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Why was this man born Blind?

John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  48:10
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Suffering; Why does suffering happen? What is God's purpose in suffering?

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Today we are returning to our study of John. We are picking up in John 9. I encourage you to open your bibles to that passage.
Let’s read through the passage to get an overview of what is going on, and then we will begin to look at the passage and how it applies to us today in more detail.
John 9 NIV
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After saying this, he 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” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said. They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided. Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.” They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

Why was this man born blind?

Picture the scene in your mind.
Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths. Jesus has been teaching, and telling the people that He is the Light of the World. He told them that He is the Son that can set them free, so they would no longer be slaves of sin, but children of God.
He went on to tell them that He is the great I am, who was before Abraham, and saw Abraham.
Twice Jesus had claimed to be God. First they tried to seize Him. The second time, they tried to stone Him.
It has been a time of Jesus proclaiming the truth, and the religious leaders opposing Him, and even some who were claiming to be disciples leaving Him.
Now, as Jesus was leaving the temple grounds, He and His disciples pass a man who was a known beggar. He was born blind and was a regular fixture there, begging to gain food so he could live.
Upon seeing the man begging, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why was this man born blind?”
I don’t want to us to miss the transition here, so let’s look back into chapter 8, and then the question.
John 8:58–9:2 NIV
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Getting distracted by suffering

Here, the disciples just heard Jesus clearly proclaiming who He was, and saw how He miraculously escaped from being stoned.
If we were walking with Jesus after that proclamation, shouldn’t we be wondering, and questioning Jesus a little differently? Maybe just wanting to worship Him and thank Him for all He has done?
But instead of soaking in that they were literally walking with God, they got distracted by suffering.
They saw the man begging, and obviously had seen him before. They knew his story. At least the important part. This man was born blind. Some people go blind due to accidents or sickness. But this man was born blind.
They had encountered blind men before, and Jesus had healed them. Here was God, and another blind man in need!
So, the disciples sprung into action! Jesus, here is a blind man! You, God, are able to give Him sight! Show everyone that you alone are God! give him sight!
Now, the rabbis—the professors of the day—taught everyone that there were two kinds of miracles. First, there were miracles that any prophet of God could do: heal sickness, cast out demons, make the lame walk, make the blind see, etc. Second, there were miracles that only the Messiah would be able to do. There were, specifically, three miracles that they taught that only God, the Messiah would be able to do: heal a leper, cast the demon from a mute, and heal a person born blind.
Here’s the opportunity, Jesus! Show them all that you are the Messiah! Show them what you claim is true! Make this man born blind to see! Then they will all see and know that you are the Light of the World! You are the God who leads and guides. You are the One who came to bring freedom and life!
Unfortunately, that was not their reaction.

What is the cause of suffering?

Instead, they were distracted by suffering, and just wanted to know the cause of suffering, instead of seeing what God could do for the sufferer.
Now, I want you to know that I cannot honestly be too hard on the disciples. If I am honest, I can be distracted by suffering, too.
God has shown me—God has opened my eyes—so that I know He is God even more clearly than the disciples did at this point. I don’t think they really got the full import of who Jesus is until after Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them. I have had it clearly shown to me. I know who Jesus is! As we study through the life of Jesus, we should be falling in love with Him more and more. I should look at people in suffering, and wonder what God is going to do in and through that person. Instead, I can be just like the disciples. Have you ever seen a person begging and wondered, “Why are they begging?” Or, “What did they do that they are having to beg?” Or, have you ever seen someone walking along the road to work and wondered if they lost their license for drinking and driving?
We get distracted by suffering, and wonder what the cause of the suffering is, instead of wondering what is God going to do. We are just like the disciples, getting distracted by suffering.

