We are encouraged to ask and to seek and to knock—to persistently make our requests known to God. But does that encouragement of us guarantee that God always answers immediately or exactly?
“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….’” (John 4:46-54)
We read here that a father, most likely having heard about Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding, finds Jesus to ask for his son’s healing. Jesus, though, replies in an unusual, if not, unwelcome manner.
Today, we are not so unlike those who approached Jesus in their own day. We also make requests of Jesus, yet he seems to often reply in ways, or on levels, that don’t make sense to us nor of our circumstances. That is, in the light of our understanding of things, Jesus seems to be in the dark. But of course that is not true. The reality is that while we often appeal to his power to “get things done,” he’s never interested in just getting things done.
So what might Jesus be intending to do when he doesn’t meet our demands, at least not in the way we expect him to? Or, more broadly, how does the Gospel—the Good News of our salvation— work on and in our hearts?
The movement begins: away from ourselves and towards Jesus. While Jesus performed and performs miracles, miracles are not the highest thing Jesus is seeking to accomplish. Miracles are not the definitive proof of God’s presence and power. Belief in Jesus is. So Jesus may not immediately nor fully meet our demands, simply because he refuses to be a god made in our own image.
There is a sense in which we must be freed from seeing God as our accomplice, from the God who does everything we think he should. This point of departure may be painful at the outset, it may even feel as if God doesn’t love us, but this turn away from ourselves towards Jesus is the first step towards our salvation.
The movement continues: out of ourselves and into Christ. Jesus is so full of grace that he responds to our desperation. And he responds to this father. But our desperation for Jesus is not yet the same thing as our believing in Jesus.
Faith—to believe—is an action, the action of coming out of yourself and into Christ. It is to be pictured as being a branch abiding in a vine (John 15:1-11). This involves more than subscribing to certain propositional truths. It involves your whole personality: intellect, experience, emotions, imagination.
The movement ends/begins: into Christ and into ourselves. Jesus heals the son and saves the father. “And he himself believed, and all his household.” (Jn. 5:53) Are these two separate things? Yes and no. “No” because Jesus cares about every part of you, the whole of you. He’s the only one who can save/heal every part of you and make you whole, a new creation.
In this sense, you can truly and only find yourself in Jesus Christ. When you believe into Jesus you come out of your old self and into your new self found in Christ. It is no longer you who live but Christ who lives in you (Galatians 2:20). This changes your whole personality: your intellect, experience, emotions, imagination.
The pessimist becomes slightly more optimistic. The inhospitable becomes more hospitable. The selfish more generous. The angry more patient. Those who were already optimistic become truly hopeful. The hospitable become increasingly generous. The generous develop a lifestyle of personal sacrifice. The patient walk with greater inner peace. In every instance we have been and are being transformed into the image of Jesus from one degree of glory to another.
Truly, “who ever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)