Who Sinned?

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.”

He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”

He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”

They said to him, “Where is he?”

He said, “I do not know.” (John 9:1-12)

When the disciples saw the blind man, their question was not one of compassion or concern, but instead a question of blame. According to the prevailing theology of the time, if you were suffering, there were only two possible reasons for it: you’d done something wrong or your parents had.

Jesus’ response to the disciples’ question was not what they expected at all. The blind man’s lifetime of suffering was not because he had sinned or his parents had sinned. It was so that God could perform a miracle—which Jesus then proceeded to do by putting mud in his eyes that he washed out in the pool near one of the walls of Jerusalem.

While one of my wife’s friends was in the hospital giving birth to a stillborn baby, a woman commented to my wife, “you know, good comes to good and bad to bad.”

My wife reacted with incredulity: “What possible bad thing could she have done that it would have cost the life of her daughter?” Bad things sometimes happen to good people. We won’t always know why. But we can always be confident that God has his reasons.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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