John 9:1-2 – Who Sinned?

While walking in Jerusalem, the disciples see a man born blind and ask Jesus why the man was born blind (verse 1-2). Judaism sometimes connected sin and illness The reason for this is a strong belief that God judges sin with illness. The three friends in the book of Job is the classic example of the belief that extreme illness and suffering is the result of sin. For example, when Miriam rebelled against Moses, she was struck with leprosy.The same is true for Uzziah, a king who violated the law.  When Hezekiah became ill he took it as a sign of divine disfavor.

Jesus Heals a Blind Man

In addition to suffering for your own sins, there are a number of texts in the Hebrew Bible that indicate some sins will be punished for several generations.  Idolatry, for example, carried a punishment for three more generations. Frequently kings were not directly punished for their rebellion, but their sons or grandsons are killed, ending their line.

Another possibility for a man born blind is that he sinned in the womb. For most of us, the idea of a prenatal sin is difficult to understand (not to mention a little bit frightening!) The rabbinic Genesis Rabbah suggests Esau was “hated” and Jacob “loved” because he had committed sin in the womb:

“R. Bekehja said in the name of R. Levi: “When she [Rebecca] walked past synagogues and houses of instruction, Jacob struggled to get out, in accordance with Jer 1:5: ‘Before I formed you in your mother’s womb I knew you.’ And when she passed idol temples Esau ran and struggled to get out, in accordance with Ps 58:4, ‘The godless go astray from the womb’” (Gen. Rab. 63; cited by Beasley-Murray, John, Second Edition, 154)

Jesus denies a “universal principle” that sin and sickness are connected. There may be cases, (Miriam, Paul’s comments to the Corinthians about their abuse of the Lord’s supper), but not all sickness can be connected to a specific sin. Generally, alcohol abuse often leads to a natural physical consequence; this natural result hardly a judgment of God!

In fact, Jesus says the man was born blind so that God’s power might be displayed in him (John 9:3-5). The blind were considered unclean and were always excluded from Temple worship. Since they are blind, they cannot know when they might contact some unclean thing, therefore they could never be allowed to go up to the Temple to worship.

Jesus says the man was born blind so God’s power might be displayed in him (verse 3-5). The blind were considered unclean and were always excluded from Temple worship. Since they are blind, they cannot know when they might contact some unclean thing, therefore they could never be allowed to go up to the Temple to worship. Jesus indicates he will not always be in the world. Since he is the light of the world, it is the time to do the work of God. As Rabbi Tarphon said, The day is short and there is much work to be done; the workers are lazy, and the reward is great, and the Master of the house is urgent” (Pirqe ‘Abot 2.15).

Once again Jesus declares he is the light of the world (cf. 8:12). In this case, the light will illuminate the darkness of the blind man. This chapter is connected to the previous via “the light of the world.” Carson comments that this is what happens when someone who is blind encounters the “light of the world.”

It is important to pause and reflect on what Jesus says about sin and sickness. Some Christians make an unfortunate assumption that sin leads to illness, so that if you are sick in any way there is unconfessed sin in your life, or sickness is a sign of a deficient spiritual life. If you are healthy, they claim, you are blessed by God and must be living a spiritual life. Even thought there are examples of God using illness as a punishment in the Old Testament, this view of relationship between illness and sin is completely unscriptural. Aside from a general ignorance of the Book of Job and the life of the Apostle Paul and his thorn in the flesh, it misses the point Jesus makes here in John 9: sometimes illness can be used for the glory of God. Jesus does not say God will smite you with a dread disease so that you will praise God more, but he does indicate physical infirmities are opportunities to see the glory of God in different ways.

If this miracle does reveal something about the glory of God, what is it? What do we learn about Jesus from this miracle?

40 thoughts on “John 9:1-2 – Who Sinned?

  1. On a personal note, this passage has been an encouragement to our family with the birth of our twins and the life of Brianna. ..”this happened so that the work of God could be displayed in [her] life.” Her deafness has been an opportunity for the gospel of grace to be proclaimed in several continents. But more importantly in her own life, she sees God working in her life as she gives Him the glory for how she is fearfully and wonderfully made. She is pursuing a medical career so that she can help others who are suffering.

  2. Reblogged this on James' Ramblings and commented:
    A professor of mine a while back referred to a rabbinic view that people could sin in the womb, but he did not refer to a specific reference. This post does.

