Whether you believe or not. Part 1 of 3

In John, chapter 4, after Jesus leaves the Samaritan village, he continues His journey back to Galilee. I mentioned that His detour to the Samaritan village was prescribed as a divine appointment: It led to the salvation of many. His return to his “own country” is also prescribed as a divine appointment… of a different kind. John gives us the Executive Summary in verses 43 and 44 of chapter 4: John 4:43-44 But after the two days he went forth thence and went away into Galilee, for Jesus himself bore witness that a prophet has no honour in his own country.

The next verse doesn’t seem to support that statement: John 4:45 When therefore he came into Galilee, the Galileans received him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem during the feast, for they also went to the feast.

This implies that a large welcoming crowd gathered around Him. However, we should keep in mind that John already gave us his verdict about these people, who believed in Him because of the miracles they saw:

John 2:23-25 And when he was in Jerusalem, at the Passover, at the feast, many believed on his name, beholding his signs which he wrought. But Jesus himself did not trust himself to them, because he knew all [men], and that he had not need that any should testify of man, for himself knew what was in man.

Jesus did not entrust himself to them. The Greek word used there for entrust is episteuen, meaning that Jesus had no faith in them, He could not depend on them. In other words, He did not become intimately acquainted with them, He did not become best friends with them… Why? Because He knew their hearts.

I have talked about this before in other posts… Jesus’ miracles were not meant to convince us of His divinity, nor were they meant to be the basis of our faith. They were just what John preferred to call them: signs. Or better yet, signposts: They point out that something out of the ordinary is happening, something not common to this (fallen) world. And in so doing they are meant to challenge us to open our eyes and ask: “What does this mean?”

Once they get our attention, we are supposed to use our eyes, our ears, our brains, and ask: “Why has God gone out of His way to shake me up?” And invariably, if I pay attention, I will see that I am at a crossroads: If I listen, I will realize that there has been a voice speaking to me all along – the voice of the Father – and it has placed before me a choice:

Am I willing to listen to His Word and Obey it?


Do I just want to keep on living according to the rules of this world?

Believing in Jesus is making choice number one… And it will always drive us in the opposite direction of choice number two. And that is the tension, that is the crisis, in that choice. Because, more often that not, choosing God’s way instead of the world’s will imply giving up something in this world that we like, that we think we need, that we think we deserve. And that other voice that always opposes the voice of the Father is whispering, “Why would He make you choose? Why can’t you have both? It’s not fair?”

But I hope we learned the lesson of the Garden, a long time ago: You can’t obey God AND taste that forbidden fruit. It is one or the other; it is Either Or.

If we say we believe because of a miracle, then we are declaring that we would not be willing to believe if there had been no miracle

Think about it. Isn’t that putting God to the test? “God, I am willing to believe, but you have to make it easier for me… Come on, be reasonable; look at all that the world is offering me. And you are asking me to believe with no proof? You want me to believe without some benefit to me? What kind of businessman would I be? What kind of good steward would I be of this life You gave me, if I did not negotiate some good stuff for myself?”

Does that sound silly? That kind of relationship with God is not worship; it’s barter. And that’s the way the Gentile nations ended up relating to their multiple gods: I bring gifts and sacrifices to my god so that he will give me something I want in return.

That’s not the kind of relationship God, our Father in Heaven, wants with His children. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman: John 4:23-24 But [the] hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for also the Father seeks such as his worshippers. God [is] a spirit; and they who worship him must worship [him] in spirit and truth.

What does it take to believe?

John 4:46-48 He [Jesus] came therefore again to Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain courtier in Capernaum whose son was sick. He, having heard that Jesus had come out of Judaea into Galilee, went to him and asked [him] that he would come down and heal his son, for he was about to die. Jesus therefore said to him, Unless ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe.

Sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? But notice the plural, ye! Jesus is not just talking to this man. Remember, from verse 45 we can deduce there is a crowd of Galileans there, a crowd of people who think they believe in Him because of the miracles they saw at the feast. And Jesus is stating what He knows is true, what John told us is true in verses 43-44: A prophet has no honor in his own country.

(You see, above all, a prophet speaks the Word of God. Think of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah of Moresheth, and so on… Did they do miracles? Did God speak any less through them? The question for us is: Do we honor His Word or do we honor the miracles?)

Here, “easy come easy go applies”. If the only reason I believe is because of a miracle, it won’t take much to break me away from that faith. After all, such a “faith” requires no commitment on my part; it “costs” me nothing.

So, we have to take Jesus at His word: that crowd – including that courtier specifically – did not really believe in Him. Yet…

John 4:49 The courtier says to him, Sir, come down ere my child die.

