A few years ago I was listening to BBC Radio 4 whilst driving. The programme was about the number seven and they went through some of the times it occurs and talked about it’s significance. Inevitably they talked about all of the sevens found in the Bible and started listing them. They were keen on John’s other great work; ‘Revelation’ and listed; Seven Churches, Seven Seals, Seven Trumpets, Seven Bowls of Wrath, Seven Horsemen of the Apocalypse….. Er actually there are only four. There’s a white horse, a red one, a black one and a pale one, I can’t say the colour of the BBC’s three horses. Imagine that, the BBC talking about the Bible without actually reading it! Didn’t see that coming.
As with Revelation there are a number of sevens in John’s Gospel. They may not be immediately obvious but they are there and we see the second one of a list of sevens today.
“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (20:30-31)
John helpfully gives us his motivation in writing; ‘that we should have life in his name’. His purpose is not to record everything that Jesus did, in fact he made it clear that would be an impossible task (21:25). He has carefully chosen seven (you guessed it) miracles to illustrate ‘Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God’. We have already looked at one; turning water into wine, which demonstrated his power to transform. Now we have the second miracle recorded by John.
At this stage of his life Jesus is heading home to Galilee. He knew his own people would show him less honour than the Samaritans had (4:40, 44). They thought they knew him but in truth they had seriously underestimated him.
After the time Jesus had spent with the Samaritans, it would be reasonable to assume that Jesus would go out of his way to help this royal official. His response seems to be quite the opposite; he appears to be cold and uncaring. Why was this?
For me, Jesus backed the man into a corner where he was faced with a stark choice, whether or not to take Jesus at his word. It wasn’t that Jesus was uncaring; he was teaching the man and us, the importance of believing what he says. Sometimes God will back us into corners as well to teach us to trust him. ‘The man took Jesus at his word and departed’. Jesus was not limited; he didn’t need to be ‘within range’. His word was enough.
Could that be something we need to learn?
“Your grace is enough more than I need,
At your word I will believe.
I wait for you, draw near again,
Let your spirit make me new.
And I will fall at your feet,
I will fall at your feet,
And I will worship you here.” (Rueben Morgan)