A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, Why There Are Disasters, Tragedies and Pain in the World John 9:1-7, 13-17, 34-39If God is good, why is there so much disaster, tragedies and pain in the world?  Last week a Japanese governor said that what happened there was divine punishment.  He later apologized, but it’s still what a lot of people think.  What do you think?  Since God is good, victims of tragedies must have done something to deserve it, right?  The oldest book in the world is the Book of Job.  In it God emphatically tells us not to conclude when something bad happens, that He’s punishing some specific sin.  However, if we’re not to think of disasters, tragedies and life-long pain as punishments, why is God allowing them?  Jesus tells us in our text, 1.  God is at work so that we can see His love.  2.  God is at work so that we can share His love.   Our text reads, “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?"  The people in Jesus’ day disciples couldn’t get it out of their heads that suffering was punishment for sin.  However in this case it didn’t make sense.  If it the parents had done something really bad, why would God be taking it out on their son?  That didn’t seem fair, and God is just.  On the other hand if this man’s blindness was because of his own sin, what terrible thoughts could he have had inside his mother’s womb to deserve that?     We read on in our text, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.  As long as it is day, we must do the work 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."  Jesus’ work is to be the light of the world and to give people spiritual sight so that they can see how much He loves them.  However try to imagine was life had been like for this blind man.  In those days they didn’t Social Security/Disability.  All he could do was beg; and without being able to take care of himself, how could he ever hope to get married and take care of a family?  Or maybe at times he comforted himself that others had it worse.  But if you’re suffering and others are suffering even more, where’s the love of God in that?   Actually our Old Testament reading gives us a clue.  When a woman goes into labor, it’s not the funest part of her pregnancy, in fact she can’t wait till it’s over.  That’s how God feels about our suffering.  He can’t wait until it’s over.  Since God feels that way, there has to be a terribly important reason why He allows it to continue.  And there is.  We read on in our text, “Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes.  "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.”  This is really weird.  If we have an eye problem, rubbing them with dirt and someone else’s spit is about the last thing we would do.  But what Jesus was teaching through this man’s blindness is to depend on Him, and also His ways will result in blessings, even though that may seem impossible to us However, sometimes it takes a long time to learn that, and maybe that’s part of the reason God let’s things drag on for a long time.  Yet all the while God’s heart is aching over what His children are going through.  Also, that others aren’t suffering as much, and maybe their lives are even easy, isn’t because they’re more deserving than those who are suffering.  God delights in giving good things to ALL.   But more than anything, He wants to give heaven to all.  And so He wants to open everyone’s eyes to see their sins and what He has done to save them.   What about us, are our eyes open?  Do we long for forgiveness the way we long for some problem we’re going through to be over?  If so, isn’t that another sin – the sin of not fearing, loving and trusting in God above all things?  It certainly is another sin, and yet we can’t pretend that sins aren’t in us, anymore than a blind man can pretend to see.  Yet God loves us, and He won our forgiveness for us in a way that no one would ever think could work.  The Almighty God became a flesh and blood human being.  The Almighty God provided the righteousness we needed to go to heaven by loving perfectly in our place.  Yes, He loved even the vile and the self-righteous.  Then the Almighty God took our guilt unto His Own conscience as though He had committed our sins and let His body be nailed to cross.  And finally remember what Jesus said from the cross, “It is finished.”  When one thing after another is going wrong in our life, and it feels like God is punishing us or simply doesn’t care, don’t believe those lies of Satan.  But see God’s love for you on the cross, and believe your punishment is over, and at the right time, so will those things you’re struggling with.      Again we read, “"Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.”  The Pool of Siloam wasn’t like today’s swimming pools.  It was a reservoir with underground springs, and the water would slowly drain into the surrounding fields.  Here flocks of sheep could safely water and graze, while their owners went into Jerusalem.  And now think Psalm 23.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.”  But why do you suppose this pool was called “Siloam” or “Sent”?  Zechariah the Prophet answers that, “On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.”  When Jesus had this blind man wash in the pool called “Sent”, He was identifying Himself as the Savior God had promised to send.      However, all this made the blind man’s neighbors very upset.  In the verses before our text, the Pharisees had declared Jesus to be demon possessed.  Also, the Sanhedrin passed a resolution that if anyone admitted to being a follower of Jesus, he would be excommunicated.  That meant he would not be allowed to enter the temple upon pain of death, and when he did die, he could not go to heaven.  Anyway this man’s healing got everyone’s attention, and they all asked him how it happened.  When he told them that a man he had never seen before (no pun intended) made mud, and put it on his eyes, and then told him to wash in the pool called “Sent”, they saw red.  In their minds making mud on the Sabbath was a sin.  Healing on the Sabbath was a sin.  And if they found out it was Jesus who did this, that would be worse yet.  So, they dragged this man to the Sanhedrin, and here’s what happened.    We read, “Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided.”  Do you understand the dilemma the Pharisees were in?  They couldn’t deny the miracle, yet they couldn’t accept Jesus had performed it, because that would mean God had sent Him, which would mean everything He said was true, including that they needed forgiveness for their sins, which they didn’t want to admit that they had.    We read on, “Finally they turned again to the blind man, "What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened."   The man replied, "He is a prophet."  To this they replied, "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!" And they threw him out.” According to Pharisees, this man could not enter heaven.  His sin?  Pointing out to them what they were refusing to see.  And so this man, first by his physical blindness and then by being healed, was able to confront the self-righteous with their spiritual blindness.  That’s what God wanted.  His purpose was that they would finally accept that they were spiritually blind, and call out to Him, and He would give them the eyes of faith.   We read, “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"  "Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him."  Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you."  Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.  Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."”  Most of the Pharisees insisted on remaining spiritually blind, but at least this blind man was now saved.  I suspect He would say his years of blindness were well worth being able to see Jesus face to face.  However, not only was he saved, but because of his experience, he became a very capable witness for Jesus.  As a result, on Judgment Day these Pharisees will have no excuses for not seeing Jesus as their Savior.  Also, how many others would see Him as their Savior, who otherwise wouldn’t have, had this man not been blind all those years.  Again I suspect the blind man would say those years of suffering were well worth it.    But perhaps some of you are thinking, “That’s fine for him to feel that way, but count me out.  I still don’t want to be the one God chooses for suffering.”  It’s okay to feel that way.  Jesus Himself teaches us to pray, “Deliver us from evil”, and if there are any troubles we can avoid, avoid them!  On the other hand, consider what the recent earthquakes and fighting in throughout the Middle East mean.  They are reminders that Jesus’ return is getting closer.  When He comes, it will be the night of Judgment.  Whoever is rejecting Jesus’ righteousness and forgiveness then will never see heaven, but only the fires of hell.  But God doesn’t want that.  And so He has given us a way to reach others that can seem just as unlikely to work as using dirt and spit to cure physical blindness.  His way is that WE keep living the Gospel and sharing it, even if others hate us for it.  God wants this so much for us, because being His witnesses is the greatest blessing next to faith itself.  For there is joy in it here, and even richer joys waiting for us in heaven.  So, then, in all things, let’s pray, “Thy will be done.”  And just as a mom in labor can’t wait for her baby, and just as God couldn’t wait to rescue us from sin, and today He can’t wait to rescue us from our suffering, so He can’t wait to make us His lights here and in eternity.  What more can we say to that than “Amen, Lord!”  Amen.       

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