John – “But Who Do You Say That I Am?” – John 9:1-5

John Chapter 9. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to open a new chapter because it seems like it took forever to get through Chapter 8 but here we are.

With the COVID-19 crisis going on, we come to this chapter, I think, at the appropriate time. No matter how you view this virus, whether you think it’s a hoax, whether you think it’s a sinister plot perpetrated by China and the Democrats to push a political agenda, or whether you think that this virus really is a serious problem the fact is that COVID-19 has caused suffering in some shape or form to everyone. Some have lost loved ones to the virus. People have lost their livelihoods and their homes and their finances all at the snap of a finger because of stay-at-home orders in just about every state in America and we all are suffering the isolation and loneliness caused by this crisis. At times like this, the age old questions pop up once again…”Where is God?” and “How can a God of love allow suffering in the world?”. These questions always surface when we are faced with some kind of pain in our life.

In John Chapter 9, we are introduced to such a man that might have been asking the very same questions himself. He’s a man that was born blind, the Scriptures say, forced into a life of begging to support himself. Along comes Jesus and his life is forever changed! In Chapter 9 we are going to see four different points…a man suffering, a miracle to alleviate that suffering, and then faith and not only faith, but a man not afraid to that defend that faith! In this post, we will look at the first one…a man suffering and questions regarding it and Jesus responding to those questions. Let’s get started and as always, the text link for the entire chapter and the audio are included but before we get started, let’s pray…

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for the Word of God that does the work of God in the hearts of the people of God. We come, Lord, and we bring ourselves. We bring our attention, our minds, to engage in the words that we hear, the words that we read, the thoughts your Holy Spirit is going to give us, the questions we’re going to be wrestling with– some hopefully that will be answered.  Lord, You are the One we turn to for help in moments of weakness and times of need. We ask You to be with Your servants and others in this time of crisis in our country. Psalm 107:20 says that you send out Your Word and heal. So then, please send your healing Word to Your servants. We ask You to turn our weakness into strength, suffering into compassion, sorrow into joy, and pain into comfort for others. May Your servants trust in Your goodness and hope in Your faithfulness, even in the middle of this suffering. Now Lord, we turn our attention back to Your Word opening our hearts and minds to it to hear what You have to say. Speak Lord for Your servants are listening! All of this we pray in the saving name of Jesus Christ…Amen!

John 9

Let’s look at this very short passage for this post, the first five verses in Chapter 9. …

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. (2) And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (3) Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. (4) I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. (5) As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” … John 9:1-5 NKJV

John doesn’t say when this takes place but it presumably takes place as Jesus is leaving the temple area after what happens in Chapter 8. Chapter 8 ends with the crowd picking up stones to stone Jesus and Jesus slipping away from the crowd. Jesus is about to cause another controversy as we move along in this chapter but let’s look at these five verses more closely. …

v 1 – Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.

As Jesus was leaving the temple area, He spots a man who was blind from birth. In the King Jimmie Version, KJV, it says that the man was blind from his birth, in Greek ek genetē, which means out from, by reason of, or out of birth. Besides leprosy, blindness was one of the biggest health problems in biblical times. It was caused by a number of factors…unsanitary conditions, poverty, unfiltered sunlight (no sunglasses in those days), and blowing dust and sand. Babies in the womb sometimes would develop a condition called “Ophthalmia neonatorum” literally gonorrhea of the eyes. A bacteria would lodge itself within the birth canal of a woman and then as the baby was being born, attach itself to the baby’s eyelids and get into the conjunct of the eye, the mucous membrane of the eye, and in about two or three days, pus pockets would form around the eyes and a week or two after birth, the baby is completely blind. It’s actually still a problem in some parts of Africa and other parts of the world today. This was probably the case with this man that Jesus sees as He is leaving the temple area. During that time, the blind were sentenced to eek out a miserable existence. It was not uncommon to see the blind as well as the lame begging on the streets. It was the only way to support themselves.

