Five Minute Devotions: John 9
John 9 begins in a way that doesn’t seem very exciting unless we consider the final verse of chapter 8. The end of John 8 records the Jewish leaders’ attempt to kill Jesus.
So they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden and went out of the temple. – John 8:59
So Jesus is on the run. He’s got a handful of Jewish leaders with some hefty stones following him. His life is in danger. End chapter. And because we tend to read the Bible as a segmented narrative, rather than a continuous one (as we’re doing here), we might just miss what makes the beginning of John 9 so incredible.
As he was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” – John 9:1
This is probably not the best time for questions. They’ve gotten out the Temple, but are the Jewish leaders going to follow? Jesus doesn’t seem to care about the danger. He stops. He heals and teaches.
There is a natural tendency for us to ascribe brokenness to sin. We want to know that evil means something. That it has some reason. That there is some purpose in suffering. That those afflicted by pain or sickness somehow deserved it in some way or another.
This philosophy has been at the heart of many world religions. Under Hinduism, the poor and sick are seen as reaping the punishment of their past lives. Islam holds that “And whatever strikes you of disaster, it is for what your hands have earned” (Quran 42:30). Sin and suffering are continually correlated.
And they aren’t completely wrong. In general, suffering does follow sin. The entrance of sin into human nature led to the suffering of the world. But Jesus’s teaching is that this general principle breaks down when applied individually. This man is blind because he lives in a fallen, broken world filled with sin. Sin caused this. But this man’s sin, or his parents’ sin, did not.
There is no specific correlation between sin and suffering. Suffering may be a consequence of sin. Promiscuity may lead to disease. Drunkenness and gluttony may lead to a whole host of health problems. Anger or lying may lead to lost relationships. But there is no correlation between a blind man and any sin. He is merely the product of a broken world.
Identifying the Issue
Jesus helps us identify the issue. Sin is the issue. “Who sinned?” is not the right question. We cannot point fingers or blame others. That doesn’t solve the problem. Even if this man’s parents had been responsible, punishing them would not make the blind man see. Jesus doesn’t look backward to the cause. He looks forward to the solution.
No one sinned to cause this. But his blindness can be redeemed. God will use what a fallen world destroyed to showcase his glory and majesty. He will use a man that nobody thought anything of and make him an evangelist for the Gospel. He will use the weaknesses of man for his purposes.
In this case, God’s glory is demonstrated through healing. In others, his glory is seen through the weakness. When Paul begs God to remove his disability, God says
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
I think of Joni Eareckson Tada, who has been a quadriplegic for over fifty years. Would she have her ministry if not for a diving accident as a teenager? Likely not. God redeems our suffering for his glory. He puts Joseph into slavery, into an Egyptian prison, so that he might be exalted and save both the nation of Israel and the nation of Egypt.
Too often, we can wallow in our suffering. Who sinned? What did I do wrong? What could I have done better? And God says to look forward. Look forward to what I will work out of this.
I don’t usually do this, but I didn’t have a better place to fit this in. Jesus sends the man way to wash in Siloam. He is absent for the man’s conversation with the Pharisees and only returns later. They have this interaction:
Jesus heard that they had thrown the man out, and when he found him, he asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, Sir, that I may believe in him?” he asked. Jesus answered, “You have seen him…” – John 9:35-37
That just hit me like a ton of bricks. The man believes Jesus to be a prophet, but he doesn’t yet know him as Messiah. So Jesus asks him if he believes in Messiah. The man knows Jesus has the answer. And Jesus says “You know. You’ve seen him.” Your healed eyes are now upon the Savior. May we place our eyes on him as well.
Father, we pray for healing. Healed bodies. Healed emotions. And we pray for your glory to be manifested through us—whether through our healing or our suffering. Grant us your eyes to notice those cast out, as Jesus did. Grant us the wisdom to look forward rather than backward.
Have you ever encountered an instance where someone (or yourself) believed some suffering to be the result of sin?
How can suffering enhance our ministries and our opportunities to serve?
In John 9:22, the (formerly) blind man’s parents get involved. What do they believe about Jesus? Do they express that believe? Why or why not?
Today’s header image is The Healing of the Man Born Blind (1307/8-1311) by Duccio. It currently hangs in the National Gallery in London.
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