Flashback Episode — Believing Before Seeing: John 4:46-54


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While Jesus had the reputation for being a great teacher, and as Someone who could heal pretty much anything, early on in Jesus’ ministry, before word had spread about this, we find a powerful event in John’s gospel that when we look at the details, this event might just be an example for us to follow.

For our episode today, we’ll be reading from the gospel of John, chapter 4, out of the New Century Version. Starting in verse 46, John tells us that:

46 Jesus went again to visit Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. One of the king’s important officers lived in the city of Capernaum, and his son was sick. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to Jesus and begged him to come to Capernaum and heal his son, because his son was almost dead. 48 Jesus said to him, “You people must see signs and miracles before you will believe in me.”

49 The officer said, “Sir, come before my child dies.”

50 Jesus answered, “Go. Your son will live.”

The man believed what Jesus told him and went home. 51 On the way the man’s servants came and met him and told him, “Your son is alive.”

52 The man asked, “What time did my son begin to get well?”

They answered, “Yesterday at one o’clock the fever left him.”

53 The father knew that one o’clock was the exact time that Jesus had said, “Your son will live.” So the man and all the people who lived in his house believed in Jesus.

54 That was the second miracle Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.

I want to emphasize that last verse. This was only the second miracle Jesus had done after coming from Judea to Galilee. The first was turning water into wine – and though the water-wine miracle is impressive, it is nothing like healing someone who is about to die.

Perhaps Jesus had healed other people in Judea, and word had spread into Galilee about these healings and to the ears of this official. Regardless of the way news traveled, or even how this official knew to come to Jesus early on in Jesus’ ministry, the dialog between the official and Jesus is important for us to pay attention to.

John doesn’t tell us the official’s exact words, but his clear request in verse 47 was for Jesus to “come to Capernaum and heal his son, because his son was almost dead.” It is significant to note that this official came personally, instead of simply sending a servant or messenger with the request. This detail emphasizes that the official believed his request was too important to leave with a servant.

However, Jesus’ response is interesting. In verse 48, Jesus replies by saying, “You people must see signs and miracles before you will believe in me.” This response in some ways is odd. The official is asking for help with a clearly urgent need, and Jesus responds with a statement about belief. However, the reason Jesus answered the way He did was because the request was for Jesus to go to the place where the child was.

We don’t know if the officer had doubts in his mind or if he wanted to witness a miracle though this event, but with the way Jesus responds, it is logical to conclude that this may have been the case – that is, unless Jesus said what He said not for the man’s benefit, but for the disciples and those present following Jesus. Perhaps this response was aimed at pushing the crowd following Jesus and not as much at the official himself.

But in the official’s second request we see persistence. Verse 49 tells us the official again asks Jesus, “Sir, come before my child dies.

This persistence might be wise for us to model in our own lives. If God hasn’t appeared to answer our requests the first time we ask them, perhaps we need to keep praying and pushing forward with our request moving forward.

Jesus’ second answer is powerful. He doesn’t comply with the official’s request, but He does challenge the official in a way that satisfies the official’s request. Up to this point in the requests and conversation, the emphasis has been on Jesus going personally to perform the miracle, but Jesus’ second response in verse 50 is simply, “Go. Your son will live.

This answer satisfies the official, even if it doesn’t comply with his request, and John tells us that “The man believed what Jesus told him and went home.

On the way, the official learns that his son has recovered, and that it happened at the exact time of his conversation with Jesus. This event concludes in verse 53 by saying, “So the man and all the people who lived in his house believed in Jesus.

It is important to note that the official and everyone described in this last verse believed in Jesus, not because they had seen Jesus perform a miracle, but they believed in Jesus because of the promise Jesus had given the official. Someone skeptical of this event might dismiss this as a coincidence, but to everyone present in this event, Jesus’ promise about the official’s son, which the official believed at face value, resulted in the long-distance miracle.

In our own lives, I wonder if John included this miracle as a way of challenging those who would read about this miracle to take Jesus’ promises at face value and believe Jesus’ words regardless of whether we see any change immediately. This may also be included as a challenge to bring our miracle requests to Jesus in prayer and believe that He will answer them even if we don’t see Him actively move towards the situation.

