A place to begin

As those who believe in and follow Jesus, we may have very different stories of how that began. Some would say that they grew up in Christian homes and have believed for as long as they can remember. Others might say that they came to faith after a long, hard search or struggle. Still others might tell of an unexpected moment of clarity in a church service or evangelistic meeting. And on it goes.

I think of my own story as a relatively boring one. I was a kid from a middle-class family, living an unremarkable life. The first day I set foot on my college campus to register for classes, I was approached by two young men with a survey and an evangelistic tract. They walked me through both and asked if I wanted to pray the prayer at the end of the tract. I agreed, and said the words they gave me.

It’s not a very dramatic testimony. I can’t say that I was one of the FBI’s Most Wanted before I met Jesus. When I prayed, there was no sudden enlightenment, no choir of angels, no warm feeling. Quite simply, it just seemed like the sensible thing to do at the time.

The gospels are filled with conflict and stories of those who come to faith in dramatic fashion. But against that background, some stories of faith stand out for their sheer ordinariness.

In previous posts, we’ve seen Jesus’ interaction with the various dramatis personae in John 7: his brothers, the crowd of pilgrims from outside Jerusalem, the people of Jerusalem themselves. Jesus has offended the locals, and they want to seize him.

But some of the pilgrims respond with an entry-level kind of faith:

Many from that crowd believed in Jesus. They said, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man does?” (John 7:31, CEB)

That’s it. Their rationale seems simple and straightforward: Hey, I don’t know exactly what the Messiah is supposed to do, but surely it can’t be more impressive than what this guy has already done. Right? Count me in. John tells us nothing else about why they believe. Nor does he pass judgment on their reasons.

For that matter, neither does Jesus.

As pilgrims who had made their way to Jerusalem from outlying lands, these new believers may never have seen Jesus before. And scholars and historians argue that there’s no clear evidence that first-century Jews expected the Messiah to do miracles.

Still, throughout John’s gospel, we’ve had one story after another of the miraculous signs Jesus performed, signs that were meant to point to his true identity. Some see the signs and get their dander up.

But others believe. Isn’t that what the signs are for? And if belief comes without much personal drama, so be it. It’s not about whether our personal stories are Oscar-worthy. It’s about the drama of a gracious God who enfolds even the most ordinary of stories into his extraordinary one.