The Man Born Blind, Part 1
Have you ever been asked the question…“If there is a God… or, If God is so loving… why is there suffering?”
Have you ever wondered about that yourself? Everywhere we turn… it appears that we can see things that seem to contradict the very idea of the existence of a God who is loving… but especially one who is in control.
For instance… history shows us that in the 14th century…
suffered through the Black Death (bubonic plague) that killed anywhere between
1/3 to 1/2 of its population. During the
American Civil War… twice as many soldiers died from disease than they did in
combat. In the 1918-19… 30 to 50 million
people died from the influenza epidemic
Today, there are billions of people on this planet… and a very large portion of them are starving. Why wouldn’t a God who was actually in control of everything get rid of the deserts and other barren and useless swaths of land by making them fertile and capable of growing food to feed everyone?
With every planting… farmers and gardeners struggle and fight against the weeds that seem to come out of nowhere to choke their crops and ruin production. Even if we pull them out by the roots… they only come back, again and again. It’s like we’re suffering through some sort of a curse.
We can’t go outside without being bitten… buzzed… or stung by flies, bees, mosquitoes… or (God help us…) spiders… Ugh!
All over the earth… humanity is attacked… afflicted with pain… disease… sickness… suffering and death. Multitudes are plagued with cancer… Alzheimer’s… multiple sclerosis… heart disease… emphysema… Parkinson’s… or any number of other debilitating diseases.
Many children… if they’re fortunate enough to not be killed in the womb… are born with leukemia… Down’s Syndrome… drug addictions… or a host of other things.
Everywhere we look we can see a vast disparity between people who have… and others who have not. Some seem to be born into the lap of luxury with very little cares or concerns… while others struggle and suffer from the moment they take their very first breath.
Along with all of this… when we see all the racial and religious hatred and strife in our world today… any thinking mind would have to acknowledge that it appears that something has gone drastically wrong.
And you know what? That very acknowledgment… that something has gone wrong… implies that they believe it’s supposed to be better… that what’s happening in the world… all the suffering, pain and hardship we experience… is not supposed to be the “norm”… but is actually “abnormal”.
And if this is the case… then what happened? Did God mess up? Is He actually some sort of tyrant that gets His jollys out of seeing people struggle and suffer?
What’s really sad is that many people will use this issue of suffering as an excuse to reject any thought of God… when it’s actually the existence of suffering that gives us evidence to believe.
The fact that suffering exists… is a testimony that Bible’s explanation for it is true. That when sin was introduced into the human race at the Fall… mankind and all of the earth and its inhabitants fell under the curse.
And it’s because of the curse… we suffer through all of the things I spoke of earlier… weeds… disease… pain… death. Sin and suffering can’t be separated. Sin brings suffering… Suffering is due to sin.
And this question about sin and suffering has been around a long time. People all around the world… from the beginning of time… have sought answers to their questions about the nature of suffering… And the disciples of our Lord are no different… as we’ll see today… when we look at…
I. A Dark World
Joh 9:1-2 NKJV Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. (2) And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
How sad it is when someone is born without sight. How many things in life do they miss out on? They may be able to grasp an understanding of some things by touch, smell, hearing or taste… but how difficult it can be to comprehend things that can’t be experienced through those senses. Things such as the majesty of an eagle in flight… the beauty of a painting… or what a color is…
Blindness… like all other bodily afflictions… is a result of sin. Maybe not always directly… but always remotely. If Adam had never disobeyed… the race would be free. But he did disobey… and through him, as our federal head… his sin is passed on to us all.
So take notice of how accurately the description of this blind beggar describes all of us… as we are in our natural man. This man was blind from birth. We are born spiritually blind… and according to Ephesians 4:18… with our understanding darkened, and alienated from God…
Because of his blindness… this beggar couldn’t see dangers that may lie ahead… In the same way, the sinner can’t see his own condition… his imminent danger… and his need of a Savior.
The beggar doesn’t see the Lord as He passed by… but the Lord saw him... and spoke to him. The Lord took the initiative… Neither does the sinner see the nearness of the Lord… until the Lord reveals Himself to sinner.
And we can see in this question posed by the disciples… a reflection of ourselves and our world at large. There seems to be a lack of pity in their question. Instead of waiting to see what the Master would do…they philosophize on the nature of the man’s sin… just as Job’s friends did with him.
Joh 8:2b NKJV …"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
You see the Jews had three main theories among the philosophers and theologians of the day… and the first came largely from their interactions with the Babylonians, Persians and Greeks… and that was a doctrine of reincarnation which was common among the Essenes and Gnostics. So… if this man had done bad things in a previous life… he could be paying for it by being born blind in this life.
The rabbis of the day realized that there was no scriptural support for this… so they didn’t give it any place. But still… some of the common people had heard of it, and speculated on it… even as people do still today.
Another theory was the “law of heredity” that was largely based on Exodus 20:5… where God says that He’s… Exo 20:5 NKJV …a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me
A third theory that some among the Pharisees held… taught that a child could sin even in the womb… using Genesis 25:22 to support it… Gen 25:22 NKJV But the children struggled together within her…
But what I find really disturbing about the disciples question… is that it appears that they’re theorizing and philosophizing about all of this in the presence of this man who has suffered this affliction his entire life.
How rude… how uncaring they seem to be. It would appear that they’re talking about this man and his affliction as if he wasn’t even there. Now, maybe he couldn’t hear them… we don’t know… But still… it seems calloused. But notice the Lord’s response… How softly and tenderly He corrects their callousness… and then with the greatest of compassion… He relieves this man’s years of suffering…
II. The Shining Light
Joh 9:3-7 NKJV Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. (4) I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. (5) As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (6) When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. (7) And He said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.
