Jesus said he had to believe, and yet he knew he did not. Not wholly. Not completely.
There was part of him that didn’t care. His son was better, and that was enough in some ways. Why bother with the technicalities? And after all, even though he didn’t believe then, he certainly did after that point. But in the days and weeks and then months after that day, the father was surprised to shear himself still use the word “if…”
He considered, however, that his use of the word was no longer from a posture of doubt; it was used from a posture of faith.
One of the difficulties of reflecting back on his experience and all the years before it was the knowledge was that Jesus – or God – or the Messiah – or whoever He was – didn’t just wake up that morning suddenly able to do miraculous things. He was always able to do them.
And even beyond the rabbi, surely God Himself was always able to do whatever He wanted. But if that was true, it meant the word “if” still had a place in his vocabulary. Just because He can, doesn’t mean He will. The father had years of proof for that. So in that sense, he would always bear the weight of a word like “if,” because it’s an acknowledgment that something might or might not happen.
But the word didn’t taste bitter in his mouth any more. Once upon a time, during those difficult days that felt like a lifetime ago, he had said “if” with disdain. He had said it with anger. He had said it with sarcasm:
“If you’re really there…”
“If you’re so powerful…”
“If you really love us…”
But not any more. He had certainty in his life, at least about some things. He knew God was there. He knew He was powerful. He knew He was loving. And He knew this from his years of hardship – God is wise.
And those certainties made Him able to deal with the rest of the “if’s” he would have. His certainty lessened the blow of the uncertain nature of life. And that word, the two letters that had once tasted so bitter, moved to be sort of sweet. The word became one of hope rather than despair; a reminder of what could happen rather than what hasn’t.