Text: John 9:1-7
1 Now when he was passing by he saw a man 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 sinned nor his parents, but he was born blind in order that the work of God might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the work of him who sent me as long as it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world. 6 After he said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud of the spittle, then he smeared the mud on the man’s eyes. 7 And he said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated Sent). Therefore he went away and washed, and came seeing.
You have perhaps experienced a misfortune. This may be why you are reading this sermon. If so, my heart goes out to you. May our Lord help you and bring you through it. My sympathy goes out to you, because our misfortunes are serious matters and anything but funny.
Saying your misfortune is anything but funny reminds me of what happened to me one night a few years ago. While I was walking through the dark bedroom in my stocking feet, I stubbed my little toe. An excruciating pain shot through my toe and the side of my foot. It hurt so much that after hopping around on one foot I fell backwards onto the bed. While holding my foot in agony, I rocked back and forth to try to cope with the pain. The pain caused tears to flood my eyes. Now my dear wife, bless her loving, sympathetic heart, heard the commotion and my moaning in the bedroom. She hurried in to see me rocking back and forth on the bed while holding my foot. Now what do you think she then did? Did she say? Let Mommy kiss it and make it better? No! Did she say, Oh, you poor dear! You really hurt yourself. Can I help? No! She started laughing! And the harder she laughed the more angry I became. There I was suffering the misfortune of a broken toe, as it turned out, and she was laughing at me.
We certainly dont want others to laugh at our misfortunes. On the other hand, neither do we want them to blame us for what happened to us. Take my broken toe for example. Instead of laughing suppose my wife had said to me when I was in the midst of my pain, What terrible sin did you commit that God punished you with a broken toe? How do you think that would have made me feel? Was my broken toe a punishment for sin any more than your misfortune is a punishment for sin? Lets consider this on the basis of John 9:1-7.
Verse 1 says, “Now when he was passing by he saw a man blind from birth.” Talk about misfortunes! Don’t you think that man’s blindness was a terrible misfortune? He was born blind. He had never been able to look up as an infant and see his mother’s face. He had never been able to see the light of day. He had never been able to do the things other children and adults did. He knew only a world shrouded in darkness. Would you want to trade places with him? I doubt it.
Verse 2 tells us what Jesus’ disciples thought about the man’s misfortune. The disciples asked, “And his disciples asked him, saying, 'Rabbi, who sinned? This man or his parents, that he was born blind?' ” What did the disciples think was the cause for the man’s blindness? Didn’t they think that misfortune was the punishment of God for some sin? Yes! The only question they had was: Whose sin was responsible for the man’s blindness? The man’s sin? or, his parents’ sin?
The disciples have not been the only ones to think another persons misfortune was the punishment of God for a sin the person must have committed. Others have thought this, too. There once was a man who lost his children and worldly possessions through a series of tragic misfortunes. His friends told him that he must be guilty of some sin against God and that his misfortunes were a punishment of God for that sin. They told him to repent of his sin, that God might have mercy on him and withdraw his punishment. Was it right for his friends to claim he was being punished by God for his sin? Do you know whom the man was? His name was Job.
A family I once knew had their house burn down. They told me that a rumor had been spread that they must have been guilty of some horrible sin, which was why their house burned down. Was it right for individuals to say their misfortune was a punishment for a sin they had committed?
Misfortunes can be the punishment of God on the sins of unbelievers. God may use their misfortunes to call them to repentance. But does God punish with misfortunes his children who possess the forgiveness of their sins through Jesus Christ? Was my broken toe a punishment of God? Was that burned down house a punishment of God? Was Jobs misfortunes a punishment of God? Is your misfortune a punishment of God? We all have misfortunes of one kind or another. Are they a punishment of God for sin?
