15. Amazement

Short Meditations in John 7:  15.  Amazement

Jn 7:15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”

When someone is ‘amazed’ it means they are filled with great surprise and wonder. They have seen or heard something they were not expecting. Now when it comes to Jesus, when we come across this we have to ask two questions: first, what was causing that amazement and, second, what does that imply about ‘normal’?

The word comes up a number of times in the Gospels. The disciples were amazed when Jesus commanded a storm at sea to abate (Mt 8:27) and at his power to destroy a bush (Mt 21:20) and even, sometimes, at the challenge of his teaching (Mk 10:24,26). The crowds were amazed at his teaching (Mt 7:28, 13:54), his healing power (Mt 2:12) and at his authority over demons (Mt 9:33, 15:31, Mk 5:20). John shows us that Jesus himself warned us that we, his followers, may yet be amazed (Jn 5:20,28). In Acts we see the work of the Spirit sometimes causes amazement (Acts 2:7,12), and yet we also see that the works of the enemy in deceptive power can similarly cause amazement (Acts 8:9,11).

Before we move on we might note that God’s activities can either create a sense of amazement, even wonder and awe, or contrarily in the hard-hearted and spiritually blind, simple cynicism or criticism. The Jews, even when they saw the wonderful things Jesus was doing, asked for a sign. Their hard-heartedness stopped them seeing the wonder of what was there. But then we might ask today, how much has unbelief blinded us to the wonder of God’s world (do we praise Him daily for it?) or even the working of His Spirit in the lives of others (how do we respond to reports of the Spirit moving in other people groups?).

The second question I suggested we should ask is that does this amazement imply about ‘normal’? Now that can be taken in more than one way. With God we should just be careful not to write off something we have never encountered before. ‘Normal’ for God includes miracles, things that run contrary to the laws of nature (the Laws He instituted for most everyday life but which He is not bound by), so amazement here would act as a sign (as with the disciples) that we are just witnessing the miraculous. But more than this, amazement often indicates in the Gospels that what Jesus was doing was different from what people had learned to accept as normal. Life in the synagogue was powerless until Jesus came. Religion goes on and on – unchanged. Jesus comes and change is the name of the game. (see Mk 1:21-27, 3:1-5) Read the early chapters of Mark and everything is different, everything Jesus says and does ought to create amazement.

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