  3. I was never aware of the fact that people associated illness with sin. Growing up, I have had a sister that is hearing impaired and has a deformity in her arm. I have never known someone to consider the fact that she was born with those to be because of her sins or my parents. So to read Scripture and see that is how people used to think, and how some still do, is kind of intriguing to me.
    Seeing the story of the man born blind, Kostenberger says that “this notion of a tight cause-and-effect relationship between sin and suffering accorded with contemporary Jewish beliefs” (Kostenberger, 103). This belief was really prevalent during that time, to where even people that didn’t sin were afraid of what people would think, like with Hezekiah. It is also worth noting that Jesus truthfully and gracefully tells them that they are wrong, and that just because someone is sick or handicapped does not mean that it occurred because of their sin. Kostenberger says “we may not always know the reason for someone’s… suffering, and in the end it is not what is most important” (Kostenberger, 104). Who God decides to give illness and those he doesn’t is not dependent on how good we are, or how bad. Sometimes God gives us these things so that in the end, he will receive glory through our struggles.

  4. it is so accurate to note that things like alcoholism naturally lead to health complications and have nothing to do with God. I never really gave thought to how much of Jewish culture really seemed to believe that sickness especially serious ones always came from God because of sin. obviously some illnesses in the Old testement did originate from God based on ones sin but that seems like it would be few and far between. what one can say is that because of the fall and the first sin illness is possible and happens due to that. but Jesus makes a statement that is against what everyone in his own culture believes and in this way he is showing us what it is to be counter cultural. we as Christians especially in a modern context should know better than to think that sickness is caused by sin. with the knowledge we know medically and what we know of Christ’s saving work it should there should be little to no doubt as to why sickness happens and the fact that it does not have anything to do with sin.

  5. The Jews had the idea that any form of disease or illness was caused by sin. Although this believe is not biblical nor does scripture support this believe. A few occurrences of this are found in the Bible, but nothing supports this believe. “His disciples asked him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind (John 9:2).” Jesus response was No one sinned, this happened so that the works of God my be displayed in him (v.3). The miracle that Jesus performed was fulfilling what prophesies said about the coming Messiah. “In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see (Isaiah 29:18).” Not only did the Jews believe that illnesses and diseases were caused by sins and transgressions. But they also believed that children in the womb could sin. How scary of a thought is that, that even unborn children could be born sinners. And because of that be born with a deformity or disease? Jesus’ disciples asked him who sinned the man or his parents because they wanted to know what caused him to be born blind. But instead of blaming the man or his parents or perhaps someone else Jesus responded that it’s no ones fault. But that it happened so that the power and glory of God be shown to this man. And those who saw him would know that it was God who healed him. So this can also be used to prove that the thought of people being born with diseases or deformities are a result from sin, isn’t true.

  6. Several things could be learned through Jesus’s miracle of giving the blind man sight in John 9. I think one of the most obvious was that He was discrediting a universal belief between sin and suffering. The people in Jerusalem had the tendency to try and figure out the link between a man’s suffering and the sin associated with that suffering. However, Jesus wanted to break this norm that even his disciples believed in by healing this man of his blindness. According to Köstenberger, the miracle performed by Jesus was to show the world that one should not waste their time trying to figure out the root cause of suffering but to instead see those instances as opportunities for the work of God to be displayed on people (Köstenberger, 120). Nonetheless, the second learning outcome from Jesus comes from our class discussion on this miracle being a sign for the messianic age to come (P. Long). John was setting up Jesus’s narrative of the miracle to reference the account of Isaiah, where there were similarities between the language of the accounts. Isaiah 42:7 reads, “the eyes of the blind should be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped” similar to what transpired in the miracle of John 9. Jesus’s miracle was aligned with Isaiah’s account by opening up the eyes of the blind man which gave us an idea of His true identity. An identity that supported his divine nature and His authority to do the Father works on His people.

  7. Sin and sickness is, of course, commonly associated with each other, but I think this cause and effect relationship applies to other things as well. For example, even when life happens to take a turn for the worst and gives somebody bad or unfortunate circumstances, that person may assume God is “punishing them”. I have actually said something similar before, because frankly it is easy and seemingly logical to associate our circumstances with rewards and punishments. But God is not amused. Our circumstances are meant to bring us closer to God, never to distance us from Him. Kostenberger, in his analytical narrative, shows that the blind man in chapter nine of the Gospel of John, by the end of the story, actually develops faith in Jesus Christ. I would argue that perhaps, without his affliction of blindness, he would not have come to believe in Jesus Christ–for the power of God would not have been manifested in him. Christ even said it Himself: “It was not that this man sinner, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). In other words, Christ used this man’s sickness for good–to bring glory to God and, consequently, to bring salvation to the man. What a paradigm shifter! Instead of thinking God is punishing us when our circumstances or health is poor, we ought to remember that God is using these circumstances to bring us closer to Himself. More specifically, He is using all of our experiences for good, as is stated by Paul the apostle in the book of Romans.

