4 July 2017

John 4:43-54

“Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” (v. 48)

Psalm: Psalm 30



There are some puzzling aspects to this passage. Jesus appears in verse 48 to dismiss the official's appeal, then, after the official has pressed his case, he responds, but not, as the desperate father had asked, by going with him. Is he testing the man? Today we might perhaps interpret Jesus' words in verse 50 as an example of clairvoyance, but we are clearly expected to understand that Jesus actually effected the cure at a distance.

One theme which runs through John's Gospel and is illustrated in this passage is contrasting attitudes to the miraculous. The crowds flock to Jesus wanting to be amazed at the things he has done. They are in the conventional sense 'signs and wonders'. But for the writer of the Gospel they are 'signs', pointing beyond themselves to the mystery of Jesus himself, who comes as the Word of God, revealing the Father (see John 1:114). They call for faith, not in the simple sense that 'Jesus can do anything', but in the sense that we can see through what happens to who Jesus is and what he truly brings.

So the official is tested. If he is just looking for wonders, he will receive nothing. If he wants actually to see his son being healed he will be disappointed. But he trusts Jesus' promise (verse 50), and goes home to find his trust vindicated. That leads to a deeper conviction (verse 53), a deeper appreciation of who Jesus is.

We are told that this is a sign (verse 54). True to the character of a sign we are left to see for ourselves what it is a sign of - surely that Jesus gives life, not in the superficial sense of continuing to live from day to day, but in the profound sense of eternal life with God.

To Ponder

  • To what extent do we still sometimes think of God as a heavenly magician who will work miracles to get us out of difficulties?
  • Think about Jesus as life-giver.

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..