Is Seeing Believing?

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

John 4:43-54 | April 29 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
April 29
Is Seeing Believing? | John 4:43-54
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Let’s pray. Jesus, Jesus, how we trust Him. How He has proved us o’er and o’er. O, God, we come ready to take You at Your Word. We can be doubtful people, suspicious people, cynical people. But we come to Your Word knowing that You speak only what is true. And so we ask that as You spoke by the apostles and the prophets, You would pour out that same spirit upon us, as we now read the pages that they wrote. Open to us Your Word. Give us light, give us understanding, simple as we are. Give us wisdom to enjoy and obey the fruit of this Word. Through Jesus we pray. Amen.

I invite you to turn in your Bibles to John chapter 4, John chapter 4. We’ll be reading verses 43 through 54. John, chapter 4, beginning at verse 43:

“After the two days He departed for Galilee. (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that He had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast. So He came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to Him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when He had come from Judea to Galilee.”

There are many reasons for going through the Bible on Sunday morning like we do, verse by verse, usually chapter by chapter, book by book. Sometimes slowly. There’s reasons for that. It helps you to understand not just isolated passages, but to understand a book and within its context. It helps to keep the preacher honest, that you just don’t get from me whatever thing I’ve been thinking of or hobby horse I want to ride. There’s a lot of reasons.

But one of the reasons you may not think of is that it should help you know how to read your Bibles well. If I’m doing the job I need to do, you should learn week after week how to carefully pay attention to the text. Now, there are all sorts of other settings that you do that. Many of you are in Bible studies and covenant groups and Sunday school classes where you’re also looking at the text, but this is another way to reinforce, hopefully, that you are careful readers of the Bible.

So here’s what I think you should have noticed if you were paying attention as I read through these verses. You should have noticed problems. You should, when you read your Bible, in certain passages, notice problems. There should be things that say “how can that be? That doesn’t seem right. I’m not sure how that works in my life, or I’m not sure how those things can be consistent in the same passage.” That’s not coming with an attitude of disbelief; it can be, but not necessarily. It’s just coming to say “God, I know you’ve inspired this, I know this is true, but I’m confused.”

And so I hope that you noticed some problems in this passage. There are two verses in particular that don’t seem to fit. Verse 44 and verse 48.

So look at verse 43, Jesus, remember He was in Samaria, they asked Him to stay, He stayed two days, and then He went to Galilee. Verse 44 would make more sense, it would seem, if it said a prophet receives special honor in his own hometown. That would seem to fit better with verse 43 and verse 45. Do you see the point? He went to Galilee and then verse 45 it says He came to Galilee and the Galileans welcomed Him. So what’s with the parentheses in verse 44 that a prophet is without honor in his own hometown, because as we’ll see, Jesus was from Nazareth. He was from the region of Galilee. He was a Galilean. So he left Samaria, He goes to Galilee, a prophet is without honor in his own hometown, He gets to Galilee, He’s welcomed. It would seem to make, just take out the parentheses, and the paragraph makes sense. You put in that parenthetical statement, and you scratch your head and say “now, why, why do we have there a word about a prophet being without honor in his own hometown?”

So that doesn’t quite seem to fit. And then the other verse is verse 48. “So Jesus said to him, unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” The paragraph there would seem to make better sense if you took out verse 48. You see, He comes to Cana and Galilee, verse 47, then a man comes and he says “I want you to heal my son,” and then verse 49 the official says to Him “come, before my child dies.” The paragraph would seem to make perfect sense without verse 48.

Okay, there’s a man, he’s got a son who’s about to die, then he says “come heal my son.” But in between, we have verse 48, where Jesus says “unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” So when I was working through this passage, and I’ve read the Gospel of John I don’t know how many dozens or hundreds of times, and yet when I sat down to read through this slowly and work through it, I kept coming back to verse 44 and verse 48 and saying “I don’t quite get it.” What’s going on here? Why the statement about a prophet without honor in his hometown when He goes to Galilee where He’s from and He’s welcomed.

