Jan 9, 2017, 1:26 PM
One Sunday evening I joined a friend as we drove to our weekly club meeting. I guided him through shortcuts that got us there faster. He was impressed but admitted he was not good at directions so he didn't mind taking long detours to get to where he was going - that is, beating the usual track, week after week. We met again after a long absence and he recounted an amusing incident. One evening he decided to give it a try by negotiating a shortcut to his destination. He was pleasantly surprised when halfway he erupted into one of those compounds without a fence to interrupt the family's alfresco dinner. He confirmed thus his inability to take shortcuts and determined never to undertake such adventures again.
Funny isn't it? I am certain the next time around my friend would definitely have found his way by looking out for landmarks, physical signs. It is important that we follow the signs that would lead us to a destination. Life is a destination full of signposts if we care to look. The three wise men from the east observed an unusual star in the heavens and followed it until they came to Bethlehem where baby Jesus was born. "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." (Matthew 2:2)
Signs and wonders followed Jesus everywhere he went. Because of this the people followed him in large numbers. Most of them came for the signs; signs of healing, of divine providence, of authority over nature. "....the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as someone having authority." (Matthew 7:29) He himself stated as he instructed his disciples to go and make disciples: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Matthew 28:18)
A Roman centurion came purposely to Jesus seeking help for his sick and suffering servant. Jesus was willing to accompany him to his house when the centurion pleaded with him: "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." (Matthew 8.8) No doubt this Roman centurion must have heard of the miracles that the Lord had done in Capernaum and was convinced of his power to heal even at a distance. Jesus would only have to say the word for his servant to receive healing rather than make the journey. He hadn't reached home when word came to him that his servant had been healed. Healing was one of the signs that brought loads of people to Jesus.
Whatever we get attracted to is often a sign of something greater than us. We tend to draw closer to whatever blows our mind. Jesus' miracles did exactly that. "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples ...." (John 20:30) "....a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick." (John 6:2) After the miraculous feeding of a 5,000 strong crowd, Jesus' popularity began to soar. Some had other motives though. They wanted more miracles that would address their most urgent needs. "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. (John 6:26)
At Gennesaret, "....when they recognised Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed." (Matthew 14.34-36) Signs cannot be hidden from those who have eyes to behold them. The crowd followed the signs but not the authorities who saw Jesus as an upstart. Jesus made this remark to their hearing. "You diligently study the Scriptures because in them you think that by them you possess eternal life: These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39-40) They could not or did not want to make the link with what he preached and the signs that he produced.
An argument started once over his identity. Was he the Messiah or not? In spite of all that he did, there should not have been any question over this. It should have been self-evident that Jesus was the Messiah - the chosen One. He therefore refused to give them any more signs to confirm his identity. "Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it." (Mark 8:12) The signs of who Jesus was were limitless and convincing. There was no domain where his power was not evident. "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him." (Luke 8:25)
Jesus went about teaching and "...healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures and the paralysed, and he healed them." (Matthew 4:24)
John the Baptist was in prison when he heard of the miracles of Jesus. He wanted to acquaint himself with the facts so he sent his disciples to enquire. "Are you the one who was expected to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Matthew 11:3) Jesus reacted in these terms. "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor." (Mathew 11.4-5) Jesus' curriculum vitae is so impressive, it could stir the hesitant mind.
One such curious mind was Nicodemus, a Pharisee, who was also a member of the Jewish ruling council. "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." (John 3:2)
Signs are eloquent in themselves, they speak millions. It was not what was lacking in Jesus' day or today for that matter. The Gospels record overwhelming evidence of Jesus' character but these accounts met and still meet with stiff reluctance from certain quarters because of unbelief.
Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, had been dead four days and had been buried by the time Jesus returned to Bethany. Some people had commented, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" (John 11:37) Mary, a sister to the deceased lamented: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11: 32)
To show however that he had authority over death Jesus ordered: "Take away the stone!" "Lazarus, come out!" "Take off the grave clothes and let him go!" (John 11:39, 43, 44)
Lazarus walked out of the grave as a final sign that Jesus has power over death. Before performing the miracle, he prayed to the Father. "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." (John 11:41-42) These signs are for you and for me - for all of us. You need not look any further.
Jesus further underlined: "Did I not tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?" (John 11:40) The glory of God is shown to us in signs and wonders.