“When he [the royal official] heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” ~ John 4: 47-48
This scripture caught my attention. Suddenly, it was like I was seeing it with new eyes. I had always assumed that Jesus’ comment to the official was a rebuke that we should believe without having to see miracles. But, Jesus decided to heal the son, anyway. And the official, along with his whole household, believed. So, the thought came, “What if Jesus was saying that unless we see signs and wonders, it is difficult, if not impossible, to believe.”
Gospel lessons this week point to this. Mark 7 tells about Jesus healing a deaf man with speech problems. Afterwards, Jesus ordered those standing around not to tell anyone, (yeah right), but the more he ordered them, the more they told the story.
John 5 relates the story of Jesus healing a man lying by a healing pool. Jesus asks him if he wants to be made well then told him to stand up and walk. He did. The crowd who observed this, and the man himself, began to tell of Jesus healing of him to anyone who would listen. God’s story spreads.
In John 6, Jesus feeds 5000 people with a boy’s lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish. The large crowd had been following him because they saw the signs in the healings he was doing. The Bible says, “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’”
Later, some of the crowd from the picnic look for Jesus. When they catch up with him, they ask how he got there. Jesus, not answering, said, “…truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” Then he preaches another sermon.
So, what if…..we need to see signs and wonders. Perhaps it is not a sign of unbelief to want them but a pointer to the Kingdom of God. What if we need this outer experience of God as well as the inner experience of God. What if telling the stories of these signs in our own lives is part of our evangelism—part of telling the story.
I’m teaching a spiritual formation class on the Bible as God’s great love story for the humans he created and their unfolding understanding of that relationship. We will, also, work with our own stories – past events in our lives to become more able to see where God is in them. Not all stories have signs and wonders, but some do. We can recall them when we wonder where God is or if he really cares. These are our Gospel stories to share with others.
I have many stories but this is, hopefully, not a book, so I’ll only share two of my biggies. Condensed, the first is about the healing of our daughter when she was five days old. She had developed internal bleeding and doctors did not know why. She was moved about 50 miles from one hospital to another by ambulance. Doctors decided that if the bleeding did not stop in a few hours, they would have to do exploratory surgery. I did some major wrestling with God all that night and, as the next day was Sunday, we called our church although they did not really believe miracles happened anymore. We asked for prayers, so they prayed, and at that instant our daughter was healed. The military doctor said it was a miracle. It was. Signs and Wonders. The church came to believe that God still does miraculous healing and I came to believe that God hears my prayers. The story spreads.
Second: I had lost a special earring that my husband had given me. I know I was wearing it that morning because I kept touching it. One such time, I found it gone. I looked around my desk. In the wastebasket. In the bathroom. In my car. No earring. I prayed that God would show me where it was but…. Dave was away on a business trip so I had been reading late in bed that night. I needed to go to sleep but first I went to the bathroom. When I came back to bed, I noticed something shiny on the blankets. I picked it up and there it was – my earring. How could this be? Had I not worn it to work? Had it fallen into my clothes, etc.? But then I noticed that the back that holds the earring on was still there……God brought the earring to me. You may find this hard to believe, and sometimes I wonder myself. We all find it hard to understand signs and wonders from time to time. What did I learn about God? I learned that God cares about things I care about—even little things. It is a love story, after all.
And the stories continue…. What are yours?
The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt. ~ Frederick Buechner