And then why verse 48? Why does Jesus seemingly out of nowhere, when a man is coming with a sick child, say “hey, you’re not gonna believe unless you see signs,” and then He goes on and He heals the child anyways.

How do we make sense of these two verses? Once we do, you’ll understand the passage much more clearly, and you may understand the passage in a different way, but you’ll see it’s much more relevant than you may have imagined.

So let’s go up to verse 44. How do we make sense of this? “For Jesus Himself had testified,” and this was a proverbial saying of the day, “a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.” The word for “hometown” there in Greek is “patris,” meaning “your pater land,” your fatherland. A prophet is without honor in his own stomping grounds.

One commentator said there are no fewer than 10 different interpretations for why this verse is here. I won’t go through all of them. Here’s a few different explanations.

Some people say, well, his hometown in this context is a reference to Jerusalem and Judea, ’cause remember He was in Jerusalem for the feast and there, there were some miracles, and then He left there and to go up to Galilee He went through Samaria and now He’s going to Galilee. So, so maybe when it says “he’s without honor in his hometown” it’s speaking of Jerusalem and Judea. He’s not there anymore where people maybe were going to have threats on his life. After all, He was born in Bethlehem of Judea, just a few miles away from Jerusalem, so perhaps it’s saying He left there to go to Galilee and His hometown is Jerusalem and Judea.

Well, that doesn’t work because the immediate context is not Him coming from Jerusalem or Judea, but coming from Samaria. And yes, He was born in Bethlehem, but that’s not mentioned anywhere in this Gospel, and, as we’ll see, it’s not really clear that he got an overall better reception in Galilee than he did in Judea. And, if this were the case, okay, I’m leaving Jerusalem/Judea because I don’t have any honor there, but I’m going to go to Galilee, that would make it sound like Jesus is looking for the place that He can get more honor, which is not really in keeping with Jesus’ method in ministry. He’s not one who’s going around seeking, you know, His, His finger to the wind, “where am I going to get honor? Okay, Jerusalem was a little too hot to handle, I’m going to go into Galilee.” So that doesn’t work.

Some people say well, He’s, He left heaven. Now, that’s certainly true from the prologue, that He was in the beginning with God and is God, but heaven wasn’t the place where He was dishonored, and this whole section is full of concrete physicality. There’s geography, there’s mountains, there’s names of cities and places and regions. So we’re not dealing with a spiritual kind of allegory.

Well, then other people say “well, He must have gone to Nazareth, His hometown, and then left Nazareth to go to Capernaum.” It’s true, Jesus is recognized often as being from Nazareth. If you turn back to John chapter 1, you seen in verse 45 Philip told Nathanael we have found Him of whom Moses and the law and also the prophets wrote Jesus of Nazareth. Nathanael said to him can anything good come out of Nazareth? Little podunk, nothing town Nazareth? So He was hailed as one who was from Nazareth. In Luke 4, at the beginning of His ministry in Luke’s gospel, the people in Nazareth say why don’t you do here what you did in Capernaum? Come on, you did miracles in Capernaum, do some miracles here in Nazareth. And Jesus replies, in Luke 4:24, “truly I say to you no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.”

So it’s true in other gospel accounts Jesus is in His hometown of Nazareth and He leaves there because He is not honored there. He doesn’t do many miracles there because He may have crowds elsewhere, but in His own hometown, there is no special honor.

Now that’s true in other Gospel accounts. But if you go back to John chapter 4, you have to provide a lot of in between the lines what isn’t really written to think that well, verse 44 is suggesting that after He went to Samaria He went to Nazareth and then He wasn’t honored there because a prophet is without honor in his hometown and now He’s going to elsewhere in Galilee. Now that would make perfect sense, except there’s no verse that says that happened.

So the most natural reading is to think that Jesus is coming back to His native land of Galilee. Remember He was in Samaria. He’s not a Samaritan. Samaritans and Jews didn’t get along. So now He’s coming back to His own people, to Jewish soil, to His home, if not Nazareth in particular, then the region from which He was from, Galilee. And He was often known as being a Galilean.

