John 9:3 (ESV) … Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
The disciples traveling with Jesus were perplexed about the cause of the blindness of the man.
• The expressing of the perplexity. “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). The disciples voiced their perplexity to Jesus.
First, the perpetuity of the perplexity. The question asked by the disciples voiced a problem that has perplexed man from the beginning of time. Why do people suffer? On the surface there often seems to be a lot of inequity in suffering.
Second, the possibilities in the perplexity. “This man, or his parents” (John 9:2). The disciples limited the possibilities. But the principle involved was current thinking. It was thought that “wherever there was a more than an ordinary sufferer, there was also a more than an ordinary sinner” (Trench). The book of Job negates that thinking, of course. Parents can indeed by their sin injure a child with birth defects. The idea that the blind man was responsible himself was from a tradition based on Jacob and Esau struggling in the womb of Rebekah (Genesis 25:22).
Third, the pitilessness in the perplexity. The disciples did not beseech Christ to heal the blind man. They saw the blind man from a curiosity standpoint. To them he was the object of discussion not of deliverance.
• The explanation for the perplexity. Asking Christ about perplexities is the best person to ask, for Christ gives the best answers.
First, the essence of the explanation. “Neither … but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). The essence of the explanation was that many things happen in life simply to provide glory for God. Many have suffered for this reason. As an example Lazarus (John 11:4) and Peter (John 21:19). We cannot complain if we suffer that God may be glorified, for Christ suffered more than anyone has suffered, in order that sinners might be saved and glorified in heaven.
Second, the extent of the explanation. Christ’s explanation was limited to just this case. Some suffering was indeed a result of sin in the sufferer (John 5:14).
Third, the encouragement from the explanation. Sometimes the saints of God suffer much and do not know why. Such can take encouragement from this answer of Christ. The suffering is not without purpose, but it has a high and holy purpose, namely, to glorify God.