46. A Challenge to Believe

Short Meditations in John 4:  46. A Challenge to Believe

Jn 4:48  Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

We have already noted in the previous meditation that there are different levels of faith. This royal official had faith enough to believe that if Jesus came he could heal his son. The centurion at Capernaum understood that Jesus only needed to speak a word and it would be done. But now we find Jesus making what seems like an almost unkind challenging accusation that perhaps could be put in a question form – why won’t you believe without a miraculous sign?

It is clear we are all different and at different stages of faith with God. Thomas had declared after the resurrection which he had not yet witnessed, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (Jn 20:25) A week later Jesus came and, knowing where Thomas was at, said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (v.27) Jesus met him where he was, so what is behind his words in this present situation?

Well John has told us that Jesus has been welcomed back in Galilee because some of them there had been down in Jerusalem and had seen his signs and wonders performed there. Whether this official had been there we don’t know but Jesus speaks to all of them gathered there. They have faith because they saw the signs.

Now the word ‘believe’ comes up over 50 times in John’s Gospel; he understands its importance and it’s what his Gospel is all about Later on we find Jesus saying, “Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (Jn 10:37,38) It seems from what we have seen that Jesus is happy to meet people at their point of faith, even if it is limited, such as in the case of Thomas. Indeed generally he has said, “If that’s what you need to believe in me, then believe the miracles that come from the Father.” Nicodemus had said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him,” (Jn 3:2) and in that he shows us that it is possible to believe that Jesus is something less than he is by looking at his miracles.

This is what is behind Jesus’ words now. Do we need miracles to believe in him or can we just believe instinctively, knowing who he is? “Even though you do not see him now, you believe in him,” (1 Pet 1:8) is the challenge to us today.

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