The Signs of Jesus (II)
The Christmas Present
John 4:43-54

Last time we were here we read about a wedding that took place about 2000 years ago. At that wedding Jesus did his first miracle. By doing that, He revealed his identity and his mission to His disciples. When they saw this, they put their trust in him.

In Japan when there is a wedding, it is the custom for guests to give the bride and groom money, and the bride and groom give their guests presents. But in Western countries, it is the guests who give presents to the bride and groom. These days many new couples use mail-order catalogs for their guests to choose presents to give them from.

I think that gift giving can be an important way to express love and appreciation for someone. And I think gift catalogs are convenient, because when you know what someone wants, it makes it easy to decide what to get them.

However, at the same time, I think that these catalogs can take away the personal touch of choosing a present, as well as the excitement and anticipation of discovering what somebody has personally chosen for you.

Also, I think that giving someone a gift catalog to get them to buy you a present reflects that we often take it for granted that we will be given something. And it places a limitation on what we can expect to give or receive.

So I was surprised and disappointed to read in the newspaper recently that people in some countries have started to give gift catalogs to family and friends to choose, believe it or not, Christmas presents from.

It just sounds so commercialized. Where have the joy and thanksgiving of hope and anticipation in giving and receiving gone? I don’t know! Maybe we think that we are actually helping other people by reducing their annual Christmas shopping stress.

But, using these catalogs creates big limitations. First, it reflects the limitations of our own expectations. “This is what I think I need. This is what I want. Please give me this.”

And when we do this, we therefore put a restriction on the giver. The giver becomes obliged to give what we have requested, instead of what they might have actually wanted to give us.

The servants and the disciples at the wedding in our previous talk certainly didn't expect what Jesus was going to give, or how He was going to give it. But that did not stop Jesus. Jesus did the unexpected.

And now Jesus has returned to that same town. But when he gets there, he is suddenly met by a royal official.

This royal official has a problem. He has a need. His son is sick. He cannot help his son. The doctor cannot help his son. His son is dying, and he has lost hope.

But then comes the news that Jesus has returned to Cana. Jesus the miracle worker. Could Jesus help?

He has many servants – he is a royal official. But for this task, he must go himself. So he starts his urgent journey, about 26 kms. He has put his hope in Jesus: hope that he will find Jesus; hope that Jesus will come with him; hope that Jesus will heal his son; hope that he won't be too late.

However, just like in our previous story, this hope that he is putting in Jesus also shows his own limited understanding of who Jesus is. And because his view was limited, he didn’t understand what Jesus could give, or how Jesus could give it.

First, he thought that if Jesus was going to heal his son, he would actually have to bring Jesus to where his son was. The official never imagined that Jesus would be able to heal someone who was 26 kms away. He had a limited view of Jesus.

Second, he thought that Jesus would have to arrive and heal his son before he died. He saw death as being final. If the boy was sick, then Jesus could come and heal him. But if his son died, then he reasoned that the situation was beyond even Jesus being able to help. Again, he had a limited view of Jesus and what Jesus could do.

He thought that Jesus was limited by the laws of nature.

But as we saw last time, Jesus actually controls the laws of nature.

Actually, the crowd had no doubt heard about this already. In fact, it seems that they had a growing demand for Jesus to entertain them with more miracles. And so, in frustration, Jesus declared:

"Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe." (John 4:48)

Though Jesus is addressing the official, He is talking to the whole crowd there. The problem was that the people were tending to focus on the miracle, and not on the One who actually did the miracle.

But Jesus wanted to teach this official something. Jesus could have gone and healed his son, just as he wanted.

The royal official had a need: his son was dying. He had an expectation: the other doctors had failed, but Jesus could heal his son. This was his so-called gift catalog for Jesus the miracle worker: “You come to my son and make my son better!”

That is what he expected from Jesus. But he didn’t expect anything more from Jesus. His understanding of the problem was limited. His understanding of what Jesus could do was limited. And so was his understanding of how Jesus could do it.

The official trusted in Jesus, but only as far as his own eyes could see.In other words, if he was with Jesus, and Jesus was with his son, and Jesus healed his son, then he would believe in Jesus.

But Jesus wanted to give much more. Jesus wanted more than to just make his son better.

Jesus wanted this man to know who He really was. Jesus wanted the official to trust Him completely. Jesus wanted this man to have total faith in Him.

And it is interesting that, in order to do so, Jesus actually denied the official’s request.

The royal officials request was desperate. “I beg you, please come now, quickly, before my child dies!”

But Jesus did not go. In fact, Jesus told the Royal official to return home by himself: “You may go. Your son will live.” (John 4:50a)

Now the man is faced with a dilemma. He is faced with the greatest challenge of his life. His son was dying so he went to get Jesus, to take him to heal his son personally. But Jesus has declared that he would heal that child without even going there. He would heal the child without even touching him.

What will he do? He thought he could trust Jesus to heal his son from that sickness. He thought that Jesus could save his son from death. And Jesus says that he will. In fact, Jesus says that he has! “You may go. Your son will live.”

The problem for the father is that he has not seen it happen. There is a saying: “seeing is believing.” But Jesus was telling this father to believe without seeing. Jesus was telling the man to trust Him. Jesus was challenging the man to have faith in Him.

What would he do?

“The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” (John 4:50b)

Somehow, he was able to trust Jesus without seeing any supernatural sign. He had no way of confirming this trust. There were no phones or email. All he could do was to trust, and then start the long 26 km walk back home, without Jesus. And that is what he did. With faith, believing comes before seeing!

