Believe again and again.

6 min. to read.

I’m studying through the Gospel of John. I’m taking special care to go slowly. These are stories I know well. In my familiarity, I’m liable to rush past the text to the interpretation I already know. So, as I read I was working slowly through the text, considering each verse carefully.

Early in Chapter 2, Jesus began his public work with the lavish miracle at Cana, turning water into wine. In the context of the chapter, it seemed clear that this wasn’t Jesus performing a party trick to impress.

He was taking a symbol of the old system, the water of ritual purification, and turning it into something else. Wine. Was it a symbol of joy? A reflection of generous provision? Of course, a symbol of the spilled blood of the new covenant. No longer would people depend on daily ritual washing to make them clean before God; that washing would be accomplished permanently in Jesus’ death.

But as I read through the account, I noticed a sentence at the end, a sort of summary that could easily be passed over. Verse 11:

“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

Jesus did this in Cana. It was the first sign. It revealed his glory. Yep. But then that last phrase: “and his disciples believed in him.”

Wait? What? His disciples? Didn’t they already believe in him? Isn’t that why they were his disciples?

Hadn’t they believed yet?

To me, believing in Jesus and following Jesus are tied up together. Like my youth pastors always said: Believe in Jesus and follow him. Make that choice to trust Jesus with your life, let him into your heart, and then follow. Believe and then act on that belief.

But what’s going on here? The disciples were following Jesus (literally!) and yet this verse says that it was when they saw Jesus do this sign that they believed.

Quickly, I flipped back through the text.

Jesus’ first disciples (in John’s gospel) checked out Jesus on the basis of John the Baptist’s recommendation. They spent the day with him. Andrew told Peter, his brother that he better come along too since they thought they’d found the Messiah. They followed then—on the basis of the recommendation of a friend, and hope in God’s intervention in their lives.

A little later Nathaniel made a theological declaration: Jesus was the promised Messiah! But Jesus said that declaration was only because he had done something Nathaniel thought impossible. There was something yet to mature in this statement of belief.

It was only at the miracle in Cana that the text says the disciples believed. The NIV puts it this way: “He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.”

But the story doesn’t end there. The next scene is Jesus entering into the temple, where he brings a stop to the sacrifices by scattering the money changers and animal sellers. This is a news-making moment. The talk of the town. But there’s another easily overlooked verse at the end of the scene. Verse 22.

“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 2:13-25

This verse is a reference out of time. It’s referring to a moment that would happen three years in the future. After the disciples walked with Jesus for three years, after they witnessed healings and resurrections, after they had heard Jesus’ teaching for three years, after all of that THEN they believed Scripture and the words Jesus had spoken.

What? Wait?! After all of that? They still had believing to do?

Believing more than once.

I find this to be incredibly encouraging. The modern Evangelical narrative is an easy one to misunderstand. We’re lead to think of belief in Jesus as an all-or-nothing, one-time decision. At the altar call, at summer camp, at our baptism, or some other spiritually significant moment, we place our trust in Jesus. We give him our whole lives. Then, that’s it. We believe. Now our work is to walk that out.

Quote - Believe Again

But these two little throw-away sentences in John 2 suggest a different picture, one that seems more like real life to me.

At the beginning of the disciples’ journey, they decided to follow Jesus. That was a big decision for that moment, but it wasn’t their last decision. As they followed Jesus, they would see Jesus work. They would hear Jesus teach. Those things would intrigue their mind and captivate their hearts. Each time, they would understand a little more. Each time, they would believe a little more.

They could make loud, barreling doctrinal declarations about Jesus, but even those brave moments weren’t complete. Even at the moment when you surrender to a new belief, you do not know how that belief will shape you or how it will be tested. So, on the one hand, you believe it!  Yet, you don’t really know what you believe, not in a deep way. That takes time and experience and testing.

And so over and over the disciples believed in Jesus. Over and over, they placed their trust in Him. Until even, years later, after Jesus had ascended, John could report that in the moment of recalling Jesus’ teaching, the disciples believed again.

Just for today.

Perhaps this can take some of the weight off as we evaluate ourselves. Even the disciples, who had the privilege of walking with Jesus in the flesh, had to believe and believe again.

Maybe God never was asking us to make a single, all-encompassing, choice to believe. Maybe God has been asking us to trust one day at a time.

