A beggar sitting by the side of the road caught the disciples' attention. (John 9:1-7) From his appearance, it must have been obvious that he was blind from birth. Did this cause the disciples to take pity on him? Did they ask Jesus to heal him? Not quite. They took off on a tangent based on their curiosity: "Who sinned so that the beggar was punished with blindness?"
In my imagination, I can see the astonished look on Jesus' face. The "Lynnda Ell translation" of Jesus' response: "Get real, guys. The issue is not about the sin that caused the blind man's condition. You asked the wrong question. Instead, ask how we can display God's works, here."
Then Jesus made another one of those statements that surges down the river of time: "We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4 ESV)
"We must work…" This is an unexpected beginning. For the remainder of the incident, Jesus says "I," not "we." He is the one who works to bring sight to the blind man, so who is "we?"
That becomes a little clearer when Jesus states, "the works of him who sent me." God the Father sent Jesus to do "rescue and relief" work – to rescue humanity from the power of sin and to relieve humanity from the effects of sin. Later in the book of John (20:21), Jesus tells His disciples that He sends them out just as His Father sent Him out. The "we" in Jesus' statement is all of us whom Jesus rescues from the power of sin by His death and resurrection. Jesus sends us out to rescue others by leading them to Him and to relieve others from the effects of sin through prayer, love, and giving of our time, skills and money.
Next Jesus sets out the deadline for the work's completion. As a part-time procrastinator, I recognize that a deadline is critical to getting the work done. Jesus knew that many of his followers would be lazy, slothful, or distracted in completing the work without it. Jesus gives us the sense of urgency because He experienced that same sense of urgency while He was on earth.
Jesus had a limited time to work the works of the Father. For Him, the "day" was the period between this statement and His crucifixion. In the 40 days following His resurrection that He remained on earth before He ascended to Heaven, the Bible records no new disciples recruited by Jesus and no miracles performed by Him.
Instead, Jesus assigned to us the rescue and relief work which previously occupied Him. What is "the day" for us? How urgent is our deadline? The Bible tells us in Job 14:5 that God limits our life span. We have a finite number of days. Like Jesus, we are in the rescue and relief business only as long as we live in a place where people need rescuing.
The "day" also means the time of God's favor. (Check out Isaiah 49:8 and 2 Corinthians 6:2.) You may have experienced, as I have, one of those extraordinary days when an opportunity opened up to be the answer to a person's prayer that you didn't know they prayed. That is an example of the "day" of God's favor.
Finally, sometimes the "day" is most urgent – TODAY is the "day." The Bible emphasizes the urgency in Psalms 95:7 and in Hebrews 3:7-13. Death is usually an unexpected event. We have no promise of another breath, much less another day. This statement is literal for me because I can breathe while I sleep at night only with the aid of a machine. Any time God indicates to us that something should be done TODAY, then that knowledge should fuel us to action.
Like a fire fighter or a police officer, we may not always be on duty, but we are always on call. We must be ready to do the work of God.