Now you might say: “Wait a minute, if he didn’t believe, how come he is asking Jesus for help. He must have faith that Jesus can do something…” To which my reply is: What about the Gentile nations of the time? If someone went to the Temple of Apollo or the Temple of Aesculapius and asked the god for a healing, would you say that that person had faith also?

Hmmm… maybe we are a little too cavalier with what we are willing to call faith.

That is not the kind of faith that the Father is looking for. He is looking for worshipers who will worship Him in Spirit and Truth… who will Trust Him no matter what happens, regardless of what happens, even if the miracle never comes (in this life.)

Is this setting the bar too high? Does this seem unfair to you?

Look at Jesus’ answer. The man wants Jesus to come with Him; maybe because at the feast He saw Him lay His hands on people and curing them that way. That is what he wants to see. That is what he thinks he needs to see. But Jesus will not give him that:

John 4:50a Jesus says to him, Go, thy son lives.

What would you do? Jesus is refusing to go with Him. There are so many ways that that man could react: many of them driven by anger; because this preacher, who you know can cure your son, is too busy to come down to your house!

But what does he do? At the end of all the possible rants and ravings that we can go through, when every angry thought has been spent, I think we all can come to our senses and realize: “I am not God’s boss. I have no power over Him. Who am I to think that I can compel Him to do anything for me?”

And maybe at that point, just maybe, even if I don’t really believe in Him, I can take Him at His word.

What is there to lose?

John 4:50b And the man believed the word which Jesus said to him, and went his way.

Notice how John says it: the man did not believe in Jesus, but he believed in the word He spoke. And that’s the true beginning of faith.

Romans 10:13-15 For every one whosoever, who shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved. How then shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without one who preaches? and how shall they preach unless they have been sent? according as it is written, How beautiful the feet of them that announce glad tidings of peace, of them that announce glad tidings of good things!

Romans 10:17 (NASB) So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Do you know the word of Christ?

Can you speak it?

There’s a whole world of people out there that think they believe in something when, in reality, they do not yet know what it is to believe. But if you know the Word, and you speak it… that could very well be the first step that gets them on the path of faith.

But maybe you who are reading this are in the “same boat” as that courtier, that father: Desperate for a miracle… yet woefully short of the kind of faith God wants to see in you. What can you do?

Take Him at His word,

Even if you don’t believe.

What do you have to lose?

John 4:51 But already, as he was going down, his servants met him and brought [him] word saying, Thy child lives.

Now you would think his first thought would be of celebration. Maybe go running to that son that has been saved from death and hug him like you had never hugged him before! But what does the man do?

John 4:52 He inquired therefore from them the hour at which he got better. And they said to him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.

Ahh… Do you see it? The word that Jesus spoke was more to him than just a brusque answer; it was more than just information: He took that answer and held on to it and it became a signpost at the crossroads of his heart: Even as he turned and left Jesus, he left there a changed man, a challenged man: He was in the middle of a crisis:

Do I believe this preacher can heal my son across the distance by simply saying so?


Do I just keep pushing, him, even drag him with me, to do what I want him to do?

It is only at the crossroads, only when I am forced to choose His way and not mine, that Faith, real Faith, is born… because then it costs me; it costs me… to sacrifice my way and accept what He gives me, whatever that may be.

John 4:53 The father therefore knew that [it was] in that hour in which Jesus said to him, Thy son lives; and he believed, himself and his whole house.

Even if you believe

Have you been praying for a long time, asking God to intervene in your life or that of a loved one? And the weeks turn into months and the months into years. I know… At the beginning we had it all figured out. We knew He could fix it. And maybe we even told Him how He would fix it.  But time passes and it looks like the prayer is not getting answered. The situation gets worse, and we start fearing that it will get to the point of no return. And desperation and doubt now seem to be getting equal time in my heart.

I wonder if this father’s lesson is not also for us who believe. Because, maybe, just maybe, Jesus already told us “Go, thy son lives.”

Just because the healing hasn’t happened yet in our time, doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened in God’s time. Just because we don’t see the healing when we get “there” doesn’t mean we have gotten “there”. Because when He said, “Go”, He meant it. Meaning: “Go, keep on going, keep doing what you know I have called you to do”. (Including: keep on praying – I Thessalonians 5:16-17; Isaiah 62:7 – because He will never get tired of hearing His children’s voice.)

Sometimes we forget that our Heavenly Father is not bound by time or space… but He is certainly, willingly, bound by His Love for us.

It’s not my place to tell Him when or how or where to do His miracle.

All I need to do is take Him at His Word.

Share this on:


Sign up to receive new stories in your email as they’re published.

Your privacy is important. We won’t send spam or share your email address. Privacy Policy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *