Follow the Signs to Jesus
Series: The Gospel of John
FOLLOW THE SIGNS TO JESUS
1. Bring Him your hard life
2. Trust His promise
3. Live beyond your hard life
– ESV Study Bible – Study notes on the Gospel According to John
– Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John – -Andreas Kostenburger
– Pillar New Testament Commentary Series – The Gospel According to John – DA Carson
Several weeks ago, I told you about Andrea and my trip of a lifetime to Switzerland. I told you about how I volunteered to be bumped from a flight, received over $2k in travel vouchers to anywhere in the world, and Andrea and I chose to travel to Switzerland, stay in a random guy’s basement apartment, all so that we could fulfill our dreams of hiking in the Swiss Alps. I even told you about the time when we got caught in the snow and fog and didn’t know which way was up or down the mountain. What I didn’t tell you is that getting lost hiking in Switzerland is actually quite rare. As you can see from this picture, when you hike in Switzerland, there are signs everywhere. Now, I want you to notice something pretty obvious about these signs: they’re all pointing somewhere. The signs are not the destination. The signs point the way to and help you understand the real destination. Andrea and I didn’t travel to Switzerland to hike to the signs. Rather, we followed the signs to the summit.
In our passage this morning, the Lord Jesus Christ performs his second sign, but like all signs, the sign is not the point. In fact, the big idea of our passage is: Follow the signs to Jesus. Let’s set the scene a bit so that we can see it. The Lord Jesus Christ has just spent a few days bringing the good news of eternal life to the Samaritan woman at the well, as well as all the people in her town. Then Jesus heads home to Galilee and we read a very curious description of his return. John 4:43-45 – After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast. I say that these verses are curious because they seem to contradict one another. First, Jesus testifies that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown. In other words, he’s not going to be welcomed in Galilee. But then John says that when Jesus comes to Galilee, the Galileans welcome him because they heard about everything that Jesus had been doing. I’m confused. Is Jesus without honor or is he joyfully welcomed? The answer is found in Jesus’ gentle rebuke to the Galileans in verse 48: So Jesus said to him, “Unless you (plural) see signs and wonders you (plural) will not believe.” Jesus is not giving a compliment. Jesus is saying, “you guys only welcome me because I do signs. You don’t honor me, you don’t even really want me, you want what I can give you more than you want me. The signs are significant, but they’re not the point: follow the signs to me.” It’s a mild rebuke. Now, let’s be honest. How many of us see ourselves in these Galileans? I do! We have hard lives, face difficult seasons, and we want Jesus to show up, do a sign, and change things. Nothing wrong with that. We long for Jesus to heal our sick child, to comfort our aging parents, to relieve our unmanageable schedules, to jumpstart our stuck careers, to heal our broken marriages, overcome our infertility, lift our depression, and so much more. Nothing wrong with that. But how do we not get stuck on the sign? How do we actually follow the sign to the One who is greater than our desires being met? In our shaky seasons, how do we follow the signs to the One whose kingdom is not shaken? How do we follow the signs to the one whose love is better than the good life? How do we follow the signs to Jesus? 1. Bring him your hard life 2. Trust his promise 3. Live beyond your hard life.
BRING HIM YOUR HARD LIFE
John 4:46-47 – So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Who is this man? The term translated “official” carries royal overtones. Some older translations call him “a royal official.” During the time of Jesus, Israel was under Roman rule. In Jesus’ day, the Romans set up their own “king ” over the region named Herod Antipas. The official in our passage was a member of Herod’s royal court. He was undoubtedly a man of significant means. But far more importantly, he was a desperate man living a hard life that all his money could not solve. I cannot imagine facing anything more difficult than one of my children at the point of death with all my options exhausted and all my wealth insignificant. In the world’s eyes, the royal official has it all, but he’s living a hard life.
What does he do? Exactly what he should do. He brings his very hard life to Jesus. Yes, at this point all he wants is a sign. Yes, all he wants is for Jesus to come through and heal his son. No, he’s not yet a genuine believer in Jesus. He just brings Jesus his hard life. And to follow the signs to Jesus, that’s where you and I have to begin.
Andrea and I are in what I would call a hard season circumstantially. Thank God, it’s nothing like what the royal official faces. But it’s hard for us. So, I’ve been living in the Psalms because they’re a guide to bringing him your hard life. I love Psalm 34:5 – Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. To follow the signs to Jesus, bring him your hard life, look to him, he’ll never put you to shame.
Let me ask you – what is hard in your life these days? You may or may not have a son on the brink of death, but we all carry hard lives because we are all living in a fallen world that is under the curse of sin. What hurts? What isn’t going your way? What isn’t getting better? What suffering in here or out there is going unrelieved? Whatever is hard in your life, bring your hard life to Jesus.
