Into God's Hands
Text: John 9:2-5

2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

25 “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

To be honest, and maybe even a bit blunt, the one ‘big question’ that people keep throwing your way when you are a pastor—(and often enough to lay people, too)—the question most often asked in one form or another—is also the question that I, personally, struggle with the most in trying to give some kind of satisfactory answer—and I mean ‘satisfactory’ in the sense of an answer that is reasonable and intelligent, but even more so in the sense of offering some comfort, some peace of mind, some hope.

The big question is, of course, “Why?  Why does God allow this bad thing to happen?  Why does God allow any bad things to happen?”

A theological study of this question can be long, and tricky, and very demanding.  And, in my experience, usually ends up with an answer that goes something like this, “I don’t know.”

Which satisfies no one.  Actually, it is often very annoying, frustrating, provoking. 

In this story from John’s Gospel Jesus is asked the very question, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  It is another version of the “Why would God let this happen?” question; but it has, at least, that little theological insight that suffering is the result of sin in the world.  So it begs the additional question, “Whose sin?”  And it is not a surprising question.  We live, day in and day out, with a sense of ‘order’ that includes the laws of cause and effect.  We think that if something bad happens there must be a reason…and we want to know.  Every one of you here has worked through things in that way at some time.  Any one of you who has suffered any hurt, or grieved any loss, or stood by helplessly while watching others, have asked the question, “Why?”

Even Jesus found himself in that hole.  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

 

 

So the disciples ask Jesus, “Why?”  “Whose sin?”  You can rephrase the question however you like but you know what they are trying to wrap their heads around.

And Jesus replies, “So that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

 

Coming out of any mouth except Jesus’ that could sound like a real ‘brush off’.  Jesus is not being glib here.  And even the fact that Jesus goes on and heals the man of his blindness does not really put an end to the struggle for all those who are caught up in that day’s events, because the inquisition goes on.  Why did God let this happen?  How did the healing occur?  Who is this Jesus?  What do we make of all of this?  The hard realities of life lead to one question after another and a concise “so that God’s works might be revealed in him” seems to beg more questions than it answers.

In effect Jesus’ answers the “why?” question by saying, “Put it into God’s hands.”

And he does this in anything but a dismissive way.  And it is precisely in this season of Lent that we understand that.  Because Jesus meets this man, along with every other sick or injured person in the Gospel, along with every other hungry, oppressed, ostracized, accused and condemned person in the Gospel, along with every child, every wavering disciple, every parent worried about their children, every widow….—he meets every one of these on his way to the cross where he will himself cry out:  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” …and follow that prayer, that ‘question’ prayer, with the same word he speaks here:  “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  Or, as he put it in the garden, “Your will be done.” 

“So that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

I don’t want to oversimplify anything, but in your own faith journey you will not only ask the hard “why, God?” question, but you will have others ask it of you and, in the end, you will need to direct that question to the cross and tomb of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  As Paul puts so emphatically in his first letter to the Corinthians, the whole of the Christian faith stands on this:  Is God for us, or not?  Does God overcome bad with good?  Does God give us life, for life, or not?  And as God immerses himself in the suffering of a sin-filled world, even to the point of death on the cross, the question becomes bolder and bolder and bolder.  Until the resurrection.  The resurrection is God’s answer to the question—it is God’s work revealed—it is God’s good revealed—it is God’s love revealed.

The resurrection does not give the ‘immediate-gratification’ type answer that we usually look for and want.  But it gives an absolute answer—an answer that reaches beyond the lifelong string of uncertainty and frustration.  And it gives an answer, most importantly, that is not tied to our grasp of it, to the strength of our understanding or trust, but to his promise, to his commitment to us, to his faithfulness, to his assertion of his will, his plan, his purposes.

Simeon, facing the loss of ‘everything’ after years of waiting, says, “I can go in peace!” because he has seen the presence of Jesus.  He can hand it over to Jesus.  “You take my life into your hands.  You work God’s work for my need.”

Which is what the blind man does.

The blind man’s own confession is amazing in its simplicity.  When he is repeatedly challenged about the “why?” and “what?” and “how?” of the healing, he says simply,
“I don’t know….  But what I do know is that I was blind, and now I see.”  All he knew is that Jesus had taken up his infirmity, and healed him according to his good plans.

The early Christians took up this faith on the basis of the resurrection.  Most had never seen the risen Christ, but were touched by the witness of others who had brought his love into their lives.  Some experienced miraculous changes in their own lives, on a par with this blind man.  Others, waited in hope, because they knew that if God so loves, if God is for us, if God has raised up his Son who has shared our suffering, then he will take me up, too!

As Paul says to the Thessalonians, “Therefore encourage each other with these words.”

Amen.