A Meditation on John 9:1-41
by John M. Frame
[In Covenant 4:3 (June, 2001), 1-2]
Let’s say that you have been blind from birth. Your parents, or somebody, take care of you until you are twelve or so, and then you go to beg. Now you’re, maybe, 35 or 40, and begging is the only life you’ve ever lived. You know a little bit about religion, especially because people sometimes come around and discuss you as a theological problem: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” That’s a form of what the theologians call, “The Problem of Evil.” So theologians stand around, discussing you, as people might discuss the economy, or the weather.
But one time, it’s very different. It’s the Sabbath day, and this time a man joins in the discussion who doesn’t give the usual answers. “This man’s blindness,” he says, “is not due to anybody’s sin, but so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Then God is to blame? Has God done this to me, you ask?
But the man doesn’t just talk. He spits on the ground, makes mud with his own saliva, and puts it on your eyes. What’s he doing that for? Some kind of cruel game, to make the theologians laugh at the man whom God has blinded? But then the man says, “Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam.” Well, it probably won’t hurt you to do it. And you need to wash the mud off in any case. So you go and wash. And something incredible happens: suddenly you can see!
You get up and walk around, and you know exactly where you are going! You have a look of confidence, now, and joy, so that people aren’t exactly sure that you are the same person who begged for all those years. And suddenly, the theologians want to talk to you: not just about you, but to you.
“How were your eyes opened?”
“Well,” you say, “a man put mud on my eyes, and when I washed it off, I could see.”
“Where is the man?”
“ I don’t know.” You are just as honest as you can be.
But they ask again, “what do you say about this man?” Hmm… what’s the right answer? A prophet? The Jews insist that he cannot be a prophet. He is a sinner. He breaks the Sabbath. You say, “whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind, but now I see.”
You barely know Jesus, but suddenly you are an apologist. Apologetics is giving a reason for our faith. Peter says (1 Pet. 3:15), “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” You never know when somebody will ask you why you believe, why you go to church, what’s so great about Jesus.
We teach apologetics in seminary, and as a science it can get complicated. We consider many arguments for and against the God of the Bible, and many different views of how to defend the faith. Many scholars feel strongly about their own approach to apologetics and get into as many battles with other apologists as with non-Christians.
But at bottom apologetics is a simple business, and every Christian is called to it. Whenever somebody asks you to give a reason for your faith, you should be ready to give it. That’s not hard. The man born blind didn’t know much, but he knew that only God could make the blind to see. He even had a better understanding than the Pharisees of the Problem of Evil: God made him blind to glorify himself in Jesus. The man born blind didn’t persuade the Pharisees, but persuasion is the Lord’s work. Our work is to tell people honestly what God has done in our lives and why we believe in him. In doing that, we challenge the assumptions people use to shut God out of their lives and thought. And, if God wills, our witness leads them to Jesus.