Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” It’s a timeless question; that looks to causes rather than cures. After all, there has to be a reason that the man in our text can’t see. His blindness must be someone’s fault and if anybody knows the answer, it’s Jesus; so the disciples ask Him. We’ll get back to Jesus’ answer in a bit: for now, simply know that Jesus doesn’t give them the answer that they’re looking for; He gives them a better one.
The disciples’ ask a dangerous question, for they introduce us to the dangerous pursuit for the answer to the unknown “why?” as in “Why me?” “Why them?” “Why now?”
Why? leads to all sorts of obsessions and temptations which Satan loves to see us hung up on; the reason, it distracts us from the answers that Jesus gives.
But as it is with many of us, much of the time; we’re going to ask the question, because we want to know, we feel we have to know, we think we have the right to know. We want reasons for why thing happen, we so often want reasons perhaps because we want somebody to blame; or, on the other hand you want to be sure that you’re not to blame.
Sometimes, like the man born blind in our text, there’s no reason, no cause to the effect—at least not that will be made known. Bad things just have a tendency to happen; mudslides in Wenatchee Washington; the secret service having too many drinks and so on. More personally though, you might have gotten the flu this winter? Why did you have to get sick at the most inopportune time? Was it because of those afternoons at work where you got a little drowsy and didn’t put in a good effort—was the illness a message that you didn’t deserve to be there? Why did it happen? You can ask all the questions in the world but there’s often no answer given and there’s certainly no answer that would have taken away the fact that the thing (whatever it was) actually happened.
Of course, there are some times, when bad things do happen because of things that we do; for example, a drunk driver who crashes into a tree can reasonably believe that they hit the tree because they drank that night. But the drunk driver who knows the answers as to why they crashed their car into a tree will still have no answers to the questions about why they drank that night? “Why me?” The answers to question of why so often only lead to more questions, more doubt and more distrust.
You can drive yourself crazy with questions and the quest for answers. Where answers are available—or even discoverable we should make use of God’s gifts of inquiry, reason, science and medicine to track down the answers. It’s also good for us to examine ourselves—as individuals and groups—and learn from our mistakes to prevent the same problems from happening again. As Christians we can learn to do better in terms of how we think, how we treat others and how we treat ourselves. As Christians, where the answers are available or discoverable, it’s good for us to seek them out.
Sometimes however…. answers will simply be beyond our reach: this is especially true when the questions are about God’s wisdom and will, as in “Why did He allow this happen? To me? Now?” A wise teacher once told me, “When it comes to the will of God, We can only find answers to the questions that God gives us the answers to.” If God doesn’t give the answer, then the pursuit is fruitless. In fact, it’s dangerous.
It’s dangerous because if you pursue an answer that God doesn’t give, then you’ll be tempted to make answers up and believe that your answer is how God would answer; we are not God, so the chances of us answering this question in the very same way as God is not likely. In fact, satan likes it when you put words in God’s mouth, because when you put words in God’s mouth it prevents you from hearing what God has to say.
You might pursue answers in order to search for a way to avoid acknowledging your own sinfulness. You might look for others to blame for actions that you have taken; thus diverting attention away from you and your sin and placing it onto another. Satan likes this, too: for when you’re busy trying to prove that you’re not sinful—or not all that sinful, it means you’re busy seeking a reason no to be forgiven.
Perhaps you keep pursuing an answer that God doesn’t give, while being focused on something you can never know for sure. In those cases you’ll be focused on uncertainty and you’ve made your life centered on doubt. For example; perhaps it may be true that the person who gets lung cancer has gotten it from smoking; we can be reasonably sure that smoking was the culprit, but we cannot be absolutely certain, thus causing doubt. The devil loves doubt as well, because when doubt creeps in it will war against faith in order to lead you into unbelief.
Why? is a dangerous question; it has it’s place but there are so many times that it is; as Namichi Masaki would remind us; wrong question.
Today the disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Dear Chrsitians: are the disciples looking for a Law answer or a Gospel answer?