    • I agree that we often look at our lives as a circumstance of rewards and punishments, as that is how we are trained. When we do good, we get something, and when we do bad we get something taken away. This is not the same method that God is using in our lives. Like you said sin and sickness are not a cause and effect relationship, although it can often seem this way. In the short term it may seem like God is doing harm to us, or that He is simply not taking care of us, but God has a greater plan than what we see on the surface. The blind man lived his whole life not being able to see, not being able to go into the Temple to worship because of this. This sickness affected his whole life, and I’m sure if he is anything like me he probably would have been upset that he had to live his life that way, and maybe wondered why it had to happen to him. But God had a plan all along, before he was even born. Not only was his life affected when he gained his sight, but those around him were able to see this miracle as well. There is going to be great struggles in our life, and they may drag on long enough where we are not getting to see the positive plan that God has. But we need to remember that it may not always be us that is going to be affected.

  8. The idea that someone’s sin would lead to an illness seems like a strange concept these days, but seeing the context that the Jewish people had, it is not a far stretch to jump to this conclusion. The disciples ask Jesus if it was the man himself or if it was his parents that sinned that made him blind from birth. They are assuming that a sin has taken place, and this is the result of that sin. Jesus, however, tells them that this man was not blind due to a sin that had taken place; but rather He tells them that this man was blind so that the power of who God is might be shown through him (John 9:3). Here Jesus is revolutionizing the thought process of who he is, sin, and illness. Due to the fact that there are several times in the Old Testament people were struck with illnesses when they disobeyed God did not mean that this was something that would always be the case when someone was ill. Illness is not a tell-tale sign of how someone is doing in their spiritual life. Instead Jesus uses this man’s blindness to show that He is the light of the world. There is nothing that the man or his parents did to cause this blindness. God created him this way so that he would have the opportunity to heal him, bringing him from the darkness into the light. In this He is revealing His true nature of being the light that will save to everyone who is in the dark.

  9. Things happen in the world. Some may be good and some may be bad. Originally I believe that sometimes the reason that bad things happen is because of our sin. Not particularly that we are being punished, but rather that it is the worldly consequence of our sin. God does not purposefully do bad things to us because we disobeyed, but rather sometimes He just does not stop the bad consequences that happen upon us because of His overall purpose. Through the bad and through the pain, we can grow more as a person. We feel more, we see more, and we understand more. When others are suffering, I do not see it is a fault because they sinned, but rather it is a learning point in their life whether or not to give up, or to trust more in the Lord. Proverbs 3:5 tells us this as it says, “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding,” (NIV). When we trust in God, He will lead us. Even in our suffering and pain, we must trust in Him because He has a plan for our lives. We just need to learn to be humble and learn that our suffering can sometimes open up other opportunities. But overall, what Kostenberger has to say is important and that is,”the application is evident: we may not always know the reason for someone’s-including our own- suffering, and in the end this is now what is most important,” (Kostenberger, 104). We may never understand why we suffer, but we just need to trust God and understand that He has an overall plan.

  10. I always believed that bad things happened for a reason, and there is a reason, just not one reason across the board for all sins like Judaism would tend to believe. Romans 14:12 says “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God”. God is going to deal with our sins at some point in our lives, but that doesn’t mean that He is going to give us an illness or generational curse because of what we have done. I like when Jesus says in verses 3-5 that the man was born blind so that God’s power would be on display for all to see. This is a topic that I have been thinking about a lot lately, and trying to apply to my life daily. There are always going to be bad things that are going to happen in our lives, and the lives of those we love, and sometimes they will not be able to be explained. Jesus was able to make this man who had been blind sense birth see the light, and at the same time showing He is the light of the world. Kostenberger p103 says, “Just as Jesus turns out to be the Light of the world by fulfilling the symbolism…he proves to be the Light of the world by giving sight to the blind man”. What a better way to introduce to the world that He is the Light of the world, than integrating giving a blind man sight into his message.

