Summary: The text brings us face to face with one of the questions that we all have asked at one time or another, either concerning ourselves or someone else; “Why does God permit such suffering to occur.”
“Why Does God Allow Suffering?”
Our text brings us face to face with one of the questions that we all have asked at one time or another, either concerning ourselves or someone else; “Why does God permit such suffering to occur.” Country singer Joey Feek died this week. And although I don’t know much about her, she and her husband seemed to be a fine Christian couple. “Why her? Why now at just 40 years of age.” A trip to any of the child-ren’s hospitals leaves you with an ache in your heart, “Why do children so young and innocent have to battle with cancer?” The Disciples found themselves facing such a situation when they encounter the blind man.
On the morning recorded in John chapter nine a blind man arose unaware that his world was about to change because he was about to meet Jesus. In John chapter eight Jesus said that he was the “light of the world” and in John chapter nine Jesus proves it. As Jesus and His disciples leave the city of Jerusalem after the Feast of the Tabernacles – they came across a man blind from birth. “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind. And His disciples asked Him saying, Who sinned this man or his parents that, he was born blind.” (vv. 1-2)
Notice four things from our text!
First, The Crucial Question. (9:2-3)
The Disciples turned to Jesus and in verse two asked the “why” question that we all are tempted to ask from time to time. “Why has this happened?” In this case, “What is the reason for this man’s blindness?” They ask, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (v. 2)
• What The Disciples Thought.
They argue the point as if there is no doubt about it! There was a common teaching of the rabbi’s which said, “There is no death without sin and no there is no suffering without inequity.” The question as far as the Disciples was concerned was not if sin caused about the blindness but who’s sin had caused it. The Disciples displaying the beliefs of that day were sure that one of two reasons accounted for this man’s blindness, either this man had sinned or his parent had. It would seem to us that the fact that this man’s blindness began at birth would have excluded from consideration that it was this man’s sin that had caused his blindness.
If it was this man’s sin that caused his blindness, what sin could he have committed before his birth that was so dreadful that its punishment was life-long blind-ness? William Barclay says, that one of the strange ideas that existed at the time was that some Jews believed in the “pre-existence of the soul” which is the belief that all souls have already existed in the Garden of Eden before the creation of the world. This implied that somehow this man could have sinned in a former state before he came into this world and thus as punish-ment came into this world blind. [William Barclay. And He Had Compassion: The Miracles of Jesus. (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1975) p. 178]
“There are those today who suggest that this proves the idea of reincarnation; that this man must have sinned in a previous life. But the idea of reincarn-ation is never anywhere present in the Scriptures. It is precluded by the doctrine of resurrection of the body. Thus the doctrine of resurrection and the idea of rein-carnation cannot be held at the same time.” [Ray Stedman. “Believing is Seeing.” Sermon John 9:1-39 www.pbc.org/library/files/ html/3857.html
But if it were not this man’s sin then to their way of thinking the only possibility left was that it was the parents who had sinned. The question of whether the sins of this man’s parents had caused his blindness reflected a misunderstanding of Exodus 34:7, which says that the sins of the father will extended to the 3rd and 4th generations. That is that sin so deeply corrupts our relationships that several generations of a family will be affected by serious sin.
• What Jesus Revealed. (v. 3)
“Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”
Jesus answers their question in verse three by stating the better question is not “why” has this hap-pened but “What does God what to accomplish through it?” He further states that neither this man nor his parent’s sin had caused the blindness but rather that the glory of God could be revealed through him. This does not imply that neither this man nor his parents are sinless but rather that their sin is not the cause of his blindness.