Turn over to John chapter 7 for just a moment. John 7: 41. “The people say is this really the prophet? Others said this is the Christ, but some said is the Christ to come from Galilee?” And then in verse 52, “they replied are you from Galilee, too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

So just as much as Jesus was known as being from the little town of Nazareth, He was also known as being from Galilee. So it makes sense that His hometown is this whole region of Galilee. So He’s leaving Samaria, where He received a surprisingly warm reception. Remember, the woman went off into town and told “I met a man who told me everything I’ve ever done,” and then they come and they believe and they say “stay with us two days.”

Now He’s going back to His own people, where the reception will be not quite the same. In other words, He is deliberately leaving a place of honor to venture to a place of less honor. You see that little word at the beginning of verse 44, “for,” that indicates we have a purpose, we have a reason, why did Jesus depart for Galilee? Because, “for,” Jesus knew a prophet has no honor in his own hometown. Jesus deliberately left Samaria, where He was at present being honored, that He might go to His Jewish people, to Galilee, where He knows He will not receive the same honor.

Now think about that. Not many of us operate that way. Not many of us, you know, praying, Lord, I want to know Your will, I want to know Your plan, the next steps for my life. Would you just tell me where is it going to be harder? Things seem to be going well here, I’d really like to go somewhere else. Where can I be less honored? I’d like to go where I’m going to be misunderstood, as He was constantly misunderstood among the Jews.

And don’t some of you know from experience sometimes the hardest place is to go back to the place where you’re from, where people know you. It’s a wonderful thing where everybody knows your name, sort of, except everybody knows your name. They know who you are and they know what you were like and… I feel like that when I go back and see my parents and go to Grand Rapids, Michigan, walk the same streets and go up the same place, and see the same Dutch people, and they’re all related, everyone who is, is somehow related to each other. And it’s wonderful, it’s wonderful to be back. And then there’s, but there’s that sense that’s both liberating and shackling, like did I ever leave?

And sometimes there’s a familiarity with which breeds great warmth, and sometimes there’s a familiarity which breeds contempt, and so with Jesus. He was that prophet who was without honor in his own hometown.

Some of you have perhaps had the same experience. It’s not to say whether you ought to stay or whether you ought to go or whether you ought to return, it is simply to say that there are added challenges sometimes, being around the people that knew. I mean, just imagine, this is Jesus. Remember elsewhere in the gospels? They say we know his parents, his kids. You think it’s hard for you to go back? Jesus has to go back and “I’m God.” I mean, He doesn’t say it quite like that, but he’s the Christ. He’s the prophet. You’ve got a real big head. We watched you in nursery. And now you made me? Right. [laughter] We came, we saw you, we held you when you were a little baby. And now you’re saying “I always existed.” Right. So Jesus is without honor as He gets closer to His own people.

So that’s what verse 44 is saying. “For,” for the reason Jesus, leaving Samaria, going to Galilee.

Now how does this fit with verse 45? Okay, that can make sense, except verse 45 seems to say the opposite, right? He came to Galilee and they welcomed Him. But there’s a certain amount of irony in this word that yes, they welcomed Him, yes they were eager to see Him, but as we will see in a moment, their welcome was not the sort of welcome that Jesus was impressed by. You notice that, taht line there that you probably just, you know, floated by as we, we all tend to do when we read these things, but it’s important: “Having seen all that He had done in Jerusalem at the feast.”

Okay, so remember. Go back now to John chapter 2, remember what happens in John 2? Jesus is there at the feast. The pilgrims would have to go three times a year, they would have these pilgrimage festivals, and they’d have to go to Jerusalem, to the temple, and so the Galileans were there. They saw Jesus there, and He did signs there. But remember what happened? John 2, verse 23: “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs that He was doing.” Ah ha, oh, wonderful, they believed. But, verse 24: “Jesus on His part did not entrust Himself to them because He knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for He Himself knew what was in man.”

Remember that? They trusted Jesus, and He did not entrust Himself to them. Theirs was a belief with some air quotes. They “believed” Him, but it was not saving faith. Jesus knew what they were about. They liked the show. They liked the signs. They liked the miracles. Jesus’ greatest hits. So you want to be a messiah. Jesus got talent. They loved it.

