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God's power is made perfect in weakness

The healing of the Man Born Blind was the sixth of the seven signs carried out by our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ as recounted in the Gospel according to St. John. Each sign seemed to become more spectacular than the one preceding it until the greatest sign prior to the Passion, Death and Resurrection: The raising His friend Lazarus from the tomb after he had been dead for four days. These signs are moments when heaven and earth are connected, when heavenly reality becomes earthly reality. Jesus Christ in revealing Himself as the Son of God is the connection point between humanity and God, between earth and heaven. This connection is alluded to in the very beginning of this Gospel account when our Lord told Nathaniel, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man (1:51).” This was an allusion to the Jacob’s Ladder recounted in Genesis 28.

When the disciples asked our Lord the cause of the man’s blindness, He responded, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” (Jn 9:3). Thus, his blindness was not a punitive judgment for any particular sin by the man or by his parents. Rather, Christ asserted that it provided an opportunity for God to intervene in the world with His creative Power. The ancient question, “why do bad things happen to good people?” which has puzzled religious thinkers from time immemorial, and which the Book of Job grappled with in the Old Testament, is approached from this unique perspective of the Incarnate Lord. God’s Glory is made manifest though weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). The greatness of this sign was that the man was blind from birth. Hysterical or psychological blindness was acknowledged even in the time of Christ. But, as it is stated in the Gospel according to John, “It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind (9:32).”

Evidence in the Gospel account itself which supports this idea of God’s creative power being manifested was our Lord’s action in curing the man’s blindness: “He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes. (9:6) Why all this drama? Why didn’t Jesus just cure the man’s blindness with a word from His mouth? It simply has to be believed that our Lord had a greater intention in mind than a mere curing of a malady: Like everything He did, it was for our instruction and edification. This creation of mud from the spittle is a deliberate action to remind us that when God created Adam in the Garden of Eden, He formed Him out of dirt and breathed His Spirit into him (Genesis 2:7). Furthermore, He preformed this sign on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the day that God rested after His work of creation (Genesis 2:3). The new act of creation was a sign that Jesus Christ was God’s equal, that He is the Lord of the Sabbath. That was why He told the Apostles, “We have to do the works of the One Who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the World.” St. John Chrysostom points out that Jesus Christ had no need to manifest the Glory of the Father for it was all around them. Rather, it was to manifest Himself as having equal Glory with the Eternal Father through Whom He created all things!

The Man Born Blind went to the Pool of Siloam, washed his eyes and was cured of his blindness. The Fathers of the Church interpreted this as a clear reference to our Baptism which through which the blindness of sin is washed away. The Pharisees refused to believe the sign thus fulfilling the scripture which states “He blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not see with their eyes and understand with their heart and be converted, and I would heal them.”(12:40; Is. 6:10) The Pharisees were blinded to the manifestation of the Glory of God which was Jesus Christ. They betray their evil when they rebuked the Man Born Blind saying to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out. (9:34)” Their contention was the same erroneous one that the disciples had revealed when they asked our Lord the cause of the man’s blindness: That it was the result of sin. It is a difficult concept for us to accept that human hardships and tribulations can be for God’s Glory.

Today we are submerged in a Marxist world view that considers it unfair and unjust that some people have fewer problems and challenges than others. Everything should be equal. But God does not deal with fantasy, He deals with reality. The truth is that life is not what we would consider fair according to our distorted modern mentalities. Our paths to salvation are not identical either. Is it fair that one man is born blind and another with sight? Of course not. However, in the larger picture, the blind man’s humility and obedience led him to salvation, and those who had sight to perdition. Does the idea of fairness take on a different light in this context?

Ultimately, the lesson to be learned is that we should emulate the Man Born Blind’s obedience and humility. Unlike many miracles recounted in the Gospel accounts, this healing was not a result of faith: The Man Born Blind did not even know who Jesus was. It is strikingly similar to the episode of the Paralyzed Man designated for the Fourth Week of Pascha. It reveals our Lord’s compassion for those who are afflicted. It reminds us that our Lord never forgets or abandons us. It also teaches us that the grace of God can be a mysterious thing. There is no formula for receiving it. It is bestowed in a manner that is often incomprehensible to the mortal mind.

Ultimately, when confronted by afflictions, when we feel quite alone and maltreated, let us seek what lessons there are to be learned. What is God trying to teach me? What can I learn from this experience? How can God’s Glory be manifested through this? That is why we Orthodox often pray that God may grant us that which is best for our salvation. That is ultimately all we can pray for because God knows what we need more than we ourselves do. Consider the Man Born Blind. He was helplessly living off the alms and charity of others. Our Lord grants him his sight. A great blessing to our minds. He ends up being attacked, ostracized and quite alone in the world save our Lord who sought him out. He received his sight and the fruits of it are that he ended up in the center of a religious, political and social maelstrom! Yet, he did not back down, he did not compromise the truth when it would have served him to do so. By emulating his obedience, faithfulness and steadfastness, we, too, will be able to repeat the words of the Man Born Blind, “Lord, I do believe.”

Fr. Dennis Kristof
St. Nicholas Pro-Cathedral
Lakewood, OH


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