They’re looking for a Law answer. They’re asking, “Who did what sin to make this man born blind?” Remember, the Law is all about what we do, and the Law is given to show us our sin. The disciples asked a Law question and expected a Law answer. But Jesus doesn’t give them a Law answer. He gives them a Gospel answer: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Jesus says; neither the man nor his parents did anything to earn his blindness. And it is here that Jesus begins to teach them and us that blindness is just one unfortunate way that the curse of Original sin shows itself in our sinful world. Jesus does not answer His disciples with a Law statement; but rather answers it with the Gospel proclamation that He had come to redeem the world, to reverse the curse of sin. In other words, it matters little why or where the man’s blindness came from, in fact the pursuit o finding the answer will inevitably get in the way of the disciples understanding that Jesus had come to display His work and saving power by what He does to this man born blind. He goes on to say, “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.” Jesus has come into this world to defeat sin, to bring light to dark places. This has an overarching meaning; Jesus came to take all out of the darkness of sin by His death and resurrection but in our text, He will demonstrate this big meaning in a concrete way; He spits on the ground and makes mud with the saliva. He touches the man’s eyes and tells him to wash it off in the pool of Siloam. When the man does so, he can see. He can see both with his eyes, but more importantly he can also see with the eyes of faith that Jesus is a prophet, who speaks the truth, the Word of God.
That is Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question: don’t spend time tracking down why the man was born blind, because you’re not going to find the answer. Instead, acknowledge that such things happen because of sin—and rejoice that Jesus has come to reverse that curse of sin.
That was the answer Jesus gave then and that’s Jesus’ answer to you now when you’re faced with sufferings of life that so often produce the troubling “why” questions. Jesus came not just to save us from sin, death and the devil but also from the ways that we torture ourselves searching for answers that we’re not going to find. Jesus says today; instead, acknowledge that you’re a sinner in a sinful world, that the wages of sin is death, that bad things are going to happen; and then, look to what is certain. See with the eyes of faith that have been given to you; the cross, for it is there that you can be absolutely sure that Christ has become flesh and died on that cross to reverse the curse of sin for you. See Jesus your Lord on the Cross and know that He has not left you forsaken to a life and an eternity where things only get worse. Jesus has delivered you from sin to eternal life; and even now while we await the final resurrection to glory, He still treasures you as His beloved child and instrument so that the works of God might be displayed in you.
The greater miracle in all of this is faith; it is a miracle that you are here today! It is a miracle that you have been given the faith to believe the promises of God. Physical healing, when it comes, is terrific!!!! The miracle of a new job, sound investments and the like are only temporary blessings for all our bodies are still going to die and there is no material thing that we can take with us. The miracle of faith, on the other hand, gives eternal life. In your troubles, faith is a work of God on display in you.
Dear Christians, consider your own lives compared to that of Job, a man who had everything—and then had everything taken away. His friends gathered around him and asked the same question that the disciples ask in this Gospel lesson: what did you do so that God would punish you so? His wife wanted Job to, “Curse God and die.” Yet Job responded; “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26). That is the work of God displayed in Job: where everyone else saw only the darkness of sin and a curse of God, God shone the light of faith through Job.
So it is with you. In suffering, people may believe God is distant, uncaring or angry, but as we have been speaking about over the last week, you, the baptized know otherwise. The Lord is not far from you. In suffering, because of what Christ has done and still does for you, you can say, “I do not know exactly why I suffer this now, but I do know that Jesus Christ has come into this world to save me. In His time and according to His mercy, He will deliver me; and in the meantime, I know that He has not forsaken me.” By faith you have bountiful reason to rejoice that the Lord forgives you.
The Lord has not forsaken you, by the shed blood of Christ you are forgiven and Jesus declares this to you in our text today, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Dearly beloved, though Jesus has ascended into heaven, He remains in the world, He remains the Light of the world, saving you still from the darkness of sin and death.
Just as Jesus added His Word to mud and spittle; making the blind man see, He added His Word to water and gave you faith to see in your baptism. Just as Jesus sought out the healed man to speak again His saving Word, He still speaks His saving Word to you, right here and now, through your pastor to strengthen your faith so that you might be given Jesus. Jesus feeds you His own body and blood, that you might be given forgiveness and His work of faith might continue to be displayed in you.
Many questions about suffering will remain unanswered. But the Lord makes one answer perfectly clear: He declares that He has come, and still comes, into this world of darkness to shine the light of His grace upon you. He has gone to the cross to die for your sin, and He is risen again to deliver you to everlasting life. Cling to this truth that He makes clear above all others: you are forgiven for all of your sins. Amen
Pastor Adam DeGroot
Pinnacle Lutheran Church