So often, we want Jesus to prove himself to us. It's as if we are never quite satisfied to accept what the Bible says about him… or even to accept what we know he has done for us personally already in our lives. It's as if we are never quite willing to fully engage with the revelation of his identity in the Gospels and the alarming transformation of his followers in the book of Acts. And it's almost as if we never quite want to fully embrace Jesus in our lives.
Jesus said that "a prophet is honored everywhere except in his own town." For this reason he stayed away from Nazareth, where he had grown up. And for this reason, it seems, he left Jerusalem in John chapter 4 to return to Galilee. His own religious people in Jerusalem were stirring the pot of rejection. To accept Jesus at face value is too difficult for people… it means everything about their lives would need to change.
And so, those who interact with him often demand for more proof. "If I'm going to change my life because of you, then I'd better have good reason." And by good reason, people mean, endless tangible evidence. As "doubting" Thomas, one of Jesus' very own disciples, said, "I won't believe unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side."
In John 4, Jesus passes through the town of Cana. A royal official from another town, Capernaum, traveled to meet Jesus because his son was dying. The official begged Jesus to come to Capernaum in order to heal his son. Jesus' response to the man is terse: "Must I do miraculous sings and wonders before you people will believe in me?" Translation: Jesus doesn't enjoy doing tricks to prove himself to people.
But the response of the official is interesting to me. Instead of being insulted, instead of being put off, instead of arguing for the right to have Jesus prove himself to him, the official just continues to beg. "Please, Lord," he said, "come now before my little boy dies." The official didn't need proof. He already knew that the only hope for his son was Jesus. He already believed, without seeing, that Jesus was the one who had the power and the will to heal his son. He didn't need to see a miracle to believe, he already believed and, because of that, was earnestly heart-pouringly-so, asking Jesus for what Jesus could do.
Jesus was moved… or impressed… or pleased… or maybe even joyful that someone wasn't demanding proof but instead had journeyed in order to seek out Jesus in order to pray for life. "Please, Lord, come." Is there a more believing prayer? The Bible ends with that prayer: "Come, Lord Jesus!" We teach our children to pray at the dinner table, "Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest!" Faith precedes the miraculous.
But we often want the miraculous to precede our faith. "Show us," we demand, "then maybe, if we're satisfied, we'll come to you."
Why do we demand proof? I wonder if those of us who call ourselves "Christians" struggle to accept Jesus for who he is because of the change that would mean we'd have to make in our lives. I wonder if those of us who are called by his name, actually struggle to honor him in "his own town." We say we believe in him, and yet how many of us are daily changed by our faith? How many of us reflect the incredible miraculous life that comes from truly believing in him?
Jesus admonishes those who know him and yet demand more from him. "You believe because you have seen me," he told Thomas, "Blessed are those who haven't seen me and believe anyway."