We live in a cause and effect world. Even though today's reading occurred centuries before Descartes laid out the scientific method, there was still an understanding that one thing could trigger another.
And so if you believed that illness was a direct cause of sin, this would hopefully be an incentive for good behavior. This was what most people believed in the time of Jesus.
What happens if you encounter someone born with a malady? In this case, blindness? The disciples who are under this mindset about sin and illness ask the question of Jesus, "Did this blind man sin or was it his parents?"
This seems rather cruel to our 21st century sensibilities. We know that illness may be caused by a whole host of issues such as genetics, germs, a poor environment, etc. Sin may induce illness due to stress factors but it seems like adding insult to injury to make this a regular claim. With the difficulty to prove, I would not be the one to make this declaration!
Yet, the disciples live in a world where sin results in illness. They encounter a man born blind and wonder to Jesus, "Who is at fault? This man or his parents?"
Neither answer comes readily. To say the man was at fault when he was born that way doesn't make any sense. If the sin was from his parents, shouldn't they be punished more directly?
So Jesus reveals that neither were the cause. This is similar to what we find in the Hebrew Bible with the book of Job. Sometimes illness just occurs regardless of one's faithfulness.
All people eventually get sick. All people eventually die.
|"Farmer's Friend" is not something you would want|
in your living room but it indirectly contributes
to your kitchen.
God may not have caused all the chaos in the world, but God can still cause flowers to sprout in the midst of the manure.
At the end of this reading, the man can now see! And so can the disciples.
Prayer for the day:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see. Amen.
John Newton, 18th century
Photo by International Institute of Tropical Agriculture via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.