That’s why John tells us in chapter 4 that these Galileans had been there at the feast. They’d seen the same thing. So now when Jesus comes to their neck of the woods, yes, they welcome Him. Here comes the entertainer. Here comes the wonder worker. Here comes the one-man show. They welcomed Him, just as those in Judea put their “faith” in Him, but it was not the faith that would save and it’s not welcome that Jesus was really looking for.

Which then helps to make sense of the other problematic verse in this passage. So we looked at verse 44, now look at verse 48. So if that’s how we ought to understand verse 44, He’s leaving Samaria where He is honored, He’s going to Galilee, where He won’t be honored, and the welcome that He received there is kind of a dubious, ambiguous welcome because they saw the signs and they’re looking for it just like the Jews in Jerusalem were, now things start to fall into place to understand verse 48. The man heard Jesus had some from Judea to Galilee. He went to Him, asked Him to come down, heal his son, for he was at the point of death, and when Jesus gets word that there’s a man from Capernaum who’s come up to Cana and he’s got a sick boy and he wants him healed, Jesus breaks off right there and He says “unless you,” now you may have a little footnote in your Bible which is helpful, the Greek for “you” is plural, unless y’all, unless you’s guys, see signs and wonders. So He’s not just speaking to the man who wants his son healed. That man is becoming the occasion now to give a rebuke to all of the Galileans who are gathering around, who said “oh, Jesus, welcome back to Galilee. Glad you’re here. Glad to see you again.” They welcomed Him. Everyone sort of whispering, “Jesus is here, Jesus is here.”

Then He says “look, I know why you’re here. I know what you want. You want to see miracles. ” So He uses the opportunity to expose what His sudden popularity is really about.

It always amazes me how much Jesus is indifferent to, or even opposed to, popularity. Now, He wants worshipers, He wants faith-filled disciples. Crowds, fans—no. He doesn’t needs crowds, doesn’t need fans. He’s constantly trying to thin out the ranks of crowds and fans. You want to be here? You here just for the show? That always makes me sort of stand up straight because I think what’s my instinct as a pastor. It’s oh, people are here, more people are here, we want more people are here. Maybe it would be better to say “are you sure you really want to be here?” There’s a lot, you see, there’s a lot of exit signs, a lot of exit signs. Lot of places you can go, ’cause we’re not looking to get a crowd, not looking for Jesus fans, not looking for people that just say “oh, there’s a good show here.” You know? “Whenever I’m in Charlotte, gotta go to church somewhere, so this seems to be good enough for right now.” We’re not interested in that. Jesus certainly isn’t interested in that. He says I know why you’re here.

This man presses on, and he says, undeterred, “sir, come down before my child dies.” So Jesus is in Cana of Galilee, this man is from Capernaum, roughly a day’s walk away, and he says come down because Capernaum is right on the Sea of Galilee and the Sea of Galilee is elevation below sea level, so you were literally, you had to come down, you were walking down. Come down. Go on this 10-, 12-, 15-mile walk with me to my home because my son is about to die. And Jesus doesn’t immediately respond to the father’s desperate request, but this man is undeterred, and he insists that He come to his house before it is too late.

And you can sympathize, can’t you? One can’t help but think about the tragic story this week. Did you follow it in the news? A British boy, Alfie Evans, 23-month-old toddler, with a degenerative brain condition, who died yesterday in a British hospital after the hospital removed life support, and the courts did not allow his parents to transfer him to a hospital in Italy which was willing to treat the little boy. It’s horribly sad, not only for what it says about parental rights, and that the state would decide that treating the child was not in the child’s best interest when the parents thought it was in his best interest. Even all of that controversy aside, it’s saddest on the human level of parents losing their almost 2-year-old son. There may be nothing harder in life than to bury your own child. And some of you know that all too well. And all of us sympathize. Our hearts go out. I’m not often, I’m not one to get all choked up at movies, or even see very many movies, but I cannot see movies where bad things happen to kids, I just can’t. I can’t see it. You want to get me crying or as close to crying as Dutch people come, it’s with, with kids, all of a sudden thinking about my kids.

