The Purpose of Chronic Suffering
John 9:2-8
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?…

While our Lord perceived only another opportunity of lifting a shadow, the disciples caught a new chance of repeating the weary and worn question of the ages as to the source of the shadow. Christ did not find any fault with His followers for inquiring; only He asserted that they had entirely misapprehended the philosophy of the poor creature's history. And then He immediately put forth His almighty power, and bestowed upon him his sight as a new sense. Note —

I. THE PATIENCE OF JESUS IN BEARING WITH HUMAN MISCONCEPTIONS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE. It would be unfair for one to indulge in any sharp comment upon the ignorance of the disciples. For other explanations of the origin of evil are in vogue and have continually been offered quite as wild as that which they proposed.

II. THE DISPOSITION OF SOME MEN TO INTERPOSE IN THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD'S WORLD. One of the ancient theories employed to reconcile suffering with benevolence, and relieve its mystery, has kept its place till our day — the existence of two spirits or principles of good and ill, warring with each other. The classic notion was that the jealous deities antagonized each other's plans on Olympus. Wrathful gods and goddesses cut at those who confronted them, and men sometimes were caught on both sides, like unfortunate cloth between the shears. There were furies as well as fates; and it was the elements of disturbance in heaven which stirred up the affairs of mortals so on the earth. This story corrects everything in such a heathen mistake.

III. THE RECORD OF FOOLISH JUDGMENTS IN THE BIBLE IS NOT TO RE TAKEN AS AN INSPIRED DECISION. Some island people, when Paul was shipwrecked, openly stated that the reason why a viper fastened on his hand was because he was in all likelihood a murderer. When Job's trials were at the highest, his miserable comforters accused him of sin, and that he had been in some way a hypocrite. It is an old and common insinuation which interprets misfortunes very much as Jesus' followers did on this occasion and it is to be feared that this ungenerous world will never admit its mistakes in such particulars. Men call other people's troubles judgments; and their own calamities.

IV. SUFFERING HAS SOME UNMISTAKABLE CONNECTION WITH SIN SOMEWHERE. For when our Lord told His disciples that neither this man nor his parents had sinned, we are not to understand Him as pronouncing them sinless. What He intended was that it was in no sense either a reckless calamity or a righteous retribution; for he was blind his whole life. And yet, we are not at liberty to pass by the warning which Christ gave, when the surmise was made concerning some on whom the tower of Siloam fell. A real connection must be admitted between the guilt of the race and the pain of the race. The conscientious conviction of mankind has a basis of truth. The wisest man there ever was on earth was inspired to say: "As the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come."

V. ALL CHRONIC PAIN IN ANY LIFE IS PART OF THE WISE PLAN OF GOD. Such a life, which, no doubt, had to himself seemed restrictive when men talked about the beauties that never gleamed in on his soul, was one definite part of the Divine purpose in the plan of redemption. And so in that splendid flash of vast disclosure, it was revealed that the eventful history of those darkened eyes was just a piece of God's biography, rather than of man's — a chapter in the book that records the dealings of our Maker with His creatures. And all this worried existence on earth was already written on the luminous pages of a volume of annals in heaven, before the blind baby was born in Judaea.

VI. SUFFERING IN THIS WORLD, IN ALMOST EVERY INSTANCE, MAY BE ASSUMED TO HAVE A VICARIOUS REACH. There is in it an element hearing outwardly on others. Some trials are the direct punishment of personal transgression; and others are the hereditary consequences of parental wickedness. But there is a class of chronic disabilities which seem beyond any reference to sin. Such may have in them a discipline for those nearest the sufferer. Who shall say how much this blind man's darkness may have been instrumental in mellowing the tempers and softening the hearts of his family? Hardly any household can be found now in which there is not some victim of pain; and those who are watching and waiting are likely to grow gentle and considerate, and ingenious with expedients of alleviation, under the long scholarship.

VII. THOSE WHO ARE UNDER SUCH DISABILITIES ARE MOST OFTEN THE BRAVEST. Generally the bystanders put the questions, rather than those who are under the infliction. It was the disciples, and not the blind man, who raised the inquiry. For the poor groper never really knew what he lacked in his senses; he was only like a man who is told that it is a pity he has no ear for music; he cannot be made to appreciate the symphony the musicians give him. Possibly he had borne the life into which his deprivation drove him so long that he had become quite tame about it. There is nothing more beautiful or helpful than the cheer of some who are shadowed by great trials.

VIII. UNDERLYING EVERY GIFT OF OUR LOVING SAVIOUR IS A SUPREME SPIRITUAL GRACE. When the wonder of healing had been wrought, was the final cause of the man's blindness reached? Had he served but the same purpose as the jars of water, the fish with the coin, the barren fig tree, the barley loaves? Had he groped around all these years in order to be ready when Christ wanted a thing to work a miracle upon? And had he when he had become an evidence of Christianity, and when he had humbled a few Pharisees to there vanish? No, indeed! He was looked up in the Temple, where he was using his new eyes, and there a fresh benediction met his believing soul.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

WEB: His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

The Blind Man's Eyes Opened; Or, Practical Christianity
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