John 9:2: And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
The disciples find a man born blind. He didn’t lose his sight in a “hey ya’ll, watch this” mistake. He wasn’t attacked. He was born than way, and just because he was born that way, doesn’t make life any easier. It doesn’t make it ok. They ask a reasonable question. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” This isn’t right. This isn’t good. Whose fault is it? There has to be someone to blame.
If this man, born blind, is at fault, he sinned in the womb. It’s possible. He was a person in there. And a sinner. Still, it seems easier to blame the parents. We always do. We miscarried. Twice. In my anguish and guilt I wondered if it was my fault. Both times. Lisa did too. What could we have done differently? Where is the fault? When kids stray from the faith, when they suffer, when they are wounded or handicapped, when they hurt, every parent asks. Is this my fault?
These are dark roads to go down. Sometimes you can find fault. The 10 commandments paint a picture of how things are supposed to be. All of us fall short of this standard. Sin breaks stuff. Sometimes that’s my fault. Sometimes it’s yours. But sometimes, as hard as we look, we can’t find someone to blame. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Who sinned and caused the corona virus?” Why is God punishing us? Which one of you did this? The internet told me someone either ate a bat or an armadillo-looking thing I can’t pronounce, but I don’t know.
The thing is, sometimes the sin that breaks stuff is just so ground into the dust that there’s no way to figure out who to blame short of Adam. He brought sin into the world. He passed it through DNA to the blind man and his parents, to you and me, to our children and their children’s children. Adam was dust, and to dust he did return. He ground his sin into the very dust of the earth. Now we’re dust too. If you want to assign blame for misery, there’s no shortage of it. But there’s no help there either.
So when the disciples ask Jesus who to blame, He doesn’t answer the way they want. He answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Jesus wants more for us than wandering around in darkness finding blame to sling on each other like mud. There’s no help in that pit. There’s no comfort. There’s nothing but darkness, dust, and death. There’s wisdom here. The law shows us our sin. Sometimes we can learn from that and aim for better, but when we can’t find a commandment being broken, stop. If you can’t find a place to learn, leave. Don’t play in that pit. You only get covered in the same darkness.
Which one of you caused the corona virus? I don’t know, just wash your hands and don’t be gross. Also, stop making idols out of hand sanitizer. That breaks the first commandment. Stop coveting your neighbor’s toilet paper. Stop hoarding at others expense. That breaks the 7th commandment and the 9th. But when it comes to the fault that goes deeper, see what our Lord does.
He points to Himself. He doesn’t explain this man’s blindness in a way that makes us feel better about it. There is no feeling better about it. Even knowing who to blame doesn’t fix anything. He points to Himself, and in doing so He addresses the real problem the disciples have. They called him Rabbi. Teacher. That’s what folks call Jesus in the bible when they want to make clear they don’t think He’s the God He claims to be.
The word rabbi looks away from who Jesus is, so of course they can’t find God in this man’s blindness. They’re blind themselves. So our Lord opens their eyes first. This is so that the works of God might be displayed in Him. Pay attention. Where is God visible in all this? Not in the diagnosis of the problem. Not even in the ideal of a great light, perfect day. In the dark blindness of sin. We finally see God at work where things are darkest. There we find mercy.
God isn’t visible in the diagnosis. Diagnosis is a law word. The 10 commandments diagnose the problem. They just can’t fix it. The law applied to creation only points out what’s wrong. God is there to be what’s right.
God isn’t visible in the ideal of a great light, perfect day. On those days we forget Him altogether. The light of the world isn’t visible in the day, but only in the dark. You can hardly see a candle shine on a perfect sunshiny day, but in the darkness of night, you can see it very far away.
Where was God actually visible in this? They wanted a teacher to explain away what’s wrong and learned nothing. Rather, Jesus heals the man and shows where God really makes Himself known. In the darkness, working mercy. It’s ugly, but God reveals Himself in the darkness, in the spit and the mud. In the suffering and death. On the cross.
Christianity is a tough sell in a world this dark until you find God in the darkness too. A loving God is a hard concept in the face of suffering until you find Him suffering for you on the cross. Look into the dark for Jesus, not blame, and all of the sudden the whole thing changes.
Jesus spits on the ground and makes mud, then rubs it in the mans eyes and tells him to go wash. He’s healed. In the darkness, the Daystar shines. He who died for us rose again, putting and end to death. He who conquered death brings dust back to life all over again. He resurrects Adam, through darkness to light, through death to life. He does the same to you. He brings light to darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. The light is visible wherever Jesus is, and night cannot endure there. So we gather around His word. His promise. His light. Even now, when we can’t gather, we hear Him, and as dark as it seems, we find our Lord. Healing. Forgiving. Bringing light through mud and spit, through death and resurrection. Remember, you’re washed too. Already baptized. United with Him in dust, in mud, in death, but also in life. Instead of worrying about fault, focus on the promise. You are healed.