Please take note that Jesus saw this blind man. This wasn’t a casual, “Yeah I see this blind guy. Gee what a shame that he is blind!” observation but an intense, compassionate observation, the Greek word eidō. Jesus saw his suffering and had compassion for him. We have this idea that God doesn’t see our suffering or that He doesn’t care. Nothing could be further from the truth! He sees our suffering and He sympathizes with us just like He saw this blind man and had compassion for him. Whatever suffering that we are going through in life right now, Jesus is with us and He cares! We see this all throughout the Scriptures. Here are some notable example of this…

(10) For the mountains shall depart And the hills be removed, But My kindness shall not depart from you, Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” Says the LORD, who has mercy on you. … Isaiah 54:10 NKJV

(13) As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. … Psalms 103:13 NKJV

Back in Isaiah again…

(13) Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, And will have mercy on His afflicted. (14) But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me.” (15) “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. … Isaiah 49:13-15 NKJV

and finally in 2 Corinthians, Paul says…

(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, (4) who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. … 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV

The fact is that people that believe that God doesn’t see our suffering and doesn’t care aren’t really looking for Him! Moving on to verse 2…

v 2 – And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Suffering brings questions. There’s no doubt about that and there’s nothing wrong with that. One of the funniest responses to the question of suffering comes from an episode of “All In The Family”. Archie is arguing as usual with his atheist, liberal son-in-law Mike, “Meathead”, and they are arguing about why there is so much pain and suffering in the world. Mike says that there couldn’t be a God because if there was, that He would never allow it, a typical atheist viewpoint. So Archie turns to Edith and asks her if there is a God why there is so much pain and suffering in the world. She pauses for a second and then replies, “So when we get to heaven, we’ll notice the improvement!”. Not a bad answer by the way since no one really knows the answer to that question. That question of pain and suffering is the number one reason for either not coming to faith in Christ or losing faith in Christ. No one likes to suffer and when people do, they are most likely to blame God. What makes it worse is, if you are a Christian, and you are suffering or your fellow believers are. Why does God allow this? Why doesn’t He reserve suffering just for the evil people in this world? It’s a question that Asaph in Psalm 73 wrestled with and he almost lost his faith because of it! In Psalm 73, Asaph says…

(2) But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. (3) For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (4) For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm. (5) They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men. … Psalms 73:2-5 NKJV

Get the picture? Asaph is complaining about how the evil and the wicked people in the world seem to flourish. Everything seems to be going their way. They don’t have as much physical suffering as believers do. Their bodies are healthy. They escape many of the troubles and tragedies of decent people and even if trouble should strike them, they are heavily insured against every conceivable form of loss. He was beginning to lose faith. Further down in Psalm 73, he says…

(13) Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence. (14) For all day long I have been plagued, And chastened every morning. … Psalms 73:13-14 NKJV

The picture here is he is suffering, a believer, but around him for unbelievers, it’s business as usual so why bother having faith?

Getting back though to the passage in John and verse 2 here in Chapter 9, the disciples pose a strange question to Jesus…Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?. The insinuation here is “Surely this man must have done something wrong or his parents for him to be blind!”. It’s strange because how could this man have sinned if he was born blind? Did they believe that the soul returns to a new body after death? Were they suggesting that the man was born blind as a result of the sins that God knew that the man would commit later on in his life? It was clear though, that they believed this man’s blindness was caused by sin in the family. They were probably referring to the passage in Exodus where God forbids the worship of other gods. In Exodus 20, verse 5, it says…

(5) you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, … Exodus 20:5 NKJV

It was a misunderstood verse then and a misunderstood verse today. When God said this, He wasn’t speaking about personal punishment. He was talking about national punishment. “If you do these things, then I will punish the nation!”. That’s what God meant and it did happen when the Jews were sent into captivity in Babylon as well as other examples throughout their history. That was the theology though. If you were born blind, or became lame, or had leprosy or some kind of tragedy happened to you etc, it was the result of some kind of sin in your life or your family’s. In The Book of Job, Job had all of these tragedies that happened to him and then his health was taken away from him and you remember his three friends were telling him that the reason why he was suffering so much was because there had to be some type of sin in his life. That’s not true because God says, “Have you considered my servant Job? There’s no one like him on earth! He’s the best I got!”. 

Sometimes though, suffering is a result of sin or some type of stupidity that we commit in our lives. If you’re driving a 100 mph in your car down the highway and the cops pull you over for speeding and give you a ticket and you’re thinking, “I should have read my devotions this morning. I didn’t and now God is punishing me!”, no that’s not the reason!  It’s because you were driving 100 mph in your car down the highway! Actions causes reactions. So this coronavirus may not be the result of personal sin but I’ll tell you what…it could be God punishing the nation as a whole. Now to verse 3 in our passage…

v 3 – (3) Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.

