Why the Abstract Theological Discussion?
As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”—John 9:1-2 A blind beggar sitting by the road, known as the man born blind, did not elicit much compassion from the disciples. Perhaps the man had been sitting there for so many years and was such a common sight that they no longer sympathized with him. They saw him as more of an abstract theological discussion than a lonely, needy human being.
Human need can be intimidating.
Sometimes it is too painful to be pulled into others’ suffering. We fear the time it takes, the emotional commitment, and what someone else’s need might stir up in our hearts: painful reminders of our own hurts and neediness.
Another Bible character, Job, had the same problem when his life fell apart. At first his friends visited and sat with him exuding support and sympathy.
Then they opened their mouths. They began to analyze Job’s life, much like the disciples did with the blind man.
“Feeling overwhelmed, and scrambling to get a better fix on the problem, they will do the only safe thing: they will pull back and assume the stance of objective analysts,” says Mike Mason. “Naturally they will go about this in a very warm and godly way with the best of intentions. Yet, without realizing it, by their clinical theorizing, they are effectively withdrawing their human affections, their very friendship, at a time when intimate friendship is most needed.”1
While the disciples mulled over the blind man’s condition, Jesus acted with compassion.
The man was born blind so that God can be glorified, He said. Then He proved it. He spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smoothed the mud over the blind man's eyes. He told him, "Go and wash in the pool of Siloam.”
The man washed, and came back seeing!
It would have been easier for Jesus to spend all His days analyzing the state of the human race. I’m sure He would have (and did) come up with brilliant insights. But in the end, He did something about our dilemma.
He healed people. He touched people, and He went to the cross. He laid down His life and set an example for all of us of love in action.
- Mason, Mike, “The Gospel According to Job” (Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 1994).