Yesterday, as I was pondering what I will say by way of reflection in our 'Undefeated' service (I'm using parts of Luke 4 and Luke 14) I found myself recalling the story in John 9 of the man born blind, the disciples' question about its cause, and Jesus' response. It is a complex and nuanced passage with several layers of meaning, notably about physical and spiritual blindness and possibly about the nature of revelation.
The story is clearly significant in breaking the automatic causal link between sin and disability, at least at a personal/familial level; the potential for corporate sin as cause or influence remains open I think. But the words with which I have title this post, spoken by Jesus as being the reason or purpose of the blindness lead us to a place that should discomfit us... if we read this as saying, "this man was born blind in order that God could make him see and so show off God's great power" then what kind of a God is that? Not one I'm drawn to for sure. So here is the idea that popped into my head yesterday... is the man's very blindness, the way that God made him (or allowed him to be made, depending on your viewpoint) that is, in and of itself, the means for God's works to be revealed? The story of the man's faith journey - from seeing Jesus as a man (v11) to a prophet (v17) to the Son of Man (v 35), his emergence as an adult in his own right rather than a dependent adult-child (v 23), his growing confidence to engage with the powers-that-be (e.g. v13-15, 27-33)... is this not the work of God?
In various of the healing miracle stories, the physical cure seems pretty much secondary, being instead a vehicle for teaching about attitudes/priorities or recognising faith in surprising places.
The 'Undefeated' material wisely steers clear of anything to do with 'cure' or 'miraculous healing' and centres instead on recognising the intrinsic value of every human being, and the potential for 'God's work to be revealed' in and through them just as they are.
I once came across an image of heaven as perceived by a long-term wheelchair user... in their perception, everyone in heaven would have a wheelchair. Whatever you make of that idea, it challenges the assumption of what is 'normal' or 'healthy' or 'whole'. Not one of us has a 'perfect' body or mind, not one of us is not in some way 'damaged', not one of us is totally 'normal', yet in these chipped and cracked clay vessels God's Spirt is pleased to dwell, and in our lives God's work can be, and is, revealed... Wow!