Jesus answers them by saying, neither this man nor his parents sinned. He says this not because this man or his parents were sinless but that the blindness was not the direct result of sin. He was putting to rest that argument of suffering being the result of some kind of sin in this man and his family’s life. There is another theology that most Christians believe and it’s extremely popular here in America. You’ve probably heard it. It’s called “The Prosperity Doctrine” or “The Health, Wealth, & Prosperity Gospel”. It teaches that yes there is suffering and yes there is evil but if you are true child of God, then you don’t have to go through that. You’ll always have good health, you’ll always be wealthy, and you will always prosper in life. In other words you will never suffer and if you do it’s because you don’t have enough faith! That’s a crock! Sometimes, in fact, most of the time, the Lord allows suffering in our lives for a greater purpose! Look what Jesus says as He continues on…but that the works of God should be revealed in him. He is telling His disciples, “Yeah he’s blind now but watch what happens! Watch what I am about to do!”. The fact is that Jesus had always intended on healing this man even before he was born but it was on His timing and for His purpose. It was no accident that this man and Jesus had come to this moment. Sometimes God allows suffering in our lives for a greater purpose. We don’t see that right away though and at that moment, we really don’t even think about that. We just want the suffering to end! Moving on now to finish out the passage. …

vv 4-5 – (4) I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. (5) As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Jesus knew that He had a limited time on this earth. Within six months of this meeting with this blind man, He would be crucified, resurrected, and gone from this earth. So it was like Jesus rolling up His sleeves and saying, “Let’s get to work!”. Again, Jesus had compassion for this man and, I’m not trying to put human limits on Jesus, He was more than capable of doing something for him. The text says I must work but did you know that some of the modern versions of The Bible say, We must work? I generally don’t like modern translations of The Bible because they twist certain truths to fit the way society lives today but in this case, I love that translation…we must work. It’s our duty to, if we can and have the means to do it, to aid those who are suffering and in pain. It is supposed to be one of the key points in proving our faith to others. In Proverbs 3, one of Solomon’s more popular chapters in the book, he says…

(27) Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do so. (28) Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give it,” When you have it with you. … Proverbs 3:27-28 NKJV

In James, he echoes this as well by saying…

(15) If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? … James 2:15-16 NKJV

Jesus says that He must do these works while it is day the night is coming when no one can work and finishes it off with as long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. He was speaking here about His ministry. He only had a short time before He would be crucified, resurrected, and gone from this world so He had to do the works of His Father while He was still able to even if it meant healing this blind man on the Sabbath. There is a broader meaning to this though. We Christians only have a short time in this world as well. We will either die or be taken away by the Lord in the rapture so we must work while it is day because our night is coming as well when we will no longer be able to show the Lord’s goodness and mercy to others. The lion’s share of Christians though in America do not have this attitude. They are more interested in their needs, wants, and comforts to even bother helping someone else out. In “The Believer’s Bible Commentary”, William MacDonald puts it best when he writes…

Christians are wearing crowns instead of bearing a cross. We become more emotionally stirred over sports, politics, or television than we do over Christ. There is little sense of spiritual need, little longing for true revival. We give the best of our lives to the business world, then turn over the remnants of a wasted career to the Savior. We cater to our bodies which in a few short years will return to dust. We accumulate instead of forsake, lay up treasures on earth instead of in heaven. The general attitude is, “Nothing too good for the people of God. If I don’t pamper myself, who will? Let’s get ahead in the world and give our spare evenings to the Lord.” This is our condition on the eve of Christ’s Return.

I ask you with this attitude is there any wonder why Jesus has not come back for His church yet? In the next post, we will look at the healing of this blind beggar by Jesus.

So to close this post out, here are some takeaways that might help us out while we are dealing with this COVID-19 crisis. The fact is suffering defies all explanations. I can’t say for certain why we have this problem right now at this particular time. I have my opinions just as I am sure you do as well but that is not the point here. We have to realize that suffering, no matter the reason why, is a part of life. It’s not always the result of one’s personal sin. The atheist viewpoint is that because there is evil and suffering in this world, there can be no God. There is another viewpoint that I didn’t talk about in the passage but I will now and that is called a Deist viewpoint where one believes yes there is a God and yes there is evil and suffering in the world and God would like to help out but He can’t because He’s unable to because He’s still “learning”! Yep but with every generation, every war, and every bad thing that happens, God is getting better and maybe one of these days, He’ll get it right! May I say if that’s your viewpoint, it’s not a god worth worshiping because it’s like having a big brother that can’t help you out when you really need him! So that’s the first takeaway. Suffering is a part of life and as far as this new virus that we’re dealing with is concerned, people get sick and people die. Get over it! It’s part of life. Nobody lives forever and cowering in our homes is not going to change that. We will all some day die! The next takeaway from this is God uses suffering for a greater purpose. Suffering in our lives can be used by God in three ways. The first is suffering will equip you. You can’t help someone else who is hurting or with a problem unless you’ve “been there done that”. Might I add, it will help you tell others about the good news of Jesus Christ as well. When others see us suffering and how we use our faith in Jesus Christ to hold us up in difficult times, it will cause others to stand up and take notice and say to themselves, “I need that!” which brings up the second way God uses suffering in our lives…to strengthen our faith. A faith that isn’t tested every now and then really isn’t a good faith to have! Paul, the apostle saw this first hand. He had, what he describes as a “thorn in the flesh”. No one knows for sure what that was. There has been speculation what it was. Most agree that it was some sort of eye trouble probably caused by being stoned and left for dead and went to the “third heaven”. Some have jokingly said that the “thorn” was his wife! LOL! Anyway, whatever it was, he talks about in 2 Corinthians where he says…

