Suffering for God’s Sake

What would you give up to stop some kind of pain in your life? What would you be willing to lose to be healed? Most people go to the doctor’s when they get sick and have to pay a little out-of-pocket before they can get looked at. It may not always be cheap, but it’s ultimately a small price to pay for health in the long run. For more serious diseases like cancer and other long-term sicknesses, one might sacrifice a few relationships. Not the important people, just those you don’t normally hang out with in the first place. What if, on the other hand, you couldn’t choose what to give up? It might be something small and more or less insignificant, but it might be important. What if it was the single most important thing in your life? Would you still want to be healed?

In John 9, we’re taken to a man to whom these questions apply. We are told he’s blind from birth, but not a whole lot of other information is given about him save but one thing: that Jesus’ disciples initially believed that the cause of his blindness was either his sin or the sin of his parents. The question they ask, if we could reword it for today, is simply this: Who did something wrong that he should suffer for it? Why did God let this man suffer blindness from birth?

This is why I love the Book of John so much. The questions they asked 2,000 years ago aren’t far removed from the questions we ask today. Humanity doesn’t change very much at all despite the range of our environment. We’re still looking for why things happen, both good and bad. We still tie it to some kind of cause-and-effect reasoning.

It’s not always as simple as “x caused y,” though. In our reasoning we might draw lines and connections between places that aren’t necessarily related. Case in point, while the disciples thought that the man was blind because of sin, Jesus showed them the true reason for his suffering, “that the works of God might be displayed in him.” God made the man blind from birth, not as a punishment for something wrong that he did, and neither as a punishment for something his parents did, but so that at the right time God’s power could be made known through his blindness. So Jesus, proving Himself to be the “light of the world,” made the blind man see.

But the lesson of suffering doesn’t stop there. The healed man doesn’t just go on his merry way and live happily ever after. This is real life, after all.

After he’s seen to be healed, the man is taken to the religious leaders and questioned about how it happened. This is where we see the man shine, because he doesn’t break under the weight of his questioning. When he hears what the Pharisees think of Jesus in v.16, he doesn’t hide his own opinion, but stands with Him. When the Pharisees think he’s lying about his own life, that he was born blind, they bring in his parents, who at least affirm that part of his story, but also kind of throw him under the buss in v.21. When the Pharisees double down and press him even harder, accusing Jesus of having sinned, he stands in the truth of what happened, saying “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I do know, that thought I was blind, now I see.” As the Pharisees continue to question and dig into him, he finally rebukes them, and says that Jesus came from God.

This is the point where it would seem he loses everything. The Pharisees, reacting against the man’s claims, throw him out of the Temple. This isn’t a temporary suspension either. This is excommunication from the center of Jewish culture. This would cut him off from all the temple sacrifices, the worship, the very faith of the Jews. From the eyes of an ordinary man, he’s lost almost everything.

Here we see the double goodness of Christ. He not only gave the man sight after being blind, but in an undoubtedly vulnerable moment for the man, v.35 says that Jesus found him. Jesus heard of what happened, and He sought the man out. He finally revealed Himself to be the light of the world to the man, and instead of sulking in the thought of what he had lost, the man worshiped Christ in the reality of what he gained. The man who had been blind his whole life could see for the first time, and he gazed at the face of the One who healed him.

While everyone who looked at the man saw loss, I don’t doubt that he felt anything but gain.

What would you do in the blind man’s position? What would you give up if you could get life itself in return?