This event includes a challenge for all of us about where our belief should be grounded. Jesus challenged those present on the idea that “seeing is believing”. Jesus and the official demonstrated a different approach: The official believed Jesus, and then afterwards, he saw the results of his belief. The official demonstrates a “believing before seeing” approach to faith.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I want to leave you with:

As you are living your life, choose to believe God’s promises and Jesus’ words before you experience them personally. In some cases, you may need to obey before you see, similar to how this official had to obey Jesus on faith and start his homeward journey without Jesus with him. Choose to trust God’s promises and expect to see an answer to your prayers when God’s timing is right. He knows much more than we do about the events in our lives and what the future holds, and it makes the most sense to trust Him with the timing of our prayer answers.

Also, as you read and study the Bible, look for examples of events that demonstrate a believing before seeing approach to faith. There are many more than this one event, and as a collection, we learn how to grow spiritually with God and the Holy Spirit leading and guiding us.

And, as I always end each set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 6: Cam briefly looks at a long-distance miracle Jesus performed for an official, and we dig into the idea of what should be the foundation of our belief in Jesus.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Carrying Someone Else’s Cross: John 19:17

Focus Passage: John 19:17 (NCV)

17 Carrying his own cross, Jesus went out to a place called The Place of the Skull, which in the Hebrew language is called Golgotha.

Read John 19:17 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

On the road to Golgotha, while Jesus was traveling there with His cross, I am amazed by how the different gospel writers describe this scene.

Matthew draws our attention to a bystander turned celebrity by saying, “As the soldiers were going out of the city with Jesus, they forced a man from Cyrene, named Simon, to carry the cross for Jesus.” (Matthew 27:32)

Mark also draws our attention to this bystander by saying, “A man named Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was coming from the fields to the city. The soldiers forced Simon to carry the cross for Jesus.” (Mark 15:21)

Luke gives a third account of this bystander’s actions by saying, “As they led Jesus away, Simon, a man from Cyrene, was coming in from the fields. They forced him to carry Jesus’ cross and to walk behind him.” (Luke 23:26)

But John says something completely different. In His gospel we read, “Carrying his own cross, Jesus went out to a place called The Place of the Skull, which in the Hebrew language is called Golgotha.” (John 19:17)

John’s unique, and very clear description prompts me to wonder something. Of all the gospel writers, John was there. While Peter followed Jesus to the courtyard of the high priest, only the unnamed disciple who John includes in his gospel was present. Many scholars believe this unnamed disciple to be John himself. Matthew had run away, and Mark and Luke both were dependant on the witness of other people who were present.

Perhaps John followed outside of direct view of Jesus, while Matthew, Mark, and Luke have the more correct record of what happened because they relied on closer eye-witness sources. But maybe John says what he said to draw a point: Jesus carried His own cross.

Maybe Jesus carried the crossbeam while Simon carried the much heavier upright plank, or maybe Simon helped Jesus carry the cross for much of the way forward.

Simon was forced into the unique position to be the one to help Jesus bear His cross. Not only was this a once in a lifetime experience, Simon lived an incredible example of what Jesus did for each of us. While Jesus technically carried His own cross, it was really the cross meant for you and me. Jesus didn’t deserve a cross, but He did choose it for us. Carrying another person’s cross is a powerful metaphor, and what Simon did for Jesus, Jesus does for each one of us who deserve death for our sins.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Avoiding the Question: Matthew 21:23-32


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Coming right on the heels of Jesus kicking the merchants out of the temple, and the Pharisees challenging Him about what the children were cheering, we discover a new challenge. It would appear that the following day, as Jesus arrived in the temple and began teaching the crowds, the chief priests collectively had decided that what had happened the day before had broke the chain of command.

In our passage for this episode, we discover the chief priests challenging Jesus regarding what happened. In the priests challenge, we can see multiple layers, and we can see many ways that Jesus could fail. Let’s read what happened, and discover how Jesus responded to these religious leaders.

Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 21, and we will be reading it from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 23, Matthew tells us that:

23 Jesus had gone into the temple and was teaching when the chief priests and the leaders of the people came up to him. They asked, “What right do you have to do these things? Who gave you this authority?”