Now, I find that bringing my hard life to Jesus to be quite difficult. When things are relatively peaceful, I find it far more natural to come to Jesus and enjoy sweet communion with him. When I’m overwhelmed and hurting, I tend to feel incredibly distracted from bringing my hard life to Jesus. That’s why I’ve been living in the Psalms. When life is hard and the words to pray just aren’t there or my heart is troubled and distracted, I turn to Psalm 13, 34, 130, and 139. Listen to how Psalm 13 begins: How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death. Mark Vrogoep points out that the first three moves in this Psalm are turning to the Lord, bringing your honest complaint, and asking for specific help. That’s how we bring our hard lives to Jesus. My friend Brian Key says when we use the Psalms to bring our hard lives to Jesus, we begin to learn the “my-ness” of God. He’s not just a refuge or shepherd, he’s my refuge and shepherd. To follow the signs to Jesus, begin by bringing your hard life to Jesus and let the Psalms be your guide and provide you with words. That’s where following the signs to Jesus begins, but then moves to…
TRUST HIS PROMISE
John 4:47-50 – When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.
To follow the signs to Jesus, first bring him your hard life, but then trust his promise. This passage shows us, and I want you to see it, the exquisite compassion of our Lord. The royal official brings his hard life to Jesus. His son is dying. And Jesus responds by speaking not just to the official, but to all the Galileans that are gathering around. He responds with what can only be characterized as a rebuke. “You don’t want me. You don’t honor me. You love what I can do for you more than you love me. You’ll only believe if I do signs.” The royal official seemingly ignores the rebuke. “Sir, you’re darn right I want to see a sign! I order you to come down before my dear child dies.” In desperation, the man completely ignores the Lord Jesus’ rebuke. With his rebuke ignored, the Lord Jesus, moved with compassion and motivated by kindness, heals the man’s son anyway. That’s our Lord. He’s gentle and lowly in heart. You can bring him your hard life and you won’t receive a stiff-arm.
Now, I want you to notice how the Lord Jesus heals the official’s son. He doesn’t actually do exactly what the official asks. He does not come down with him. The Lord Jesus isn’t just kind, he’s unspeakably powerful. Jesus doesn’t have to see symptoms or touch flesh to heal. Just as life was created out of nothing with a word in the beginning, so Jesus can bring life from the brink of death with a word. “Go; your son will live.” The official now has a choice: press Jesus to come with him or trust His promise. The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. He trusts Jesus’ promise by faith even though he has not seen Jesus’ solution by sight.
When it comes to the hard life that you’re bringing to Jesus, what promises has Jesus made to you in the Bible that are specific to your situation that you can trust? One of my favorite books in the Bible is 2 Corinthians because Paul talks a lot about his own life and I find autobiography incredibly interesting. In the opening chapter, Paul is writing about his suffering and provides an example for how to rely on God’s specific promises. 2 Corinthians 1:9 – Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. When your hard life makes you feel like you’ve received the sentence of death, then you need to trust the God who promises he can raise the dead.
To be honest with you, one thing that is hard in my life right now is not knowing where our church will gather after our lease is up here at Mishkan. I’m bringing that to Jesus nearly every day. Jesus hasn’t actually promised to give us the perfect building by my standards. That’s not in the Bible. Rather, I need to trust the promise that Jesus will be with me no matter where we go. I need to trust the promise of Psalm 139:7-10 – Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
To follow the signs to Jesus, bring him your hard life and trust his specific promises for what you’re facing. Search God’s word for them. Ask your Citygroup leader, a pastor, or a trusted fellow church member to help you find them. Memorize them and live by faith in them even when you don’t yet see the solution.
LIVE BEYOND YOUR HARD LIFE
John 4:51-54 – As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.
What we now see is the progression of the royal official to true faith. He brought Jesus his hard life. Jesus made a promise to him and he took Jesus at his word. And now we see him move beyond the sign to believe in Jesus himself. And that’s what it means to live beyond your hard life. Living beyond your hard life means believing in Jesus as your only hope in life and in death. Yes, the royal official’s life was finally calm, at least for a while. Living beyond your hard life means that you’ve reckoned with the reality that we live in a world that is under God’s curse and it’s going to be hard, but Jesus is better than the good life. Living beyond your hard life is living by faith in Jesus, not by sight. How do we do that? Well, earlier I only showed you the beginning of Psalm 13. Yes, Psalm 13 shows us how to bring our hard lives to Jesus, but it also shows us how to follow our hard lives to Jesus.
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death , 4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. 5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Live beyond your hard life, follow the signs to Jesus and rejoice in Him in all seasons because he has dealt bountifully with you. How bountifully? Cross, resurrection, coming Kingdom!