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14th August: God and the Man Born Blind (1) -- Why?

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, 'It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be

This is the opening of a thought-provoking story. Jesus restores both the physical and the spiritual sight of a man blind from birth and starts a raging controversy. The story itself raising more questions than it answers. But, as often happens, the absence of answers -- or the giving of an answer that seems irrelevant -- may be because the right question was not asked.

The disciples asked Jesus the wrong question based on a wrong premise. His answer was designed to put them back on the right track.

However, these words of Jesus have raised further questions in other people's minds ever since. A very good friend of mine, a medical colleague and a sincere Christian, has expressed puzzlement at them. He put it very bluntly: 'Is it fair that a man should have been born blind and remained blind to mature years just so that God could go on an ego trip?' This is blasphemous, some would say, or at best irreverent. But my friend is no blasphemer. He holds his faith the more dearly, I am sure, because (like Job) he thinks about it honestly.

The trouble, as I see it, is that he asks the wrong question. It is based on a wrong premise. By the nature of things, God just cannot 'go on an ego trip'. To use another piece of modern jargon, God cannot 'expand his ego'. His 'ego' is already infinite, eternal and absolute. 'In the beginning God...' says Genesis 1:1. The creation of the cosmos follows.

When Moses asked God what he should say if the people asked his name, the answer came (Ex 3:14) 'I AM WHO I AM... Say this to the people of Israel: "I AM has sent me to you"'. God is the Eternal First Person living in the Eternal Present Tense.

If one of us is called 'a great I am', it means that he is a poseur and a bore. It is not so with God. The Revelation to John sums it up:

'I am the Alpha and Omega,' says the Lord God,
'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty' (Rev 1:8).

This is no boast. This is the nature of things. We can do no less than join those who cast their crowns before the throne in heaven, singing:

Worthy art thou, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for thou didst create all things,
and by thy will they existed and were created. (Rev 4:11)

Further reading: Jn 9:1-41.

RRW

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