Here's the opening of John 9 (specifically verses 1-5) with some interspersed notes in italics:
Later, as Jesus walked along he saw a man who had been blind from birth... And let’s take a moment to understand what that fully would've meant for this man. At his birth, there would’ve been great rejoicing in his parents’ hearts over the arrival of a son, an heir, and then there would’ve been an equal measure of exactly the opposite when it was realized that this boy couldn’t see. In that culture, as is evidenced by the disciples’ immediate question of Jesus (see below), blindness was seen as a mark against the family and the individual. Even in the Levitical laws, a blind priest was purposefully kept away from the service – it was literally called a “defect.”
Imagine that life. Imagine this man growing up under that cloud and in the darkness of both his blindness and the surrounding cultural stigma. Unable to attend any school and properly learn, he is now sitting near the Temple of Jerusalem, doing the only thing that’s available to him – begging of passersby. He has woken to this day without hope, without standing, without any form of mercy other that the few coins that perhaps will clink in his cup today.
He has no expectation of a visit from God Himself.
“Master, whose sin caused this man’s blindness,” asked the disciples, “his own or his parents’?” A question that our blind friend was probably not unused to hearing. Jesus’ response, however, would’ve had him leaning in…
“He was not born blind because of his own sin or that of his parents,” returned Jesus, “but to show the power of God at work in him. We must carry on the work of him who sent me while the daylight lasts. Night is coming, when no one can work. I am the world’s light as long as I am in it.” May I stop us right here and put a challenging idea in front of you? When we look at these statements of Jesus from outside of them, as readers, not first-hand hearers, I think we should hear His words from a blended vantage-point, as both His disciples and the blind man. We are people who ourselves often struggle situationally - whether they’re huge struggles or little day-to-day challenges - and we are the ones tasked with “carrying on the work of him who sent Jesus.” So, on any given day, as living embodiments of both components of this account - the disciple and the blind man - what should be our first thought whenever we’re confronted with any sort of hardship? Jesus’ words: “He was not [insert your personal struggle here] because of sin, but to show the power of God at work in him.” It reminds me of John the Baptist’s words back in John Chapter 3: “A man can receive nothing at all unless it is given him from heaven.”
But this gets even better!
The word John has Jesus using here for “show the power of God” means, yes, to “make manifest,” but it also can mean “to make famous.” My friends, every challenge, every struggle, every hardship has the possibility – contains the opportunity – to make Jesus famous as we allow Him to do His work! Can we learn to trust Him that way? Do you believe it’s true that even your hardships can give Him great glory?
Oh, may it be so today!