The Question of Who
Last week we talked about “The God Who Sees” and the importance of being people who see the outsider. As well as the importance of knowing that we are seen and loved.
This week we are going to be looking at verses 2–5 of John 9. “The Question of Who” refers to a question we see the disciples ask Jesus about the man who was born blind. We all have stories we tell ourselves about the world, about God, about other people, and about ourselves. But are these stories true? Do these stories lead to greater joy, peace, love, and wholeness? Or are they destructive?
And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.5 While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”
Jesus’ disciples (student/apprentices) ask him why this man is blind. And not only do they ask him why, but they ask him through the lens of the stories they have told themselves about the world. It’s a black and white question. It’s an either/or question.
The Disciples Question of Who
As I mentioned, the disciples question shows us a lot about the stories that inform the way they view the world around them. And I think we can relate to this question in various ways. We tend to want answers, we want things to be black and white, and we want things to fit inside the stories that frame the way we see the world.
In this instance, the disciples see a man who has a disability. And they have a very narrow, black and white way of evaluating his ailment. For the disciples, this mans blindness can only fit the stories they tell if it is the consequence for some sort of sin or wrongdoing. It’s either this mans sins or his parents.
And that says a lot about what they think about God, about others, about themselves, and about the world. And if they can have a black and white answer about why this man is suffering, if it’s some sort of divine consequence, they don’t have to see this man. Their apathy becomes justified.
Jesus’ response to the disciples question of who is simply brilliant. Jesus responds to their black/white, either/or question in a very Jesus-y way. Jesus offers an alternative story/narrative for the disciples. His response is both a critique of their narrative lens for the world and an invitation into a new narrative.
Their story is destructive at it’s core. It divides and seperates the other. But the story Jesus presents is redemptive at it’s core. It sees brokenness for all that it is. It recognizes the mess all around us. And yet it proclaims hope and purpose in the midst of the mess.
Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.5 While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”
I’ve always thought when Jesus said “so that the works of God might be displayed in him” that Jesus was referring to the miracle that would take place. That the works was the miracle of the man receiving sight. At least that’s what I assumed until I read a verse in chapter 3 of John that parallels this verse.
John 3:21 “Whoever does the truth comes to the Light, so that his works will be revealed as works wrought in God”
We don’t have time to discuss the narrative structure of John in this series. So I will simply mention that John is intentional about the structure and order of the stories and words of Jesus that he records. He’s often recording things that refer to a story in the Old Testament or recording things that are foreshadowing ideas/stories that he wants to highlight later in the narrative. There’s movement to the story.
Here John records Jesus giving definition to the word “works” and phrase “works of God”. And it’s this, someone who does the truth and subsequently comes to the Light.
This man was not born blind so that Jesus could perform a miracle and receive accolades and fame because of said miracle. Jesus presents this man as the work of God. He introduces a brand new, radical narrative when answering the question of who. The story is no longer why is this man cursed. The story Jesus presents is not only one where this man is healed of his blindness, but one where he is given value and dignity. He becomes the example of one who does the truth, comes to the light… the work of God.
Jesus reinterpreting this man’s story is the real miracle. Jesus dignifies someone whom society has stripped of all dignity. (Next week we will discuss this more as we look at how Jesus is setting this man up to be the hero of the narrative. the title of next week’s post will be Why the Mud, because why the mud?).
Which leads us to.
Our Question of “Who am I?”
There’s a good chance, if you are reading this, that you aren’t blind.
But have you ever felt ashamed? Or guilty?
Have you ever felt like you are all alone? Like you aren’t good enough? Like you are a failure or worthless or hopeless?
These are stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, about the world, and about God. But they aren’t the story that Jesus invites us into. Jesus invites us into a better story, a truer story. One that brings us dignity. One that reinterprets the stories we’ve told ourselves… or perhaps reinterprets the story others have said about us. And it’s a story that is redemptive at it’s core. The either/ors, the black/whites no longer define us. But the redemptive movement of God in our lives, bringing us to wholeness defines us.
May you come to see that you are the work of God. That you are one in whom Christ dwells and delights. That whatever darkness and brokenness and mess that you find yourself in the midst of isn’t what defines you. That God is inviting you to tell a better story about yourself. That you are loved. That the darkness and brokenness and mess is being redeemed. That God is calling you into wholeness and peace.