So, do you get the humanity of the story? Here’s a man who’s desperate. His child, his son, is about to die. And Jesus finally says go, your son will live. And the man believed Jesus, and he went on his way. And on the way he gets his servant sort of meeting him on the path and he says your son is better. And the man’s thinking okay, when did this happen? He says it happened at 1:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m. that’s when I met Jesus. That’s when Jesus said he was better, and he believes, and his household.

So what is this story about? We have the Galileans who are looking for signs. We have this man who wants his son to be healed, and he is, and then the man believes, and it seems that his faith here is a more genuine faith. He’s come along and he’s recognized what Christ can done, perhaps something of who he is, but what is this story really about?

Well, when we understand verse 44 and verse 48, we see that this is not a story about how great the Galileans are. It’s a story about how one man’s request was granted not because of, but despite, the fact that his countrymen, and probably himself, were interested more in the signs than in Jesus. Those who should have been closest to Jesus, closest by upbringing, closest by nationality, closest by geography, still do not know who He is, and that will play out in chapter 5 and 6 and following. The Galileans want signs. They want miracles.

Some things don’t change. Isn’t that what you want? I mean, isn’t that what you would want if your child was at the point of death? We can feel for this father. We can emphasize with his sense of urgency. We can relate, every parent does. But that’s sort of the point. You do not have to be regenerate to want a miracle worker to heal your dying son. To want Jesus to make your life better does not take a work of the Holy Spirit. To say “God, I wish you would give me a job.” That’s a good thing to pray. “God, I wish you would heal me. God, I wish I could be married. God, I wish you’d give me children. God, I wish you’d make my kids better.” Those are good things to pray, but you understand, non-Christians want those things. Everybody wants… People want a job, people want to be happy, people want loved ones to be healthy. You don’t need to be born again to want Jesus to fix your life. You do need to be born again to want Jesus to be Lord of your life.

Jesus can be so surprising and so unsentimental. We’re so used to Jesus, it doesn’t shock us anymore. It should shock you. He was constantly a scandal wherever He went. Here’s a man, “Jesus, my son is about to die. Would you come?” And what does Jesus first do? “You won’t believe unless you see signs.” You’d think Jesus would be tender, sympathetic, but He uses the occasion to rebuke the people. He says “I know your hearts. I know what you want. And unless you see signs, you’re here for miracles, and unless you get miracles, you’re not interested.”

As His own hometown people, their so-called welcome, suffered from a number of defects. They had, as many of us do, perhaps a sense of entitlement. Okay, all right, we’ve seen you do miracles. We know that you can get it done, so here we are. Make it happen. We, we have to realize, especially in this place, in this country, in this time, we, all of us, we have a tremendous sense of entitlement. Ways we don’t even realize.

What happens, this happens to me all the time, I go to the grocery store, get something, and you go to the checkout and all the little self-scans are full, or one’s not broken, and huh, my, what is going on here? [laughter] And you see there’s only two registers open and they both have people in them! [laughter] And you’re going to have to wait, and someone in front of you has more than 12 items! And you have to wait. And you pull up your phone, trying to redeem the time, just trying to be biblical, you know, and you’re waiting, and you think I am, and sometimes you have to wait for five minutes. Sometimes it’s horrible, it’s 10 minutes! And I know ’cause I go there, I have such a sense of entitlement. I don’t think I just walked into an acre of food I never planted, I never watered, I never harvested, I didn’t do anything for, I just go up and down, I have 50 different cereals, I have 30 different syrups, I have, I can get anything I want. What do I have to do? All I have to do is just push, I just push it, I just nudge it off and it falls into a big thing on wheels, I know one of the wheels is always broken, [laughter] but it still, it moves, and I push it in there. That’s all I do. And it takes a half hour. And I push things in there and then I wait for five minutes and then I give them a little square piece of plastic, and they take it, and somehow just they put it in a little thing and little gremlins get and then they give you your food. You walk out of there. We don’t realize what we have. We all have this huge sense of entitlement. I can’t believe this thing is down and it’s not, it’s not, I have to push the little button and the person from the store has to come and reenter the code every time because I took it off one second too early from the little thing.

