God Sendeth Rain on the Just and the Unjust Alike

October 19, 2009 | no comments

The gospels are full of paradoxes, mostly intentional. Is John 9 intentional?

Jesus and his disciples come to a blind man and the disciples ask for whose sin the man’s blindness is a punishment–the man’s or his parents’?

Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

This is the powerful Christian affirmation that no one should be judged a sinner or un-elect because of their misfortunes, and has undoubtedly been used in thousands of sermons and talks to that purpose.

The converse is that no one should be judged righteous or elect because of their good fortunes, as affirmed in Matthew 5:44-45, where Christ reminds us that God sends rain and sunshine on the just and the unjust alike.

After Jesus teaches his disciples not to judge this blind man or his parents because of his blindness, Jesus heals him. Word of the miracle gets to the Jewish authorities, and the rest of the chapter is mainly about them interrogating the formerly blind man and his parents with the aim of discrediting Jesus, though even some of the Jewish authorities are shaken by the miracle, because, as they say, “how can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?” This is the same argument the formerly blind man successfully deploys against the authorities’ attempt to persuade him that he should not accept Jesus as a man of God:

Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any many be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.
Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.

The formerly blind man then finds Jesus and accepts him as the Christ.

John treats the formerly blind man’s arguments with approval, and those arguments lead the man to accept Jesus as the Christ. But aren’t they the opposite of what Jesus taught at the beginning of the chapter?

One could make a distinction between natural events, like blindness, rain, and sun, and supernatural ones, like healing the blind, but that isn’t a distinction the Gospels make. Christ doesn’t say that the man’s blindness is a natural event that has nothing to do with sin–he said God has a purpose in the man’s blindness other than punishing sin.

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