“Did I not say to you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
There are two kinds of people in the world. Binary thinkers, for whom there are only and ever two choices and whatever the rest of you like to think of yourselves as. i have my own word for you but you’d probably consider it derogatory. But then you’d be wrong. Which, coincidentally, is my word for you: Wrong.
Jesus seems to think there are only two kinds of people too. Those who don’t believe and those who.… want to.
“It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the Portico of Solomon. So the Jews surrounded him and began to say to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly!” Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe!”
When those who don’t believe ask for a sign, Jesus farts in their general direction. “An evil and adulterous generation desires a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah!” Forget you, he seems to say. I’m going to die and rise from the dead and that’s all you get. Figure it out from there. A verbal sandal shaking is what he gives them instead.
But belief is hard. “And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” So the Lord said, “If you have faith like a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17) Wow. How much faith must a mustard seed have! i can’t even tell my cat to get his feet off the counter and expect him to do it without threat of violence, and he has legs and ears and knows the sound of my voice! Here’s this little seed telling trees where to go. Kinda makes ya think. What we who have mouths and are surrounded by trees would be able to do if we just believed? “But Jesus said to him, “If you are able! All things are possible for the one who believes!” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9)
And here’s the amazing thing, Jesus does! For Jesus, no length is too far to go for those who want to believe in him! He wants us to believe! He’s even willing to let us grieve for four whole days believing nothing more than that our brother is dead and that Jesus didn’t seem to care. Martha and Mary are both experiencing the same grief. They both have the same words for Jesus when he finally shows up almost a week probably after they called for him to come quickly and four days after the funeral. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” They both have faith. They both believe Jesus can do almost anything. Martha even says so, “Even now I know that whatever you ask God, God will grant you.” Martha has good theology, she knows doctrine, ““I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” And Mary knows her place before Jesus. Three times we see her in scripture and every time she is in the same place, at his feet. No one can question her devotion. Like Ruth, she has offered herself utterly, unashamedly to him. i think we would say they believe.
Yet listen to what Jesus prays…
“Father, I give thanks to you that you hear me. And I know that you always hear me, but for the sake of the crowd standing around I said it, so that they may believe that you sent me.” Jesus did all this for them! To strengthen their faith! To help their unbelief! The man who would not prove he was God, gave them a sign!
And that’s the key to all signs and wonders, not do they point to the power of the user. Prophets have great power, but it was always power for a purpose. Not that God wants us all to be happy and healthy and have everything we want. He does but He’s a Father and He knows when, where and how much to give. Signs and wonders are always, ALWAYS the Testimony of the Holy Spirit about who Jesus is! And Jesus’ testimony is always, ALWAYS about who the Father is! That’s it. Because that’s what Jesus is concerned with: not do you know of him? But do you KNOW him! And Jesus will go to any length, any height, any depth for you to know and believe! And that alone should tell you something about who he is.
But it might not. For a sign may only have one purpose, but it has two outcomes. Sign of Jonah or not, the Pharisees and the scribes did know Lazarus was raised from the dead too. They saw and believed Jesus had real power. They thought they knew who and what Jesus was too.
But then, they were wrong.