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?” (John 9:1-2 NIV)
We see tragic things every day. They come to us through the TV, from the web, and they end up at our doorsteps sometimes. We live in the midst of a hurting world.
I hate suffering. I avoid personally suffering as much as possible and my heart breaks at the suffering of others. Suffering hits us in that deep spot, that tender spot, that vulnerable spot. When we encounter suffering we question the meaning and the purpose and the origin of the pain.
There is a story of suffering in John 9. We are going to look at this on Sunday. It’s the story of a man born blind. It’s a story that raises a lot of questions that begin with Why?
The disciples wanted to know who was to blame for this man’s blindness; the man himself or his parents. Since the man was born blind, it would be hard to imagine what he could have done to bring this suffering on himself. It would not be such a stretch of the imagination to place the blame on the parents. They could have been horrible, terrible, no good, very bad people. But I bet they weren’t. I bet they where two people just as affected by their son’s suffering as their son was. The suffering is spread pretty thick in this story.
Bad things happen to good people. This compounds and magnifies the pain in the tragedies we see.
A drunk driver kills a teenager in a head on collision, but the drunk walks away unscathed. A woman, who never smoked, is diagnosed with lung cancer. An elderly couple is murdered during a home invasion. We could go on and on.
The scary thing here is that NONE of us are exempt from tragedy. I wish I could tell people from the pulpit Sunday by Sunday that when they follow Christ their kids will all be healthy, their work will be profitable, their bills will be paid, and they will live comfortably till they have reached the age of four score and a few more. But I can’t. I make it a habit of not offering more than Jesus offered. This is what Jesus said we have to look forward to:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
In the midst of trouble, and chaos, and suffering, he offers us Peace. For our anxious minds: Peace. For our burdened souls: Peace. For our weary bodies: Peace. For our broken hearts: Peace.
The suffering we encounter and the pain we endure are horrible reminders that this world is not our home. We are aliens. We are are strangers here. We are pilgrims on a journey.
We can’t make sense of suffering. But when we see suffering we can offer our presence. Jesus left us with community.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:26 NIV)
When you see the man born blind, or you meet his parents at the store, support them. Share their suffering by offering your heart to them.
Because we feel helpless in the face of suffering, Jesus assures us that he has “Overcome The World.”
Where I’m from, words are cheap. I want action. Show me, don’t just tell me.
That’s exactly what Jesus does.
He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” (Mark 9:31 NIV)
He suffered to put an end to suffering. The days of pain and terror and torture and death are numbered.
We all suffer. We are all are going to die. But only One has ever said I’m going to suffer and die and then rise. And he did. Those who looked for him after his death were both disappointed and amazed. At His resurrection, a new era was announced.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.” (Mark 16:6 NIV)
In Christ you don’t have to suffer alone. Nor do you have to suffer forever.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4 NIV)
There is more to be shared about this in tomorrow’s sermon. But in the meantime, share your suffering with me, and I’ll share my prayers with you.