We’re all like that. You’re on your phones, and suddenly, you know, you see the little spinning and you have to wait, like four seconds, for something to come up. “Oh, this coverage is terrible. This is horrible.” [laughter]

And we’re like that with God, too. We’re like that with church. We’re consumers. We’re here, how are the programs? What have you got? What are you gonna do for me lately? Jesus, what have you done for me lately? Yeah, we’ll welcome you, if you put on a show. You take care of things. You do some miracles, snap, snap, let’s get at it.

They had a sense of entitlement. They were overly familiar with Jesus. Just like some of us may be overly familiar. No one said you can’t be too intimate, have too much… but you can be familiar in a way that breeds contempt. We know this guy. Jesus, Jesus. Yep. Another Sunday, another service. More Jesus. Is it time to go?

And they wanted a “fix it” guy. That’s what they wanted. They wanted somebody to come, I got problems in life, fix my problems. If we’re honest, there are a lot of so-called Christians, that’s what they have for Jesus. If Oprah can do it, if Dr. Phil can do it, if a pill can do it, if cross-fit can do it, doesn’t, whatever, if Jesus can do it, I just, help me be better. Help me improve. Fix stuff. If Jesus is going to fix stuff, give me Jesus. Give me whatever else is gonna just help fix stuff in my life. Just make my life a little better, a little happier, just kind of get along, get my kids out of trouble.

That’s what some of us want. That’s all we really want. Like so many of us, they wanted power more than the person. They wanted the gift more than the giver. They wanted the sign more than they wanted a savior. They weren’t coming “welcome, Jesus, we’re sinners, and we need a savior.”

And when you see the story here in its wider context, it’s even more striking. This story is book-ended with two miracles. Technical term is “inclusio,” it just means inclusion, you know, front/back.

Look at chapter 2, verse 11. Remember the water into wine? That story ends, verse 11, “This the first of His signs Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory and His disciples believed in him.” So that’s the first sign in Cana in Galilee and the disciples believed in him.

Now you go back to the end of chapter 4 and very deliberately this is meant to be the other book-end to this whole episode over these three chapters. Notice verse 46, “He came again to Cana in Galilee,” so that’s where He is, He’s in Cana. The man wants Him to go to Capernaum, but He doesn’t, He’s in Cana in Galilee and then we read in verse 54 “this was now the second sign that Jesus did when He had come from Judea to Galilee.” And before that we read in verse 53 “and he himself believed, and all his household.”

It’s not a coincidence. There are seven signs in the first half of John’s Gospel. Every commentary recognizes these seven signs. Only the first two are explicitly mentioned as first sign, second sign, and it’s these two signs. And both of them, you notice, end with belief. Chapter 2:11 “and the disciples believed,” chapter 4:53 “and this man believed and his household.”

John means to mark these three chapters, 2, 3, and 4, out as a discrete unit. So you have the prologue in chapter 1, and then you have John the Baptist which leads the way to calling of the first disciples, and then the kind of first unit here in John’s Gospel is 2, 3, and 4, which are bookended with these two miracles in Cana of Galilee. Now how does that help you understand what’s going on?

Well notice, with the exception of the hand-chosen disciples, it says “they believed” in chapter 2:11, they’re in a special category, following Jesus, learning from Jesus. Set them aside. What we see is that the insiders are not getting it and the outsiders are. Think of what we’ve seen. Jesus goes to the temple. You don’t get more insider than inside the temple. What does He do there? He turns over tables, drives out money-changers, “you’ve turned this into a den of robbers.” And then He does some signs there and it says that the people believe in Him, but we’ve already seen that Jesus says “I don’t believe in you. This isn’t real faith. This is just faith in the show.”

And then you have who in chapter 3? You have Nicodemus. Oh, this is another insider. He’s a Pharisee, he’s a teacher of the people. He’s well-respected. He comes to Jesus by night, he’s asking questions. But he doesn’t get it. Jesus says “unless you’re born again you won’t see the kingdom. You’re not in.”

