1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Now we come to the sixth sign and third healing in the gospel of John, the healing of a man blind from birth. This episode follows the “I am the light of the world” discourse (Jn 8:12). This sign gives evidence that Jesus was indeed the light of the world. Those who embrace the light will come to salvation (vv. 6-38) and those who don’t will move into judgment (vv. 39-41).
There was a lapse of time between chapters 8 and 9. The confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders continues in this chapter.
Now as Jesus passed by,
As Jesus walked in the city of Jerusalem, He happened upon a man who was hopelessly born blind. The man’s station in life was to beg. The best place to beg was situated next to the temple. He was a well-known beggar.
He saw a man who was blind from birth.
Blindness was common in the first century. “From birth” indicates the level of the man’s hopelessness and the extent of the miracle. No human methodology could have healed this man. It was clearly a miracle.
Jesus specifically chose a man born blind from birth. Congenital blindness was a more difficult physical problem than a person’s loss of sight later in life. This man had never seen the light of day, had never seen his parents or the world around him.
And His disciples asked Him, saying,
The last reference to the disciples was 7:3 but now they reappeared on the scene.
The disciples saw a theological problem with this man’s state. To them, it was a doctrinal dilemma. They wanted to find fault in the blind man’s situation. In their minds someone must have sinned to cause his condition; otherwise, God would not be just or good.
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
The disciples saw two alternatives for the reason for blindness. The question here involves why people suffer. The disciples offered two options—either the man sinned or his parents sinned. They wanted to assign blame for this man’s suffering. They did not know how to square this situation with God’s justice.
We must distinguish between God’s punishment and His chastisement.
Some Christians today hold to doctrines similar to the Hindu doctrine of karma; that is, the soul must be punished for past actions. This simplistic correspondence between sin and suffering correlates repentance or lack of it with how God treats us.
There is truth to the idea that God sometimes makes this correlation. However, the issue in this case was not punishment but chastisement. Chastisement is not about making the believer pay a penalty for sin but about development of character.
Curious speculation about others is idle speculation. To make a crime out of a fault is careless gossip. Christianity values the worth of the individual.
There are many reasons for suffering. Most are found in 1 Peter. Here are a few reasons why Christians suffer:
Some suffering is corrective (He 12:6f).
Some suffering is constructive—to form the character of Christ in our lives.
Some suffering is merely that the grace of God might be revealed in the life of the Christian (cf. Job).
Some suffering is due to specific sin (1 Co 11:29-32). This is discipline for the Christian, not punishment.
Hi Grant is there anything in the Bible that addresses mental illness such as Bipolar disorder or depression?
Alot of people in the church look at you as a leper when it comes to the Christian and mental illness. Some think that you must not truly be saved and others just think that medication is of the devil ( i do agree that we are an overly perscribed society and that medication should be the last resort).
I have experienced these attitudes and am wondering if the Bible addresses mental illness in the Christian.
Also could mental illness be from an uncofessed sin and if so then how would you know the difference ? Thank you
I don’t think that the Bible directly addresses such mental illnesses such as bipolar. It does speak to how to build a strong mind. Note these two studies on building a mature mind:
and in more depth:
Here is a solid resource on good books that pertain to mental illnesses:
It is possible that mental illness could result from unconfessed sin but not necessary so. There have been many great Christian leaders who suffered from depression among other mental issues and God has used them in a mighty way. Biblical characters such as David were depressed: “Why are you cast down oh my soul?” If a person has examined and confessed their known sin, they need to move on and not drag out the skeletons in the closet (Php 3:13, 14). Harking back to our guilt and not accepting God’s grace is a problem of lack of trust in God’s promises. It is important to claim the promise with gratitude and move on. It can be dangerous to constantly drag the skeletons out of the closet to reinforce our guilt. Guilt is a way we punish ourselves if used incorrectly (rather than accepting Christ’s suffering for our sin), especially subjective guilt as over against objective guilt. Subjective guilt can be very destructive; this kind of guilt punishes self often unconsciously. Objective guilt acknowledges the sin and accepts Christ’s payment for it and does not look back. The issue in 1 John 1:9 is that not only does God forgive us the sin we confess but the sin we forgot. We need to accept by faith both kinds of forgiveness.
It may simply be that a person has a chemical problem issue such as lack of serotonin and not a sin issue at all. See this article:
There is a real problem with people who claim that depression is sin or that a person cannot be truly saved if they have mental problems. They have a defective view of the Bible.
Scott, note this article: