From One Cracked Pot to Another

John 9

In the early 1980s a book was published that became and remained a New York Times bestseller for many months.[i]  It was written by a conservative Jewish rabbi and was titled, “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People”.  I bought the book back when it was first released and delved right in to find out why bad things did indeed happen to good people.  Obviously, I wasn’t alone.  Millions of the book have been sold since its release.

It’s a question that Christians and non-Christians both ask.  It’s a question that even if we don’t verbalize it, we think it.  Why do bad things happen to good people and likewise, why do good things happen to bad people? 

Our scripture today gives us some insight.

John 9:1 GNT “As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. 2 His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents’ sin?”

Jesus is walking along with His disciples by His side and He notices the blind man. 

Verse 8 of chapter 9 of John tells us this unnamed man is a beggar.  Jesus notices him.  The beggar is blind so obviously, he doesn’t notice Jesus.  The disciples take notice of the beggar as well, but they “did not look at the man as an object of mercy but rather as a subject for a theological discussion.”[ii]

It was a common belief that anything that we may consider a disability was actually the result or consequence of someone’s sinfulness.  The sinfulness might have been on the part of a parent as discussed in Exodus 20:5 NASB “You shall not worship them nor serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, inflicting the punishment of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me”. Also, some Jews believed that an infant in the womb could be sinful.  This belief stemmed from the wrestling or struggle that occurred between Jacob and Esau in the womb. (Genesis 25)

The fact that the disciples questioned Jesus about the sinfulness that caused this man’s blindness is not unreasonable for the times.  This was a common belief then and even now, there’s a strand of thought that the misfortunes that come upon people might just be consequences of sinfulness or straying away from God. 

               -How often do we see a homeless person on the street and assume they’re there because they’re an alcoholic or a drug addict?

               -Or do we see a pregnant teenager and label her promiscuous?

The disciples did what we are sometimes guilty of.  Fixating on what we perceive as someone’s sinfulness or the cause of someone’s misfortune and not focusing on helping them.  Jesus sees it differently.  John 9:3 GNT “Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents’ sins. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him.”

No one is immune from suffering or hardships.  There is no amount of money, recognition, education, social status, or connection that protects anyone from tough times. There is a quote, “Speak to the suffering and you will never lack an audience.  There is a broken heart in every crowd.” (Joseph Parker)  I think it’s fair to assume that no one enjoys suffering.  No one looks forward to going through a tough time, especially when we deem it unnecessary or unfair.  Rabbi Harold Kushner who wrote When Bad Things Happen to Good People wrote the book after his son passed away from an illness.  He said this, “We could bear nearly any pain or disappointment if we thought there was a reason behind it, a purpose to it.”  And I’d have to say, I think he’s 100% correct in that.  When we encounter the valleys of life, it’s a bit easier to endure the suffering when we can see the purpose of it. 

However, we aren’t always permitted to see the purpose.  I recently had a conversation with a woman that I had never met before although I knew part of her family’s story and a specific tragedy that had taken place.  As we chatted and she shared more details of the tragedy and other events that had added salt to her wounds, I could tell that she was still struggling with what she perceived as unfairness.  I felt compelled to share with her the impact that her family’s tragedy had on people that didn’t know her or her family but knew their story.  I shared with her that her family’s tragedy was a wake-up call for many others.  She looked at me and said, “I never realized anything good could have come from it.”

I wonder about Job.  If while he going through the most unimaginable sorrows and losses, did he ever think that his story would impact people thousands of years later?  Did he think that his words said in weariness would resonate with us today?

Job 7:19 NIV “Will you never look away from me,

    or let me alone even for an instant?

20 If I have sinned, what have I done to you,

    you who see everything we do?

Why have you made me your target?

    Have I become a burden to you?”

Can you relate?  There have been times in my life when I could relate to that.  Times in which I felt as if I was literally drowning in sorrow, wondering if God was listening or if He even cared.  Periods in which I felt like I was a target for tragedy or a magnet for troubles.  Questioning why.

This story of the blind man is another interaction with Jesus that took place not only for the blind man’s benefit but for others as well.

