One of my favorite worship songs is “Our God” by Chris Tomlin. It paints a beautiful picture of God with lyrics like “Our God is healer…”
But is that true?
Is our God the healer of disease and sickness or is He the afflicter of those things?
The Bible teaches us that Jesus is our complete picture of God. “The Son reflects the glory of God and shows exactly what God is like.” (Hebrews 1:3 – NCV). Did you get that? Jesus shows us exactly what God is like.
When you read the biographies of Jesus — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — from front to back, here is one thing you will NEVER hear Jesus say: “It was God’s will that you have this illness or this disease.”
So Chris Tomlin is right. Case closed. This is going to be a short blog post.
Not so fast.
Some of you might be thinking… what about what Jesus says in John 9? Here is an excerpt from that chapter in the NRSV translation:
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. — John 9:1-7 (NRSV)
I want to zero in on verse 3. This English translation of the Bible has Jesus saying: he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.
The way the text reads in this English translation seems to imply that it was God’s will that this man was born blind so that Jesus could heal him on that day. God made this man blind from birth so that decades later Jesus could heal him.
And if that is true, it contradicts what I wrote earlier, that you would never hear Jesus say: “It was God’s will that you have this illness or this disease.”
So does this verse mean that it was God’s will for him to be blind from birth?
When John originally penned these words, he did not write them in English. He wrote them in Greek. And in the original Greek text the words “he was born blind so” are not there.
The NRSV translators added them.
Because they were reading their theology into the text.
They were of the camp that God ordains stuff like this.
Again the words, “He was born blind so” are not in the Greek manuscripts.
Here is a word-for-word translation of the original Greek text: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned . . . BUT that God’s works might be revealed in him…” – John 9:2-3 (Original Greek)
That sounds a little clunky so the last half of the verse could read: “Let God’s work be revealed in him.”
The original Greek does not say what the NRSV translation says, that God made this man blind from birth.
That is something huge for you and for me to understand.
When you read this verse without reading your theology into it, here is a picture of what happened that day 2,000 years ago: His disciples asked, “Rabbi who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” And Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned . . .” And then Jesus realized this was an opportunity to make God’s Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (After all there are no blind people in heaven, are there?).
So Jesus said, “Let God’s work be revealed in him.”
And then He healed him.
In Is God to Blame? Greg Boyd writes: If we stick with the original Greek, we find it is more likely that Jesus was negating the question, not answering it. . . . On this reading [of the text], Jesus simply responded to the disciples’ question by proclaiming, “Let God be glorified!” In effect Jesus was saying, “Who sinned, you ask? Wrong question! The only thing that matters is seeing the work of God revealed in this man.” (p. 54-55)
***Join us this Sunday at The Eastside Vineyard Church. It will be an “All Vineyard” Sunday. Brad Standfest – lead pastor of The Almont Vineyard — will be preaching and Brett McQueen (born and raised attending Vineyard Columbus) will be leading worship. Plus there will be communion and an opportunity to receive 1-on-1 prayer. Sunday. August 7th. 6pm. More info at tevchurch.org***