Jesus challenges traditional beliefs on suffering, revealing how God's glory can shine even through life's hardships and pain.
John 9:1-5 — Suffering: A Canvas — Aneel Aranha
Hello and welcome to the Bite-Sized Gospel with Aneel Aranha. Today we will reflect on John 9:1-5. Listen.
As he went 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?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
The ninth chapter of John's gospel opens with an incident that has puzzled many over the years. Jesus and his disciples encounter a man born blind. The disciples, echoing a common belief of their time, ask, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" The assumption here is that suffering, especially from birth, must be a direct result of specific sin.
Jesus' response is a huge paradigm shift: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him." This simple statement both challenges and expands our understanding of suffering.
For the disciples, and indeed for many in the ancient world, illness or disability was often seen as a direct consequence of personal sin or the sin of one's ancestors. But Jesus introduces a different perspective. He suggests that not all suffering is a direct result of sin. Instead, some suffering exists so that God's glory and power can be revealed through it.
This doesn't mean that God causes suffering for his glory. Instead, in a world marred by sin, suffering is an unfortunate reality. But God, in his infinite wisdom and power, can use even the brokenness of our world to manifest his glory.
This perspective is revolutionary. It means that every instance of suffering, pain, or hardship can potentially be a canvas on which God paints a masterpiece of grace. It's a call for us to shift our focus from asking, "Why is this happening?" to "How can God's work be displayed in this situation?"
However, we must approach this understanding with sensitivity. Telling someone who is suffering that their pain exists solely for God's glory can come off as dismissive or even cruel. Instead, the message here is one of hope: in the midst of our pain, God can and does work, often in ways we can't immediately see or understand.
In the case of the blind man, his healing was a sign that pointed to Jesus, the Light of the World. But the deeper message is that God's works—his healing, grace, and restoration—are waiting to be displayed in countless situations. Our role, like that of the blind man, is to bear witness to these works when they manifest in our lives.
God bless you.