24 Jesus answered, “I have just one question to ask you. If you answer it, I will tell you where I got the right to do these things. 25 Who gave John the right to baptize? Was it God in heaven or merely some human being?”

They thought it over and said to each other, “We can’t say that God gave John this right. Jesus will ask us why we didn’t believe John. 26 On the other hand, these people think that John was a prophet, and we are afraid of what they might do to us. That’s why we can’t say that it was merely some human who gave John the right to baptize.” 27 So they told Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus said, “Then I won’t tell you who gave me the right to do what I do.”

Most people stop reading here, right after Jesus declines to answer these leaders, but Matthew continues by sharing more of Jesus’ response. After Jesus tells these leaders that He won’t tell them who gave Him the rights they are challenging, Matthew continues in verse 28 by telling us that:

28 Jesus said:

I will tell you a story about a man who had two sons. Then you can tell me what you think. The father went to the older son and said, “Go work in the vineyard today!” 29 His son told him that he would not do it, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The man then told his younger son to go work in the vineyard. The boy said he would, but he didn’t go. 31 Which one of the sons obeyed his father?

“The older one,” the chief priests and leaders answered.

Then Jesus told them:

You can be sure that tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you ever will! 32 When John the Baptist showed you how to do right, you would not believe him. But these evil people did believe. And even when you saw what they did, you still would not change your minds and believe.

In this passage, and in Jesus’ follow-up discussion with the religious leaders, we discover a powerful truth: Knowledge that is not applied is worthless. Verse 32 hits this point directly by saying, “When John the Baptist showed you how to do right, you would not believe him. But these evil people did believe. And even when you saw what they did, you still would not change your minds and believe.

The belief of the tax collectors and prostitutes was visible because they repented, turned to God, and away from their sin. The evidence of their changed lives should have been enough for these leaders to praise God, except that they were too inward focused. They couldn’t deny that John’s message brought results, but they didn’t like him because he wasn’t one of them – and because he challenged them regarding their character.

This also brings us to the truth that someone who knows they are living sinfully and apart from God’s will is more savable than someone who believes themselves to be living perfectly for God. It is harder for an arrogant follower of Jesus to be saved than it is for the most sin-filled, evil person who decided to change, come to God, and repent. Anyone who believes they don’t need to repent has just placed themselves in the same group these religious leaders are in, and this group risks losing their salvation.

Jesus’ parable in this passage teaches us a powerful truth that we all intuitively know to be true: Talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words. You know your true friends by how they act towards you and how they treat you more than what they simply say.

Nowhere in this passage or parable does Jesus ever imply that lying is okay. The clear ideal would be for one son to say that He would go and help, and then follow up by going and helping. However, when given the choice between someone saying they will do something and then deciding to do something else vs. someone who says they won’t help but who ultimately comes to help, you and I would always prefer the one who came.

This is the same with God. The religious leaders talked like people who followed God, but their actions, and the way they treated others was nothing like God. In a similar way, while there are many true Christians in the world today who live and love others like Jesus did, it is also not difficult to find people who claim to be Christians who are act nothing like Christ. Also, we can look among the growing number of people who are not followers of Jesus, and while many are living evil lives, there are plenty of examples of people who act like Jesus even if they don’t know who He is.

I believe Jesus is challenging these religious leaders with the truth that it is easier for someone who cares, loves, and desires good to come to Jesus and be saved, than it is for an arrogant person who claims they know Jesus to be saved.

In our own lives, we can also learn from this truth. Regardless of whether we never knew Jesus or if we grew up knowing about Him from as long as we can remember, this moment in time is a new moment, and it is a moment where we can decide to humble ourselves before Jesus and let Him into our hearts.

An arrogant pride stopped the religious leaders from discovering and accepting Jesus, and arrogant pride in our own lives and hearts risks our own salvation.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and humbly come before Him with a repentant heart and a teachable spirit. There will never be a time when we have learned it all, and so we should always be willing to learn, grow, and move closer to God through every experience we face in life.