  11. How unfortunate would it be if our health was dependent on how our ancestors sinned? Likely the majority of us would not be in such great health. However, the Jews believed that sin and illnesses were connected, either you or someone in your family had sinned before you and that is the reason why you have ‘xyz’ disease. Jesus denies sin as being the reason why the man was born blind, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned” (John 9:3) Jesus tells them that the man was born blind so that God may someday display his power in him and heal him. Ironically, my pastor mentioned this passage during his sermon this past Sunday and talked about how he did not like the English translation of this because if read incorrectly it can be used to say things like “Oh you got cancer because God is going to do a miracle on you, or your child has this illness because God is going to use him to show his power in a miracle.” Sometimes I do wonder if we lose the real meaning of the Word in the midst of language translations and Bible translations. Did Jesus really mean that God makes people born with illnesses so that he can someday heal them to show his power or does it mean something entirely different?

  12. I really like this passage because it shows that just because someone is sick does not mean that someone in your family or even you sinned. I remember when I had a rare form of leukemia, and some people asked my parents what they do in their past to make me have cancer. they knew that that was not the reason I had cancer because everyone sins, so if that were the case everyone would be sick with cancer, and thats not the case. the truth is that bad things happen, and it’s not because God is punishing us, things just happen. I think that it is really sad that some people still live this way thinking that they have neck ache because God is mad at them.

  13. It is interesting how back then, people thought that it was a persons individual sin or the sin from the ones who raise the person, that a disease would be be given. They shifted the blame to the person suffering and/or their parents.
    I used to believe that that way of thinking only happened in bible times, but as I thought about it, I realized that we do this today, but just with different language.

    I have a friend that is sick a lot and she gets people coming up to her all the time asking her if their is anything in her life that she needs to cast out or ask for forgives for from God.
    People have also asked her to go through her generational line and ask God to forgive them.
    I have seen how this has warn her down with trying to figure out what she has done wrong.
    I know how much she loves God and has such a pure heart, but more than that, God does not give us pain or disease- the enemy does.

    Reading this passage gives me hope for her because now I see that God can use this sickness in her life for His glory!
    I let may be a long process, but God is faithful to the end!

  14. In today’s society we aren’t far off form what people believed in the days of Scripture; when a child becomes sick or a young adult often times medical researchers will look at family history or what the child has been exposed to. Most times, they blame the family health history for the child’s problem. For example if a child is around smoke, and then they are diagnosed with lung cancer the doctors assume they developed this because of second hand smoke. Just as in Scripture where they blamed the parents for sinning and that is why their child received the curse of illness. But the difference is that medication, and research have come so far we rely on that rather than the healing powers of the Lord. I believe that the Glory of God us used as a tool in this aspect of Scripture to follow the theme of John of doing the impossible by using the healing power from the Father that was given to Christ so that the man could finally see. But, it was also used to show people that Jesus is the messiah and He can do what others cannot. We learn that Jesus, believes and says that all illness is used to display God’s glory; which I firmly believe is correct, today if all fully believed in the healing powers of Christ we’d be able to see a bigger movement in the kingdom and more people coming to Christ.

  15. I have heard many times the belief that people who are born with illnesses or incur problems is a result of sin, and I wondered to what extent was this actually the case for people. I mean the Bible has given examples of generations being cursed because of the actions and sins of one person, so I thought perhaps this is more common than I think. However simply based on the fact that everyone sins, this theory does not really add up to me. I mean if sinning caused people to be sick then everyone in the world would be sick all the time. Thinking that someone must be sinning a lot solely because they are sick does not seem like a fair assumption to make, and comes off as very judgmental. I think that there are more rational reasons for sickness, and that it does not typically deal with the morality/spirituality of people. However, I do believe that sickness gives Christians an opportunity to do what they can to help those who are sick and show them love just as Jesus would.

  16. I have heard many times the belief that people who are born with illnesses or incur problems is a result of sin, and I wondered to what extent was this actually the case for people. I mean the Bible has given examples of generations being cursed because of the actions and sins of one person, so I thought perhaps this is more common than I think. However simply based on the fact that everyone sins, this theory does not really add up to me. I mean if sinning caused people to be sick then everyone in the world would be sick all the time. Thinking that someone must be sinning a lot solely because they are sick does not seem like a fair assumption to make, and comes off as very judgemental. I think that there are more rational reasons for sickness, and that it does not typically deal with the morality/spirituality of people. However, I do believe that sickness gives Christians an opportunity to do what they can to help those who are sick and show them love just as Jesus would.

