Signs and Wonders

By Sherry Black

A Reading from the Gospel of John 4:43-54

43 When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee 44 (for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet’s own country). 45 When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival, for they, too, had gone to the festival.

46 Then he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then 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 little boy dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. 51 As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” 53 The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he himself believed, along with his whole household. 54 Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.


“Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” Such was the state of the people in Jesus’ first-century world, looking for signs and wonders, seeking miracles, needing proof of God, proof that Jesus was God’s messenger, maybe even the Messiah. And confronted with miracles — healing, exorcism, changed lives — they still wanted more. They wanted signs of power, not the revelation of God to the world.

In the cynicism of the 21st century, most of us are not seeking signs and wonders. We want a cerebral faith, nothing too startling. Or we want a quiet, mystical faith. Most of us avoid signs and wonders like the plague; we are not even sure about unexpected healing. Is it a natural occurrence, or is it a miracle? Is it secular, or sacred?

But the earth around us is holy; there are miracles in every moment if we but look for them. One of my favorite books is An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. In it she says,

To make bread or love, to dig in the earth, to feed an animal or cook for a stranger — these activities require no extensive commentary, no lucid theology. All they require is someone willing to bend, reach, chop, stir. Most of these tasks are so full of pleasure that there is no need to complicate things by calling them holy. And yet these are the same activities that change lives, sometimes all at once and sometimes more slowly, the way dripping water changes stone. In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking, bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life.

May we taste and see the holy all around us!

The Very Rev. Sherry Black is a second-career Episcopal priest, and has been a full-time hospital chaplain for 10 years. She also serves a small mission church as priest-in-charge, and is dean of her deanery.

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