Miraculous signs confirmed the New Testament message. Jesus worked miracles. Jimmy Jividen lists 35 specific miracles performed by Jesus, not counting the miracles connected with the cross, resurrection, and ascension (Jimmy Jividen, Miracles from God or Man, p. 17-18). These could be categorized as: 17 bodily cures; 9 miracles over forces of nature; 6 cures of demon possession; 3 raised from the dead (ibid, p. 16). The book of Acts records 12 specific miracles performed through individuals in the early church, not counting acts which came directly from heaven without human agency (ibid, p. 50). These include 6 bodily cures; 2 raised from the dead, 2 miraculous curses; 1 cure of demon possession; 1 bestowal of the gift of tongues and prophecy. Additionally, there are many general, non-specific references; 29 such references in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; 10 such references in Acts.
Jesus and his disciples behold a blind man, blind from birth (John 9:1). The disciples see this as an issue to discuss. They ask, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2).
They pose a false dichotomy. They see only two possibilities. The assumption is that all personal suffering is a result of sin closely connected with the one suffering, either personal sin or family sin. “The underlying concern – well intended, but misguided – was not to charge God with perpetrating evil on innocent people” (ESV Study Bible). Therefore, “Did this man sin?” Some Jews believed that children could sin even while in the womb. Others may have adopted a belief in reincarnation from the Greeks. “If this is not the result of this man’s sin, did his parents cause this?” The sin of parents can have consequences on their children (Exodus 20:4-5; cf. Numbers 14:33; Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, crack babies, etc.). Some believe that the children were directly punished due to their parents sin.
The notion that all personal suffering is the effect of sin closely connected to the individual, is an enduring belief. It was believed in Jesus’ day (John 9:1-2). It was believed in Paul’s day (Acts 28:1-4). It is believed by the Hindus. Birth defects and abortions are considered deserved by some because of bad karma from a previous life. It is believed in America. Some think that those without wealth and health are not good people, and some how are necessarily responsible for this condition.
Jesus answers, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (John 9:3).
If they were expecting a lengthy discourse on the problem of evil, pain, and suffering, they did not receive it. If they were expecting a full answer to why suffering exists in this world, Jesus did not provide it. However, he does plainly state that not all suffering is due to personal sin, and parental sin. Saying that, neither this man’s nor his parents’ sin is the cause of this condition of blindness.
Instead, it is “That the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:3b-5).
The word “that” does not always indicate cause. It may be used to denote effect or result (e,g, Matthew 23:34-37; John 9:39). Compare this passage with John 11:4.
The disciples see in the blind man an issue to discuss, but Jesus sees in the blind man a work to do. He sees a need to be met. He sees an opportunity to do good (Galatians 6:10)
Jesus is conscious of the limited time He has remaining on earth. The night (death) is coming when no one can work (accomplish anything on earth). He is determined to shine as a light in the world, so long as he lives in the world (ex. Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15-16).
Jesus heals the man. He does so on conditions (John 9:6-7; cf. 2 Kings 5:10-ff). Perhaps, this is to teach us to accept Jesus’ words, even when we have little or no connection between the condition and the benefit offered. Such is really a test of the heart, a test of our trust in Him and His worlds.
Sometimes, the innocent do suffer. Jesus did. Stephen did. Job did. This man did.
- Sometimes, we may not have all the answers as to why a condition exists. Instead of worrying about such, let us look at such as an opportunity to let our light shine, and bring glory to the Father.
- Life is brief. Let us “Work the works of Him… while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4; see also: Psalm 90:12; Ephesians 5:15-16; Colossians 4:5).
- Sometimes, the benefits that God offers are only available to us on certain conditions. We should trust and obey. Robert Taylor, Jr. points out, “He was not given sight and then went to Siloam to wash. He went to wash and then sight was given” (Studies in the Gospel of John, p. 136). The order is clear – (a.) Condition stated; (b.) Condition obeyed; (c.) Benefit received.
- The records of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John record Jesus healing the blind on several occasions [(1) Matthew 9:27-31; (2) Mark 8:22-26; (3) Matthew 12:22; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:14; (4) John 9:1-12; (5) Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:16-52; Luke 18:35-43]. This man, who was born blind, exclaimed, “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” (John 9:32-33).
- Jesus went on to speak of spiritual blindness, saying that the reason some remained in their sins was because they refused to acknowledge their blindness, but continued to say “We see” (John 9:41). Pride keeps some from understanding their lost condition, and seeking to have such corrected. Don’t let this be you.