Pastor Walther / John 9:1-7, 13-17, 34-39 / Jesus Sheds Some Light on Our Situation: The Proper View of Life / March 19, 2017
From little on we learn the idea of cause and effect. If I touch this oven burner, I’ll burn my hand. If I don’t study for this test, I’ll fail. If I put Mentos in a Coke bottle, it will fizz up. It’s part of our human nature to question how and why those effects happen. That natural inquiring often transitions into the events that happen around us or to us. Why do things happen to me? Naturally, if something good happened to us, we conclude it’s because we did something good to deserve it. If I won the lottery, well it’s because I did something right in picking the right numbers. If I got a bonus at work, it’s because I did something right at work. Interestingly, we don’t take as much time to question the good things that happen to us as we do the bad. When something bad happens, we seriously question why. And so naturally, we assume that if something bad happened to us, well then we did something bad to deserve it. When you get a disease, it’s obviously because you didn’t eat local organic produce and you didn’t exercise. When a car crashes into the side of you, it’s because you were swearing at the car ahead of you five minutes before. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, people seriously assumed it was God punishing Bourbon Street. We are used to the idea of cause and effect. That really is the basic idea of Karma, which comes from Hinduism and Buddhism. The idea of Karma has been so intertwined with our society, unfortunately even being apart of our everyday language.
Interestingly it was no different with the Jews while Jesus was on this earth. “Morality” was translated into a simple formula: Those who do right will be rewarded by God. Prosperity was a sign of God’s approval. Yet, those who do wrong will be punished by God. If there is a disaster in your life, it’s because you sinned somehow and you made God mad, which brings us to a man, blind since birth.
The disciples see this man sitting there, a helpless beggar, who maybe could have even been as young as 13 years old up. They don’t even look at him with compassion but they look at him with curiosity. He was a spiritual conundrum. So, they ask Jesus if his blindness was a result of his own sins or those of his parents. In other words, knowing what we think we know about spiritual cause and effect, what did this guy do? If he’s been sinful since birth, how could he have possibly done something before his birth that would be worthy of him being blind? Chronologically, that doesn’t make sense, so it would have to be some kind of sin that his parents did, right? But why? What was the cause of this effect?
When we see these issues coming up in our lives, we see how there are often three different ways of approaching them, just like we see here in our gospel of John: In those moments of our own frustration, we cry, "What have I done to deserve this?" In those dark moments, we search our lives: "I must have done something wrong." And, naturally in those desperate moments, we pray, "If you take this away, God, I'll do something good.” Deep down inside, we're just as stuck in this cause-and-effect thinking as Jesus' disciples were. They were only responding with what they could see, what they believed had to be the natural result. We try to deal with our issues by trying to solve our theological puzzle, just like the disciples.
The second way is that we can be stubborn with the issue at hand. The Pharisees’ biggest problem with Jesus was his work on the Sabbath, a day set aside not to work. Jesus could have performed this miracle on any other day of the week, and he could have just spoken the word to heal the man, rather than making mud and spreading it on the man’s eyes. Jesus takes a stand against those Jews who had an improper view of the Sabbath day. They were trying to establish restrictions that God did not Himself establish, so Jesus keeps doing these things on the Sabbath to testify to the truth.
In our own stubbornness, we can fail to listen to God’s Word. We fail to see who Jesus really is and claim that we know it all. We would rather throw the problem out and ignore it and bring everyone else down with us, just like the Pharisees. So, we become spiritual know-it-alls. We think we don’t need to go to church except when we feel like it, because we already know what the pastor is going to tell us. We think we don’t need bible class or Sunday school because our kids already go to a Christian elementary school or a Christian high school. We think we understand everything about the bible because we listened to a podcast once about Jesus. When it comes to learning to play the piano or doing anything, there’s the old idea that 10,000 hours makes an expert. Now this is just simple math, but if I only went to church once a week for one hour, I would have to live almost to the age of 200 to get to 10000 hours. So do we know it all?
Jesus shows us that the troubles and tough times that come in our lives (or how we see it in other people’s lives) draw attention to the real problem that brings those issues, sin. Jesus shows us that sin is a real thing that deserves punishment. It is true that sometimes certain sins are followed by certain consequences, but Jesus helps us to understand God’s righteousness. God’s plan is rooted in God’s unconditional love that tells us that as sinners who severely deserve punishment, we are loved, that we are of worth and value, and that because of Jesus, our sins are removed. God’s plan is NOT rooted in cause and effect punishment. There is no such thing as karma. It not just a series of checks and balances in the universe. Because we have worth and value, because God loves us, God isn’t tormenting us with sufferings and difficulties, he isn’t giving us what we deserve. He gives to us what we don’t deserve. If karma really was a thing, we would be dead and in hell. Thank God that God doesn’t give to us what we deserve!
Unlike the Pharisees and unlike the disciples, Jesus gives us an answer to our questioning. He sheds light into our darkness. He gives to us the third and correct way of approaching the issues in our lives. They are not to be questioned with stubbornness or anger or curiosity as we often do. The problems that we see in life ultimately, have their purpose in the glorification of God.
And we would ask, just like the disciples would have asked, how? How could a painful divorce be a good thing? How could the death of my family member be a good thing that glorifies God? How could a tree coming down through my house be a good thing? How could this disease that gives me only 5 months to live be a good thing? That’s our biggest struggle isn’t? Even as Christians, we hear “it’s all going to work out for your good.” And you’re stuck questioning, “Ummm, how is there any good in this?” Well, that’s because God sees these issues differently.
In the case of this blind man, who sat in a very public spot and was daily disregarded, why couldn’t the disciples have shown compassion and helped him instead of only staring with curiosity? When a married couple has lost a baby, why wouldn’t we lend a listening ear or help them out in any way we could? When a parent is going through the pain of a child dismissing them as if they were dirt, why not do anything we can to be there and help them? When we ourselves have gone through physical and emotional torture because of a disease, why wouldn’t we use those times to build up those who are also going through the same thing? You see, Jesus explains to us as Christians that we should see the imperfect world around us and the imperfection that we deal with as an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love.
Even with a tragedy that might be looming over us, it doesn’t always need to be explained, but seen as God’s avenue for blessing you and me with opportunities to demonstrate God’s loves to each other. Displaying a Christian attitude in the midst of suffering or as our end draws near can have a more profound effect on an unbeliever than we may ever know. That attitude is the same as Christ, who could have dwelled on his suffering. He could have questioned God why he was suffering. Christ could have stubbornly dismissed everything and dismissed God his father. But instead he kept you and me in mind. His suffering was an opportunity to show his love for us!
Jesus demonstrated his love to this man, blind from birth, by restoring his sight. But a misfortune is not just an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love. As this man was speaking with Jesus, he had no idea who Jesus really was, even though he had seen Jesus with his newly opened eyes. By demonstrating God’s love, Jesus was able to share God’s love and the amazing fact that this man was the reason why Jesus came to this earth. People all around us have heard about Jesus, but don’t know who he really is! How would people know about Jesus is the Light of the World if that wonderful message has never been proclaimed to them? Why would we want people to be burdened with the spiritual and emotional torture as they question their own struggles and maybe even question their own existence? It is our opportunity to share God’s profound love to the people around us before it’s too late. The more we share God’s love, the more confident we get. Look at this blind man: He progressed in his thinking about Jesus from Him being a man, to a prophet, to one who might be followed by disciples, to one from God, to God himself.
We might not know why God allows hardships to come into our lives, but we have Jesus. The problems we face in life are not the result of some bad karma out to get us. Ultimately their purpose is the glorification of God as they give us opportunities to demonstrate God’s love and to share God’s love. Amen.