Monday, November 26, 2012


"the man believed"
John 4:50

We are studying the Gospel of John this year in Bible study.  It's been a few years since I studied a gospel, and I just love the in-depth analysis I get from "studying" rather than reading, and from taking nine months to get through one book.

I also like the idea of someone else asking me questions.  We have homework in our study, and someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to write up questions to help us get the most out of our study of the Bible.  I normally approach Scripture with questions ~ I'm a sort of naturally nosy inquisitive person ~ but someone else giving me questions to answer, makes me think about things I might not have, otherwise.

But there's one question that I hate to be asked ~ and it gets asked frequently:  "Why do you think Jesus did such-and-such...."  Or, if I'm studying an Old Testament book, the question might be "Why do you think God did such-and-such...."

It's a question about motivation, and my inclination is to respond with something along the lines of, "How in the world should I know?" or "Because He's God."

But at the same time, I know there's value in my wondering; in my trying to answer the question.   And in today's lesson, that wondering gave me a wonderful insight.  It reminded me of something I don't think about often enough.

The question came up in John 4.  Jesus had returned to Galilee, and the text gives the indication that He knew what to expect from the Galileans.  Verse 45 says the Galileans received Him, "having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast."  This refers to chapter 2, when Jesus had been in Jerusalem for Passover.  He had cleansed the temple of those who were there only for profit, and then He had done many signs (2:23).  The Galileans apparently remembered these miracles, though chapter 2 also tells us that though they saw His miracles, they did not believe in Him as God.  All they believed was that He was a healer; a magician, perhaps.

Galilee was also the location of Jesus' first public miracle, the turning of water into wine, at the wedding in Cana.  So it's possible that many had heard of this, too.  So He came to Galilee expecting to be pressed for signs and wonders.

Sure enough, starting in verse 46 of chapter 4, we see that Jesus is met by a certain nobleman whose son was deathly ill.  He implored Jesus to come down and heal his son.  Jesus' response seems to contain a little weariness or cynicism about the Galileans, if He is capable of such emotions, for He responded, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe."

He almost sounds exasperated, like these people are never gonna get it.  But the nobleman continued, "Sir, come down before my child dies!"

Jesus' response changed the course of the conversation.  His response was different from His first comment to the nobleman.  This time He responded, simply, "Go your way; your son lives."

Sure enough, the man headed for home, and was met partway by his servants, who informed him that his son had gotten well, and the timing corresponded exactly with the time that Jesus had spoken His word of healing.  Because of this, the nobleman believed, along with his household. 

So the question in my lesson was something like, "Why did Jesus heal the son, after what He had said to the nobleman?"  And of course, I thought, "How should I know; because He's God!"

But then I gave it some more thought, and I came to two conclusions:  first, that while Jesus knew that many of the Galileans were just interested in a magic show, this man was hurting, and desperate for his son to be healed.  Jesus also knew, I'm sure, that while many of the Galileans saw miracles and did not believe, this man would believe, and he and his household would be saved.

But the other reason that Jesus might have healed the boy anyway, despite the Galilean love of being amazed and awed, is the one that was such a wonderful reminder to me.   I looked back over the text, and the conversation Jesus had had with the nobleman, and I thought to myself, "why would Jesus heal the son of a cynical Galilean?"

The answer is a pretty reliable answer to why Jesus did any act of compassion ~ healing the blind, or the lame or the ill, raising the dead or feeding the hungry.   Why does one do good things for people who need them?  Compassion.  But why does one do good things for those who don't deserve them? 


Ultimately, it's why God does everything, I think, even the things that seem unpleasant.  He can do no less, because He is grace.  

I like the reminder that it's why He lets things happen in my life ~ the good and the bad; the blessings and trials, not to mention salvation itself.  All from His grace.  Free and undeserved.


~ "I know you by name, 
and you have found grace in My sight" ~
Exodus 33:12

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