Signs and wonders or trust and believe?
One of the questions that I bump into on a regular basis is, “Why doesn’t God do some signs? If God really wanted people to believe then he would do miracles and prove it.”
I wrestle with that question often, if I’m honest. I read through the Scriptures and think about what it must have been like to walk with Jesus or the prophets. Could you imagine seeing Jesus turn water into wine? Or raising Lazarus from the dead? What about actually being present when healed the leper, the blind, or paralyzed? As I think about seeing these things in person, I think, “My faith would be so much stronger if we could see these kinds of miraculous events around us.”
Yet, when I get even more honest I realize that is complete bull. My faith wouldn’t be stronger. It would be exactly as it is, middling to weak. I know this is the case because I have seen answered prayer and I always look for the “reasonable explanation” first, as opposed to simply giving God glory.
There’s a great story at the end of John 4 that is often overshadowed by the story at the beginning of John 4. The beginning of John 4 is the story of Jesus interacting with the Samaritan woman the launch of the Samaritan revival. It is juxtaposed against this story at the end of the chapter.
In the second story, there is a royal official whose son is dying and he comes and begs Jesus to save him. At the moment, Jesus is in Cana, where he famously turned water into wine. Jesus’ response is,
“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” — John 4:48
I thought that was strange until I connected this story to the one before it. The Samaritans didn’t demand signs from Jesus. They believed his words.
So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. — John 4:40–41
Now, this official comes asking Jesus do something miraculous. The crowds were probably watching with baited breath. What will Jesus do? Will he go to the official’s home? Will he be able to save the boy? Jesus calls them out in their desire for signs. All this would have done was raise the tension.
Will he heal or won’t he?
What happens next?
The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
“Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” — John 4:49–50a
The official wants Jesus to come to his home. He demands it. “Come down,” is an imperative. He is commanding Jesus to come to his home. Jesus responds to him with a command and a promise, “Go,” and “your son will live.”
The crowds must have been flabbergasted at this moment. How dare Mary and Joseph’s son speak to an official this way. What was he thinking? He had been given a command and he shot right back at the man. What was going to happen? Surely, Jesus would not walk away from this without repercussions.
What happens is this,
The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. — John 4:50b
He believed the word. He trusted that what Jesus had said to him was true. As he went home his servants came and let him know that his son was well and upon discovering that he became well at the same time as Jesus command the Scriptures say,
So he himself believed, along with his whole household. — John 4:53b
Wait, wait, didn’t he already believe? Sure. He believed. But now there was a qualitative difference in his belief. He didn’t simply in the word of Jesus, the object of his faith was now Jesus himself.
The question we must ask ourselves, “Do I trust Jesus enough to believe him at his word?”
This father must have been absolutely desperate for Jesus to save his son. I know I would have been. In that moment I would probably do just about anything to have my son be saved from imminent death.
The man trusted Jesus at his word and went. Then when Jesus’ word was made good, he trusted him. In what ways do you need to trust Jesus at his word right now? Are you demanding signs or are you willing to believe and then believe?
We do not have to have a perfect faith. We simply need to be willing to trust Jesus at his word.