Advertising sells. Sex sells. Miracles sell. Jesus advertised his status as Son of God by causing miracles to happen. Who wouldn’t buy into a miracle? Who wouldn’t want an end to money problems by winning the lottery, or an end to hospital stays when someone we love is sick, or an end to phone calls from the school because of your child’s learning disability? Who wouldn’t want a miracle?
We all want a miracle in our life. Probably more than one. We pray for miracles to happen. We hope for them. And when we don’t receive one, our faith in Jesus, the miracle maker, is on shaky ground.
As much as miracles are what we want, they are not the best thing for our faith to grow and mature. Hear this story from the Gospel of John:
John 4 (NIV) 46 Once more Jesus visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.
48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”
The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living.52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”
53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.
54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.
Jesus did miracles for people so they could see that he was the Son of God. Jesus did miracles to grab the public’s attention and advertise his unique status. People came to see him, to hear him. And word about his miraculous abilities spread at a time and place without cell phones, satellites, or newspapers; a time when news spread by word of mouth from one neighbour to the next. That’s how the official heard about Jesus.
The official was a wealthy man and likely not popular with the crowds because he was connected to the Roman governor, either as employee or relative. (The Romans were occupying the land and subjugating the Jews.) He would have seen doctors and tried other things before coming to Jesus. In desperation, he came to Jesus, having heard that Jesus did miracles. He wanted a miracle in the worst way. He hoped that what he had heard about Jesus was true, and that Jesus would heal his son. His faith was such that he went on a 2 day trek across mountainous terrain from Capernaum to Cana because he had heard that Jesus was there.
It does show faith to ask for help. You wouldn’t ask someone for help if you didn’t think that they could, right?
Jesus is fed up with people wanting only miracles and tells them so. The Galileans were more interested in signs and wonders than in who Jesus actually was. The people welcomed Jesus for his signs and wonders, but they never bothered to see the man behind the miracles. I think that’s a problem. But the official seems to say, “I don’t really care about why they are here, I am here because I have nowhere else to go and I am trying to believe that you are who you say you are and that you can help me.” So he persists.
Jesus granted him a miracle. He spoke a miracle into being, across a space of 20 miles. Jesus gives life to the boy then and there. The fact that life is given for a royal official that was probably quite unpopular among the Galileans breaks social barriers. Jesus and the life he gives knows no borders.
The fact that the official believed Jesus and went home without certainty shows his growing faith. Instead of pestering Jesus to come with him, he believes that Jesus healed his son. He believed Jesus’ word without any guarantee and acknowledged Jesus as the giver of life by believing his word before he saw the outcome. When he met up with his servant and they figured out that the son was healed at exactly the time Jesus said those words, the official’s faith in Jesus was boosted and when his family heard all about it, they believed as well.
Sign 2 points to who Jesus is — the one who can heal at a distance by only a word.
(Sign 1 showed us Jesus converting water into wine – control over physical elements in the world)
What this story teaches us:
- Faith based on miracles alone is incomplete.
- Faith in who Jesus actually is, in his word and authority; that is praise-worthy faith.
- When we need help, we need to ask Jesus ourselves. The official went in person instead of sending a servant.
- Faith in Jesus is the priority. Not everyone receives a public miracle. This is the problem with faith based on experience because it’s dependent on “what have you done for me lately.” It’s not the kind of faith that Christ wants from us. He doesn’t want us to trust in him just for things, he wants us to trust Period.
- We must sometimes take Jesus at his word and act before seeing the result. Faith that results from a miracle alone, will not grow spiritual faith. However, when faith is placed in the person responsible for the miracle; that will grow faith.
- Whoever believes in Jesus will receive the life he gives. One of the reasons that signs and wonders aren’t plentiful today is because of the dangers in that. The miracles become an end in themselves. Signs and wonders actually hinder people seeking Jesus for a right relationship. If miracles were regularly done for Christians then many people would become Christians for the wrong reasons.