Monday, November 14, 2011
Unless you see signs and wonders
John 4:46-54 (ESV) 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. “Unless you see sings and wonders you will not believe.” Jesus says it matter of factly. He hints that perhaps this shouldn’t be a requirement for belief, but in his mercy he offers the man a miracle. Tells him his son will live. The man believes him. Strangely enough, in the telling of this story, it says again after the boy is healed that the himself believed and all his household. There is faith and there is faith. The man believes all the more when the miracle is accomplished. “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” Sadly, many don’t believe even when they do see signs and wonders. I often wonder what kind of a sign, what kind of a wonder one has to see in order to believe. Maybe we don’t see miracles every day in our own life. Perhaps we are just blind to them. Perhaps we need to know what a miracle is. People don’t believe in God these days. They think one has to deny God, and accept evolution to be an intellectual. Rick Perry has been criticized for being anti intellectual because he doesn’t believe in Evolution for instance. I mean I don’t know the guy very well, and I don’t mean to be arguing politics, just bringing up from that discussion an example of the cultural zeitgeist with which we contend. Perhaps he is an anti intellectual, does seem to have a problem remembering things. But I wouldn’t call someone anti intellectual because they have problems with scientific naturalism, materialism, or the idea that evolution can explain all of life without recourse to God. I mean to do so, would be to call Karl Popper the father of Twentieth century Philosophy of Science and anti intellectual. To do so would impale Ludwig Wittgenstein as anti intellectual. I mean let me just give you a few names of men known for their intellectual prowess who remained, or remain unconvinced that evolution has the ability to explain all of life, Thomas Nagel, (one of today’s most prominent professors of Philosophy and constitutional law), Antony Flew, who was a hard boiled atheist and proponent of evolution until the last years of his life, when he was convinced by the intelligent design arguments the media would have you believe are anti intellectual. And sure these men are philosophers and not scientists, though they spend or have spent quite a bit of time looking at the arguments for evolution, and their realm of thought, analytical philosophy, specializes in critiquing arguments with logic. But then you also have men like Gregory Mendel, the father of genetics, whose whole theory was ignored for over thirty years, and by some realms of biology was being denied as recently as 1998, but whose theory forms the basis of paternity tests, and gave birth to DNA research. In the meantime, I have spent the last few months reading evolutionists, and judging by the blurbs on the jackets, the best the scientific community has to offer for arguments in favor of evolution, and do think those men could stand to take a few courses in logic, and come to understand what is and isn’t an argument. All this to say, quite frankly, want to see a miracle, go look in the mirror. Science is at a loss to explain how algae came into existence, Sceince can’t explain even the simplest of life forms, how bacteria came into existence, much less you. And until it can, it is rather useless for them to be arguing about how many life forms or what kind of life forms were first. Creation itself speaks that there is a creator, men are without excuse as it says in Romans. But I do wonder what kind of sign or wonder it would take. What kind of sign or wonder does it take for you. See jesus wasn’t getting at the existence of God. Theman he talked to was a leader of a synagogue. He didn’t need to be convinced there was a God. He needed to be convinced that Jesus Christ was who he claimed to be, the messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, God in the flesh. He was convinced by the healing of his son, the synagogue ruler was. What will convince you and I, what will convince your neighbors? What will convince guilty sinners? That’s the question. I firmly believe that most, even atheists, have a form of faith. I am convinced that most, not all, but many if not most, grab hold of shoddy arguments, because they like demons believe God is one, and shudder, as James says. Sure Christian faith is as Luther says in the 1st commandment a fear, love and trust in God. Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. But fear alone is not the faith of which paul speaks when he says “we believe we are justified by faith apart from works of the law.’ That faith is a fear, love and trust in God that is born of the gospel, born of forgiveness, born of the Holy Spirit working in and through the word of God that says “your sins are forgiven”, believe and be baptized and wash away your sins. See, perhaps the biggest hurdle to faith in God, is ironically the fear of God. We all have it, and not without good reason. We are sinners, and he is holy. We cannot stand in his light. We are like five year olds, who broke the cookie jar hiding from their parents under the bed for fear of punishment, fear of a spanking, fear of a scolding. We know what we deserve for our sins. And quite frankly the thought of God, should maybe terrify us a little when we contemplate our sin. These are not light matters. They are children of God, bought and paid for with the blood of Christ we sin against, when we lie to them, snub them, when we pass them buy cold and hungry on a street corner and offer them nothing to eat, zipping up our coats as we jump in our car and turn on the heater. They are children of God, created in his image, redeemed with his blood, just as we have been redeemed of his blood. How should God look at us who so despise his forgiveness that we act without charity to our fellow man, or woman. When we refuse to forgive as we have been forgiven. There is a naivety about Christianity today. A naivety that thinks of God as some sort of all forgiving, all loving, never angry grandpa, who would never so much as raise his voice at us for our sin. Some how we fail to conceive of his holiness, his righteousness or take it seriously. There is a naivety that would all but treat God as our equal. Of course, that is perhaps the biggest problem with Mormonism, is the idea that perhaps God is a little better than us now, but there comes a day when we will be his equal, be gods like him. We fail to see that God’s Holiness, as if by default demands our death. That we cannot stand in his presence anymore than wadded newspaper can survive our bbq pit on a summer Sunday afternoon. What sign, what wonder? Nothing but that which Jesus calls the sign of Jonah. That is the only sign, that will cause one to believe, cause one to go from faith to faith, from fear to fear love and trust. What sign and wonder? His death and resurrection. Because there, Jesus the man who claims to be God wins victory over our death, forgives our sins on the cross, and rises to life to give us life in him. There it is that we see what God’s holiness demands on account of our sin, our murderous thoughts, our get rich quick off the gullibility of our neighbor schemes, our adulterous dalliances, that we down play in our head as harmless fun. And there we see the satisfaction pain in the blood of the lamb who takes away the sin of the world. And in the resurrection we see the vindication of his claims to be God, to be the messiah, to be our savior. There and no where else. The resurrection of Jesus, the empty tomb. And before you say impossible, take a look at the miracle in the mirror. Explain to me how it is you are, and perhaps I’ll entertain your dismissal of miracles.