EXCEPTional Bible Verses, Part 5

walk-by-faith

Believing is Seeing

John 4:48

 

Jesus was traveling around and found Himself at Cana—the same Cana where He had turned the water into wine.  While he was there, a wealthy man approached Him.  We know he was wealthy because he was a government employee.  He had traveled some 25 miles on foot to ask Jesus to heal his ailing son.  To this question, Jesus responded:

Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.  (John 4:48  KJV)

His answer is our fifth EXCEPTional Bible verse.  It may be EXCEPTional, but it sure is a strange answer to serious question!  Put yourself in this wealthy man’s sandals; imagine traveling all this way to beg a well-known healer to heal your dying son, only to be given a answer like that.  The Living Bible paraphrases Jesus’ rebuff this way:

Won’t any of you believe in me unless I do more and more miracles?  (John 4:48  TLB)

Even Ken Taylor’s excellent paraphrase doesn’t help Jesus much!  Our Lord continues to come off sounding aloof and arrogant.  Now, we know Jesus wasn’t and isn’t like that; He was (and remains) loving and compassionate.  Therefore, something else is going on in this story behind, between, and around the words of verse 48.  Let’s take a look this truly EXCEPTional Bible verse, and we’ll learn something about our faith and our Lord.

1.  Setting the scene

At the end of the two days’ stay he went on into Galilee. Jesus used to say, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own country!”  (John 4:43, 44  TLB)

“His own country” is a bit  nebulous, but most scholars seem to think Jesus is referring to Judea.  He had not been very well received there, and especially in Jerusalem.  They did not receive His teachings and they certainly would have nothing to do with His Messianic claims.   The longer Jesus hung around Jerusalem, the greater risk He was exposing Himself to.  He was more or less forced to go elsewhere with His message.  In Galilee, we see an exact opposite reaction to the Lord.  Unlike the Judeans, the Galileans welcomed Him with open arms.  It’s a quirk of human nature, perhaps, that two people can see the same thing yet come to two totally different conclusions about what they just saw.  While Jesus was in Jerusalem, He performed many miracles that  had been witnessed by all kinds of Jews, yet only the Galileans were moved by them. 

In fact, Jesus had so much success in this area, His ministry there ran from late 27 to mid 29—almost a year and a half of Jesus’ earthly ministry was spent in Galilee. 

2.  Back to the beginning

In the course of his journey through Galilee he arrived at the town of Cana, where he had turned the water into wine.   (John 4:46a  TLB)

After His rocky experiences in Jerusalem, it’s no wonder Jesus wanted to return to a place where good things had happened.  Cana of Galilee was where it all began for our Lord.  It was here He turned the water into wine, something John points out.

Cana was also known for other things.  For example, it was the hometown of James and John, the sons of Zebedee.  And, it was also a major tax-collection center and quite possibly a Roman military post.  It’s funny that Jesus felt safer in a place like this than in Jerusalem, the very hub of His Jewish faith!

But there was another reason Jesus had to be in Cana.

While he was there, a man in the city of Capernaum, a government official, whose son was very sick, heard that Jesus had come from Judea and was traveling in Galilee. This man went over to Cana, found Jesus, and begged him to come to Capernaum with him and heal his son, who was now at death’s door.  (John 4:46b, 47  TLB)

This government official—a royal officer—probably worked for Herod Antipas, and was quite possibly a Jew.  He may have first encountered Jesus in Jerusalem during Passover and witnessed our Lord’s miracles.  No wonder, then, when Jesus came to town, this man wanted to talk to Him.  This man was a father whose son was deathly ill, and he sensed that Jesus was his son’s last hope for life.

The Living Bible uses the word “begging” and that’s quite accurate.  The Greek word is in the imperfect tense indicating a repeated and continual asking.  This father, in other words, was absolutely desperate; he asked and asked and asked Jesus to heal his son.  This father would NOT be dissuaded.

3.  A heartless response?

This brings us to our EXCEPTional Bible verse:

Then said Jesus unto him, except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. (John 4:48  KJV)

The question that pops into our heads is this:  Why is  Jesus answering a question He wasn’t asked?  Nowhere in the story do we read of this man, or anybody else, asking for a sign.  This father is asking for a miracle of healing, which may be considered a sign, but he asked Jesus because he apparently believed.  Or did he really?  Just what did this man have faith in?

Let’s leave this man and his son alone for a moment and just consider verse 48 as a stand alone statement.  It’s actually a very deep, probing question that prompts other ones:  Do miracles—signs and wonders—produce faith or are they the result of faith?  Is the event—the miracle—the thing to be sought after alone, or is the miracle just the by-product of faith properly placed in God and His Word?  These questions are important to consider because their answers will influence, not only how you pray and when you pray, but also your view of God.   If, for example, you think God is sort of like a 911 operator whom you pray to when you are in desperate straits, in need of a miracle, then your relationship with Him will be built on a soft, unstable foundation to be sure.  Your God, to you, must seem fickle, indeed.  You think, based on a handful of verses, that all you have to do as ask God for a healing and, based solely on the merit of your faith, God will ante up the healing.   It must be very frustrating for you when, more often than not, the healing doesn’t come.

