John 9:1 As [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth.
When his parents were asked if they wanted a boy or a girl, they probably said it did not matter, as long as the baby was healthy. So when he was born, they counted his fingers and toes, and everything seemed normal. With the passing of time, however, they noticed his eyes were dull and did not seem to focus. They did not want to accept the obvious, but soon it was undeniable that their little boy was blind. He would never earn a living, never get married, never have children, and never see the light of day.
John 9:2 His disciples asked him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?
Some of the rabbis taught that babies could sin in the womb, so maybe that is why he was born blind. The Bible says that God punishes children for the sin of the parents (Exodus 20:5), so maybe that is why he was born blind. Reincarnation says he did something bad in a previous life, so maybe that is why he was born blind. Atheism says suffering is random, so maybe that is why he was born blind.
The Christian answer begins with the fall in the Garden of Eden. Cursed is the ground because of you . . . dust you are and to dust you will return (Genesis 3:17-19), said God. Adam and Eve brought a curse on the earth that makes life hard for everyone. It is not the way it was meant to be, which is why suffering seems so unnatural. Instead of a picnic in paradise, life is a struggle for survival, which we all lose in the end. The universal curse is the source of all our problems. But our problems are never random.
Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Exodus 4:11). Even though we live in a fallen world, we are not in the hands of fate, chance or the devil. We are in the hands of a sovereign God who loves us. Our disabilities are never an accident, but are assigned by God for his glory and our good.
John 9:3 Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
The purpose of hardship is for God to display his work in our lives. This may include a miracle, and many have received one. But God’s first concern is to make us like Jesus Christ. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29), wrote Paul. God is always working to make us like his Son. This is the reason for everything that happens to us, whether good or bad.
If you get hired, it is to make you like Christ. If you get fired, it is to make you like Christ. If you lose your health, it is to make you like Christ. If you recover your health, it is to make you like Christ. Wise people cooperate with God by using every situation to become more like Jesus Christ. We never have to wonder why something happens to us because it is always to make us more like him.
A man opened a package that exploded in his face and blew off both his hands. He also lost an eye, his hearing, and his sense of smell. Thankfully, he did not lose his mind. He knew that if he became filled with hatred or self-pity, his life was over. So he turned to God and became a minister to victims of violence.
If a man has experience, and does not use it, he has failed. If he only uses part of it, he has partly failed. But if he uses all of it, all of his life, he has gloriously succeeded, and won a satisfaction few will ever know.
John 9:6-7 [Jesus] spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. Go, he told him, wash in the Pool of Siloam . . . . So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
There are some wonderful healing miracles in the Old Testament, but no one was ever healed of blindness. And yet, the prophet Isaiah foretold a time when blind eyes would be opened. [T]he eyes of the blind will see (Isaiah 29:18). And, the eyes of the blind [will] be opened (Isaiah 35:5), he wrote. Throughout the gospels, no fewer than seven people were healed of blindness by Jesus Christ.
This was a first class miracle, followed by an investigation. The religious leaders interviewed the man who was healed; then they interviewed his parents; then they interviewed the man again. Since there was no denying the miracle, they concluded that Jesus was a sinner (John 9:24). Others concluded that Jesus did his miracles by the power of Satan (Matthew 12:24). Light [came] into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil (John 3:19), wrote John. None are more blind than those who will not see.
John 9:31-33 God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. . . . If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.
The man who never read a book was giving the religious leaders a lecture in theology. He probably heard the Bible read in synagogue, and paid careful attention. God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will, he said.
There are at least three places he may have picked this up. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened (Psalm 66:18). The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry (Psalm 34:15). And, The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29). We have further corroboration in the New Testament. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16), wrote James.
This is why the prayers of Jesus Christ were powerful and effective. It seemed like he could pray for anything and get an immediate answer. He was perfectly righteous, and mighty in prayer.
But even Jesus did not have all his prayers answered. Before he went to the cross he prayed: Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me (Luke 22:42). But the prayer of the most righteous person who ever lived was denied, because there was no other way for sinners to be saved, or for the wrath of God to be appeased, or for the world to be redeemed, except through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
John 9:34 You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us! And they threw him out.
The religious leaders did not like being lectured, by someone who could not even read, so they threw him out of the synagogue. If this was a formal excommunication the implications were serious. Synagogues were the center of religious and social life, so to be excommunicated meant that you were cut off from family, friends and employment. Believing in Jesus Christ often comes at a price.
A seventeen-year-old girl in Tanzania was sentenced to two years in prison due to her faith. She had been a Christian for about three years, and her family had disowned her. Since she would not renounce her faith, she was accused of urinating on the Quran. Then she was brought before a judge, convicted without evidence, and given two years in prison. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you (John 15:20), said Jesus.
John 9:35-38 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, Do you believe in the Son of Man? . . . Then the man said, Lord, I believe, and he worshiped him.
What a day it had been. First he was blind, then he was healed, then he was kicked out of the synagogue, then he met the Lord. When he put his head on the pillow, that night, he found it hard to close his eyes. He not only received his physical sight, but also his spiritual sight. He met the man who was from God, and he worshipped him.
Reflection and Review
Why is life so painful?
How can pain make us like Christ?
Why does sin hinder prayer?