Reading the signs

Many of us have been confronted by the inexplicable or miraculous. There have been times that I myself have felt rescued from difficult or dangerous circumstances by the hand of God, and I have friends who can say the same.

Of course, I also have enough scientific training to be skeptical. Not everything is a miracle just because we claim it to be. Not everything is a sign from God.

That said, if it’s possible to over-believe, it’s also possible to under-believe. With the right motivation, we can ignore or flat out disbelieve the sign that’s right in front of our noses.

So it was with the people who wanted to stone Jesus for blasphemy.

As we saw in the previous post, Jesus asked for what good work they wanted to stone him. “We’re not stoning you for that,” they answered. “We’re stoning you for blasphemy. You’re just a man, but saying that you’re one with God.” Their charge of blasphemy simply assumes — without a trial or due process — that what he’s saying can’t possibly be true. They are judge, jury, and executioner, all at once, all in a moment.

But what if it is true? What if he really is sent by the Father? Would it then be blasphemy to say that he’s the Son of God?

That’s why he returns to the subject of his miraculous works:

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father. (John 10:37-38)

Some who saw Jesus’ signs knew immediately and intuitively that only someone from the Father could do such things. He’s inviting his opponents to the same belief: You’re tangling yourself in my words, looking for a reason to disbelieve. Don’t. Look at the signs. Look at them clearly. Then you’ll know — and keep on knowing! — that it’s not blasphemy for me to say that the Father and I are one, he in me, and I in him.

Did they get it? Apparently, they stopped trying to stone him and tried to arrest him instead (vs. 39). Perhaps that’s a step in the right direction. But they couldn’t lay hands on him, and Jesus slipped away, returning to the place where John the Baptist had ministered beyond the river Jordan.

Ironically, people came to him there and believed — because of his miraculous signs (vss. 40-42).

Let it be said that the kinds of miracles Jesus performed were not of the “I prayed for a parking space and got one!” variety. Feeding over 5,000 people? Healing the man who had been lame for decades? Giving sight to a man who had been born blind? All in front of witnesses?

It can take a certain amount of stubbornness to disbelieve.