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(049) The Gospel of John XVII: Sin & Suffering

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The Gospel of John XVII: Sin & Suffering

John 9:1-41

October 26, 2008


·         Halloween sermon, Phil III

·         Pg. 1 leftovers

·         John 5:1-15, 9:1ff, skim Job

·         Newbigin


Halloween is Friday and I could do a whole sermon on how we as Christians should respond to it. In fact I did.

·         Short version: Use it as an opportunity to engage your culture – get to know your neighbors and discuss the supernatural.

The transcript is available online:


The Blind Shall See

In John 9, one of my favorite miracles of Jesus: I love this guy, especially when contrasted with the guy in John 5 who Jesus healed and they ratted on Jesus.

What is more, this story addresses one of the fundamental issues of life – why do people suffer? The disciples and the Pharisees had their own answers, but they got it wrong. 

·         This will be the topic today.

·         Please text in any questions you may have.

John 9:1-5 ESV As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.  4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.  5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Long story short: Jesus heals him, the Pharisees don’t want to believe it, and end up excommunicating him.

John 9:35-41 ESV Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”  37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”  38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.  39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”  40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?”  41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

This is off-topic: In John classic literary style, we see a rich metaphor: This one man represents the entire human condition.

To the Pharisees and the disciples, this man’s blindness was evidence of his sin. But in fact, all of us our sinners and we are have been blinded by sin.

·         The irony is that Jesus could not heal the Pharisees because they thought that they could see.

Ä  Back to the topic of suffering:

Sin = suffering?

Blindness is fitting metaphor for living in fallen, dark world. We have a sense that thing should be better than they are, yet we cannot see it.

The most tangible effect of living in a dark world is suffering; we live in a world filled with suffering God never intended.

·         Suffering constantly reminds us we are not at home.

As I said, the question of suffering is one of the deepest problems we face: If God is good and powerful, why does he allow suffering?

·         Some deny he exists and think our suffering pointless and random

But if you believe that God exists, than he is strong, and he is able, you are forced to examine why God allows suffering.

I have said that the best answer for that is our free will, that our sin brings suffering. This largely true, but it’s disconcerting that that’s the disciples’ answer:

John 9:2 ESV “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 

·         It was rather tactless to ask this right in front of the guy.

Notice the assumption that it had to be one or the other. They didn’t even consider any other possibilities. They had a simple equation: Suffering = sin.

of Job & Tilton

There is usually a direct or indirect cause and effect relationship between sin and suffering. But it doesn’t always work that way.

·         If you read the Bible, this might sound familiar. The story of Job is all about a righteous man who suffered greatly.

The book of Job is a vital balance to the entire OT, because sin usually brings suffering and righteousness usually brings blessings. But what do you do when it doesn’t work?

In Job, his friends try to comfort him by telling him that it is his fault everything happened to him, which is about as effective as you would think. 

As you read Job, you can hear a panic in their voice. They had set up an entire system of security based upon their belief that bad things only happened to bad people, and they were scared to death of having that system failing.

·         It’s a lot like the “Health & Wealth” movement which teaches that if you’re not rich and happy, it is because of your sin.

When it doesn’t “work” will test our faith in God like nothing else. If we suffer because our own sin, we can understand it. But how can we trust God who allows us to suffer?

·         What is so interesting is God’s answer to Job: “I am God, I will do as I see fit.”

God is so far above us, but he also shows himself to be loving, especially in the Incarnation. Ultimately, we are like Micah’s cat being force fed.

not “why” but “What now”

When we see suffering, or when we suffer, our first instinct as humans is to ask “Why?”. But why is that so important to us?

Q   Would it make us suffer any less?

The reason we want to know “why” is because we want to know the purpose. Suffering is more endurable if we know there is a purpose; that is why we lock up the mugger, but pay the dentist.

·         This means the real question we need answered is “what now?

John 9:3   Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

This does not mean “God struck him blind so that I can heal him.” I don’t think it comments on the why as much as what God was going to do now: Heal him so that God would be glorified.

·         In this context, Jesus means that the miracle would vindicate his authority as the Messiah.

Yet even still, I think that this answer bears truth for each of us: We do not need to suffer in vain. We may never see the reason, but we can still benefit.

It is God’s promise that no pain need be wasted:

ESV Romans 8:28 ¶ And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

God is in the business of redeeming pain. He has done it for the entire world and he can do it for us.

I think that when we suffer, there are some key things that we must do so that we not suffer in vain.

1. Ask if the suffering was self-inflicted – perhaps ask others as well. Lots of people blame everyone else.

2. Ask how you can learn or grow from your suffering.

3. Ask how God can use your suffering to help others – like this blind man, God’s work is manifested in us.

4. Lean into God.

The enemy would love to use suffering to drive you further from God, but God would use it to drive you closer to him. God can make even our suffering sweet if it drives us to him.

Again: God is in the business of redeeming pain. The most tragic thing in history was the Fall, yet the greatest event (the Incarnation) resulted from it.



·         This only works if we desire God.

Pain is God’s megaphone for rousing a deaf world, or it is a slap across the face of a blind man, which seems cruel, unless the house is on fire. 

Without God, there is no promise that our suffering will be redeemed. It is only by bringing our suffering and darkness into the light can it be transformed into joy (cf. Great Divorce, 67)

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