This morning, I was attending a Bible study down in East Austin, listening to the discussion about a passage in the book of John. John 9, the healing of man born blind.
The story is a familiar one for many of us: Jesus and his disciples were walking through town when they encountered a man who was blind from birth. The disciples turned to Jesus and asked, “teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Now never mind the absurdity of the idea that a man could be born blind because of a sin he wasn’t even alive to commit (or maybe they were thinking you could sin in utero?), the question was almost irrelevant since it points to a bigger issue of what blindness meant in that society: it was a curse that outcasted you away from acceptability. No doubt both the man and his parents suffered immensely for years, decades even, as people all around them asked that question. Maybe outloud. Maybe quietly to themselves as they came to their own conclusions
Then Jesus breaks in: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” And boom, a little dirt, a little spit and woosh, the man is healed… not just from his physical blindness, but also the social stigma he had carried all his life.
Now there’s a lot there, obviously, but I want to focus in on this passage just a little ways down, when the religious leaders, seeing the ruckus, questioned the man’s parents to see what was going on:
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.
How sad is it that the blind man’s parents, who had suffered their son’s afflictions for so long would feel so much pressure from the religious leaders of their community, that even in light of the miraculous healing of their son would choose to leave him to fend for himself at the hands of the authorities. I don’t even pretend to know exactly what that would be like, but as a parent, it breaks me to think about a situation where I would be so fearful for my own safety that I would leave my child (albeit grown child) to defend himself. I can’t speak for them, or presume their motives, I just can’t fathom the amount of fear and intimidation they felt.
All their lives these parents faced accusation of sin, or at least poor parenting, and their blind son was proof. Then here comes a man who takes their son’s reproach (and their own reproach) away in a miraculous instant. The response to it, however, was immediately fear for what would happen to them. Transformation and restoration in life, to them in that instant, was secondary to social stability (even if it was second class).
Why does this matter? What should I care about this little detail in a story that’s not even really about the parents?
We need to care because many of us are parents. I need to care because I’m a parent. And as parents, we have children who are full of reproach, sinful and selfish (parents of young children raise up a resounding “amen” here). And the question of ‘who sinned, [our kids or their parents]’ is really an irrelevant one. Of course they’re sinners. And of course we are sinners. But Jesus came for us. He came for sinners like them, like us.
But here’s where the rubber really meets the road: all those years of trying to understand and grapple with the broken reality, and in an instant, the brokenness of their son was healed. Every night, I pray to God that my daughters would’ experience that kind of healing, that Jesus would rescue them from their sin, take away their reproach, and heal their broken hearts. And, Lord willing, when that happens, the question gets turned right back at me as a parent:
Am I going to let them fend for themselves, or am I going to stand with them?
I’ve seen so many parents brush off their kids salvations as a “good” moment. “I’m so glad they’re getting into church” or “at least they’re not selling drugs.” But what happens when your child, who has been rescued by Jesus wants to get baptized? Or wants to get connected to a bible study? Or wants the whole family to go to church together? Or wants to go on a mission trip… even if that means giving up club soccer for the first time in ten years? In my years working with kids and teenagers, I’ve seen it so, so many times, parents snuff out the fire a young person has when they experience the life-changing reality of Jesus Christ because it became… uncomfortable or inconvenient for them.
Personally, I’m excited for the day that I get the privilege of standing with my girls spurring them on to follow after Jesus, no matter the cost to myself.
Someday, I want to turn to them and say, “I was blind too, baby. And he rescued me. Just like he rescued you. Now you chase him. I’m right here with you.”
The healed man asks the Pharisee’s “do you also want to become his disciples?” I wonder how his parents would have answered that question if their son turned to them and asked them them.
What about you? Are you equipping and encouraging your kids to pursue Jesus, or pursue more socially acceptable things? Are you preserving your own peace, or are you willing to sacrifice your peace as a parent for the sake of your son or daughter’s new adventure as a disciple of Christ?
Bottom Line: Parents, support your kids at whatever cost as they learn to follow after Jesus.