  17. It was interesting to read that illness used to be considered a sign that God had judged them and punished them. There is times when God lets his wrath shine down upon people, but for the most part he shoves love and mercy. Jesus supports that very sentence in saying that he denies such claims by the disciples. It is clear to us in current time that illness and sin are separate but in Jesus’ time it was considered correlatable no matter how far in faith and praising of God the person was. Jesus used his power to heal that blind man. I believe that the man being blind was not a punishment. It was more of a test to those in the temple and a test to the man as well. The man who was blind kept a good outlook and praised God and never asked for those who wanted to throw him out to be smited. However, those in the temple excluded the blind man and treated him horribly. So, by that man being blind it showed the true colors of the temple goers and the blind man.

  18. The age-old questions of, “why do bad things happen to good people” or “how can a loving God allow such bad things to happen” are a few questions that have stumped many believers and non-believers alike. Understanding sin, the results of sin, and how God works through it is important for growing our faith while also defending it against the criticisms of others. While several Old Testament stories place sin alongside suffering, such as Miriam rebelling against Moses or Uzziah when he disobeyed the Law, it is not ultimately scriptural to equate illness or physical disabilities with sin (Long, 2014, para. 9). What is scriptural, is that God uses instances of suffering to display His work and Glory in our lives (Kostenberger, p. 105; ESVSB, p. 2041). This can be seen in the story of the blind man (John 9:3) and is explained further in Romans 8:28-29 when Paul discusses God’s omniscience and plan for those who love Him. We cannot attempt to understand the fullness of God’s plans, and we cannot place God in a box by saying all sin equates to physical punishment. Looking back on this specific miracle, we can see that God’s glory was revealed through the faith the blind man placed in Jesus. Through this miracle, God also reveals that Jesus not only claims to be the Light of the world (John 8:12) but proves it by literally showing this blind man the light of the world through sight (John 9:7)!

  19. The miracle of sight given to the man who was blind since birth was more than an act of mercy performed by Jesus Christ, the miracle was given in order to disprove the Jewish belief that those who developed illnesses was due to an underlying sin within their lives; as well as, Jesus Christ used the miracle to the advantage of displaying the works of God. In regards to the Jewish belief that those who developed illnesses was due to an underlying sin within their lives, this became one reason in which the disciples who were with Jesus questioned “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind” (John 9:2)? As a result Jesus Christ answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). But what exactly did Jesus Christ mean when he said “so that the works of God might be displayed in him?” Before Jesus Christ encountered the blind man, Jesus Christ proclaimed that “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). When Jesus Christ met the man who had been born blind He took that as an opportunity to prove that He was in fact the Light of the world by giving spiritual sight to those who were blind or in darkness. After Jesus Christ gave the blind man sight, when questioned by the Pharisees who gave him sight the blind man claimed Jesus Christ to be a prophet. But once the blind man was questioned again by the Pharisees as to who gave him sight, the blind man instead responded by saying “I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you” (John 9:27). In comparison to both responses given by the blind man it is evident that not only was he healed of his physical blindness, but also of his spiritual blindness as well in which he realizes that Jesus Christ is God Himself. In relation to Jesus Christ being the Light of the world, this specific miracle is used to prove this claim by revealing that in order for anyone to see they must be given sight by God in order to believe, or in other words to have faith. This is seen in both how the Pharisees respond and how the blind man responses. When healed from his blindness, the blind man not only receives sight but has faith to believe that Jesus Christ truly is the Son of God; whereas the Pharisees, even when faced with the evidence of the blind man himself testifying that he was given sight, they still hardened their hearts and rejected to see and have faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

  20. Healing the blind man is unique because it is done with “mud”. Jesus didn’t just speak and heal the man but got down and physically put mud on his eyes and the man washed and was healed. In this miracle I feel we see the great grace of God. Jesus clears up the misconception of physical illness and sin. By doing so I believe that we can get a glimpse and small understanding on how much grace we are given by God.

  21. It is interesting to look through this passage. While reading through John 9, it is interesting to see all the details of this miracle. One thing that surprised me from reading this blog post is the idea of prenatal sin. It surprised me because I have never heard of “prenatal sin”. It is quite intriguing to see Jesus heals the blind man with “mud”. Instructing him to “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” in verse 7 and then after he was healed. Through the many miracles that Jesus performs we ought to learn from them. I think from this miracle we can learn how to go after Jesus believing that he will keep on performing miracles today. On a more personal level, we can learn to let Jesus into our hearts and begin to heal our wounded hearts. We are not going to be perfect when Jesus heals us but we can strive to look and reflect Jesus Christ.

