JOHN:THE BOOK OF HEARTFELT BELIEF
Power Over Death
Jerry A. Collins
There is a major difference between welcoming Jesus and believing Jesus. There have been many attempts to rally around the name of Jesus in our generation. Recently an evangelical Christian leader has written a paper, signed by many other Christian leaders, calling for the uniting of Protestants and Catholics for instance. A church in our community openly professes homosexuality as a legitimate expression of sexuality. In each situation Jesus is welcomed and loved. But if the only requirement is that Jesus is welcomed and loved than I must ask--Jesus who? In what Jesus am I to believe? New Agers believe in Jesus who is a Christ life-force dwelling in all of us. Roman Catholic Jesus is one who is not sufficient to pay for our sin or provide salvation without the sacraments. The Jesus of the Mormons is the brother of the devil. Even the Charismatic Jesus is someone who gives us good feelings and gives us prosperity. All of these groups would welcome Jesus and claim they love Him. But what Jesus is suppose to the basis of our faith?
In Jesus day, they also had conflicting views about the Jesus they were to believe in. We are going to learn that a convenient, short-term, emotional, faith, based on signs and wonders is only a superficial acceptance of Jesus. In other words, welcoming Jesus is not the same as believing in Jesus! Appreciating Jesus is not the same as honoring Jesus. Believing in Jesus is a faith that takes Jesus at His Word. It is a faith that chooses to believe the written Word of God that describes the Jesus Who is the basis of our faith. Either (1) you believe something different about Jesus like the Christ-force Jesus of New Agers, the insufficient Jesus of Catholicism, the brother of the devil Jesus of Mormonism. (2) You believe something more about Jesus like the Jesus of my experience, my feelings, or my understanding. Or (3) you believe the Jesus in the Bible and the record of revelation that defines Him and His teaching as the vehicle of our faith.
1. WELCOMING JESUS IS NOT THE SAME AS BELIEVING JESUS 4:43-45
We already know from 4:3 that Galilee was Jesus destination. He is about to launch His greater Galilean ministry which would last for nearly one and a half years in this region. He would have been there sooner except for the revival that had taken place in Samaria for two days vs 43. The result of that revival was that many had believed his claims about being the Messiah, the Savior of the world vs 42. We then read in vs 44 the proverbial statement that Jesus had made about Galilee a prophet has no honor in his own country. This seems to be inconsistent with what follows since we note in vs 45 that the people of Galilee welcomed him because many had seen all the things he had done in Jerusalem probably referring to 2:23 where we read that many people believed in his name because of the miraculous signs He was doing. The issue though is what did they believe about him? They had faith but the object of it was that Jesus was something other than Jesus the Messiah, since He would not entrust himself to them. Some of these were Galileans who welcomed him for the same reasons i.e., that they had seen His miracles as vs 45 says. Generally Galilee was more favorable to Him but even there men had tried to kill Him (Luke 4:18-30). The Galileans did welcome him, but their welcome was to prove a superficial response based on what they had seen him do at the feast. There is no indication that the signs they saw brought them to the place there faith in Jesus any more than Nicodemus did on the basis of the signs. Their enthusiasm for the Healer did not always indicate they had faith in Him as Messiah and Savior (Mark 6:1-6) and enthusiasm based on miracles is no real honor at all.
Jehovahís Witnesses say they believe in Jesus but they only welcome Him since they claim Jesus is created and we too can become gods like Him. People who welcome Jesus and appreciate Jesus will always have a different understanding of him than the Bible does. They will also apply to him a different agenda than the Bible applies to him. He did not come to make us gods, or deliver from social oppression, or to make us feel good, or lead the way into some kind of cosmic oneness with the universe. It is interesting that Jesus always avoided othersí agenda for him (the crowds, Satan, disciples, Peter) and always corrected wrong understanding of who He was (Nicodemus, woman at well, Pharisees).
2. FAITH IN JESUS SHOULD NOT REQUIRE SIGNS 4:46-49
Here we will see a contrast between the faith of the Galileans and the faith of this official. We note that Jesus is back in Cana of Galileee where his public ministry commenced with his first miracle, turning water into wine. An official, hearing of Jesus return to the area, takes a twenty mile hike from Capernaum to Cana desperate to see Jesus since his son is at the point of death. Capernaum was a border town of Galilee and so had many administrative officials in residence there. When he finds Jesus he pleads with Him to come over and heal his son before he dies. It is possible that he had heard about Jesus the Healer, Jesus reputation preceding Him, and so came to him for this reason with this request. At this point there is no indication that this official believes in Jesus other than some kind of Healer. Jesus response is in the form of a rebuke but not just to this official but to others who had apparently gathered around hoping to see this Healer do what they had seen and heard others testify of in the area since the you in vs 48 is in the plural form. The reason for this rebuke seems to be for being interested only in the miracles he can perform and not taking to heart what these signs signify about Him, thus the title of our series from John John: The Book of Heartfelt belief. The point is that a sign based faith is not true belief. In other words, these people are sign-seekers not people of faith in Jesus claims as Messiah. Meanwhile, this official is not about to let his son die and so still viewing Jesus as a Healer, he persists in his request for a healing.
We must never be content with having people admire Jesus. Our purpose is not to have people simply appreciate Jesus like they appreciate other religious figures. The Father will not accept people who simply welcome Jesus as some great teacher, benefactor, philosopher or martyr! A sign based faith will always compromise Jesus person, teaching and purpose. It will add to and dilute the Jesus of the Bible and the Word of God because itís object is not Jesus in the Bible. The only faith that is genuine is a faith in the Word of Christ. Jesus does not accommodate Himself to us but genuine faith accommodates ourselves to His Word.
3. FAITH IN JESUS IS ACCEPTING HIS WORD AS TRUTH 4:50-54
Jesus reply is a challenge to this mans faith in Jesus as a Healer. If this official really believed that Jesus could heal his son if Jesus came to his son then he must also believe that he can heal him from twenty miles away. So Jesus tells him to go home your son will live. What will this man do? What is his faith in? Notice that he believes not that Jesus is a Healer but now he believes Jesus Word! He took Jesus at His Word and left! This manís faith seems to grow in the few moments he pleads with Jesus. On the way home his servants met him with very good news. His boy was going to live. Of course these servants had no clue as to what had happened. They just do not want their master to agonize any longer and so go out to give him the good news. This official asked when his son recovered. The healing was no accident since it occurred at the exact moment Jesus made His promise to him. It is a miracle brought about simply by Jesus words. The only person able to speak such powerful words is Jesus who likewise spoke the world into existence (John 1:1-3). This official moves from only a superficial sign- type faith to a more informed and genuine word-faith! His Word is truth. He and his entire household believed more than they had before about Jesus and that faith was based on the His true Word.
Sign faith may get someone started but must lead to a grounded faith in the Word not in miracles or other opinions about Jesus. John the Baptist never performed a sign but his words were powerful and many believed them. Nicodemas was not willing to take Jesus at His Word and his questions did not bring him to faith at that moment. Woman at the well took Jesus at his word and so did many from her town. Galileans were impressed with Jesusí signs but not inclined to accept His Word. This official went from belief in Jesus as Healer to taking Jesus at his word. Thatís faith!