Monday, September 1, 2014

Walking Home by Faith (John 4:43-54)

“After the two days He departed for Galilee. (For Jesus Himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed Him, having seen all that He had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast. So He came again to Cana in Galilee, where He had made the water wine.

“(45) And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when He had come from Judea to Galilee.” (John 4:43–54, ESV)

Okay, this time we’ll tackle a bigger chunk of John by looking at verses 43-54. The first two of these verses describe Jesus’ completion of the trip that He had set out on in the beginning of chapter 4 where we read in verse 3, “He left Judea and departed again for Galilee.” (John 4:3, ESV) Remembering that the gospel accounts were not written on the spot, John brings in here a statement made by Jesus on another occasion when the people of His home town took offense at Him. This reference was to a later event that actually occurred in Nazareth, saying in Matthew 13:57, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” (Matthew 13:57, ESV) But as we head into these verses it seems on the surface that the result might have been a bit different in these earlier encounters. We read that many of the people were also at the wedding in Cana and knew what He did in turning water into wine. As He came back they were attracted to Him because of the miraculous things He had done before them.

Next John introduces miraculous event number two in Galilee. As it turns out in Capernaum (about 16 miles from Cana) there was an official, likely in the service of King Herod who was the Tetrarch of Galilee from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39 (source: MacArthur Study Bible). This official’s son was ill, and hearing that Jesus had come back to Galilee, he went to Him to ask Him to come and heal his son. Jesus responded in a unique way which clarified what He knew of the people’s expectations concerning Him upon His return, and showing why John included the words of Jesus from another place and time.

Responding to their expectations Jesus said, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The Greek word “you” used here is plural in both of its uses in this verse (verse 48) indicating that Jesus was responding to more than just the man’s personal request. He was speaking to the people who had gathered to see what miracle He would work next, and here it was a prime opportunity for Jesus to amaze them once again. Oh, so Jesus who as we already know, knows the hearts of men, knew that these people from His own home area really were there for the show and not out of belief. Even being home He was expected to prove Himself to them with miraculous signs and wonders.

In response to Jesus’ statement the man did not focus on the show of miracles, but was intently focused on the life of His son. He had no doubts concerning whether Jesus could heal him, and he went on to respectfully plead, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus was at the wedding and He turned the water into wine. If He came to His son, the man was certain that He could heal him as well. But rather than saying, “Let’s go,” Jesus told the man, “Go; your son will live.” And our passage records for us that the man believed Jesus at His word. He did not have to see his son being healed. Just hearing from Jesus that his son was healed was enough for him. This man of authority seemed to recognize the authority with which Jesus spoke, and he responded appropriately.

Imagine the scene that happens next. We don’t know if he wondered any on the way about whether or not this would really happen, whether he had any doubts. All we know is that he believed and returned to his home. Then as he is returning home his servants come out to meet him, and the news they had for him was wonderful news—his son was getting better. It could have been a coincidence, and the man might have always wondered if it were true that he was actually healed (we don’t know as this is all speculation, the kind of speculation that I imagine that I might have had). Proving it for himself, he asked his servants just when he began to get better. Amazingly they told him that it was at the very time that Jesus on the day before had told him this would happen.

It is at this moment when any questions the man may have had about who Jesus was melted away. Our passage records that the man believed, and not only did the man believe but his whole household did as well. With the Samaritan woman Jesus had a personal encounter with her telling her things that no one else would know and telling her that He was indeed the Christ. The woman testified of these things to the people of the town, and the end result was that many believed. I imagine again here that as the official told of his own encounter with Jesus and they saw the results of that encounter that they joined in his testimony and believed. This completed, as John records, the second sign that Jesus had performed in His own home, knowing that it would not be the last time He returned to them.

There are so many lessons we could learn from passages such as this. We see the power of Christ and His impact on those He encountered leading them to salvation. We also see that regardless of what He does there will be those who reject Him and do not believe. We see the power of personal testimony as our lives are changed by Him, and we are able to share with others what He has done for us even leading them to believe that He will do for them. We see that He was clearly different than any other man. He knew the hearts of men and He worked with the power that could only be from God. He personally claimed to be the Christ, and He proved Himself such both in word and deed. These are just some of the things that came to my mind as I reflected on this encounter and the others of which we have read. Early in His ministry Jesus clearly established His credentials, and people were coming to believe.

Thinking of this we can be encouraged to know that, as God, Jesus has not changed. The heart of God for men and His call of them for salvation is just as true today. His power to change lives is no less because we physically do not see Him. As He left to sit at the right hand of the Father, the father sent the Spirit into the world to bring people to belief and to indwell and empower them for life. We read in Scripture that when we believe in Jesus that our lives are changed eternally, and that at that very moment we become a new creation in Him. We know that He hears and answers our prayers. We read that He is actively the head of His church even today, directing our steps. And we read that He is the very Word of God given for us. We, who have trusted Him for salvation, have so much that we know beyond this when we even consider what He has personally done in our own lives and the lives of those we love who also have believed in Him, things that only could be done by Him.

Personally I’ve had plenty of times in the last couple of years when I’ve, in a sense, been heading home with the promise that He has done something on the other end, only to have moments of wondering whether or not He really has. And just as the servants came out to meet the man, there have also been many, many points along the way when God has reminded me that He will do that which He said He would do. There have been with the trials of the journey many accompanying encouragements. Reflecting on this I am encouraged to continue on the path we believe Him to have laid for us, trusting that He has prepared the other end. For us this journey has specifically been centered on where He would next have me serve as pastor. I imagine that for you there may also be something that you are having a struggle in trusting God. It may be a challenge that you cannot immediately see met before your eyes, or it may even be something for which humanly speaking there is not positive expectation such as a terminal disease.

The greatest things we have as Christians to encourage us are faith, hope, and love. We have faith because we know our God is faithful. He will not let loose of us and He is capable to bring everything to His intended completion whether in this life or in His presence. What He started in us He will complete. Because of this we have hope. When we doubt we focus on some degree of hopelessness, but when we place all of our struggles into the perfectly capable hands of God we realize in hope that He does have everything under control. And we have love. We have the eternal love of God that moved Him to create us to have a perfect relationship with Him and then, knowing in advance that man would rebel, to even send His Son to restore that relationship after it was broken through sin. It is that same love that we abide in daily as we trust Him to direct our steps, and it is that some love that never changes that we will experience one day in its fullness for all of eternity.

So, as we walk by faith these journeys of trust we can be assured that He indeed is working, and we can take Him at His word.

1 comment:

Joe Burgess said...

This blog was later delivered in sermon form on September 14, 2014 at Grace Bible Church, Grants Pass, Oregon. It can be listened to by clicking on "Sermon Links and More" on this page.