Continuing, finally, with this look at Jesus’s healing of a man born blind.
So Jesus departs from the temple with his disciples. It’s fruitless, all they want to do is throw stones at him. He leaves, and as he’s walking through the gate, leaving the temple complex, there sits a man, blind from birth. As they pass through the gate, the disciples notice this man, begging, blind from birth. They ask a theological question. Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? And so we come to a third attempted stoning on this day of stoning.
The disciples of Jesus are ready to throw stones of blame at a blind man or his parents. This may not be a literal stoning, but it’s the same spirit, the same thing. Let’s blame the woman and stone her. Let’s blame Jesus, and call him a false teacher and a devil, and let’s stone Him. Let’s blame either this man or his parents for his condition of blindness. The satanic impulse to blame is all through this passage. And Jesus is trying to shine a light on it because we’re blind to it. We live in the darkness, and we don’t see how we generally try to unite ourselves by blaming others. We don’t see how we console our own anxieties and fears by blaming others. This is the darkness we have lived in, this is the blindness that has afflicted the human race that Jesus is trying to bring light to. He’s trying to heal us of our blindness and show us how we behave and how destructive it is.
The satanic impulse to blame. Very often it works like this – when we see a situation of deep misfortune, when we see people who are suffering horrible fates, we are appalled by it. We are scared by it. We want to assure ourselves that life itself has some semblance of order. We don’t want to think that life is so filled with vagaries and random chance that such a thing could happen to us. So we have to explain, in some way, exactly why this bad this has happened to this person or these people. Inevitably it works like this – this bad thing has happened to this person or these people because they are bad people. And to assure ourselves that nothing bad like this could happen to us, we invent a system by which we can say that if something bad happened to that group, that nation, those people, that person, then it must be that somehow they must deserve it. After all, if the undeserving can have bad things happen to them, then it can happen to me. I can not tolerate that idea, so I must come up with a system where I can blame the sufferer for their own suffering.
This is the book of Job. “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Job 1:1 ESV. God Himself testifies to this about Job. “And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”” Job 1:8 ESV. Job needs no character witness, God Himself is Job’s witness. God says “I testify that job is righteous, that he fears me, that he turns away from evil, that he is the most righteous man of the sons of the east…” So that is settled, Job is righteous.
But the Satan, the Ha-Satan, the accuser, begins to bring accusation against Job, and soon after trouble ensues. In three thunderclaps of horror, Job loses it all. He loses, his health, his wealth, and his children. It’s almost too terrible to imagine. He lost everything dear to him.
That’s when his three friends show up. The book of Job tells the story of a righteous man who is accused by Satan, bad things happen, and then Satan disappears from the story. Satan appears in the first 2 chapters, then we never see Satan again in the rest of the 40+ chapters of the book of Job. So the Satan disappears from the book of Job after the first 2 chapters.
Or does He? In fact, satan does NOT disappear from the book of Job, he is simply channeled through the three friends of Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. These three friends become possessed by the spirit of accusation, the spirit of blame, the spirit of the Satan. They’ve come to comfort Job, but before long they have to try to explain to Job why this has happened. But they are really not trying to explain to Job what has happened, though they think they are. What they are really doing is trying to explain to themselves what has happened.
They see this horrible thing that has happened to Job. He’s lost his health, his wealth, and his children. They want to be assured that nothing like that could ever happen to them (don’t we all?). So, they begin to explain why such a thing happened. Jobs three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, are the practitioners of theological certitude. They believe they can always come up with an answer. They are the Bible answer man. They have an answer for every eventuality. No doubt they would reference the book of Proverbs.
The book of proverbs says if you fear God and live righteously, you will be blessed, prosperous, and happy. This is the overwhelming theme of Proverbs, there are dozens and dozens of verses that say exactly that. And…it’s true. It’s true that if you will turn away from the path of sin, fear God, live righteously, good things begin to happen in your life. You begin to prosper. You begin to be happy in a way you weren’t before. I know many people who can testify to this. I can testify to this, that in encountering Christ, putting my life in the way of righteousness and in the fear of the Lord, good things begin to happen in your life and you can be a lot happier than you’ve been in years.
The book of Proverbs gives us this message, that if you fear God and live righteously, good things will happen. You will be blessed, happy and prosperous. And it’s true…except when it isn’t. That’s why we have the book of a Job in the Bible as well. We have the book of Proverbs balanced by the book if Job, and we have to hold them together. Proverbs doesn’t tell the whole story. Generally, it’s true. You begin to fear God and live righteously, your life will get better, amen and hallelujah. It’s true. But it’s not a guarantee of certitude. And just because it’s generally true that if you live righteously and fear God it leads to a good life, it does NOT mean that if anyone is experiencing pain and sorrow and suffering it must be because they deserve it, they have sinned, they are bad. That’s what the three miserable comforters of Job said. That was their theology. Eventually God shows up and says “After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”” Job 42:7-8 ESV. God, Yahweh, says that these three have spoken incorrectly of Job and Himself.
We hold these things in tension. To blame the victim is the work of Satan. It’s the work of darkness. It’s common, it’s repeated throughout history. It happens all of the time. We want to believe that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. But sometimes, bad things happen to good people. Sometimes, the worst things happen to the best people. That’s the book of Job, and the life of Jesus.
To blame the victim is the work of Satan, the work of darkness. Jesus does not come to do the works of Satan, Jesus comes to do the works of God. Whose work are we doing?
“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. 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.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.”
John 9:1-7 ESV