Study in John’s Gospel. Presentation 12. Believing is Seeing Chap 4v43-54. Presentation 12. Introduction.
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Psychologists tell us life begins with pain as a child, who has enjoyed the comfort and security of its mother’s uterus, is pushed and pulled into a hostile environment. The experience is similar to that of strangulation as the baby gasps for its life. Thereafter, the shadow of suffering is cast over life as we pass through a variety of comfort zones.
Leaving the home environment
to start school; leaving school
to start work; leaving the
parental home and trying to
discover how a washing
machine and a cooker works!
Add to that the pain of failed plans, broken relationships, illness, and the loss of loved ones. We cannot escape pain from the day we are born until the day we die but how we react to it is of vital importance. Does it beat us down into the ground or can we triumph in adversity?
The passage before us shows how suffering
can enrich our lives even more than days
of great joy and happiness.
A man who was a royal official at Herod’s court discovered that neither his rank nor his wealth exempted him from the shadow of suffering. His son was ill and in a critical condition.
News of Jesus arrival in Cana and of his healing ministry elsewhere had reached him. So he decided to make the four hour trip to Capernaum to ask ‘a carpenter’ for a miracle. Desperation has often driven people to make remarkable requests.
But this man was more than desperate, he was also motivated by faith. His faith, though real, was nevertheless weak. Oh yes he believed that Jesus was able to heal his son, but he limited Jesus by believing that, it was necessary for him to go all the way back to Capernaum with him in order to effect his son’s healing.
Presumably he thought that Jesus needed to have
some kind of physical contact and reach out and
touch the boy in order to heal him; ‘Surely, the
power of Jesus is limited to his touch!’
Many of us presumptuously tell God how he should operate in our difficulties and the manner in which he should do so. We can be found saying, “Oh God, if you are going to be able to help then you will need to do this and then this…” and so on. But God will often work outside of boundaries set by our finite minds and so we need constantly to ask, “Do we
limit God by the way we think he must operate?”
We should not be surprised by the answer Jesus
gave the official, “You may go your
son will live” [I don’t need to go].
Jesus’ goal was not only to heal the royal
official’s son but to help his faith grow.
Note too that Jesus’ response to the request for help begins with a rebuke, “Except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe”. Ouch! This rebuke is probably directed as much to the crowd as to the official and effectively describes them as curiosity seekers. It would also test the official’s faith.
He didn’t go in the huff. He simply re-iterated
his need. He humbled himself to receive
whatever answer Jesus chose to give.
It is difficult for some Christians to ask God
for help - and at the same time to say,
‘you know best’. This is the first step in
triumphing in adversity; trust Jesus
enough to allow him to operate in
whatever way he chooses.
If there is a second lesson that Jesus was intent upon teaching, it would appear to be this; we must first believe and then we will see results.
Jesus words, “Except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe” encapsulates and then challenges not only the
thinking current in Jesus’ day but of so many in
the world today. Thinking that has produced
the well known proverb,
“Seeing is believing”.
But is that necessarily the case?
The story is told of the hunter who went out hunting for duck with his new retriever. No sooner had he taken up position in the marsh when across a short stretch of water a duck flew into the air. He took aim and fired and the duck fell to the ground. Immediately the dog took off but to the hunter’s surprise instead of swimming towards the duck it ran over the surface of the water and returned with the bird in its mouth.
He could hardly believe his eyes.
But the pattern was repeated again
Now the hunter knew, that sometimes your eyes can deceive you, and so, the next day he persuaded a friend to accompany him. Throughout the day the dog retrieved the game running over the surface of the water in the process. On the way home the hunter asked his friend if he had noticed anything unusual about his dog. “Oh yes”, said the friend, “that dog of yours can’t swim”!
Sometimes people only see what they want to
see. Later in the gospel we will discover
that those who watched Jesus raise
Lazarus from the dead then went off
to plan how they might take his life.
‘Seeing’ did not produce faith.
In dealing with the official Jesus stands the popular proverb, ‘seeing is believing’ on its head reversing the order of the words to ‘believing is seeing’. It is only as we believe in Jesus, exercise faith in him, that we will begin to ‘see’ spiritual things happening and begin to understand their significance.
When Jesus told the nobleman to go on his way because his son
was well. He was saying, ‘believe without seeing’.
‘Ah,’ you say, ‘that must have been hard.’
Yes but it is precisely what the man did.
To commit things to Jesus, to
believe in him is the most effective
way to set one’s mind at rest in the
face of sorrow.
We are told that after exercising faith in Jesus the nobleman continued on his way. The language used implies that he went about his daily business. Clearly he did not immediately rush home in an anxious panic. Although he spoke with Jesus at one o’clock in the afternoon, [the seventh hour] and his journey
home required four hours, he did not go back until the
next day to find that his son was healed at exactly
the time he had spoken with Jesus.
Having believed that the issue was safely handed
over to Jesus there had been no need for panic.
He moved from being weak to being strong in
faith. The major concern which had caused him
sleepless nights and great anxiety of heart he
learned to hand over to Jesus, to put his trust in him.
Thirdly, Jesus did not want to be remembered as, a mere miracle worker. He wanted to point beyond his works of wonder, to their significance. They were signs. Remember, John uses this word ‘sign’ in a very special way. By this time Jesus had performed many miracles but John records this miracle as the ‘second sign’. The first sign, the water that was changed into wine, pointed to the fact that Jesus was the source of true joy and satisfaction,
underlining the fact that Jesus’ resources can never be
The significance of this second sign is that it
pointed not only this man and his family but
John’s readers, beyond mere physical healing
to the spiritual transformation that Jesus can
make in people’s lives by a word of power.
Notice that when the man eventually returned home he gathered his household together. What did they do? They put their trust in the Saviour of the world. Not just the ‘physical healing’ of one child but the ‘spiritual healing’ of a whole household forms the climax of this story.
The child’s sickness resulted indirectly
in this remarkable household salvation.
Suffering brought spiritual enrichment
to this family’s life.
How do we apply this story? Well clearly, we learn that Jesus is the answer to all our anxieties. The nobleman had come to Jesus, expressed his anxieties and without any tangible proof that his request had been granted, he went on with his daily business free from anxiety. That can be our experience. We may be weighed down under great burdens and despite our outward appearance we are breaking up inside.
We need to come to Jesus and unload those
burdens. He will ease them and take their
weight on his own shoulders.
It is possible to experience his peace and know that our cries have been heard and yet remain in the dark as far as God’s practical out-working is concerned. It may be the loss of a loved one, some personal sorrow or sickness may have driven us to Jesus. He knows the mental and emotional traumas we are going through and we can trust him to work through it all for our benefit. Scripture is not exaggerating when it tells the Christian that “all things work together for good” Rom. 8.28.
Now in practice this does not always
seem to be the case. Nevertheless we
are to go about our business knowing
we might never discover the exact
nature of that ‘good’ until we arrive
Thus far in the gospel, John has shown us Jesus at work in three areas of his world, Judea, Samaria and Galilee. We have seen him with the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, with Jews and Samaritans, religious and irreligious. Jesus has been presented as “the light of the world”…”the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” and “the Saviour of the world”. In other words John has shown us that the
gospel is for everyone. It is for you, whoever you
Do not be reluctant to open your mind and heart
to Jesus, to acknowledge your need of help from
outside. Jesus, unlike many important individuals in
our world will never say that his time is ‘fully booked.’
He will gladly make time for you!