January 30, 2016

Gems in the Gospel of John - Part 18

Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 18: John 4:48
Signs and wonders

In this, verse 48, “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” He was not speaking exclusively to the royal official and worried father for the ‘you’ is plural. At first the words sound like a rebuke, but Jesus went on to heal the boy that was so ill so his intent was more subtle than that. These words are used quite often by big meeting preachers to justify their claimed miracles and command people to believe. But that is not the intention of these words either and a sometimes very dangerous use of them.

It is much safer and wiser to take these words of Jesus as a comment on what happens, neither particularly encouraging or discouraging those who would rely on signs and wonders. It is important to note that exactly the same phrase is used in the Bible as a pointer to deceptive practices to be avoided (Matt 24: 24; 2 Thess 2: 9). But, positively, this episode is described as a sign in verse 54, the second one performed in Cana of Galilee. Jesus heals the boy. The NIV translates the crucial sentence as “your son will live” when it should more literally be “your son lives”. The action of Jesus is strong positive and instantaneous. So is that of the man. We are clearly meant to understand that he came to a strong, positive and totally valid faith as a direct result of this particular ‘sign and wonder’.

What should we make of this somewhat ambiguous situation? Surely this is actually the danger in signs and wonders – they focus attention on what Jesus can do for us, rather than on who he is. The royal official had a considerable advantage over us: he had met Jesus and could assess who he was. He knew both what Jesus could do and who he must be.

Who was, and is, Jesus? The Son of God; the Saviour of the world; the Lord of Glory; the Judge of the ages. Is that enough to be going on with? Of course we need to become convinced of these things which are not automatically obvious. And that is where the Resurrection comes in. Peter said, (Acts 2: 32, 36)“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. … Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” Paul’s comment on that was (1 Cor 15: 20), “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,”

We are but human. We are quite capable of believing something today and its opposite tomorrow! Make sure your faith is grounded not on your subjective experience of the things that have happened to you or other people but on the objective facts of the word of God. The former may have brought you to faith as it did the royal official but work hard to transfer your true grounding to the latter, to his written word, the Bible and its sure testimony to the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the Resurrection of Jesus that is the one and only sure, unmovable foundation for your faith and for mine. All other possible logical bases for our faith are secondary and derivative.

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