A Quiet, Humble Sign
When they were playing baseball together on the world champion Oakland A’s, Hall of Fame pitcher Catfish Hunter said of Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson, “He’d give you the shirt off his back. Of course he’d call a press conference to announce it.”
If you want the world to know about your kind-heartedness and generosity, that’s what you do. And that’s what we might expect from God. If God wants the world to know how great and awesome and powerful He is, shouldn’t we expect massive publicity and some enormous showing off on the part of God?
We do read about some awesome signs in Revelation 13:13-14 that persuade many people to believe: “It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of all; and by the signs that it is allowed to perform on behalf of the beast, it deceives the inhabitants of earth….” But the one who performs those impressive and persuasive signs is the enemy of God!
When God actually came into our world in the person of Jesus, He handled things quite differently.
John 4:54 reports, “Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.” So let’s look at the sign recorded in John 4:46-53 to find out what kind of sign Jesus uses to show off who He is.
The sign begins with a “royal official” coming to Jesus, pleading with Him to heal his son who is at the point of death. This is probably someone attached to King Herod Antipas—most likely Herod’s steward Chuza (for we learn in Luke 8:3 that Chuza’s wife becomes a devoted follower of Jesus). What a great opportunity this is for Jesus to pull together all the “important” people in the land as well as a great multitude of others. Jesus can bring them all together. He can orchestrate some lightning from the sky or other special effects to wow people. Then He can heal the boy, and the whole country will see how powerful and awesome He is!
But that’s not what happens in these verses. Jesus begins by complaining about people not believing unless they see signs and wonders. Then He sends the official home with the simple promise that the boy will live. While the official is on his way, messengers report that the child has recovered. That means that nobody saw Jesus do anything dramatic.
If the goal here was to provide a flashy sign to reveal the grandeur and power of God, then Jesus failed miserably.
It seems, though, that Jesus’ intent was to reveal something different about God.
This miracle is less about impressive power than about quiet, humble love. The way in which this miracle takes place draws attention less to the power of God and more to the love of Christ.
What kind of sign from God does our world need today? Something that reveals the flashy power of God? Or something that reveals the love of God? Las Vegas and Hollywood provide plenty of flashy displays, but what our world needs is love. Indeed, John 13:34-35 suggests that the way the world will see Jesus is through the love we show to others.
The story is told of a disabled boy hurrying to catch a train one day. Carrying packages under his arms, he was struggling with his crutches. Suddenly, a man bumped into him, knocking his packages in all directions. The man paused only long enough to scold the boy for getting in his way. Another gentleman, seeing the youngster’s distress, quickly picked up the scattered packages and slipped a five dollar bill into the boy’s pocket, saying, “I’m sorry. I hope this makes up for your trouble.”
The boy, not accustomed to such kindness being shown to him, said, “Thanks, Mister.” Then he asked, “Are you Jesus?”
The man replied, “No, but I am one of His followers.”
Perhaps that’s the sign the world needs to see more of these days: More Christians displaying God’s love to others.