This week we had some technical difficulties and were unable to record my sermon. So in the place of an audio clip, I will be writing a few blog posts about the chapter.
John chapter 9 begins with Jesus and his disciples coming across a man blind from birth. The disciples are the first to speak, and their words must have been all too familiar to this man:
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
The belief that sickness was caused by certain sin was a very common view among the Jews at this time. It seems as though the disciples are most concerned with judging the situation, not caring for the man. He was blind for sure, but he was not deaf. He had more than likely heard people judging him for his blindness. He had probably heard all sorts of theories as to why he was born blind, but it was unlikely that he had ever heard what Jesus says next…
“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Jesus is saying that this man was born blind for this very moment, the moment he would encounter Jesus and be changed forever. His blindness was not a direct result of some sin that his parents committed or something that he had done. The answer to this man’s blindness was that God planned to magnify his glory through this man’s weakness. His blindness prepared the way for not only a miraculous physical healing but a much deeper spiritual healing as well.
Now Jesus doesn’t completely dismiss the idea that there is a connection between sin and sickness, but he does dismiss the idea that there is always a connection between particular sins and particular sickness.
The Bible does teach a general connection between the two. Sin came into the world through man bringing sickness and death. Yet what we learn here is that we are not to judge, as the disciples were, that an individual’s sickness must be tied to a particular sin. Sickness and misfortune is not always caused by a particular sin. And when we start thinking this way it begins to distort our view of God. Primarily we begin to see God as vindictive. We think that if something bad happens to us it must be that God is getting back at us for something; some sin we committed in the past. We start thinking of God as someone who gets even with us when we cross him. When actually the Bible says that for the believer God has placed his judgment for our sins on his Son on the cross so that when God looks at the believer he sees the very righteousness of Christ. Even when God disciplines his children it is not in a vindictive way, but with a redeeming love. Just as a father disciplines his child out of love so that he may become mindful of others, caring and obedient to authority so the Father disciplines us “that we may share his holiness.” (Heb. 12)
The second way this thinking distorts our view of God is that we begin to think that He can be manipulated. If He always repays sin with misfortune and sickness, then if I avoid sin and do good, He must be obligated to do me some favors. And when He doesn’t come through we begin to get bitter. But God cannot be manipulated, and if He could it would be much worse for us. A large part of the Christian faith is learning to trust that God cares for us more and better than we could care for ourselves. His blessings to us often come in disguise. But He is working all things for our ultimate good, being made more like Jesus, and that does not always come easy.
So when you find yourself in a place of suffering or pain, whatever the apparent sin or circumstance that may have brought it about, do not let yourself be caught in this trap. The one where you start judging what sin must have brought this on. Instead remember the words our Lord Jesus and pray, “In this situation, in this pain, Father display your wonderful works of grace both in and through me, for Your glory and my good.”