Jesus performed many other 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 Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31
From the very beginning of John’s gospel we get a glimpse into the purpose of his writing it: That you may believe…
There are three episodes that stood out to me as I read today’s 40For40 plan about John’s purpose for writing. And they all have to do with foundations of faith in who Jesus was, why he came, and what it all meant to his disciples, and in a broader sense, to those of us who read and likewise believe.
Jesus’ Revealing Words
Nathanael, brought to Jesus by Philip, had been sitting under a fig tree, a common and shady place for study and prayer in hot weather. It’s not revealed what Nathanael was studying, praying or thinking about under the shade of that tree, but Jesus said something that resonated with Nathanel: “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
This, along with the revealing that Jesus saw him under the fig tree before Philip called him to meet Jesus led Nathanael to declare, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” A clear and remarkable declaration of faith.
To which Jesus replied, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” And he went on to say exactly what those greater things would be.
The foundation of faith or belief in Jesus begins with a heart that is open and doesn’t seek to hide anything from God. In Nathanael’s case, Jesus saw him (under the fig tree probably praying and seeking to get his heart right with the Lord) and revealed to him he saw no spirit of deception in Nathanael. In other words, Nathanael was being honest and open and was therefore in a receptive state.
Likewise, Jesus reveals his true self and plan to us when we reveal our true condition to him. It’s a two-way street. I came to the foundation of faith in Jesus many years ago while reading John’s gospel and praying for a miracle for a friend who was dying of cancer. I thought if God could save my friend I could then believe in him. My friend died, but through the praying and reading with an open and honest heart, God revealed himself to me and performed the miracle on my heart.
That was my fig tree. Do you have a fig tree? Jesus sees you under your fig tree. He knows your thoughts, your troubles, your hopes and dreams. Are you being open and honest with him about them?
Jesus’ Revealing Sign
The second episode that struck me about how the first disciples came to faith in Jesus was when he turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana. This is the first of seven signs in John’s gospel. And if you carefully read it you come to the understanding that the changing of water into wine wasn’t done to save the master of the banquet or bridegroom from a devastating embarrassment, rather it was to reveal Jesus’ glory and initiate belief among his disciples.
In John’s own words: “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” John 2:11
There were six more signs to come.
It reminds us that faith and belief in Jesus is a process. There’s a beginning, and faith in Jesus may begin with a miraculous transformation. But it doesn’t end there. Pastor Ken Jensen of Northgate Christian Fellowship in Benicia, California often reminds believers that faith is an ongoing journey, we are all a work in process, and each person is at a different stage along the path.
Jesus’ Revealing Authority
The third occasion of Jesus’ experience with his disciples that brought about belief was his claim: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” John 2:19
This came after he had cleared the Temple courts of the people who had turned it into a personal place of business. “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this,” the Jews asked.
But it was his body he was referring to. And it wasn’t until after he was dead and raised did his disciples recall and believe in what he had spoken. “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.” John 2:22
Sometimes connecting the dots between what we’ve read in the Scriptures and what it means isn’t immediately revealed or understood. Yet believing in the authority of Jesus and his word should hold out great hope and promise to keep on trusting and believing in a bright and glorious future.
Jesus holds the ultimate plan and authority for accomplishing what he’s said he would do. This will become even more evident as we continue to read the writings of John. Just wait until the book of Revelation – talk about words, (symbolic) signs and works of authority!
What’s stood out to you about this passage of John’s gospel?