Meaningfulness of signs performed by Jesus

We have read in John 20:30 that "... many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;...." So that we understand the signs recorded in John as having been selected out of the many signs He did. Some have made a point of observing the appropriateness of the signs as they correlate with, and figuratively highlight aspects of, Christs' teachings in John. For example, in John 11 we have the accomplishment of a sign. Jesus' returns to dangerous Judea in order to raise Lazurus from the dead. This sign is coupled with the teaching "The good shepard lays down his life to save the sheep." By the way Jesus does not get out of Judea after this sign without dying. In John 8&9 Jesus heals a man who has been in darkness (blind) from his birth and that sign is coupled with "Jesus is the Light of the World," and so on.

In each case there are symbolic illustrations of truths which have otherwise been stated plainly. So that we see how Christ's works and His teachings mesh together in such a way as to re-iterate the announcement of the Kingdom of God.

A Theme of Matthew is; "Jesus came for Israel, to be Israel, and to define Israel around fidelity to God, which Jesus himself embodies." Related to that theme is the idea that Jesus is able to relieve Israel of judgments which God has determined to give the unfaithful nation. And this relief for Israel is one that the teachers of Israel, the prophets and such, were not able to bring about even in their lesser faith. But Jesus, the faithful comes, and in keeping with God's will, is able to deliver.

Looking at the event of Matthew 17:14-22 through a lens already colored by the pattern of Jesus' mission to, for, and to be, Israel will strengthen our understanding of both the overarching pattern and of this event.

Mat 17:14-23 "When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, (15) "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. (16) "I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him." (17) And Jesus answered and said, "You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me." (18) And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. (19) Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not drive it out?" (20) And He *said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. (21) ["But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."] (22) And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; (23) and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day." And they were deeply grieved

Israel (the people of God) have been embroiled in a long history of insufficient loyalty to God.
  • (Isa 1:4) Alas, sinful nation, People weighed down with iniquity, Offspring of evildoers, Sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the LORD, They have despised the Holy One of Israel, They have turned away from Him.
It is Israel's ongoing insufficient loyaty that evokes these words from Jesus: "You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you (Matt17:17)?"

The Israelite boy in Matthew 17 is a representative Jew...In Israel's history "the demon" of bad faith has done nothing but get Israel into trouble with God. Israel needs help being Israel. She needs help overcoming her failings as much as the young man needs deliverance from this demon.
  • (Isa 8:7) "Now therefore, behold, the Lord is about to bring on them the strong and abundant waters of the Euphrates, Even the king of Assyria and all his glory; And it will rise up over all its channels and go over all its banks.
  • (Isa 30:27-28) Behold, the name of the LORD comes from a remote place; Burning is His anger and dense is His smoke; His lips are filled with indignation And His tongue is like a consuming fire; (28) His breath is like an overflowing torrent, Which reaches to the neck, To shake the nations back and forth in a sieve, And to put in the jaws of the peoples the bridle which leads to ruin.
There is no real health for Israel until Israel (through the representative Israelite...Jesus) realizes that doing God's will is better than any short-term, apparent, benefit of ignoring God's will. The first step, and the last step, of a man doing God's will is going to be the step of loyalty toward God. A small and failing loyalty is not what is needed to get Israel out of the fire and water of God's judgment.

Loyalty-to-God does the will-of-God, even with the cost of present suffering. This is the lesson which needs to come across, especially in this part of Matthews Gospel.
  • (Mat 16:21-24) From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. (22) Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You." (23) But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." (24) Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
  • (Mat 17:12) but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands."
  • (Mat 17:22-23) And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; (23) and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day." And they were deeply grieved.
To see more passages on the connection between fire and water and the judgemant of
God consider: fire Deut.32:22; Ps. 21:8ff, 89:46; Isa. 66:15ff.; fire + cup=divine judgement: Ps.11:6, Luke12:49, Mark 10:38 as a testing or proving of quality: 2Thess.1:7,8; Heb. 12:29;water Ps.69:14; Ps. 18:4; Ps. 88;6.

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