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John

Two Miracles

John 4:43 - 5:15

 

We examine two miracles in this lesson, as predecessor to Christ’s explanation of who he is. Evidence precedes explanation.

From Fear to Faith

43After the two days he left for Galilee. 44(Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there.

46Once more he 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. 47When 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 miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

49The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

50Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.”

The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.”

53Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed.

54This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.

(John 4:43-54)

The subtle comparison

By separating the verses as we have done, we miss a subtle comparison between the Galileans (whom we encounter here) and the Samaritans (whom we encountered in the last lesson). The comparison does not favor the Galileans; but perhaps they will show up more favorable compared to the Pharisees. Why does this bit of Scripture tell us of such comparison?

  • The Samaritans, you will recall, saw no miracle. They saw a prophet; they heard the word and they believed. This is faith.
  • Jesus spends little time in Galilee, especially in Cana. He spent several days in Samaria. Why? Because the Samaritans received him gladly. He still seeks the warm and open heart.
  • He spends time only once in Samaria; it seems that this is sufficient. The Galileans are slow learners.
  • Contrasting with the Samaritans, the Galileans will not believe without miraculous signs.
Coming to Christ

Those who are new to the faith often have preconceived notions of what it takes to become a Christian. There are things they think they must learn, actions they must take – all things to become “good enough” to become a Christian. This is a misconception – but a laudable one. It means they know that they’re not good enough to earn it. But then, no one else is either.

Consider our nobleman here:

  • He has no real idea of who Jesus is. He comprehends no theology on the subject; he just knows this man might be able to help.
  • His coming is an act of desperation. He did not wait until Jesus passed by, for that might have been too late.
  • But it is also an act in humility. He is rebuked; but he persists. He knows no merit of his own to advance as rationale – so he begs.
Take him at his word

The most extraordinary part of this narrative is in verse 50. The man took Jesus at his word, and departed. He did not (praise God!) tell Christ what to do. Jesus rather told him.

  • He took action when Jesus told him to. He didn’t “think about it,” or “know that this would be a good thing.” There is nothing hypothetical about his response.
  • Note that trust (faith) has an element of doubt here – he asks the servants for the time at which the fever broke. He’s still not sure until he hears. After all, it could be coincidence, right?
  • He knows the difference between coincidence and providence.
Divine style

Fevers break naturally. It’s possible that this is just a coincidence. But this man knows better; he has eyes with which to see. Many of us spend time building up our doubts; this man saw, and believed. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll find the many providences of God.

The Man at the Pool

As a side note, most of the modern translations omit verse 4 of chapter 5. It is not found in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts. It is, however, necessary to understand what’s going on in this passage, which is probably why some editor stuck it in there.

1Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda£ and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.£ 5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

11But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”

12So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

(Hebrews 5:1-14)

There is a point at the beginning of the passage which is easy to miss. Jesus went to Jerusalem for a feast day (probably Pentecost). Why is it that we see Jesus in Jerusalem on the feast days of the Jews? First, of course, the Jews were commanded to come to Jerusalem for Passover. More than that, however, is this: God seeks those who are seeking him; he’s looking for the devout. Where better to find a devout Jew than in Jerusalem during a feast?

Question and answer time

So often in the Scripture Jesus answers a question with the answer to the question you should have asked. Here he asks the right question – and gets an answer to a different one.

“Do you want to get well?” Jesus asks. Now, at first glance, this would appear to be a dumb question. The man’s been here for 38 years, he’s an invalid and this place is where he can get healed. But the question has its virtue: simplicity. It’s very basic and completely to the point. Besides, it’s a yes/no question, which gives the student a 50-50 chance of getting it right.

This man flunks. He takes a true-false question and treats it like an essay question. He explains. In this, he is typical of so many of us:

  • How often we hear the question of God – and explain to him why He can’t do it.
  • Worse, we often explain to him why we can’t do it.

All the while, the Almighty is not asking us for an engineering probability analysis – he asks if we want his healing.

Why this man?

What was it about this man that attracted Jesus? Why, among all who were there, did Jesus select this man?

  • First, the man had perseverance. 38 years of perseverance. That’s a lot. How many people do you know who have been married for 38 years?
  • You’ll notice, too, that this man is a thankful man. Jesus finds him the second time at the Temple – where he would have come to present offerings of thanksgiving.
  • Most of all, he is an obedient man. Jesus tells him to do something, and he doesn’t argue, he just does it.

It’s a useful set of tests. Perhaps the reason we don’t get what we ask for is that we do not persevere; or that when we receive, we are not thankful. Likewise, we often ask and refuse to obey. We could learn something from this man.

Stirring the pool

We must not think that this business of stirring the pool and healing someone is simply a case of wishful thinking, or psychosomatic cure. This man couldn’t move before this day. To fake that for 38 years is a bit much. This pool was a sign to the Jews – one which would allow them to see the true Messiah when He came. This pool is a picture of baptism!

  • It cleansed disease, as baptism cleanses sin. Indeed, sin is the disease of the soul that leads to death.
  • The pool was an Old Testament harbinger of things to come. Then, you could receive healing only when the water was stirred; now, it is freely available.
  • Like grace, the method seems so simple. Just get into the pool – first. It doesn’t depend on how good you are. Rather, we have God’s terms and God’s time.

We can understand the man staying by the pool. How many of us can say that we are just as ready to grasp the opportunities he gives us today?

Lessons for Today

Let’s break this down for simplicity.

Lessons for those seeking God
  • First, God welcomes seekers! Even if they’re not very knowledgeable.
  • Should such a seeker expect miracles? Usually not – but you should expect answers. Sometimes we are rushing around so fast that we can’t hear the answers delivered.
  • Always remember: you are dealing with the power of Christ. He who made all things, seeker, is seeking you.
Seekers – God wants them

Just what kind of seekers is God looking for?

  • We know (from our last lesson) that God is seeking those who will worship him “in spirit and in truth.” Outward displays of piety don’t impress him; he’s looking for the “real you.”
  • Those who seek him must believe that he exists – and that he will reward those who seek him.[1]
  • He is looking for those, like these men, who are willing to take action upon his word. It’s called “faith.”
  • He is not looking for the proud, but the humble. That’s why life is so often humbling.
Expectations for Christians

What does he expect of those who are mature Christians? Here we can see a number of things:

  • The paramount necessity of obedience is stressed here. These men did as they were told. For us, that may just be “stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you.”
  • Effort is demanded. It is not in proportion to grace, but action is required to show our commitment to his word.
  • Look for the evidences of the faith. The nobleman asked the time at which his child was healed – and believed.
  • It is easy to ask forgiveness (and we should). It is hard to accept grace. But accept it we must; none of us are worthy of heaven.

[1] Hebrews 11:6

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