And it was at this exact time that the servants watching over the son at home saw that he got better. So, some of them set out for Cana to tell their master this good news.

“When did it happen?” “What time did he get well?” he quickly asked the servants.

And so the servants told him when the fever had left his son. The boy had been dying, but they could tell him the exact time that he got better. In other words, it was not a gradual event, but an instantaneous healing! And then the royal official realized that his son had been healed as soon as Jesus had said: “Your son will live.”

This was great news! His son had been healed. This was, of course, what the royal official had wanted. That is why he had gone to get Jesus.

But now he was faced with a new dilemma. And this new problem was not limited to his son’s physical health.

If Jesus had gone with the official and healed his son, then He would have just responded within the limitations of that man’s expectations. That would have been the end of the story.

But Jesus actually healed the child without even going there; without even touching him; without even saying anything – just by His will. So it was not only Jesus’ actions, but Jesus Himself, who was beyond the official’s expectations.

Now what would he do? He had limited his understanding of Jesus. That understanding had been wrong. Now, he had to change his view of Jesus.

And that is what he did!

At first, he thought his problem was that his son was sick. This problem was limited to the physical world. And so the answer he sought was also limited to the physical world.

But when Jesus healed his son, the official realized that Jesus was there to deal with more than just physical problems. Jesus wasn’t limited by the physical world, but rather had authority and control over the physical world. Jesus wasn’t limited or controlled by sickness or death, but rather had authority over life.

So, through changing the water into wine, and by healing the official’s son, Jesus was throwing out the challenge to know who He really is. Notice that John refers to this event as Jesus’ second miraculous sign. And as we read last time, John concludes his gospel by telling us that:

“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

So, this challenge was not only for the official. It was not just for his family, or his servants, or the other people in the village. That same challenge is there for us.

John has recorded these signs of Jesus to challenge our understanding of who Jesus really is. And what better time for us to take up this challenge than at Christmas.

We have all seen Christmas nativity cards: the stable, the manger, Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus. We are familiar with those traditional images.

But in the Bible, Matthew records the announcement of Jesus’ birth like this:

(Matthew 1:21) She (Mary) will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

On that first Christmas night, this was not a present that Joseph and Mary had been expecting. Even if they had had a catalog, I am sure that they would never have thought of asking to be given care of the savior of humanity.

What do you know about Jesus? What have you ever expected from Him? What would you like to expect from Him?

This Christmas, I want to challenge each of us to consider if our own understanding of Jesus is limited by our traditions. We have just seen that He is the One who controls nature. He is the One who has authority over life. And He came to save us from our sins.

As we look at our own lives, and as we look inside our own hearts, let us not limit our expectation of Him.

No matter who we are, or where we are, if we ask Jesus to come and help us, then He will give us the same positive answer that He gave that official.

This is the Christmas present that He has prepared for us. This is His personal touch. Just by believing in Him, we shall receive the gift of eternal life in His name.

Is that on your Christmas list this year?
















しかしながら、前回のお話にもあったように、彼がイエス様に対して望んだことは イエス様がどのようなお方であるかについて彼の理解できる狭い範囲にとどまるものでした。彼がイエス様をどのような方か正確にとらえることができなかったために、イエスがなそうとしていること、またどのようにそのことをさされようとしているか見当もつきませんでした。


第二に、彼は息子が亡くなるまでにイエス様がその場に到着しなければならないと思っていました。彼は死が全ての終わりだと考えていました。もし、息子が病気なら、イエス様が来て息子を癒して下さると思っていました。しかし、もし息子が死んだなら、たとえイエス様でも助けることができないと思っていました。つまり彼はイエス様には何がお出来になるのかそしてイエス様がお持ちの無限の力に対する理解力に 欠けていたのです。



確かに、その群集たちは、すでにこのことを聞いていたはずです。事実、彼らは、イエス様がもっと多くの奇跡をおこして自分たちを喜ばせてもらえるよう益々その 要求をエスカレートしていったようです。




王室の役人には、問題がありました。彼の息子は死に瀕していたからです。彼には、希望がありました。他の医者はさじを投げたけれども、イエス様なら癒すことができると。これこそまさに“あなたが私の息子のところに来て息子の病気を治してください”と 役人から奇跡の行い手であるイエス様に送られたギフトカタログにあたるのではないでしょうか。









彼は何をするつもりなのでしょう?彼は、息子を病気から癒して下さると思っていました。彼は、イエス様が息子を死から救って下さると考えていました。そして、イエス様は彼の息子を死から救い出すと言われました。 事実イエス様は息子の病は癒されたと宣言されました。 さらに彼に「家に帰りなさい。あなたの息子は直っています」と言われました。

父親にとっての問題は、彼が何が起こっているのかを見ていなかったということです。「百聞は一見に如かず」ということわざがあります。しかし、イエス様は父親に見ないで信じるように言われました。イエス様は、この男にイエス様を信じるように言われました。 そしてこの男にイエス様を信じる信仰をもつように強く促したのです。



ともかくも、彼は超自然的なしるしを見ずに、イエス様を信じることができました。役人には 自分の目でまだ見ていないにもかかわらずイエス様の言葉を信じ息子が助かったと信じたことが正しい事だったか否かを確かめる術はありませんでした。電話もe-mailもありませんでしたし。彼にできることは、信じることだけでした。そしてまた26kmの家路までの道のりをイエス様をお伴することなく出発したのでした。それが、彼のなしたことです。信仰とは見ることなしに信じることです。