As you continue seeking God and growing toward Him, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself, to grow that personal relationship. While other people can help you on your journey, your relationship should be your own, and you should never let someone else stand between you and Jesus. Through prayer and Bible study, you can personally grow closer to God.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never chicken out of, or move away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of the Cross – Episode 6: When some religious leaders challenge Jesus, we see Him skillfully sidestep the question, but then He immediately follows up with a challenge to them about the state of their belief. Discover what we can learn from what Jesus taught, and how this teaching is just as applicable in our lives today.

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Where Is Your Name: Luke 10:1-20

Focus Passage: Luke 10:1-20 (NCV)

After this, the Lord chose seventy-two others and sent them out in pairs ahead of him into every town and place where he planned to go. He said to them, “There are a great many people to harvest, but there are only a few workers. So pray to God, who owns the harvest, that he will send more workers to help gather his harvest. Go now, but listen! I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Don’t carry a purse, a bag, or sandals, and don’t waste time talking with people on the road. Before you go into a house, say, ‘Peace be with this house.’ If peace-loving people live there, your blessing of peace will stay with them, but if not, then your blessing will come back to you. Stay in the same house, eating and drinking what the people there give you. A worker should be given his pay. Don’t move from house to house. If you go into a town and the people welcome you, eat what they give you. Heal the sick who live there, and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ 10 But if you go into a town, and the people don’t welcome you, then go into the streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dirt from your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. But remember that the kingdom of God is near.’ 12 I tell you, on the Judgment Day it will be better for the people of Sodom than for the people of that town.

13 “How terrible for you, Korazin! How terrible for you, Bethsaida! If the miracles I did in you had happened in Tyre and Sidon, those people would have changed their lives long ago. They would have worn rough cloth and put ashes on themselves to show they had changed. 14 But on the Judgment Day it will be better for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to heaven? No! You will be thrown down to the depths!

16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever refuses to accept you refuses to accept me. And whoever refuses to accept me refuses to accept the One who sent me.”

17 When the seventy-two came back, they were very happy and said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we used your name!”

18 Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Listen, I have given you power to walk on snakes and scorpions, power that is greater than the enemy has. So nothing will hurt you. 20 But you should not be happy because the spirits obey you but because your names are written in heaven.”

Read Luke 10:1-20 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Have you ever received a gift from someone?

Have you ever been promised a gift that you would receive at some point in the future?

In our passage for today, the closing verses stood out to me with a pretty profound insight. On returning from their missionary task, the disciples are excited because of the power that they received through the Holy Spirit. They return saying, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we used your name!” (v. 17)

However, in Jesus reply we see this profound truth, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Listen, I have given you power to walk on snakes and scorpions, power that is greater than the enemy has. So nothing will hurt you. But you should not be happy because the spirits obey you but because your names are written in heaven. (v. 18-20 – emphasis added.)

In His response, Jesus is teaching a significant truth: Our future rewards are more important than our present realities – even when we are in a good place in our lives.

At one of the heights of the disciples’ happiness/joy, Jesus intentionally points out that their happiness should not be based upon what they did (or could do through the Holy Spirit), but instead that it should be based on the fact that they have been saved and given the promise of a future life with Jesus in Heaven.

The truth we must remember is that our happiness must be because of what we are promised in the future and not based upon our present circumstances. The disciples were not able to cast out every demon that they came up against, and the temptation we all face is that when things don’t go our way, we have the tendency to doubt our relationship with God. When we are in the middle of an emotional high, it is easy to feel that God is with us, but when the emotions fade and we come down from the high we are on, we are tempted to think that God is moving away from us.

This is never the case. God wants His relationship with us to be about Him and His character, not about us and our ever-changing feelings.

The disciples were excited when they returned from their mission trip because of the amazing things they experienced on it – but Jesus knew that this feeling wouldn’t last. Our hope and faith need a stronger foundation than our feelings; our hope and faith need Jesus as their foundation.

Jesus fulfilled every Old Testament prophecy concerning His first appearance – which is another way to say that He kept His promises to the Jewish nation (even if they didn’t understand the promises). Because Jesus kept His Word then, we have no valid reason to think that He won’t continue to keep His Word moving forward into the future – which means that there will be a point that He returns, and a point when we return to Heaven to be with Him.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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