  22. This sign here in John chapter 9 is perhaps one of my favorite moments in all of scripture. This single chapter is one that I could study endlessly, due to its rich content into insight into the character of Jesus. There is an abundant amount of possible takeaways from this chapter. One of the most significant takeaways from this chapter has to be Jesus revealing the purpose behind why the blind man was in fact blind from birth. Whenever you’re considering any Biblical story and trying to find its true meaning, one must engross themselves into the context, Biblically and historically. The Jewish people at the time, including the pharisees, I would propose were more than right to come to a conclusion that the blind man was born blind because of his sin. We must ask ourselves: what other source of Godly truth did these religious leaders have to base their beliefs on? Ironically enough, the ultimate source of life was staring them right in the face: Jesus. But it’s interesting to me to notice how Jesus intentionally with careful timing reveals who He is, not only to the man born blind, but to the pharisees and religious leaders of the time. Jesus never comes into any situation “guns a’blazing” He reveals Himself humbly, with intentionally and purpose. God revealed to the man born blind that there was a great purpose behind him being born that way- it was so that God’s glory could be revealed. When we as the readers recall the current reality of our lives, we must always live with a spirit of expectancy, knowing that God could use us a vessel to reveal His glory.

  23. Using illnesses for the glory of God is a very interesting idea. This reminds me of 1 Corinthians 10:31. No matter what we do or what is going on in our lives, we can give God the glory. A lot of times, when either we or someone else is sick and you are caring for them, giving God glory is not the first thing that crosses our minds. However, like in all circumstances, we have an opportunity to give God the glory even through sicknesses, as we can see here. Another section of Scripture that comes to mind is James 1:2-3, which talks about being joyful through the trials. Though it talks about the testing of your faith, which is still applicable in this case, I think that this also can teach us that even when we go through trials, like being sick, we should still be joyful because we have a new opportunity in which we can give the glory to God. You can give God the glory in so many other ways, but this is just one very different and unique way that you can do it also. Sickness does not have to be looked at as punishment from God like some people believe.

  24. Reading this blog post brought back memories from my parents saying when you obey you’ll always get rewarded for being obedient. When you disobey there are always consequences that you will not like. I don’t think that sin and illness is connected but it is believed that it is. In this live that we live there are people that will have something about them that is unfortunate and is out of their control. I don’t think that being born blind, or developing cancer are consequences to when Sin is committed in our lives. I am a firm believer that we will pay for our actions during judgement day. I am a firm believer that whatever we do that is a good deed out of the kindness of our hearts I believe that we will be blessed and rewarded. I do not believe the cause of illness is sin.

  25. To be able to understand where Jews and Pharisees came from when it came to the context of illness being related to sin, it brings a new light to how I understand this passage in John 9 of Jesus healing the blind man. As Long mentioned, illness and sickness were strongly related to one another in the Jewish culture (Kostenberger, p.2041), as examples of God punishing people with sickness can be found in Old Testament passages about Miriam and Uzziah. It would make some sense that the Jews related sickness as a consequence of sin, yet Jesus presents a new narrative in relation to sickness and illness. Long states that, “Jesus says the man was born blind so that God’s power might be displayed in him” (para 5). This is an extremely huge point to the narrative of Jesus healing the blind man, in that, God had a plan for Jesus to display his power through the man being blind and then healed. Jesus’ “debunking” of the belief that sin was the cause to an illness was controversial, but needed to be said and shown through his miracle so that all could see that only he saves and is the true Messiah. Long states, “It is important to pause and reflect on what Jesus says about sin and sickness. Some Christians make an unfortunate assumption that sin leads to illness, so that if you are sick in any way there is unconfessed sin in your life, or sickness is a sign of a deficient spiritual life” (para 8). There is a lesson to learn here from Jesus’ teaching. Firstly, Jesus uses people’s ailments and illnesses to bring glory to God; he does not cause them. Secondly, only Jesus saves and he is the spiritual healing the world needs.

