John 4:43-54 (AD 27)
The Galileans LOVED it when Jesus busted up the religious elites in Jerusalem and trashed the temple courts. That was COOL. Awesome. And now this rebellious local boy was back home, having travelled back at the same time as a lot of the others who’d gone down south for the Passover, it was great to see him. What would he do next? They brought their friends.
They weren’t interested in what Jesus was saying, just what he was doing. Adding to it, when Jesus got back to Cana he was asked to heal someone and it was obvious to Jesus that the request was symptomatic of a ‘Show me, show me, show me’ approach that people were taking. His life, his words, and the overwhelming evidence of the Old Testament – even this early in his ministry – wasn’t enough.
The immediate irony is the reaction of an entire town’s worth of supposedly apostate Samaritans just before, who’d put their trust in Jesus: “we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world” (v.42). Their religious system was wrong, based on a refusal to do what God said, and yet when confronted with the truth their hearts responded.
The Jews were – superficially speaking – doing religion ‘right’. Passover down at Jerusalem, sacrifices in the right places and at the right times. But when it came down to it, as a whole they were mainly interested in cool stuff Jesus would do, and miracles he’d perform.
Thus the welcome Jesus received in verse forty-five wasn’t a rebuttal of the previous phrase (“a prophet has no honour in his own country”). Rather, based on the reason for the welcome, it was a reinforcing of what Jesus knew about them.
It’s easy to say that we are not like that. We don’t expect Jesus to break up the next gathering of religious hypocrites, and most people don’t expect him to spontaneously heal someone of their cancer. But we are tempted – and many so-called Christian pastors will tell us to expect – material/health/relationship/status blessings just around the corner. Either if we pray hard enough for it, or open our eyes to idea that it’s what God has in store for us. Even though the entire Bible shows all of that to be false expectations.
And yet, while there is nothing wrong with asking God to give us good things, how much is our focus on God’s glory when we ask for them?
When we ask for financial security, do we ask for a generous spirit?
When we ask for a stronger marriage, do we look for ways to be a blessing to other couples?
When we ask for people to be kinder at work, do we use those relationships as opportunities to share the gospel?
Don’t let your familiarity with God be a breeding ground for the self-absorbed impulse of the Galileans. Be like the repentant Samaritans: taking God at his word and desiring his presence (v.40).