Unless You See Signs and Wonders
Jesus stayed with the Samaritans in Sychar for two days before he resumed his trek to Galilee. Returning to Cana where he turned water into wine, he was met by an “official” come from Capernaum on behalf of his son. Though we do not know exactly what “official” here indicates, it probably refers to a gentile officer, perhaps even a centurion. So, in chapter three, Jesus spoke to a Jewish leader (but by night); in chapter four, he spoke to a Samaritan woman; and, now he speaks to a gentile who may very well have been a pagan. Jesus seems quite unimpressed with societal boundaries that people keep to separate themselves from others. Jesus does not seem to want to separate himself from others, but came as a physician to heal the sick and save sinners (Mark 2:17).
So this official comes to Jesus to ask him to come and heal his son who was ill and, according to the father, close to death. But Jesus says something to him that seems to us perhaps a little, well, off-putting: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” We have learned that John prefers to call Jesus’ miracles by the word, “sign.” This is because the purpose of Jesus’ miracles was to act as signs pointing beyond the miracle to himself as Lord and Christ. In Deuteronomy 13:1-5, the Lord warns the people of the prophet who performs signs and wonders, and then tells them to follow after other gods. They are not to do so, signs and wonders, notwithstanding. In Mark 13:21-22, Jesus warns that in the end times, false messiahs and prophets will appear performing signs and wonders that would fool even the elect, if possible (it’s not). The point is to not get caught up in signs and wonders. Signs are meant only to lead to Christ. That “prophet” who performs a sign while contradicting the word of God is a false prophet whose sign is the work of the devil, regardless what he did.
The official in desperation begs Jesus to come and heal his son lest he die. Jesus, just as we expect, heals the man’s son, but not by making the trip to Capernaum. Jesus doesn’t need to make a trip. Oh, he made a trip on several occasions, but not so to perform the miracle. He shows here that he could do that from miles away – which leads us to understand that our Lord’s authority and power is not bound by time and space, which was so even when he was in the body. As we learned over Christmas, our Lord is Immanuel, “God with us.” And this is as true today as it was then. So ask that you may receive, only never love the sign more than the One who performed it.