“Who sinned?”

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him…” (John 9:3)

Over the years, I’ve found myself in a bit of a struggle with the Gospel accounts of the miraculous healings done by Jesus. I think it’s partially because, more than once, I have been asked what I think of them in light of the fact that I’m a person who has a disability. “What do I think this text means?” I have been asked. “And what about this connection between the man’s blindness and the connection with his parents’ sin?”

As uncomfortable as those questions have made me, they have led me to a new understanding of what Jesus is doing in this text and others like it. Yes, the man at the center of this text was born blind. It is also true that disease and disability were connected to a person’s “sinfulness” at the time of Jesus. But does God cause a person’s child to be born blind because of sin? I don’t think so. There’s more going on here.
In the healing that takes place, the power of God made manifest in Jesus is revealed to one who did not know him. This man who was born blind had his eyes opened, not just physically, but also to who Jesus is. The power of God was also revealed to those around this man. It was, I think, a way for Jesus to show God’s power, so that more may come to believe in him.

The connection between sinfulness and being born blind is pretty harsh, and Jesus acknowledges that. This healing had little or nothing to do with sin, but everything to do with revealing God’s power. That is what I think we can take away, in part, from this narrative. In healing (in its many and varied forms), we see what God can do. We see different kinds of restoration (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with being born blind), and a new understanding of who God in Jesus Christ is for all people.