This man has been blind from birth.  We don’t know his age.  We only know that he’s never been able to see and he has been forced to beg to support himself.  So, he is just there, possibly asking for handouts, and scraps of food when he hears approaching footsteps.  Perhaps he holds out his hands expecting to receive temporary satisfaction.  Instead, he feels a thick paste being rubbed on his eyes.  Jesus didn’t ask him if he wanted to be healed. In fact, no words were exchanged until Jesus tells the man to go wash his face in the pool.  The man does as he’s told and is shocked to discover that this simple act gave him the gift of sight. 

He then finds himself the talk of the town.

John 9:8 GNT “His neighbors, then, and the people who had seen him begging before this, asked, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”

Some said, “He is the one,” but others said, “No he isn’t; he just looks like him.”

So the man himself said, “I am the man.”

10 “How is it that you can now see?” they asked him.

11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made some mud, rubbed it on my eyes, and told me to go to Siloam and wash my face. So I went, and as soon as I washed, I could see.”

The blindness or disability that this man had lived with for his entire life provided an opportunity for Jesus to demonstrate His ability.  Whether the man had been blind for possibly 20 or 30 years or more, it took one brief encounter with Jesus to change his entire life.  He didn’t question Jesus, he didn’t delay in following instructions and as a result of his obedience, he was healed. 

If we find ourselves trusting God in our struggles, God will use those times to not only bless us but to bless other people as well.  When we demonstrate our faith in God when He is demonstrating His sovereignty in our circumstances, we are bearing witness to others of His goodness and His love.

Suffering can bloom into goodness from God and make beauty from ashes.  One of my favorite verses is when Joseph says to his brothers.  Genesis 50:20 ESV “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”  This he said after he had been abandoned by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of a crime, imprisoned, and forgotten.  But through it all, Scripture reminds us, “The Lord was with Joseph.”

Suffering enables us to help others who go through times of misery.  2 Chronicles 1:4 ICB “He comforts us every time we have trouble, so that we can comfort others when they have trouble. We can comfort them with the same comfort that God gives us.” Have you ever been going through something and had someone say to you, “I know how you feel” or “I know what you’re going through”?  And you know for a fact that they don’t have a clue.  The sentiment is there, but there is no validity to what they’re saying.  But when you have someone that has carried a similar load or traveled the same path as you and can offer encouragement of what God has done for them in that kindred circumstance, it means something to you.  It can reinforce your faith in God.  It can renew your hope and strengthen your trust in His love for you.

Woman comforting desperate hopeless friend, view from above

“… the difficult times in our lives sometimes provide us with special opportunities to bless other people. …  When we bear our difficulties with faith, the people around us find themselves blessed by our faith — blessed by our courage — blessed by our grace under pressure.  Our terrible times can be fertile ground from which blessings spring.”

dick donovan

The blind man, who had always been at the mercy of others, now found himself the recipient of the greatest mercy of all and he didn’t even ask for it!  The people around him had questions.  They didn’t understand how he could now see.  They couldn’t comprehend that a radical change had taken place.

John 9:10 GNT “How is it that you can now see?” they asked him.

11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made some mud, rubbed it on my eyes, and told me to go to Siloam and wash my face. So I went, and as soon as I washed, I could see.”

12 “Where is he?” they asked.

“I don’t know,” he answered.

13 Then they took to the Pharisees the man who had been blind.”

You know the Pharisees were lurking around, just waiting for another opportunity to build their case against Jesus.

John 9:14 GNT “The day that Jesus made the mud and cured him of his blindness was a Sabbath. 15 The Pharisees, then, asked the man again how he had received his sight. He told them, “He put some mud on my eyes; I washed my face, and now I can see.”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “The man who did this cannot be from God, for he does not obey the Sabbath law.”

There’s that legalism creeping in to discredit Jesus. Does legalism present itself in churches today? I believe it does. I recently heard someone say that they couldn’t take a sermon seriously if the preacher wasn’t wearing a suit and tie. That reeks of legalism in my opinion.

John 9:16b GNT “Others, however, said, “How could a man who is a sinner perform such miracles as these?” And there was a division among them.

17 So the Pharisees asked the man once more, “You say he cured you of your blindness—well, what do you say about him?”

“He is a prophet,” the man answered.

18 The Jewish authorities, however, were not willing to believe that he had been blind and could now see, until they called his parents 19 and asked them, “Is this your son? You say that he was born blind; how is it, then, that he can now see?” (It made more sense to them that he had never been blind rather than to believe he had been healed!)

