In John 9 Jesus, who has just referred to himself as the “light of the world” and the “light of life,” walks out of the temple in Jerusalem at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles. Outside of the temple he and his disciples see a beggar who has been blind from birth.
Blind people, during ancient times, were often reduced to living outside the city and coming in to beg for food and money. They were marginalized and ostracized. This only added great inner suffering to their already-difficult physical condition.
Jesus and his disciples stop in front of this blind beggar and begin to talk. The disciples ask, regarding the blind man, “Who sinned – this man or his parents?” They assumed, as did many people during that time, that there was some kind of cause-effect relationship between illness and sin. Imagine the blind man listening to all of this. Surely he’s heard it before. He already feels bad enough, being blind and begging to make a living.
Then Jesus says words that, even though he couldn’t see, must have filled him with hope. Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” Then, Jesus heals the man. The man, instead of being a rejected thing, eventually becomes a follower and worshiper of Jesus. He is set free physically, economically (no more begging for money) and, most importantly, emotionally and spiritually.
The point I love about this story is that Jesus here rejects the theological speculation and dialogue the disciples want to engage in and says, “Forget that stuff. It’s time to do the work of God!” Which is, precisely, to do things like heal blind people and set oppressed people free.
This reminds of something called “The Parable of the Pit,” which I heard John Maxwell give in a message many years ago. It goes like this.
A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out.
- A subjective person came along and said, “I feel for you down there.”
- An objective person came along and said, “It’s logical that someone would fall down into that pit.”
- A Pharisee said, “Only bad people fall into a pit.”
- Confucius said, “If you would have listened to me you wouldn’t be in that pit.”
- Buddha said, “Your pit is only a state of mind.”
- A realist said, “Now that’s a pit!”
- A scientist calculated the pressure necessary, pounds and square inches, to get him out of the pit.
- A geologist told him to appreciate and study the rock strata in the pit.
- An evolutionist said, “You will die in the pit so you can’t produce any more pit-falling offspring.”
- The country inspector said, “Did you have a permit to dig that pit?”
- A professor gave him a lecture on the elementary principles of the pit.
- A self-pitying person said, “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit!”
- An optimist said, “Things could get worse.”
- A pessimist said, “Things are going to get worse.”
- But Jesus saw the man in the pit, took him by the hand, and lifted him out.