when I made that decision. I knew that I never wanted to look at my daughter and think “Why?” or for her diagnosis to damage my relationship with God, and bring bitterness into my heart. So I had to choose to trust God anyway.
Maybe this is a decision that you need to make today?
To acknowledge that bad things do happen to good people; and it is rubbish……but in the face of difficulty choose to have faith in God, and not let the unanswered questions alter your personal relationship with Him. As you do this, ask the Holy Spirit to remove any bitterness towards God that may have taken root in your heart.
The second truth I learnt from this passage is to look for what God is doing, not at what he isn’t doing.
“Jesus said, ‘You’re asking the wrong question….Look instead for what God can do.” Verse 3 in the ESV says, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
As Faith grows up I could choose to focus on the fact that she won’t be able to drive, and how limiting that will be, or I can choose to be thankful to God every time I see her with her head in a book, and marvel at the fact that there was a time when we thought she might never be able to read normal print. Rather than looking for the problems and difficulties that Faith might encounter at senior school, I instead need to look at which school will help her to flourish, so that the works of God – the gifts and talents that she has – might be displayed.
Are there areas in your life where you need a change of outlook, a new mindset, so that you can see the things that God can do, and is doing? Let us never be blind to seeing where God is at work in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
The final truth in these verses is that no matter what difficulty we might face in our lives, we are still called to do the work of God at all times, in all places and in all seasons.
It is my testimony that despite the brokenness and the tears of those first few months and years of Faith’s life; they were some of the most fruitful years I have ever experienced in ministry. It was the time when we launched a new gathering for young families, and saw hundreds of people connect with church for the first time, during that season the number of young families at STC doubled, and in those early years Alan and I saw more people make a commitment to follow Jesus and get baptised than we have ever seen since.
In verse 5 of John 9 Jesus says, “For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light.”
The truth is that no matter how dark we may feel, or how difficult the situation that we face, when Jesus is with us there is always enough light for us to do the work that God is calling us to.
Heavenly Father, in the face of difficulty help us to trust you anyway, to look for what you can do, and to continue to do the work of your kingdom. Amen.
READING: John 9:1-23 (MSG)
Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”
Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”
He said this and then spit in the dust, made a clay paste with the saliva, rubbed the paste on the blind man’s eyes, and said, “Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “Sent”). The man went and washed—and saw.
Soon the town was buzzing. His relatives and those who year after year had seen him as a blind man begging were saying, “Why, isn’t this the man we knew, who sat here and begged?”
Others said, “It’s him all right!”
But others objected, “It’s not the same man at all. It just looks like him.”
He said, “It’s me, the very one.”
They said, “How did your eyes get opened?”
“A man named Jesus made a paste and rubbed it on my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ I did what he said. When I washed, I saw.”
“So where is he?”
“I don’t know.”
They marched the man to the Pharisees. This day when Jesus made the paste and healed his blindness was the Sabbath. The Pharisees grilled him again on how he had come to see. He said, “He put a clay paste on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.”
Some of the Pharisees said, “Obviously, this man can’t be from God. He doesn’t keep the Sabbath.”
Others countered, “How can a bad man do miraculous, God-revealing things like this?” There was a split in their ranks.
They came back at the blind man, “You’re the expert. He opened your eyes. What do you say about him?”
He said, “He is a prophet.”
The Jews didn’t believe it, didn’t believe the man was blind to begin with. So they called the parents of the man now bright-eyed with sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, the one you say was born blind? So how is it that he now sees?”
His parents said, “We know he is our son, and we know he was born blind. But we don’t know how he came to see—haven’t a clue about who opened his eyes. Why don’t you ask him? He’s a grown man and can speak for himself.” (His parents were talking like this because they were intimidated by the Jewish leaders, who had already decided that anyone who took a stand that this was the Messiah would be kicked out of the meeting place. That’s why his parents said, “Ask him. He’s a grown man.”)