Jesus doesn’t spend time discussing the theological implications of the beggar’s blindness… Instead, He corrects the error of their thinking and let’s them know that there isn’t always a direct link between suffering and personal sin.
God has His own reasons for permitting things like sickness, disease or injuries to continue… and very often… it’s so that He may be glorified in them. This was the case with His good friend, Lazarus. Jesus told the disciples that He was “glad” that He wasn’t there to heal him… Joh 11:15 NKJV … that you may believe.
He let Peter know long ahead of time… Joh 21:19 NKJV … what death he would glorify God. And He allowed Paul to continue in his affliction in order to demonstrate that His… 2Co 12:9 NKJV … grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness
So the truth is that it wasn’t any personal sin of the parents or him that caused this man to be born blind… but like Job… his affliction was so… Joh 9:3b NKJV …that the works of God should be revealed in him.
Now… before we go any further… I want to read to you what F. F. Bruce said of this: “This does not mean that God deliberately caused the child to be born blind in order that, after many years, his glory should be displayed in the removal of the blindness; to think so would again be an aspersion on the character of God. It does mean that God overruled the disaster of the child’s blindness so that, when the child grew to manhood, he might, by recovering his sight, see the glory of God in the face of Christ, and others, seeing this work of God, might turn to the true Light of the World.”
God sovereignly chose to use this man’s affliction for His own glory. And we can rest assured that whatever is for God’s glory in us… will ultimately bring blessing to us. Rom 8:28 NKJV And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
It was also “divine necessity” that engaged Jesus in this work… because as long as He was in the world… He was the “Light of the World”. And as such… it was necessary for Him to do the Father’s work while He was here… because one day soon… just a few months from this point… His physical presence would be removed from them and they’d be overtaken with darkness until the day of Pentecost, when the Comforter would come.
So Jesus then, walked over to the man… spit on the ground… made a small mixture of mud… and anointed his eyes with that mixture. There’s no record that he asked the man any questions… or spoke with him of having faith. The record tells us that the only words He spoke to the blind beggar at this time were… Joh 9:7 NKJV …Go, wash in the pool of Siloam
Which he did… and he was immediately healed. Of all the miracles of restoring sight to the blind that are recorded in the Bible… this one is the only recorded cure of a congenital affliction.
The only one where the person was born without sight… and what an illustration this is to us of Christ’s greatest miracle of giving spiritual sight to the elect! As the “Light of the World”… He restored sight to a man who had never seen… and brings the “light of life” to those who are born spiritually blind!
The only thing this man did… the only thing he had to do in order to secure his healing… was obey. He didn’t question whether or not some other water source might be equally as good, or better, as the Syrian, Naaman did. He simply obeyed… and was immediately made whole.
And as would be expected… giving sight to someone who had never seen… brought about many questions from everyone who knew him. And their questions revealed a distinct…
III. Lack of Comprehension
Joh 9:8-10 NKJV Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, "Is not this he who sat and begged?" (9) Some said, "This is he." Others said, "He is like him." He said, "I am he." (10) Therefore they said to him, "How were your eyes opened?"
This man’s healing… understandably caused a sensation among everyone who had ever known and seen him. Friends… family… acquaintances… Everyone had questions. Everyone was puzzled. No one understood.
And the more I look at these three verses… the more I’m reminded of how incomprehensible Christian conversion is to unbelievers. Especially to those who knew us so well, prior to giving our lives to Christ…
Can you remember the first few weeks or months after you placed your faith in Jesus? Do you remember the puzzled looks? The shaking heads? The bewilderment of your closest friends and family when they understood that you had actually changed? That the life you lived… and the things you used to do… you were determined to do no more.
Folks… when the “light of life” dawns in the heart of the long dead sinner… that work of grace is impossible to conceal from those who know you. And they’ll talk about you among themselves and wonder curiously about what happened.
They can’t deny that a radical change has been made… but they’re at a loss to explain it. Then some will be glad for you… that you “found something”… but they’ll soon let you know that it’s “not for them”. Others will be skeptical… and will adopt a “wait and see” attitude.
But eventually… even those who remain in the unbelieving world will have to take note and acknowledge that whatever it was that happened to you… did happen. It was real… and you have been changed…
And this change that’s occurred in you… brings about…
IV. A Dawning Faith
Joh 9:11-12 NKJV He answered and said, "A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.' So I went and washed, and I received sight." (12) Then they said to him, "Where is He?" He said, "I do not know."
What a beautifully simple… yet complete and honest testimony! No embellishments to make it “dazzle” and more impressive to the world. This man who had been given his sight… didn’t have much light… but he was faithful to what light he had.
He spoke only what he knew… and nothing more. For example… he left out the part where Christ spit on the ground… because he didn’t see it… he was blind at the time. But he did speak of the mud… because he felt it when it was applied to his eyes.
He also spoke of… Joh 9:11-12 NKJV …A Man called Jesus But when he’s asked where this man was… he had to admit… Joh 9:12 NKJV …I do not know. Nor would he have been able to point Him out anyway… because he had never seen Him.
His faith and obedience… though immature… was centered on “a man called Jesus”… the most hated name among the Jews at the time… yet he boldly confesses it. He could have cushioned the truth… and avoided the rough path of testimony that lay ahead for him.
He could have spoken in more generic terms… and white-washed language… and avoided excommunication. He could have tried to “make the best of both worlds” as many people try to do even today… with one foot in church while the other foot remains on the threshold waiting to leave.
But he didn’t… because that sentiment is alien to every true lover of Jesus. Genuine faith is an “all in” faith. Faith that saves isn’t half-hearted. Faith that saves is in the One who has your heart.
And there will be times when you’re called upon to give testimony of your own conversion… and of that hope that’s within you. When that occurs… learn from this man. Speak the simple truth in honest devotion to the One who removed your blindness… and gave you sight.