We’re invited to choose for one day to follow Jesus. In that one day, we can come to know Jesus more. Then in those moments where we understand better, or see Jesus at work, we choose to believe again. Maybe believing deeper this time. Maybe believing with more clarity. Maybe believing with a deeper emotional attachment. Maybe just reminding ourselves once again of the loadstone that draws our compass forward.

Yes. This is Jesus. This is the One I follow. I trust Him.

If you’ve struggled with commitments once made, that have weakened, or perhaps where you’ve failed, this can encourage you. You just need enough trust to make it through today. You just need to turn toward Jesus in this one moment, in this one conversation, in this one circumstance.

When the Hebrew people wandered in the desert, God sustained them with bread from heaven, the Manna. He only ever gave them enough for the next day. Their trust was very basis: God is going to get us through today.

Jesus is the bread of heaven for you and me. Perhaps God is operating on this same principle with us. Trust Jesus enough to make to tomorrow. He will meet you there, where you’ll have the opportunity to choose again to believe.

13 thoughts on “Believe again and again.

  1. Great insights Marc. More comforting to think disciples had their weakness in faith too. Will pray daily.

    God is good!

    1. I’m with you. It’s nice to not have to be supernaturally good or strong to follow Jesus. Thanks for reading and commenting, Chip. Your support and encouragement mean a lot!

  2. This is encouraging stuff, Marc. It’s funny because I’ve been reading the book of John over and over in the past year and John 2:11 has actually jumped out at me. But honestly, I didn’t put much thought into it. You have brought it to light and I’m really grateful! It reminds me to trust God this very moment and abide in Him.
    I guess it surprises me a bit that the disciples believed again. And yet, that is the story of my life! Believing more, believing again. It shows God’s grace toward us. He is always renewing us and shaping us. He is a precious Lord.
    I’m so glad I read your email today, Marc. You have a special way of communicating. Thank you.

    1. So many of the lessons we were all taught were about how to be strong. But Christ meets us where we are weak. That’s good news. So I’m gonna choose to believe again for today.

      Thanks for reading and for leaving a comment!

      Sent from my phone. Please pardon my brevity.

  3. Thanks for this Marc. I have often struggled with feeling strong in faith one day and then weak in faith on another day. The inconsistency made me feel bad and I don’t want to dishonor God after all He has done for me throughout my life. Thanks for bringing to light that sometimes we need to “believe again and again.” This post was a breath of fresh air.

    1. Oh, that’s so good to hear. I grew up in a faith community that seemed to expect that we would all become heros of faith. I don’t believe that anymore. The incarnation shows us that through Jesus God comes to be with us in the middle of our mess. The disciples are a great example — Jesus chose normal, failure-prone, weak-hearted people with nothing particular to recommend them and worked with and through them. You and I? We’re OK. Just keep getting back up, keep turning your face God-ward, keep choosing to follow Jesus each day, one day at a time.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m so glad you’re here.

  4. Why are you posting your articles to atheist aggregators? Do you really think that we haven’t heard this drivel before? You’re nothing but a troll. Good day.

  5. I see you deleted my comment. Very brave of you. I’m saying that sarcastically,of course, since I deem you you a coward, sir, for trolling the atheist community with your articles and deleting responses. You are an intellectually dishonest coward and I invite you to stop wearying us with your vapid treacle. Do you really think that we haven’t heard your arguments before? Most of us came from a christian background and have considered all of this before coming to the conclusion that we have. Begone, sir, and keep your tripe to yourself.

    1. Good morning, Eric. I didn’t delete your comment. All comments are held for moderation and I’ve only just woke up and started reading them. You mentioned in the first comment that I posted to an Atheist agregator. I have no idea where that would be. I only post my articles here on my own blog. I link to them on Facebook and on Twitter. But I don’t share any of them on aggregators of any sort. I’m sorry my article offended you. I wish you well on your journey.

  6. That’s funny, the Florida Atheist newsletter in which this article appeared says “shared by MarcAlanSchelse.com” If I was mistaken in assuming that you posted it on that site, I offer my apologies. However, you may want to investigate who is posting your articles from your website. It is extremely insulting to the deconverted to proselytize at them. Again, if I was mistaken please accept my apologies. Good day.

    1. Apology accepted. Thanks. Understanding your audience is a vital part in communicating well, and this article was definitely written for Christians wrestling with faith. If I wrote for Atheists, it would be from an entirely different angle. I’ll look into this. Thanks again.

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