“Unless you see signs and wonders …”

What caused people to believe in Jesus? When Jesus called disciples he did not attract them by performing miracles. We saw in John 2 that his disciples were with him when he performed “the first of his signs” in Cana (verses 2,12). No doubt it added to their belief, but true belief cannot be based on seeing miracles. When his teaching became challenging and harder to understand as we will soon see in chapter 6, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (verse 66) except for the twelve (verses 67,68).

The comment of Jesus in today’s chapter 4,”unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (verse 48) has been a challenge ever since! It makes us think deeply about the reasons we believe in Jesus. It is sad that in the last hundred years or so Christianity has seen efforts to practice ‘miracles’ in order to stimulate belief and attract followers. We recall years ago meeting one who had done this from her teenage years, but she had woken up to how meaningless it all was. One example of her disillusionment she said was when ‘I started to read the gospels and saw how different were the “healings” my husband and I were doing, such as when the same person came week after week for “healing” of a bad shoulder’.

So we read today of Jesus saying, “the hour is coming and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (verses 23,24). He was answering a Samaritan woman who had asked whether, “on this mountain (or) … Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship” (verse 20).

Jesus answers by saying it is not the place you go to – it is your ATTITUDE in worship that matters. On one occasion he told a parable about a Pharisee who went into the Temple to pray and condemned him because his prayer was self-centred, all about what he was doing in serving God (Luke 18:9). In today’s chapter we noted how Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers, will worship the father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (verse 23). Our worship must be true and sincere and from our heart, then it will become “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (verse 14).