What Jesus Thought About Universal Victim Blaming (Part 3 of 5)

As you can see this is one piece of a five-part essay. If you’d rather read it all at once, you can find it in barneywiget.com

Picking up where we left off in John 9… Later in the narrative John tells us: His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

It’s always wrong to talk about someone like he’s not even there! “Excuse me! I’m the guy!” The disciples wanted to dissect him, his neighbors wanted to discuss him, and the Pharisees wanted to debate about him. Jesus seemed to be the only one who actually wanted to do something to help him. Like these people, instead of doing something about the problems and pains of people around us. we’re often stuck in the “paralysis of our analysis.” We sit around conference tables in our suits and argue about the causes for poverty or immorality, when we should don our work clothes and get out and get involved. “It’s getting dark!” Jesus said, “Do you want to talk about it, or do you want to fix it?”

I wonder if he used saliva-soaked mud to heal the man in order to take the whole scene even further out of the realm of the theoretical. Maybe he wanted to show them that not only was the cause of the man’s problem a mystery, but so was its cure.

I’ve heard preachers theorize about this scene and the connection between the mud and the miracle. But my guess is that there wasn’t one. Maybe he just wanted us to know that our faulting and figuring are simply foolish. He showed us that people are the point, and their needs are our mission. The goal of goals is the glory of God and the good of people. Our analysis addiction stands in the way of us getting around to acting in such a way that glory is ascribed to God and good comes to people. Maybe we should get into rehab and go to “Analysis-aholics” meetings to break the dependence.

When they interrogated the formerly blind man, “How did he heal you?” he confessed he had no idea. It just worked, and that’s all he cared about. How it worked, why it worked, will it work again? It didn’t matter. He could see! His focus was on the effectiveness of the work, not the method. “All I know is, I used to be blind and lost. Now I’m not!” If you’re waiting till you know more before you’ll work for God, you might be waiting longer than you’ve got. In my experience, God tends to let me know more when I use what I already know.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

The puzzling part of his answer is that it sounds like the guy’s been blind his whole life so this moment could arrive, Jesus would heal him, and God would be glorified. But that doesn’t sound quite right to me. Think about how it might’ve sounded to the guy who suffered in blindness all his life till that fateful day when he was finally fixed so God could take a bow. I’m not inclined to think this is an accurate depiction of what Jesus was saying here.

The answer might be in the wording itself. Not to be too technical about this, or bring up any residual pain you may have from Middle School grammar, but let’s talk about punctuation. Since the original Greek text didn’t include punctuation, the translators had to add it as they saw fit. In most versions it sounds like the man had to just endure blindness until the best time came for him to be healed in front of an audience so that God could be glorified. And while there may be times when something like this is true, I don’t think it’s the best way to understand this particular passage.

Some of the experts suggest that a better translation of this might be something like this:

“Neither he nor his parents brought this on. But so the work of God could displayed we must work the work of him that sent me, while it’s still day.” In other words, “It was neither his sins nor theirs that caused his blindness. But if you want God’s work to be displayed, you’d better get working. The sun won’t stay up forever. You have to do these things while there’s still sunlight.”

You might prefer an excerpt from Wiget’s Free Translation:

“It’s getting dark, you guys! Do you want to talk about it, or fix it? You want to know whose fault it is? Let that go and get to work! We don’t have time for fault finding. We can argue or we can act! That’s what brings glory to God.”

“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

In Jesus’ day when the sun went down they went to bed. They didn’t get cable in Galilee and Internet connectivity was sparse, so what could they do at night except sleep? When they saw dusk arriving it was time to wrap up the day’s labor, eat dinner, wash the dishes, and go to sleep. There was no working late at the office, so if you didn’t finish you were out of luck, at least until the next day. His point was that their allotment of sunshine was about to run out, so they had to get on with doing what they had to do.

He used the twelve-hours of daylight as a metaphor for how much time the disciples had with him on board to show them how to do the work of God. In our case, it’s our lifetime, however long it might be, that corresponds to the period of time that the sun shines in one day.

The point is we don’t have enough time to, so let’s clock in and get to work!

Onto the next, and only other recorded teaching Jesus gave about universal victim blaming in Luke 13.

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