The assumptions

The assumption from the culture of the day was that either this man, or his parents, had sinned, therefore he was born blind.
Now, the bible does teach that there are sometimes consequences that children face because of the sins of the parents.
Exodus 20:5 NIV
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
As you read through the Bible, you see this in Israel. The children are raised in exile, because the parents sinned. We saw that last week in Daniel 9.
We also know that the one who sins suffers for their sin. That is all over the Bible.
There are also other causes for sin. But Jesus did not want His disciples to stay there. He did not want them to be distracted with the cause of sin, but rather to focus on something else.
John 9:3 NIV
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Root cause vs. Purpose of God

Jesus did not want His disciples to focus on the cause, but on the purpose and word of God. He wanted them to focus on, “What is God going to do for and with the sufferer?”
I think that is what God wants us, His disciples today, to do as well. Instead of being distracted by suffering, worrying about the cause of suffering, God wants us to focus on Him, and His purpose for suffering. What is God going to do for, and with, the sufferer?
So, that is what I want to practice with you today.
How are we supposed to do that? Well, we need to ask the Lord, who walks with us just like He was walking with His disciples then. He is with us. So, let’s ask Him.
That is exactly what James says to do.
James 1:2–5 NIV
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
Now this is going to be an example of what I want you to explore this week in your homework. For your homework, I want you to read for yourself in the Bible, and ask God for wisdom to consider two things.
1. What is the cause of suffering?
2. What is God’s purpose for suffering?
My goal with the first point, the cause of suffering is that we understand what God has already told us about suffering, so that we don’t get distracted by the cause. When something is already known, it is less distracting.
The goal for the second part is that we learn to train our minds in the direction God wants it to go… what is His purpose in the suffering?
You will study this out for yourself this week, but lets look at just three examples from the Bible to see what I mean about finding the cause and the purpose.
First example.
Think with me about Genesis chapter 3. Adam and Eve disobeyed God. When God was protecting them from knowing evil and suffering, they disobeyed Him and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Immediately, they began to suffer. They suffered shame about being naked. They suffered in losing their close relationship with God, and now hid from Him. Then God pronounced punishment upon them for their disobedience.
Genesis 3:16–19 NIV
To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Adam and Eve

What is the cause of the suffering? They disobeyed.
Truly, this is the real root to all suffering in the world ever since that time. There is hard work, disappointment, pain, sickness, failing bodies and death all because of sin corrupting humans and this world, and cutting us off from the Creator and sustainer of the Universe.
If there had not been sin, God would still be sustaining this Creation in the perfect state in which He created it! There would be no pain, suffering, or death!
That is the cause. But, let’s not be distracted by that.
What is God’s purpose for their suffering? Maybe it is like Psalm 119:71-72.
Psalm 119:71–72 NIV
It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
God wanted Adam and Eve to learn how important it is to listen to, and obey His commands which are good for them.
This is God, acting as a father to train up his children. He gives them discipline for them to learn.
That is how Hebrews 12 describes it.
Hebrews 12:5–11 NIV
And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
We need to learn that suffering can be used by God to help us trust Him and what He says instead of leaning on our own understanding and abilities to accomplish things.
Next, consider Joseph.


Again you will study this in your homework this week. But does anyone remember why Joseph suffered as a slave, and later as a prisoner?
His brothers sold him as a slave because of their jealousy and hatred for him.
His master’s wife had him thrown in prison because he refused to join her in sin.
But Joseph was not distracted by the cause of sin. Yes, we will often suffer because of thing other people do to us.
But what was Joseph’s mindset?
Genesis 50:20 NIV
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Joseph looked at his suffering not to determine the cause, but to see what God was going to do.
In this case, God used the suffering to hone Joseph into an even better man of God who would lead others well.
Consider Romans 5:3-5.
Romans 5:3–5 NIV
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
God’s purpose was that Joseph would learn perseverance, character, and hope that endured through all he faced, so He could help the world of his day to persevere and find hope through the 7 years of famine.
Consider next, Jesus.
This is exactly what Peter encourages us to do.
1 Peter 2:21–25 NIV
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.