And then we have these Galileans. Jesus rebukes them. “Yeah, yeah, you’ve welcomed me here, but you’re just like those in Judea. You’re here because you saw the signs. Unless you see the signs you won’t believe.”

So think about in chapter 2, 3, and 4 who has really gotten it? You say well this man does, this man from Galilee, this royal official’s son. Isn’t that an example of someone on the inside? Well, careful. He’s an official’s son, the word you could translate in Greek is he’s a kingly one, meaning he’s a courtier to the king, he’s an attendant to the king.

Now there was no “king” officially, but he was reputed as a king, Herod Antipas, Herod Antipas. He was the Herod who would kill John the Baptist and get his head on a platter, so this is not a good king, this is not a good Herod. And this man, he may have been a gentile, although it doesn’t say he was, so let’s assume he was, in fact, a Jew, but he likely wasn’t from Galilee, that’s probably not where they were getting the officials for the king. And he’s certainly not an insider in terms of he’s in cahoots with this king who is going to kill John the Baptist. This is not a king that people in the early church are looking to. “Oh, you got to work with King Herod Antipas, oh, that’s great.” So even this man, who believes, he’s not one of the hometown folks. He, too, is an outsider, maybe even a Gentile.

And then, what did we see right before this episode? What’s the biggest example of faint in this section? It’s the dreaded Samaritans. The woman at the well with her husbands and the live-in boyfriend and all of her baggage, and then she goes into town and those people, they believe, and they show up. And do you remember what they say? Look at verse 42. This will make sense of what this passage is about, because the last words that they say is “we know that this is indeed the savior of the world.” Not just a sign maker, not just a wonder worker, He is the savior of the world.

So do you see what is happening? Do you see what John’s doing? He, he’s putting this whole thing together in chapter 2, 3, and 4. You start with the miracle at Cana in Galilee, you end with a miracle at Cana in Galilee, and what do you see in the middle? That the people who are closest do not see it, the people who you think would never see it, they’re getting it.

It’s a book, remember, written so that a largely Jewish audience might believe that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing they may have life in His name. And this is John’s way, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to warn his Jewish readers “do not forfeit your inheritance.” Are you so close you can’t see it?

And that’s the word for you, for me, for us. Because if we’re to look at insiders and outsiders, a whole lot of us would be the insiders. I grew up in the church, always was at church, Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Sunday school, Wednesday night. I’m as glad they didn’t have things there other nights ‘cause my parents would have made sure we were there. And some of you, you’ve been around this, and some of you Christian school, or some of you Bible verses, and church, church, Jesus, Jesus, you are inside as they get.

Don’t miss it. Don’t miss it. You can be in Jesus’ hometown and not be one of His disciples. You can be in and around the church your whole life and go to Bible studies and go on retreats and have your parents pray with you before bed, and not see it. That’s what the Holy Spirit is teaching us in this passage. That’s the rebuke that perhaps some of us need to hear. Yeah, yeah, we want Jesus. Come on Jesus, do stuff. Show up. Heal. Make things better for my life. Give me a boyfriend. Come on, Jesus, do something.

And then you have the Samaritans. Just broken-hearted enough to believe. Just at enough of a distance to be marveled again. When’s the last time you’ve marveled at Jesus? Has He become ordinary? Has He become plain? Are you in danger of missing it? Are you so close to all of this Christianity business that you’re not really interested in Jesus anymore? Many of us would have been Jesus’ hometown people, with Him our whole lives. And you know sometimes that’s the hardest place for Him to receive honor. Real honor.

Do you want the signs? Or do really want a savior?

Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, we know that we are not saved just by sitting in pews. We are not saints just by showing up on Sunday morning. You have given us such a privilege. We think of our children growing up and all these messages and all these advantages, all of these privileges. We don’t want to squander them. We don’t want to be spoiled, entitled brats. Give us a wonder. Give us saving faith in Jesus. We pray Lord, for our sake and that He might be honored, even in Matthews, North Carolina, we pray. Amen.