  26. The association of sin with pain, sickness, and death is a longstanding one, and unfortunately despite the teachings of Jesus is an idea that still lingers today. I remember a high school Bible class where the instructor told on of my classmates that the reason that she struggled with asthma was likely because she didn’t wear a head covering. And every communion growing up, my pastor was certain to teach that immanent death awaited those who took the elements with a single unconfessed sin. While it is obvious that sin is terrible and can have terrible physical consequences, not all suffering is the result of the sin of the one who suffers. Sometimes suffering happens all on its own. I agree with Kostenberger that looking for a root spiritual cause for all suffering doesnt do any good to the one suffering and is ultimately a waste of time (Kostenberger, p.104). This wasted time could be much better spent on giving compassion to those that suffer.

  27. When listening to the lecture in class, and reading this blog post on the association between sin and suffering, I have found it significantly interesting how important this correlation was to the Jews. These people were under the impression that Jesus judged sin with sickness. The three examples given at the beginning of this blog post (Miriam’s rebellion against Moses, king Uzziah violating the law, and Hezekiah’s illness) help to support this idea of sickness and suffering being the result of one’s sin. Thinking about it, it makes sense that these two things (sin and sickness) correlated for the Jews. They thought that God was punishing these individuals for the sins they committed. When Jesus healed the blind man, many people questioned Jesus of his lineage or causation to this sickness (John 9:1-2). Jesus responded with, “it was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3). The blindness of this man was to bring acknowledgement God’s sovereignty, and the fact that Jesus could heal spiritual blindness. In reference to the questions at the end of this blog post, the revelation of God’s glory is present in the declaration of Jesus making the distinction between sin and suffering. Specifically, when Jesus heals this man in the most intriguing of ways, God is still glorified because the man is healed, people witness this miracle, and a message of healing spiritual blindness has been communicated.

  28. Sin and sickness are often something that people think go together just like for this instance the people thought that this man was blind because he must have sinned. But as Professor Long states in the blog Jesus says the man was born blind so that God’s power might be displayed in him (John 9:3-5). The idea that sin is associated with sickness is not biblical, I think that it’s very interesting that it says that sickness can be used to show God’s glory I’ve honestly never really even thought about how that is true and I think it’s really cool. Another thing that I think is really interesting is that Kostenberger it talks about how Jesus is the light of the world and how he eliminates the darkness from the blind man by healing him. This story of Jesus healing the blind man is a great example of how divine He is, I think some things that we learn from Jesus in this miracle is that He truly is the light of the world and he gives hope to people. It shows how powerful He is that He can just heal a blind man just like that.

  29. The sins of the parents are passed on to the children. It was viewed that the man was punished for sin and there must be a reason behind his being born blind whether it was his own wrongdoing or his parents. Sinning while in the womb seems like a highly unlikely probability. Jesus shoots this theory down right away that sin and illness or disablement are a direct relation to sinful nature. While examples of illness hitting people to stop their evil ways occur though out the Bible it is not an absolute. Job underwent great suffering and God defended him and called him blameless. When Jesus gives the reason that the man was blind to be a witness to the power of God through Jesus and be a strong believer. When the man is questioned if he believes that Jesus is of God he says yes and is immediately excommunicated from the church. Illness healed as testament to God’s glory throughout the signs completed through the book all of John all have one thing in common, they go against what is expected of Jesus. He heals those that are labeled as unclean and helps those that otherwise would not be allowed to worship in the temple. He makes a way for all and takes away the barriers to make salvation attainable for all that wish to obtain it.

  30. Although there are a couple examples in the Bible connecting sin with illness, Jesus makes it clear that there is not a universal principle of a relationship between sin and sickness (Long, 2014). For example, just because someone has a physical or mental illness, it does not mean that they do not have a strong enough relationship with God, or that it is a result of sin. Jesus maintains that infirmities are not a punishment; rather, they are an opportunity to display the glory of God, as illustrated by Jesus healing the blind man. When we experience pain and suffering in this world, God can ultimately use the situation to bring us and other people closer to Him. This reminds me of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, which states, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God,” (ESV). God can use our illnesses or sufferings that we experience to help us become stronger in our faith and provide hope to other people experiencing similar situations or infirmities, ultimately bringing glory to Him. Jesus’s miracle of healing the blind man showed the purpose of the man’s illness was to display God’s glory, just as God can use situations of suffering in our lives to lead us and those around us closer to Him and bring Him glory.