Or, maybe you think God simply stopped healing after the last apostle died; that miracles belong to a bygone era.  Hopefully you enjoy your intellectual relationship with God because to you, your God consists of doctrines sayings.  It’s as though your brain was saved but your heart—your emotions—were left behind.

You see, how you view the question of miracles is vitally important to your view of God.  Is He a big old Santa Clause or is He bearded, wizened old sage.  Is He really concerned with the details of your life or is He the great cosmic director and you the actor on the stage of life?

The fact is, Christians are to pray to God for healing; for divine provision; for needs to be met whatever they may be. But our faith must be in God and His Word—His character and His promises—not in the power of any faith we think we have.  Our faith must be objective and it must be directed in the right direction.  No amount of positive thinking or good thoughts will produce a miracle. And we must understand that God has a plan for every person; sometimes that plan involves healing, sometimes not.  We must have faith, not only in the power of God to  heal, but also in His will, and that means accepting the proposition that God is kind and compassionate and He, not we, knows what’s best for us.

Let’s get back to this father.  He was drawn to Jesus by an outward need not by the desire of his soul.  His interest in Jesus was in what Jesus could do for him, or specifically for his son.  We’re sympathetic with this man, but let’s be honest, he is like the passengers on an airplane in free fall; they may have never entertained a thought about our Lord until they needed something from Him.  Actually, that sounds a lot like many Christians who aren’t necessarily interested in building and maintaining a relationship with God, but only in making sure He’s nearby just in case He’s needed.  This man who came to Jesus in Cana seemed to have some faith in Jesus, but only in His presence, not in His Word; really it was a faith in the miraculous—in the event.  He didn’t really want Jesus; he didn’t want to have a relationship with Him; he wanted his son healed.  That may sound a little harsh because we can all relate to the love this father must have had for his son.  But Jesus sees the heart; He sees the motives behind the questions and prayers.

If we can keep this in mind, suddenly this EXCEPTional Bible verse makes sense.  Our Lord was primarily concerned with the state of this man’s eternal soul.  Yes, He knew all about the sick son back at home, but of primary concern was this father’s salvation.  This man needed to have faith in the living Word!  He needed to see Jesus as Someone who was far more than just a healer.  Jesus was trying to teach this man something:  His Word was just effectual as His presence.  Isn’t that, after all, what the Old Testament had taught for centuries:

He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.  (Psalm 107:20  KJV)

4.  The healing

Verse 49 tells us this man had a one-track mind:

The official pled, “Sir, please come now before my child dies.”  (TLB)

He wasn’t interested in talking to Jesus further; in engaging our Lord in discussion.  All he wanted was what he could get out of Him.   But then Jesus speaks again and His statement is further test of this man’s faith:

Then Jesus told him, “Go back home. Your son is healed!”   (John 4:50a  TLB)

At this very moment, our Lord is healing the boy back home.  Of course, his father doesn’t know this, so this really is huge test of his faith.  Will the man go, or will he stay and beg some more?  His response, taking Jesus at His Word—shows that something our Lord said to the man struck a cord.  The words Jesus spoke were for this man, for this exact moment in time.  This man, who came to Jesus for the sole purpose of getting a miracle out of Him—He came to Jesus for the event—left without getting a thing from our Lord except His Word—His promise that the boy had been healed.   But that was enough because this man’s heart had been forever changed:

And the man believed Jesus and started home. (John 4:50b TLB)

In fact, it gets even better:

And the officer and his entire household believed that Jesus was the Messiah.  (John 4:53b  TLB)

Jesus was true to His Word!  What Jesus had promised this man, He fulfilled perfectly.  And He never set foot in the man’s house!  What started out as a belief in what Jesus could do turned into faith in Jesus as a Person.  This man’s faith, which started out as cold and impersonal, turned into a very personal faith in the character of Jesus.  It reminds us of something His mother had said sometime before; the last time Jesus was in Cana:

The wine supply ran out during the festivities, and Jesus’ mother came to him with the problem.  “I can’t help you now,” he said. “It isn’t yet my time for miracles.”

But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you to.”  (John 2:3—5  TLB)

You have to love the faith of a mother!   In spite of what Jesus said, she knew His character.  She knew her Son just couldn’t help Himself.  She just knew Jesus would do something.  So she gave the servants a heads up:  Do whatever he tells you to.

This is good advice for all of us:  Do whatever Jesus tells us to do.  Let’s have faith in His Word.  Let’s have faith in His character.  The better we get to know Jesus as  Person, the greater our faith in Him will be.  And our prayers will always be effective and never leave us disappointed or frustrated.

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