That was the situation of the man who encountered Jesus in John 9.
As keen as his other senses might have been, he had never seen a sunrise, or watched the wind blow gently blow through fields of ripened grain. He had never seen the faces of those who stepped out of his way on the streets, or the colour of his mother’s eyes.
The disciples considered it a punishment, but Jesus told them: “...this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3).
Twenty, thirty, forty years wondering “why?” If someone had said to this blind man that his sightlessness would bring glory to God, the logical question would have been “how?” How can such a thing be glorifying to God?
The questions remain the same today. My prayer list is long with the names of people who are sick or who have been terribly hurt by others. I listen to the news and shake my head at the evil that men do. Closer to home, I am wounded by the evil that men do to me. The “why?” question is answered in Scripture: somehow this will bring glory to God. But it is the “how?” question that often trips us up. How can this (and you can fill in the blanks) possibly bring glory to God?
For the blind man, receiving his sight was not the end of his troubles. His “why” and “how” were not resolved when Jesus restored his sight. The Jewish authorities threw him out of the synagogue (9:34) and publicly shamed him by calling him evil from birth.
That would have been hard to deal with in a small community where being part of synagogue life was important. Now he had his sight. Now he could see the faces turned away from him, shunning him. Now he could see the rejection. He couldn’t see pity before, but now it was written everywhere he looked. How could any of this be glorifying to God?
The bottom line turns out not to be what the ex-blind man now saw on the faces of his neighbours and fellow citizens. It was what he saw on the face of Jesus when the Lord went to find him after he had been thrown out of the synagogue. Jesus had touched him, but was not present when he washed his face and discovered that his sight had been returned to him (9:6, 7). He had never seen Jesus’ face. And the Lord made it a point to come back and speak to him.
“Jesus heard that they had thrown him our, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Who is he, sir?’ the man asked. ‘Tell me so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.’ Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.” (9:35-38).
Now, when this man looked at a sunrise, he was wrapped in the warmth of God's embrace. Now, when the breeze rustled through the heads of grain, he felt the Spirit move within him. Now, when others turned their faces away from him in embarrassment, he saw the face of Jesus. He saw the answer to his “why” and his “how” and he worshiped.
And nothing else mattered.