Jesus suffered in this world as an example for us.
Jesus, like Joseph, suffered because of what others did. Jesus suffered because of the sinners around Him who persecuted Him, beat Him, and crucified Him.
Jesus suffered death because all of us sin and deserve to be judged and sentenced to death—eternal separation from God.
How did Jesus get through that without retaliating?
He entrusted Himself to God who would judge justly. God accepted what Jesus did in dying for us, and raised Him, who had never sinned to life again!
Jesus endured because He trusted God to make it right in the end.
Jesus also suffered because of something else.
Hebrews 12:1–3 NIV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
He endured because He was looking ahead to the future God guarantees… a future where those who are saved will be His people, and He will be there God in the new Jerusalem, where there will be no more sin or suffering!
Oh how we can look forward to that. Jesus did it because of the joyful thought of being with us for eternity.

What about me?

Yes, it is easy to be distracted by suffering.
It is easy to be distracted in wondering about the cause of suffering.
But if we look to the Bible, we can know that all suffering is the result of:
Causes of Sin
Being in a world in which we have separated ourselves from God. There is now sickness, decay and death.
Our own sin. There are consequences for our sins.
Other people doing things to us.
It can be important to know the cause of sin, in that if we are suffering because we are sinning, we need to repent and confess.
However, if there is no sin of which you are aware, there is not need to be distracted by wondering why there is suffering.
Rather, we need to quickly move to the second and more important question: What is God’s purpose in the suffering? What is God wanting to do in and with us?
God’s Purpose in Suffering:
Training us to rely on Him and desire Him.
Disciplining us to teach us.
Teaching us perseverance, character and hope.
Using us to help others.
Read John 1-8 in one sitting, or as few sittings as possible. First ask the Lord to help you fall in love with Jesus again, then read. What is one thing from each chapter for chapters 1-8 that stands out to you? Why? Share what you are seeing about Jesus from chapters 1-8 with someone.
Read John 9. Ask God to help you understand what you read first. Then, reread John 9:1-5. Have you ever looked at someone and wondered what they did to be in the situation they were in? For example, someone begging by the road? When? What were the two scenarios the disciples thought were the cause of suffering? What do you think about these scenarios? Do people have suffering because of their parents’ sins? What examples can you think of? Do people suffer because of their own sin? What examples can you think of? Are there other causes of suffering in our lives? How should we respond to those who have suffering?
Read Genesis 3. Look for causes of suffering in this world. What examples of suffering did you find? Do you see these: Pain. Relationship struggles between husbands and wives. Hard work just to eat and survive. Troubles and obstacles. Sickness and death. What causes of human suffering did you find? What purpose does God have for this suffering? Consider Psalm 119:71.
Read the life of Joseph. Genesis 37, 39-41. What were the causes of Joseph’s suffering? What might God’s purpose have been for his suffering? Consider Romans 5:3-5. How did Joseph respond to his suffering? What was his attitude as displayed by his actions? How might knowing God’s purpose help him in suffering?
Read 1 Samuel 15-16. What suffering do you see? Why was Saul suffering? (Cause) What brought relief to Saul. How can we seek relief when suffering? How does Hebrews 12:5-11 speak to God’s purpose for suffering in Saul’s situation?
Read Mark 14-15. What suffering do you see? Why was Jesus suffering? (Cause) What brought comfort, hope and joy in the midst of the suffering? Consider Mark 16, and Hebrews 12:1-3. What was God’s purpose for His suffering? How did God’s purpose for His suffering bring strength and comfort to Him?
Read John 9. Jesus gave the reason for this man’s suffering. What was it? Who did the works of God which were displayed in this man? Jesus then includes his disciples in verse 4. What does he say? What work can we do for those who are suffering, that the Woks of God might be displayed in them? Romans 12:15. Galatians 6:1-2. Hebrews 3:12-13. 1 Thessalonians 5:14-16. What are some specific ways you can do the Work of God for someone who is suffering?
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