At every baptism we retell some of Jesus words about light as we hand the sponsors of the newly baptized a candle. “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to your Heavenly Father.” or “Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life.”
Jesus healed a man blind since birth. He told the man, “ I am the light of the world.” Everyone around him knew who the man born was and what disabilities he had. The moment he could see things started changing both for him and other people around him. Many, even Jesus disciples, thought this man's blindness was a punishment. Jesus' friends asked,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:2 NRSV
We look at the world as it is through human lenses. We look for justice and injustice when we see sickness and disease, ability and disability. We look for a sin and we ask out loud sometimes in the face of great tragedy, “Why God?” or “Who sinned?” Jesus friends were asking and Jesus answered them in a way they didn't expect.
Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” John 9:3 NRSV
God's work and glory are revealed in redemption even in situations we consider hopeless. We have ideas about how the world works; and God has plans and ways all His own involving a cross, grave, and resurrection. The promise of new life begins here with redemption in this world and continues in the hope that all who died with faith in Jesus Christ will rise. We might say that we believe in justice. But when we meet Jesus we are meeting a redeeming God who died for us and our world. He is the one who died and rose claiming the power to redeem both here and now and in the life to come. The kingdom of God started as Jesus healed the broken and brought light and truth into human darkness. It will continue through the resurrection of the dead.
Jesus is working on a kingdom. He's building a kingdom out of flesh and blood redeemed people. It's a kingdom that's already here but isn't ours to control. God's building one soul at a time. We keep hoping for the day when we dwell in it completely. Pat Keifert wrote of God’s kingdom saying, “It is at hand, as close as the air we breathe the moment before in enters our bodies. In fact it is so close that it governs us, but it is not fully in hand.”1 The kingdom of God was at hand when Jesus spat in the dust, put the mud on the eyes of the man who couldn't see. The kingdom of God was at hand when he washed the mud from his eyes and saw for the first time in his life.
People around Jesus wanted to control the power of God revealed in the person of Jesus. They wanted Jesus to follow the law as they understood it; but God’s not ours to control. The Redeemer comes to shine in our lives revealing all our shame and showing us who we are now in the light of Christ.
1Patrick Keifert with Patricia Taylor Ellison, Talking about our Faith (Church Innovations, St Paul, MN 1997) Page 10