(7) And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. (8) Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. (9) And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (10) Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. … 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV

Wow! If only we had that same kind of attitude! And when Paul wrote this, he wasn’t sunning himself on some beach in Acapulco drinking Mai tais! He was languishing in a prison cell! Suffering strengthens you and again using this crisis we have now in our country as an example, having a firm solid faith is more valuable than health. James also says in his letter…

(2) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. … James 1:2-3 NKJV

Again not written when times were good. Christians were being persecuted by Nero the emperor of Rome at the time. They were being arrested, imprisoned, and in many cases slaughtered by the thousands. Job was another good example. He suffered more tragedies than most people do today in their lifetime and nearly almost all at once I might add. Look at what he says…

(10) But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. … Job 23:10 NKJV

Do you know how gold is tested for purity? It is put in a furnace! When you want to test how strong one’s faith really is, just put it in the “fire”! One last biblical reference about this before moving on, Solomon says in Proverbs…

(10) If you faint in the day of adversity, Your strength is small. … Proverbs 24:10 NKJV

You can actually substitute the word “faith” instead of the word “strength”.

The final takeaway from this is that suffering brings obligations. It demands a response from us. Jesus saw a suffering man and He did something about it, well we didn’t see that yet but we will in the next post. He didn’t see a blind man and say, “Gee a blind man what a shame!” and walk away. He did something about it. There’s a thing that we all suffer from in America. It’s called “compassion fatigue”. It’s where you see so much bad things on the news and are subjected to images of pain and suffering day after day and night after night, that you become numb to it. In a lot of cases, people actually enjoy seeing it. Did you know that the main reason why our highways are so congested across our country is that every time there is an accident, people slam on their brakes and drive slowly by to see what’s going on? The late comedian George Carlin joked about this fact. He said in a skit about it that it’s like, “Excuse me officer can you bring the bodies a little closer? My wife and I have never seen a body shaped in that manner!” All kidding aside though, we have to guard from this compassion fatigue.

So to close this out, I’ll end with this…what are you doing to help people who are suffering during this crisis in our country? Is there someone who you can you take food to or help out financially if you’re able to that doesn’t have a job right now and has very little or no money coming in? What about just lending a truly sympathetic ear to someone who has a high case of anxiety because of this crisis? Most of all, do you know someone who needs to hear the good news of Jesus Christ?

I’ll end this with the way I do many of my posts, an invitation for you to except Jesus if you haven’t already. Just like Jesus said to His disciples that one has to do the works of God while it is day because night is coming where no man can work, it applies to unbelievers that haven’t accepted Jesus. You must do it while it is still “day”. That means while there is still time. There is going to come a time when Jesus will return and it will be too late. It will be “night”. Your “night” may not be then. Your “night” may be your death! Funny thing is, is this lockdown that has occurred because of the COVID-19 crisis will end but if you don’t accept Jesus in your life today, right this second, you will be eternally locked down in hell and separated from God! It doesn’t have to be that way though. He doesn’t want it for you and I don’t want it for you either but you can change that right now! In Romans 10:9-13, Paul says:

“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” … (Romans 10:9-13 NIV)

Now just pray this simple short prayer. Remember it really doesn’t matter what you say. What matters is that what you say comes from your heart!…

“Dear Lord, I admit that I am a sinner. I have done many things that don’t please you. I have lived my life for myself. I am sorry and I repent. I ask you to forgive me. I believe that you died on the cross for me, to save me. You did what I could not do for myself. I come to you now and ask you to take control of my life, I give it to you. Help me to live every day in a way that pleases you. I love you, Lord, and I thank you that I will spend all eternity with you. Amen.”

If you’ve prayed the above prayer with a sincere heart, then you are saved. The next step is to start going to church, getting baptized to publicly profess your faith, and reading the Bible and learning God’s Word. I pray with all of my heart that you prayed the above prayer! Please let me know if you need any help with your new “walk” with Christ! Stay safe everyone and God bless you and yours!