  31. This miracle has always been really fascinating to me. Most of the other miracles in the gospels involve Jesus doing things without an explanation. He heals some people without even being present (see Luke 7). This sign was different. Jesus spat on the ground and made mud to put on the blind man’s eyes and He told him that after he washed in the Pool of Siloam he would see again. This is interesting to me. Why did Jesus choose to do it in this way?

    It was also interesting that Jews would correlate sin and sickness. Like P Long said, Job is a great example of this. Jesus however said that the reason this man was blind was so He could show His power through healing him. I believe the moral of the story it that God works in many ways that we do not understand. We do not need to focus on why God does what He does, but rather, how are we living intentional lives for Him.

  32. It is interesting that Judaism connects sin with illness as you would think others would have it way worse when they may have ‘sinned’ more than a blind man. Pharisees even interrogated the parents of the blind man to see if they had sinned that caused the blindness. In the Hebrew Bible, there is belief that sin can pass diseases to generations and even to an unborn child (Long, 96). There was even doubt that the man was even blind to begin with, but the family and neighbors can attest that he was indeed blind since birth (John 9:8-12). Therefore, Jesus responds to this by denying the “universal principle” that sin and afflictions are connected (Long, 96).

    Considering Job who was faithful to God his entire life but then was tested with all the terrible things, it was for the glory of God. Same thing with Paul then God put a thorn in him so that he may stay humble in his teachings (2 Corinthians 12:7). In times of pain, instead of finding the root cause of it, it is more important to maintain a humble, repentant attitude “to see instances of suffering of God to be displayed in people’s (or our) lives” (Köstenberger, 120).

  33. The idea that sin and sickness is correlated is very interesting. Obviously, sometimes this had happen, especially in the old testament, as mentioned at the beginning of the post. While it wasn’t something I had really ever thought about, it still is interesting. Even taking it a step further was the idea that some people were punished with disabilities because they had supposedly sinned in the womb, which doesn’t really make sense to me. This is why many people believed that the man Jesus healed was blind. As mentioned, Jesus tells that there isn’t any actual correlation, in fact He says that the reason this man was blind was simply to let Jesus show his divine power, so that Jesus could heal Him eventually. This one thing truly shows the power God has, as this man was likely born right around the same time Jesus was born, long before many knew of who Jesus was. It really helps to show the way that God knows everything that was, is, and is to come. We also learn a little bit more about Jesus, as He teaches us that that sickness and sin aren’t partners. Even still often the idea that God punishes us with sickness or disability still finds its way into modern Christianity. It is something that we see frequently when preaching the prosperity gospel. Many people are informed that they are sick, or poor because of something they had done, or that their faith isn’t strong enough. Clearly Jesus preaches against this.

  34. While I agree to a point with Kostenberger in that time spent looking for a root or an event that caused suffering could be better spent elsewhere, we ought to be careful not to swing too far the other way. As the author of Hebrews stated in chapter 12, verse 6: “The Lord disciplines the one He loves”. I can think back on times in my life where something bad happened to me and God immediately brought and instance of sin to my mind. It was His way of making sure I understood the severity of even the secret sins that no one else knew about. Now, I am certain that if God punishes His children for their sin he will do what every good Father does and immediately reveal to them what the punishment was for.
    There is also the option that God may bring about suffering to teach us something that we will need to know for the work He has prepared for us in the future. In those cases, it would be foolish for us to intentionally avoid seeking out the reason for our suffering since that would be hardening our hearts to His teaching. Pointing out the possible ways in which God is preparing someone for a future purpose through a fellow believer’s suffering may also prove to be a comfort to them depending on the circumstances.
    So yes, while obsessing over reasons and purposes for suffering may be foolish, I think it can be equally foolish to avoid meditating on what God may want us to learn from a period of suffering. Humility and repentance can only come when we recognize the areas in which we need greater humility and what we ought to be repentant of (and to).

  35. There is a traditional view that sees sickness as a punishment for sin. There are examples of this throughout the Old Testament. In the book of Job his friends were convinced that Job had committed a sin that he needed to confess because of all the things that happened to him including sickness. However, Long suggests that the story about the blind man In John 9 can be connected to a new revelation about sickness, that it reveals God’s glory. In John 9:3 Jesus says, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” This verse shows that God may allow His beloved creation to go through sickness and other hard things in order for them to understand and experience God’s mercy and power (ESVSB, 2041). The more someone is in need of something the more grateful and understanding they are going to be of that something. When the man who was blind from birth was healed by Jesus, He was able to have a better comprehension of who Jesus was in all His glory.

Leave a Reply