John 9:20 GNT “20 His parents answered, “We know that he is our son, and we know that he was born blind. 21 But we do not know how it is that he is now able to see, nor do we know who cured him of his blindness. Ask him; he is old enough, and he can answer for himself!” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, who had already agreed that anyone who said he believed that Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. 23 That is why his parents said, “He is old enough; ask him!”

24 A second time they called back the man who had been born blind, and said to him, “Promise before God that you will tell the truth! We know that this man who cured you is a sinner.”

25 “I do not know if he is a sinner or not,” the man replied. “One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I see.”

He was blind.  Now he could see.  Sound familiar?  Amazing grace!

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see” (Lyrics by John Newton)

Over and over the man and his parents are asked the same question.  How?  How can you see? How were you healed?  How did this happen? And all the once blind man can tell them is “I was blind but after a brief encounter, I now can see.” It was as simple as that.  But the Pharisees didn’t want a simple explanation.  They wanted to know how

We often get hung up on the “hows” of our troubles, don’t we?  How did this happen?  How long will it last?  How will I ever survive this?  How will it be resolved?  We get so caught up in trying to understand the hows and the whys that we’re blinded to the fact that Jesus is standing before us, making a healing mud. We’re blinded to the fact that as God’s child, we are a vessel created for His works and His purposes.  And there are times when His purposes involve us being afflicted.  The blind man was afflicted and had been his entire life.  Healing wasn’t on his to-do list that day.  He had probably never counted on being able to see.  But Jesus changed his affliction to a blessing within a moment and it was done at just the right time with just the right person in just the right area to fulfill God’s purpose.

The Pharisees find themselves in a predicament.  God’s Law was clear.  This man named Jesus had broken the law by working on the Sabbath.  They were so concerned with the checklist of do’s and don’ts that they were blinded to the mercy Jesus had shown.  They couldn’t explain what had taken place and their insistence to this man that he call Jesus evil resulted in frustration when he offered his testimony.

John 9:26 TLB “But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?”

27 “Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once; didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

28 Then they cursed him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know God has spoken to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t know anything about him.”

30 “Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He can heal blind men, and yet you don’t know anything about him! (I can’t help but giggle at his response to the Pharisees.) 31 Well, God doesn’t listen to evil men, but he has open ears to those who worship him and do his will. 32 Since the world began there has never been anyone who could open the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he couldn’t do it.”

34 “You illegitimate bastard, you!” they shouted. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out.”

The fact that no one had ever been healed of blindness before this man totally goes over their head! Their arrogance and their strict list of what’s right and what’s wrong drive them to ex-communicate this man.  They refuse to accept the change Jesus made in his life and they refuse to accept the man who had been changed. 

Jesus has the last word.

John 9:35 NLT “When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and said, “Do you believe in the Messiah?”

36 The man answered, “Who is he, sir, for I want to.”

37 “You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!”

38 “Yes, Lord,” the man said, “I believe!” And he worshiped Jesus.

39 Then Jesus told him, “I have come into the world to give sight to those who are spiritually blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”

40 The Pharisees who were standing there asked, “Are you saying we are blind?”

41 “If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But your guilt remains because you claim to know what you are doing.”

There was more than just one blind person in this story.  The disciples were blind to helping the man.  All that they saw was what they perceived to be his sinfulness.  The people around him were blind to recognizing the man.  They couldn’t fathom how this miracle could have happened.  The Pharisees were blind to Who Jesus was.  They were more concerned with focusing on the laws rather than the love that had been shown.

We all suffer from spiritual blindness from time to time. We either fail to see others as Jesus sees them, or we fail to see Jesus working in the midst of our struggles.  We are blind to the miracles around us.  We sometimes fail to recognize God’s purpose in our own lives because we choose to focus on our affliction.

“A Water Bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and one half pots of water in his master’s house.

The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the Water Bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.” “Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?” “I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.

The Water Bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologize to the bearer for its failure. The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”[iii]

God takes the bad things that happen to us and makes something good out of them whether we see it or not.

Next time you want to ask yourself why bad things happen to good people, remember this.  That only happened once and He volunteered to go to the cross. 


[ii] The Wiersbe Study Bible by Warren W. Wiersbe


Published by Diane Simcox

Daily I am humbled at how God shows me that He is active and involved in my life. He is gracious enough to simplify every day things so that I have a better understanding of Who He is to me.

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