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" (John 9:1-39).
Tonight Jesus heals a man born blind from birth. When we hear of these miracles of Jesus we should never hear them as if they were just neat stories from a long time ago. We should never get these nostalgic or sentimental attitudes toward Christ as if we ourselves were not included in the action. A Christian should always learn to see himself in the story – we should see ourselves as the one for whom the Son of God leaves his throne in heaven.
You see the kingdom of God has come. Jesus is here. Healings, miracles, and the raising of the dead is the normal business of the day for Christians. Jesus is with us.
In the Bible, we are the lepers in need of healing. We are the demon possessed in need of an exorcism. We are the hungry in need of bread. We are the broken in need of wholeness and restoration. We are those who are dead like Lazarus who need to be brought back to life by the living Words spoken by the author of life. Tonight you are the man born blind – who now sees.
The disciples are curious whether the man is blind because of his parents sin or his own sin, but for Jesus the reason for the man’s troubles are different than that. Jesus answers: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Then Jesus spits in the mud, gets his hands dirty and anoints the man with mud and tells him to wash in the water by His Word. And his eyes are opened – his world of gray – is anointed with a thousand colors he never saw before. At the words of Jesus – he sees – his world is forever changed.
Jesus says “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” What is Jesus saying here? He’s saying it’s not JUST because of our own sin, that we suffer hardship, pain, and loss. It’s also because God wills it. The apostle Paul testifies that Jesus specifically told him that He would not be healed of his thorn in the flesh is 2nd Corinthians. Paul explains that the Lord let him suffer in order that he might be further humbled.
God causes Moses to have a leprous hand to demonstrate God’s miraculous power to Pharaoh. And don’t forget about Job who suffered great loss in his family, unspeakable pain and misfortune. It was God himself who allowed Satan to test Job’s faith through suffering and unbearable trouble. The bible is filled with examples like this.
It’s too simplistic to say that God just wants us to be happy and healthy and care free. All things are subject to God’s greater purposes. He allows suffering and brings healing where and when he wills it – on his own timetable. Not on ours.
No story shows God’s use of suffering and miracles more clearly than the story tonight of the man born blind. The disciples ask “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents,” said Jesus, “but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” This means that sickness, suffering, and hardship do not come as punishment from God. But that all these things work together for a much great purpose.
And what purpose is that? That the works of God might be displayed in you. The greatest miracle in the story is not just that the man born blind now sees. The greatest miracle in that the man comes to faith in Jesus. He is called by the Holy Spirit to faith in the Gospel. This is the greatest miracle. And it doesn't happen instantly. First he’s healed, then he’s confused, he calls Jesus a prophet but still doesn't know who he really is. He is harassed by all of his neighbors, disowned by his own family, and kicked out of the synagogue for his run in with Jesus. Only later does this man come to faith and say “Lord, I believe” and he falls down and worships Him.
Like the blind man and all the prophets and saints of old. God loves you and therefore does not spare you a cross. The great troubles that we suffer serve a much greater purpose. That the works of God might be displayed in you. As you are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.
If we are assured of God’s love when all is well we should be equally certain of God’s love precisely when everything seems to be unraveling. Because it’s precisely when things are completely undone when the God is love is doing His very best work. And that is precisely what we see at the cross of Christ.
Tonight, like the blind man, God gets his hands in the mud again for you. The God who made man from the dust now tromps up a dusty hill to restore what man had lost since the fall. He is spit upon so that he can anoint with holy baptism. He is cursed for your sake, so that he can bless you tonight with his own hands.
The greatest miracle is that you are called to faith in the Gospel. That you open your mouth and confess that Jesus is Lord. That Christ has risen from the grave. This is the greatest miracle. And you too are part of God’s story, the people for whom he came in mercy.
Like the blind man, even though your sins are forgiven your life is not a walk through the roses and that’s actually a good thing. And it’s meant to be that way. Because the God of love is ever drawing us closer to him. So that as the pleasures and securities of this life all prove empty we might again place our trust in Him alone – and be filled with Him only - who is our life – our healer – and our greatest joy. In the name of Jesus. Amen.