Relevant Passages John 4:43-54
The Struggle to Be Real. The “living parable” which is the focus of today’s lesson involves Jesus’ return “home” to Galilee and an encounter with a royal official whose boy was dying. The passage is charged with a tantalizing tension, for John says that the Galileans welcomed Jesus because they had seen all that had happened at the feast in Jerusalem. At the same time, however, John refers to Jesus’ repetition of the proverb that a prophet is not without honor except in his own country. And as the narrative goes on to show, a welcome based on “signs” is not really what Jesus was after.
- Getting behind the signs. If Jesus performed miracles to catch people’s attention and help them believe, what did he do (and what can we do) to move toward a genuine faith not dependent on signs?
- Jesus confronts a sign-based faith. The experience of the official with the dying son is an intriguing one. From Capernaum to Cana is a 16-mile trek, mostly uphill. In other words, he was serious. The official Sabbath School study guide contains this further tantalizing comment: “Jesus and the royal official had probably spent some time as neighbors in a very small town (Capernaum was little more than a 100 meters across).” So the man had probably known Jesus before. Was this why Jesus called into question his sincerity with the comment: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (4:48)? Now nearly desperate, the man affirmed his faith and Jesus told him that a visit wasn’t necessary. His son would live.
- Signs, doubt, desperation, and faith. Sometimes in our modern era Christian authors and pastors give the impression that if we are right with God we will receive that for which we pray. How does this story relate to that kind of perspective? Are there circumstances in which God will only act on our behalf when we have thrown our all at his feet? What about those incidents when believers have indeed thrown down all and yet their requests are not granted? Are great miracles of healing as effective in spiritual growth as great disappointments?
- Nature of faith. Hebrews 11:6 declares that without faith it is impossible to please God. But if faith is simply “confidence,” can one gain faith simply by trying harder? That same chapter illustrates the ultimate paradox of faith, for by faith some “escaped the edge of the sword” (Heb. 11:34), but also by faith, some “were killed by the sword” (Heb. 11:37). So does the believer have any guarantee as to how God will respond to our faith when we come to him with our all?