1 As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”
3 Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him. 4 While it’s daytime, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 After he said this, he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smeared the mud on the man’s eyes. 7 Jesus said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (this word means sent). So the man went away and washed. When he returned, he could see.
8 The man’s neighbors and those who used to see him when he was a beggar said, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”
9 Some said, “It is,” and others said, “No, it’s someone who looks like him.”
But the man said, “Yes, it’s me!”
10 So they asked him, “How are you now able to see?”
11 He answered, “The man they call Jesus made mud, smeared it on my eyes, and said, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
Whose fault is it?
The world is a lot easier for us to accept when its logic is linear. If A leads to B, and then C and D follow, we get it. We might not like it, but we get it.
The disciples want to be able to say that if the man was born blind, then certainly someone somewhere must have done something wrong – otherwise this wouldn’t have happened. It’s as though they engage the man’s story at part B and are asking Jesus to explain what happened in part A.
Most of the Hebrew Bible – the scriptures Jesus would have known – begins from the notion that when you do wrong, bad things happen to you. So the disciples are only asking Jesus to clarify an idea that they already believe to be true.
This thinking isn’t unfamiliar to us. When we’re hurting, we tend to look at the troubles in our own lives and ask: “Is this my fault?” We look for the cause and effect. We want to understand – we go seeking a why. And often our shame and sadness at the situation will cause us to immediately assume: “I must have screwed up here. I’m the one who sinned.”
In other cases, we may be angry. So instead of turning inward, we look outward for others to blame. Whatever happened, it’s not me. It’s my family, it’s my spouse, my boss. But it’s not me.
“So who sinned? This man or his parents?” The disciples want to know.
How confusing it must have been to hear Jesus say, “It’s not like that. You’ve got it all wrong.”
We want to go looking for someone to blame – but Jesus isn’t interested in that. Instead, he tells the disciples: keep paying attention. Give it a moment. Trust God to work here, and you’ll see God’s glory.
I’ve always found this to be a helpful message in the face of my own suffering. Stop looking for someone to blame – whether yourself or others. Start watching, keep trusting, and believe that in time you’ll see God’s glory revealed in your life once more.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
When you’re in crisis, are you more likely to blame others for what’s happening? Or are you more likely to blame yourself? What if neither is accurate?
Prayer: God, in the face of suffering, help us to continue to trust in your goodness. Help us to retain the faith that allows us to continue to believe that if we watch, we will see your glory revealed in our lives. Amen.