Sapphire Sky

January 4, 2015

What will it take to believe?

Filed under: theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 3:41 pm

What will it take to believe?

It is easy to follow a celebrity or a famous person who seems to have it all together.  It is easy to listen to a speaker when they present a great argument.  But when do we truly believe? 

As it often happens in our lives, we find out the most at a time of crisis.

As I have been studying through Jesus’ life, he has just completed one of the most successful mission trips of his ministry.  Jesus has gone to a hated village of foreigners and spoken to an outcast of the town.  After two days, both the outcast woman and most of the town are believers in him.

Jesus now heads north to Galilee and is welcomed gladly.  He is the great celebrity who has come home! His popularity from Judea has only increased as he returns to Galilee.

But despite the crowds and the large welcome, Jesus knows that his popularity is based on excitement and not true belief in him. This is the same shallow belief that he encountered in Judea (John 2:23-25).

Jesus returns to the town of Cana.  Many would certainly have remembered his miracle at the wedding the previous year, where he turned the water to wine.  And there, in the evening, a royal official comes up the road from Capernaum, and starts begging.

This man, the royal official, has a young son who is dying.  None of the man’s wealth or power can help him now, and so he comes to this rabbi to beg for his son’s life.

Jesus, the one who loves the world and is the example of compassion, responds with a rebuke: “Unless you [all] see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

Why does Jesus make such an insensitive remark? There are three important points to remember here:

  • First, Jesus does help the father. The father has very little faith, but his weak faith is in Jesus. Jesus meets the man in his weak state and pulls him up to something higher.
  • Second, Jesus is about to show everyone that he is not limited by distance. This is completely unknown to the Jews (and the disciples), but Jesus does not need to be physically present to heal the boy.
  • Finally, and most importantly, Jesus is showing that the spirit world is most important. This is the same lesson to Nicodemus and to the Samaritan woman. He can easily heal the physical sufferings of the boy, but the greater concern is their unbelief. 

The father pleads respectfully (“sir”), and Jesus tells him to go and that his son will live. The man heads back (either that night or the next morning). His servants meet him on the way reporting that the son is recovering.  They compare times to find out that the son recovered at the exact time that Jesus said he would get better.

The religious, devout people around him still refuse to believe in Jesus.  Yet this father has come face to face with the Savior of the World.  He believed in his works enough to seek him out and ask for help.  He believed in his words enough to trust him when Jesus told him to “Go; your son will live”.  But the man returned home believing in Jesus himself.  He believed in his person [2].

It is not enough to just believe his works.  It is not enough to just believe his words.  You need to believe in his person as the Son of God and Saviour of the world (John 20:30-31; John 4:41-42).

1 Corinthians 1:22-24
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

 

Previous post: The Outcast


John 4:43-54

After the two days he departed for Galilee. (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.

So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.


 

After the two days he departed for Galilee. (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.

Jesus had stayed for two days in the Samaritan village of Sychar. After the two days, he would have undertaken the journey to Cana in Galilee, a distance of about 50 miles.

Jesus had been ministering to growing crowds in Judea for about 6 months at this time. His fame and popularity would have made him a huge celebrity upon his return to Galilee. But just like in Judea, Jesus knew that their belief in him was shallow (see John 2:23-25). 

Matthew’s gospel account records Jesus’ statement that a prophet has no honor in his hometown (Matthew 13:57; Mark 6:4). The term, “hometown”, could refer to his actual town but the context here seems to indicate Jesus’ native country of Galilee. The Samaritans openly believed in Jesus, yet Jesus’ own people (the Jews) were much more entrenched in their unbelief.

 

So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine.

Jesus starts his Galilean ministry in the town of Cana. The people there would likely have remembered his earlier miracle at the wedding feast (John 2:1-12). It was also the home of Jesus’s disciple Nathanael (John 21:2). Cana was also on the way to Capernaum, where Jesus would consider his home during his Galilean ministry.

 

And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.

Capernaum was anywhere from 15 to 25 miles away from Cana. Note the desperation of the father who walks all this distance go to see if this visiting rabbi can heal his son. The father was a royal official, who was likely serving Herod Antipas himself. This man had wealth, power, and prestige, yet none of this could help his son. The son was at the point of death. 

Most translations say that the father “asked” Jesus to come down to Capernaum to heal his son. The scene would be better rendered that this man was begging Jesus to come down!

It wasn’t unusual for the man to believe that Jesus could heal his son.  Jesus was already famous because of his miracles in Judea. The Jews also believed that their rabbis were able to perform miracles [1]. But Jesus is about to show him something different.

 

So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

The “you” here is plural. Jesus is not addressing the father here but the people around him. The Samaritans believed Jesus on his word, but the Jews insisted on seeing proof.

 

The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.

The man’s response in both respectful and personal. He acknowledged Jesus’ authority by addressing him as “sir”. But it is also very personal when he asks for help for “my child”, or ” my baby”.

But the man’s faith is being transformed. He had already believed in Jesus’ works, which led him to come and ask for help. Now he believes Jesus’ words as he goes on his way [2].

 

As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

The man leaves Jesus at 7 p.m. He would probably have stayed overnight in Cana and left for Capernaum the next morning. What a joy it must have been to meet up with his servants and to find out that his son has been recovering since the exact time that he talked with Jesus!

It says now that the father believed, and ask his household. This is no longer just a belief in Jesus’ works or his words, but he now believed in his person.


 

[1] Alfred Edersheim The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book III, “The Ascent”, Chapter ix.

 

[2] John MacArthur, “Saving Faith in a Herodian Household”, John 4:46-54, http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/43-24/saving-faith-in-a-herodian-household

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Previous post: What will it take to believe? […]

    Pingback by Can you have too much faith? | Sapphire Sky — January 11, 2015 @ 5:10 pm


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