In John 9:1-2 the disciples ask Jesus a question that has its roots in a theology that was prevalent in the early first century and is present in the early 21st century: our disabilities, illnesses and disasters are God’s punishment for our sin. Jesus taught his disciples and teaches you and me: God does not use our disabilities and illnesses as punishment for our sins, but God will redeem (claim as God’s own) our disabilities, and God’s works will be revealed through them.
In the man born blind encounter with Jesus we find Jesus takes us back to creation, all of who we are and are called to be is sacred, and unalterably connected to our Creator who says creation is “Very Good”; God’s works are revealed in God’s Beloved. John Philip Newell, 20th/21st century theologian helps us see this reality through the words of my favorite early church father, Irenaeus (130-202).
“Irenaeus taught that the whole of creation flows from the very ‘substance’ of God. . . . Irenaeus passionately taught that the substance of the earth and its creatures carries within itself the life of the Holy One. God, he said, is both ‘above us all and in us all.’ . . . The work of Jesus, he taught, was not to save us from our nature but to restore us to our nature and to bring us back into relationship with the deepest sound within creation. . . . Irenaeus sees Jesus not as speaking a new word but as uttering again the first word, this sound at the beginning and the heart of life.” (Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, Tuesday , March 13, 2018)
Irenaeus captures the core essence of who Jesus is and what Jesus teaches specifically in this account of the “man born blind”. Sinfulness does not cause our disabilities (and we all have them), but God redeems and uses our disabilities in such a way that God’s works are revealed, we find healing and possess abundant life, restored to our “nature.” Like the “man born blind” we are awakened to this reality as we encounter Jesus, the Christ. I look forward to seeing you in church!