The Cure for an Injured Soul
Dr. Jim Denison
Readers’ Digest recently reported on the Wacky Warning Label Contest and some of the actual warning labels it recognized this year. In 4th place: a five-inch fishing lure with three steel hooks and the label warning that it is “harmful if swallowed.” Let’s hope fish can’t read the label. And the Grand Prize winner: a bottle of drain cleaner which contains this warning: “If you do not understand or cannot read all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product.” If I couldn’t read or understand the label, how would it help?
These examples aside, life really does need warning labels. Florida is still recovering from Hurricane Charley. The fledgling democracy in Iraq is still under constant barrage and terror attacks. The three-year anniversary of 9-11 is approaching. Our world has never been more fallen or flawed than it is today.
This morning we will discover the cure for injured souls. In our text Jesus claims, “I am the light of the world.” The “I” is emphatic. He is the light of the “world,” not just the church, or religion, or Sunday. Light for every room of our lives, no matter how dark.
Where are you in the dark today? What guilt from the past or fear of the future plagues you today? Are you worried about the new school year for yourself or your kids? Are you worried about the economy and the election? Is your marriage or body in pain? Do you know someone whose eyes need healing today? Here’s what to do.
Know that God knows your pain (v. 1)
Our story occurs on a Sabbath (v. 14). Jesus has returned to Judea, where he has been teaching in the temple courts (John 8:2). It is mid-October; the annual Feast of Tabernacles has just occurred.
Now Jesus notices a man who could not see him: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth” (John 9:1).
The Greek word translated “saw” here means to fix the gaze, to look earnestly. Jesus gave him more than a passing glance—he paid attention to his predicament.
And when he saw the man, he saw his need: he was “blind from birth.”
Simple observation could not have told him this. How would anyone know when the man’s blindness had begun?
It’s possible that the man told him, or that his reputation preceded him (cf. v. 8). But the syntax suggests to me that the instant Jesus saw the man he knew that his blindness was congenital. If he could heal this man’s blindness, he could certainly determine its source. And he knew this man had no medical options. He needed not a physician, but a miracle.
What Jesus knew of this man, he knows today of you: “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious concerning me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand” (Psalm 139:15-18). The Physician who saw this man and his need sees yours. The blind man could not see Jesus, as we cannot see him today. But the one who cannot see is visible to the One who can.
He sees you and your problems today: “…your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). Our prayers do not inform God of our needs; rather, they yield them to the only One who can solve them.
Pain is isolating. We think no one knows our problem. But the One we cannot see, can see us. Where you are, at this moment. He has stopped at your side today, whether you know it or not.
Bring your pain to your Father (vs. 2-7)
The disciples relate to the man not with compassion but curiosity: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (v. 2).
The rabbis taught the same: “There is no death without sin, and there is no suffering without iniquity” (Rabbi Ammi, Shab. 55a). The Pharisees said to the man, “You were steeped in sin at birth” (v. 34).
Hindus believe that present suffering is punishment for previous wrongs. Buddhists teach that all suffering is due to wrong desire. Muslims believe that the pain we experience is part of Allah’s will for our lives.
Christians know that much of life’s pain is the result of our own misused free will. We’ve seen marriages end because of adultery, drug users contract AIDS, alcoholics die of cirrhosis of the liver.
And so it is easy to think that all suffering is our fault and God’s punishment.
But Jesus disagrees: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (v. 3). A better translation is, “this happened with the result that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
Some suffering is the result of sin. If that’s the case for you, God is waiting to forgive every sin you’ll confess, and give you his healing and hope (1 John 1:8-10).
But much of the world’s grief and pain is not the result of anyone’s sin or failure. Remember Job’s plight; think of the 9-11 victims; remember Jesus’ innocent crucifixion. To attribute all suffering to sin often increases the suffering of the innocent.
So bring your hurting eyes to your Father, however they were blinded. Do not allow your grief or guilt to keep you from him. We need a doctor most when our pain is at its worst. We don’t wait to bathe until we’re clean. We don’t avoid the kitchen until our hunger passes. Come to God with your pain today.