Summary: This is the second in a series on the 7 signs of Jesus in the gospel of John. Each of the signs points to an aspect or perspective of the person of Jesus.
THE PERFECTER OF OUR FAITH
Give me a sign Lord, any sign! Have you ever asked for a sign to encourage your faith, or to give you some assurance that you are on the right track? Have you ever needed something tangible to hold on to and help you feel like you can’t fail? I am sure you have. I know I did…
For my grade 12 graduation banquet, my romantic notions told me that it would be cool to have an escort at this auspicious occasion. I was not the ladies man that I am now so this was a bit of a daunting task. Yet there was this girl in my church youth group who I had liked and felt this might be an opportunity to begin something with.
Nervously one Friday night after youth group, I asked her if she would like to accompany me to my grad banquet. But, I said, don’t answer me now…tell me on Sunday. I thought it good etiquette to give a girl time to think.
The next day, I was shooting at barn swallows on my brother-in-law’s farm with my CO2 pistol. If you know barn swallows they are extremely hard to hit while they are diving at your head. If you know pistols they are hard to aim with. I fired about 50-60 rounds and missed every one.
Then a thought came to me. I was still nervous about asking this girl out and beginning to hope she would say “no”. So I asked the Lord for a sign. Noticing a swallow sitting on a wire, I said, “Lord, if I hit that swallow she will say yes. If not, I will know that this was not meant to be.” Thus I guaranteed myself some peace. There was no way I would hit that bird. Well you know what happened, I hit the bird, he swung down on one leg, dangled, then fell into the waiting jaws of the farm dog. Now I was twice as nervous – the Lord showed me she would say yes.
Sunday she came up to me and said she would be glad to go. We went and it was the most tremendous disaster of my life. I am so embarrassed by the event that I can’t even share the details with you. When I wondered whether there would be another date after this fiasco…her lips said “no” but her eyes said “read my lips.”
We have a fascination with signs and wonders. We want a sign from God about whom we should marry, where we should work, or where we should live. We ask for a sign that shows God loves us, that will help us to believe in him. And there is no doubt that God works miracles. But signs can get you in a lot of trouble. If we look for signs to guide our decisions or to increase our faith, more often than not, we will be disappointed. Our faith in God will suffer as a result. We may even hurt our faith and miss out on real opportunities to develop genuine faith.
After Jesus had turned water into wine, he headed down to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. While there, Jesus cleared the temple of the money changers, performed miraculous signs and told Nicodemus how to be born again. Then he returned to Galilee by way of Samaria.
The peculiar thing to note is that John reminds us that “a prophet has no honor in his own country.” What makes this peculiar is that next we read, “When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him.”
Think about it: Joseph was not accepted by his own brothers when he told them of the dreams he had; Jeremiah was thrown down a well for speaking the truth to his fellow Israelites; Isaiah was sawn in two…Jesus was not accepted in Galilee. Knowing this passage and taking it quite literally I asked the Conference not to place me in my home church to train as a minister.
But now the Galileans welcomed him. What’s peculiar about that? Well only a short time earlier they wanted to throw him off a cliff. He sat down to read the words of Isaiah from a scroll in his hometown synagogue, then stood up to say that this prophecy was fulfilled in their presence…in himself. They called that blasphemy then and wanted to kill him.
What changed? Signs! They saw the signs he performed in Jerusalem at the Passover feast. The result is what we could call a “fickle faith.” They did not actually have a faith in Jesus; what they had was a curious fascination in the son of Mary. More so, they wanted to see what Jesus would do next. Where do these people go when there are no signs?