Verse 3 tells us how Jesus answered his disciples’ question of who was to blame for the man’s blindness. The man? or, his parents? Jesus answered, “Neither this man sinned nor his parents, but he was born blind in order that the work of God might be revealed in him.” Was the man or his parents being punished for sin? No. Neither the man nor his parents had committed a sin for which the man was punished with blindness.
What, then, was the reason for the man’s blindness? Jesus said it happened so the work of God might be revealed or displayed in the man’s life. His misfortune was a blessing of God in disguise. His blindness provided Jesus with the opportunity to display God’s work in his life. Jesus would make his blindness work for his good to bring God’s blessings into his life. The man’s blindness was not a punishment for sin, but part of God’s good and gracious plan for him and his life.
So it was in Jobs case. Jobs misfortunes were not a punishment of God for sin. Job had committed no sin. Before his misfortunes God had commended him as being the most blameless, upright, God-fearing man on earth. What, then, was the reason for Jobs misfortunes? God allowed Satan to plague Job with misfortunes to test Jobs faith. As a result of those misfortunes God drew Job closer to himself as a God-fearing man. God used Jobs misfortunes for Jobs good.
Being believers in Jesus, so it is with our misfortunes. Read carefully what Romans 8:28 says to you as a believer in Jesus. “And we know that God works all things for good for those who love him, for those who are the called ones according to his will.” Did you note that for us believing Christians who love God, whom he has called to faith according to his will, that he causes all things to work for our good? All things includes our misfortunes, too. So our misfortunes are not punishments of God for sin. They are blessings of God in disguise for our good in some way.
Hebrews 12:6 states that the Lord disciplines those he loves. He punishes everyone he accepts as his child. Then Hebrews 12:11 says, “Now all discipline for the present, to be sure, does not seem to be a joy but an affliction; yet later on it yields a peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” What do those verses from the Book of Hebrews call our misfortunes that do not seem pleasant, but painful? Our misfortunes are called a discipline of the Lord. And for what reason does the Lord discipline us with those misfortunes? The verses say the reason is because the Lord loves us. So our misfortunes are not a punishment for sin because God is angry with us. They are God’s acts of love for us who are his children through faith in Jesus Christ. And what good does God use those disciplinary misfortunes to accomplish in our lives? To produce a peaceful fruit of righteousness. Through them God gives us the opportunity to grow closer to him in godly living and peace.
Jesus used the man’s blindness to work for his good, too. In verses 4 and 5 Jesus stated: “We must work the work of him who sent me as long as it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Jesus had said the man’s blindness happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. Jesus had come to do that work of God in his life. Jesus was in the world to do God’s work of being the light of the world, and Jesus was about to show he was that light by what he would do for the blind man.
Thus we read in verses 6 and 7: “After he said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud of the spittle, then he smeared the mud on the man’s eyes. And he said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated Sent). Therefore he went away and washed, and came seeing.” Why did the man have the misfortune of being born blind? So that Jesus would have the opportunity to show the work of God in the man’s life by opening the man’s eyes to see as he had never seen before.
Jesus opened more than the mans physical eyes that day. Jesus opened the mans spiritual eyes to see that he is the light of the world. The verses that follow John 9:1-7 reveal that the man came to see that Jesus is the Lord and that he worshipped Jesus as such.
In like manner our Lord Jesus uses our misfortunes as opportunities to open our eyes to see his light of grace and salvation as we had not seen it before. In him is life. And the life he gives shines into the world as a light for people like us. Apart from him there is no light of life, for we are sinful human beings under the sentence of death and damnation. But in him we have the grace of God for the forgiveness of our sins, salvation from hell, and eternal life in heaven. Through our misfortunes he drives us to his Word to open our eyes to see his grace and life more than we had seen them before.
So being the children of God through faith in Jesus, are our misfortunes a punishment for sin? No. And let us not assume either that others must be guilty of some sin which is the reason for their misfortunes. For us Christians our misfortunes are blessings in disguise, which Jesus uses as the opportunity to open our eyes to see his light of life and salvation. Amen.