This man, however, was born blind. How could he have sinned before his birth, and caused his blindness? And so, they ask, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
And 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." (NRSV)
Jesus takes the blame off of the parents and the man himself. But, it appears that there is still blame. At least as rendered by the NRSV, the man is blind for God's purposes - if there is blame to assign, it appears that God is (at least implicitly) to blame.
But what happens if you move around the punctuation a little? If you re-think the editor's/translator's decisions about how to parse the sentence structure? You might wind up with something like this:
And Jesus answered: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind. But 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."
|A portion of uncial manuscript Codec|
Sinaiticus without punctuation.
public domain image
A little change in punctuation, and you wind up with a much different theology. It's not that God made this man blind to show his glory. It's that this man was born blind. Period. End of sentence. Just a fact of life. This world is broken, and tragedy happens. The question is not about why he is blind or who is to blame. The fact is, he is blind. The question is what are we going to do now? "That God's work might be revealed, we must work the works of him who sent me." He's blind, what are we going to do about it?
How often in our lives do we occupy our time playing the blame game? Trying to figure out what went wrong, how it went wrong, and who's to blame?
What Jesus wants to know is, what are we going to in the face of the brokenness and tragedy of this world?