- Religion and Philosophy
John's Gospel- a new look: number 10, chapter 9:The man born blind
Why do bad things happen to good people? An important question addressed in this chapter
Chapter 9 - The man born blind.
John continues with the stated aim of recording the signs(miracles) that Jesus did so that the readers could "believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through believing can have life".(John 20:31)
Again he records a great miracle and chooses again one that Jesus performed on the Sabbath Day. Undoubtedly Jesus performed miracles on every day of the week, but here John records one where Jesus again broke the Sabbath Laws, that is to say the traditions that they had built up over the years. Over the years the Rabbinic teachers had interpreted the Old Testament Law with a legalistic attitude towards the law and in so doing they had failed to keep to the spirit of the law. Instead they had turned it into repressive, demanding requirements. Jesus is recorded as saying "the Sabbath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath". (Mark 2:27) There he points out that the Rabbinic teachings missed the point in their interpretation. So he and his disciples broke the traditions on a regular basis and this infuriated the religious leaders of that time.
In this account Jesus also deals with a false teaching that was prominent in that time and which is still often believed today: that suffering and sin are always linked. If something bad happens to someone then sin is the obvious cause. While this is often the case because sin brings its own punishment and effects that are inevitably destructive and harmful, Jesus teaches here again the false perception that sin and bad experiences are always linked. The same teaching is also recorded in Luke 13:4 where the case of the tower of Siloam falling on people is the example Jesus uses. Bad things often happen to good people simply because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because of natural causes. So Jesus discounts sin as the cause of this man's blindness. Rather this bad situation in life can in fact become a source of showing God's power and glory (vs.3). An important lesson to learn in life is that sometimes a really bad situation can be used to Glorify God. Not an easy concept to deal with in a time of suffering, but never the less powerful in its potential to use whatever life throws at one, no matter how bad, to good advantage. The example of Paul and Silas in prison as recorded in Acts 16:25ff is a good example.
It is interesting to look at the way the blind man's faith grows and compare it to the way the faith of the woman at the well, as recorded in Chapter 4, also grew. The blind man first saw Jesus as a man (vs.11), then as a prophet (vs.17), and finally as the "one come from God" or the Messiah (vs.33). The woman saw him first as a Jewish man wanting water (John 4:9), then as a prophet (John 4:19), and then as the Messiah (John 4:25/26,39). Faith has to sometimes start as a small spark that gradually sheds a bright light into a life and finally burns as a powerful life giving torch.
Again we notice that the Religious Leaders follow their very human pattern of how they deal with a perceived or real danger to their position. To admit this miracle meant a further loss of their credibility as belief in Jesus grew among the people. So they desperately have to counter this claim of an amazing miracle and they do so in the normal way of argument and dispute, followed by personal attack and then finally by religious violence as they excommunicated the healed man.
It is also interesting to evaluate the behaviour of the parents who fear the power of the Religious Leaders who control and manipulate people (vs.22). Just so in today's world people are often controlled by fear on many different levels. We can see this in the religious world, in the political arena, in the business world, and even in the family.
Blindness of the man and how he now faces a new world with its challenges is also interesting and this provides a new problem for him and for the parents to deal with. The same can be said of someone who sees the light in a spiritual sense. All kinds of new problems and challenges arrive. Sometimes people feel that it is better to live in a state of self-induced blindness rather than taking a careful look at self and at the world around them and then dealing with what they see. Living in a state of spiritual blindness is a situation difficult to give up because it has become comfortable in its self. To change always if frightening because it brings new challenges and demands.
At the same time spiritual blindness is a serious disease that will bring disastrous results now and into eternity. The Apostle Paul writes about opening the eyes that do not see clearly in Ephesians 1:18 "I pray that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which you have been called". (NIV)