Sunday, December 14, 2014

When God (seemingly) disrespects us.

John 9 King James Version (KJV)

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

Imagine that you were born blind. Imagine that you lived in New Testament times and were born blind. Then, this could be your story. 
Verse 1 states that Jesus came upon a man that was born blind. Aren't we all born blind? No, you say? Jesus said in John 3 that unless we are born again we cannot see the kingdom of God. Ahh, you say. We are all born spiritually blind. 
So, what hope do we have of a good life? Certainly, the blind man in our passage today had no hope of a good life. There were no social programs to help him learn a trade. There were no government checks and government housing to aid his living. There were no trained seeing eye dogs available  to him. He probably didn't even have a salvation army type bell to use to draw attention to his plight. (A bell would require money to make. Money that he didn't have.) All he could do was sit (or stand) by the wayside of the street and beg for whatever money that a merciful traveler might be inclined to throw his way.
His plight becomes even more unbearable by the question of the disciples of Jesus in verse 2. "Who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" There was (and still is) this false belief in the world that all sickness and disabilities are a direct result of direct sin. While it is true, that sickness and disability are in the world because of man's fallen nature, a persons sickness or disability are not necessarily caused by that person's (or their family's) direct sin. 
Think about the ludicrousness of the disciples question. Their question assumes the possibility that the blind man's own sin could have caused him to be born blind. How in the world can a baby in the womb (who's doing nothing but growing there) commit a sin? While it is a possibility that the parent's sin (drinking, or drugs, or physically fighting and causing a problem in the womb) could cause a problem with the baby. More than likely, it was simple genetics (something that the disciples- and still many today- didn't understand). 
Jesus' answer makes it clear that not only was it genetic (and not caused by sin), but that it was (gasp) God's sovereign will that the man was born blind. Really? A loving God actually chose for this man to be born with a disability? Yes, according to Jesus in verse 3. 
Some of the situations we find ourselves in are not of our making, but (as hard as they are) they are the perfect will of a loving God for our lives. We may not like or want them, but God wants us there. Our job is to make the best of the situation and survive. 
The blind man here had already proven that he was a fighter. He could have lain down and died in his own pity party. He could've stayed at his parents home and demanded that they feed and cloth him. However, not only did he not do these things, he actually went out into the streets. He endured the public ridicule and scorn and tried to bring in as much of an income as his station in life allowed him to do. 
So what did Jesus do to this man? Did he hug him? No. Did he scream and holler and make a public show of healing him? No. What did he do? He did three things: He spat on the ground, made a mud ball and placed it in the man's eyes, and he sent him on a journey. 
In many places in the world, especially in the middle east, to spit on the ground in front of a person is a very disrespectful act. It signifies how utterly disdainful you find that person. Think about it. God, in human flesh, looked at this blind man and (seemingly) disrespected him. The man was blind. He was not deaf. Many of the religiously pious had surely spat on the ground near him in disgust. Here, Jesus seems to do the same thing! 
Worse yet, Jesus them makes mud out of the spit (so it had to be a fair amount of spittle he used) and rubs the mud into the blind man's eyes. How disrespectful is that? 
Then, Jesus didn't even explain to the man what he was doing. He simply told them man to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. Why did the man obey? Why did he not simply wipe off the mud and return to his begging? Why did he not explode at the insult of this supposed prophet? 
The answer, I believe, is found in a) Jesus' reputation as a good prophet (and against the religious elite) and b) the place he was sent. 
First, the word Siloam means "sent". So, the sent one (Messiah) was sending him. This was definitely a step up in the world for him. Noone ever asked him to go somewhere in a good way. Yet, the Messiah did. And, as a side note, another word that means sent is Apostle.        
Second, the location of the pool was by the wall adjoining the kings gardens (Nehemiah 3:15) and would therefore be in the middle of all the "somebodies" of the day. It was probably a forbidden place for beggars. Yet, on this day, at the behest of the messiah, a beggar in ratty clothes would not only go there, but he would bend over and wash the mud and spittle from his eyes. Oh, the shame! Oh, the shock of the elite! I can almost see the man's smile as he headed out to obey the master. 
The man didn't know he was going to be healed. Jesus hadn't told him that. He'd just told the man to go and wash. Surely the thought of a possible beating for obedience entered his mind, but he dismissed it. He'd been beat before. He'd been looked down on before. Why not obey this man who had done so much for people before this? There was nothing in the master's reputation that would cause the man to believe that Jesus intended him ill will. 
So, the blind man obeyed the master. Notice that neither Jesus, nor anyone else, lifted a finger to go and help the man do as he had been told. Notice also that the man didn't ask for help. He simply went and washed in this pool. 
Can you imagine the emotional reaction of the blind man as the mud was washed away? Suddenly, for the first time ever, he could see! I don't know about you, but I'd be shouting to high heaven and dancing a Pentecostal jig! 
What can we learn from this story? 
When God seemingly has turned his nose up at us, even disrespected us, we should obey anyway- trusting in the reputation of our loving Father. He may not seem to be offering us any help for the journey. He may not even tell us the reason for the journey. But, when we obey him and reach the end of our journey, the miracle that occurs is far better than anything we have ever imagined! 
It doesn't matter what others think. It only matters what God thinks. In spite of the appearance. In spite of the seeming disrespect. Regardless of the lack of help from others. Always obey the orders of the master. When we do, we will find healing, mercy, and joy.