As we saw a couple days ago, the disciples asked the wrong question about the cause of the blind man’s disability. Thankfully, Jesus gave the right answer. The blind man’s disability was not the result of his sin, or the sins of his parents, but God had a greater purpose in mind. Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question was “Neither.” It was not the blind man or his parents who had sinned, but the man’s disability was divinely-ordained so that the works of God would receive greater glory. In revealing this higher purpose, Jesus was not denying that the man and his parents were sinners; that was a given. However, Jesus was denying any cause-and-effect connection between the personal sinfulness of any of them and the man’s blindness. Instead, Jesus said, this man was born blind “in order that the works of God might be displayed in Him” (John 9:3).
What a shocking statement for the disciples to hear! The religious culture of their day was largely influenced by Judaism, which resisted the idea that God could be responsible for letting an “innocent” person (i.e. someone who was not really evil) suffer from something such as blindness. A good and holy God, it taught, simply doesn’t do those things. God is love; He would never allow someone to suffer on purpose. Therefore, the religious crowd would certainly have agreed with the disciples’ judgment: It must be the mother, father, or the young man who caused the blindness. Notice, however, that Jesus made no attempt to get the Father off the hook, so to speak, for doing “such a cruel thing.”
Instead of attempting to make God look better, i.e. appear more loving, gracious, and merciful, or, worse yet, inept; Jesus made it clear that the man’s blindness fit perfectly into the sovereign plan of God. Jesus would not allow Himself to be ensnared into a debate over the possible secondary causes of the man’s blindness. That’s what the disciples wanted Him to clear up for them. “What is the specific sin that we can put our finger on? Who is to blame?” In the mind of Jesus; however, there was no problem, no dilemma at all. The “blame” belonged solely to God.
The man had been born blind because that is how God knit him in his mother’s womb. He was made for a purpose—on purpose. He was created as a tool in the hands of God to bring to his Creator and Savior more glory. In other words, God would receive greater glory as a result of the man’s congenital blindness than if he had been born with sight. That’s what Jesus is saying. It was so that the works of God might be displayed in him that the man was created (not merely born) blind.
The fundamental purpose of disability
Herein rests the fundamental purpose of disability—to draw attention to God! Physical disability is a God-ordained means of displaying His power and wisdom. It is a means to shift our earth-bound focus toward what is infinitely and eternally more valuable. You see, God does not need us to defend Him. He does not need for us to come up with other plausible explanations for why children are born with various disabilities in order that He may be relieved of embarrassment. God makes no apology for His actions. He takes full credit for creating the blind and the deaf; He always has. As far back as the days of Moses, God took personal ownership for the creation of children with disabilities. He said to Moses, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11).
God is good and wise and, therefore, His plans are good and wise even if our finite minds cannot comprehend them. We must not make God into our image, or change His nature in order to make Him less sovereign so that our small beliefs about Him are not so easily offended. He is who He is; He is absolutely sovereign. If He wants to create some people blind, deaf, and with all sorts of other disabilities, doesn’t He have the right to do so? Well, yes, of course He does. In the end, everything is about Him receiving the glory He deserves. He is God; we are not. He can do whatever He wants. “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Psalm 135:6). This is our God!