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suffering

As he [Jesus Christ, Jerusalem, AD 30] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinner, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day.…..”    [Jesus gave the man sight]  John 9: 1-3

 

There you have it. This dear, suffering, born-blind man was not blind because he had sinned. And he was not blind because his parents had sinned.

 

Why, then, was he blind? Why, then, had he been blind from birth?

 

There are many folk in Jersey this very day who are asking, within themselves and sometimes of others, why am I like this? Why this suffering for me?

 

In the particular case above, the reason is given: he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

 

Fine and dandy, but the question for many Jersey folk remains. This man may have suffered so that the works of God might be displayed in him – and they were displayed in him because he was given sight by Jesus Christ – but what about me? I can see no end to my suffering in this life, made all the more painful when I see the success and beauty all around me in this Island.

 

This incident in Jerusalem, however, does not end with this man receiving his sight. Maybe one should read it to the end to see if the gift of sightful eyes was, in fact, the “works of God .... displayed in him” – or whether some further “works of God” took place.

 

Briefly, what happened next was this. A great controversy arose –

·         His neighbours can’t believe it and begin to argue whether this is the same man. But he said, “I am the man.”

·         The national leaders, religious men, interview him to disprove it and then interrogate his parents as to how he now could see. They, to protect themselves from this onslaught, say, “He’s of age; ask him.”

·         The leaders re-call the born-blind man and demand a statement that Jesus is a sinner. But he says, “Whether he is a sinner I don’t know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see”.

·         They demand to know exactly how Jesus has done it and the born-blind man says, “I have told you already, and you would not listen .... Do you want to become his disciples?”

·         They claim to know God but say, “We don’t know where this man comes from.”

·         The born-blind man says, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. .... If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

·         They have the last word, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they throw him out.

·         Jesus finds him and asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

·         The man says, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”

·         Jesus says, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”

·         The born-blind man says, “Lord, I believe” and worships Jesus.

 

This man was born-blind so that he would twice see Jesus. He would see him physically, the Son of Man who loved him. And he would see him as “Lord” (the word he used was the title of Almighty God in all the ancient Jewish writings) and would worship him.

 

That outcome was why he suffered – he suffered so thattwo “works of God might be displayed in him”: physical sight and everlasting sight of Jesus Christ.                                  
 
Is that why we are all suffering?             
 
‘It is cruel and false to brand every sufferer a sinner: much suffering and sickness is due to the sin either of other persons or of society in general’ (Lambeth Conference Report 1958)
 
‘God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is his megaphone to rouse a dead world.’ (C S Lewis, Writer and Scholar, 1898 - 1963)
 
Richard Syvret

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