Psalm 102:18-28; John 4:43-54
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood words, not only in our culture today, but also in the church itself is the word “faith.” What is faith? Probably the most famous example of “faith” in the popular imagination and American culture today is Indiana Jones in the 1989 movie The Last Crusade. He has to get across this seemingly bottomless chasm. His dying father, Sean Connery, is whispering “You must believe boy, you must believe.” So Indiana Jones summons up this heroic amount of faith, and he courageously extends his foot out and falls into the chasm. But then, thud, his foot lands on solid ground. The camera pans around and you can see a rock bridge that had been invisible to him before. Indiana Jones had summoned up enough faith to get across the chasm.
And people think, that’s faith! It’s a leap in the dark. Is that how you have thought of faith? A leap in the dark? As much as I love that scene from The Last Crusade, I believe John’s gospel is here to tell us what real faith is. In John’s gospel faith is walking into the light with our eyes wide open. And we do it because we’ve seen the signs and followed them to the true Light of the world.
John tells us at the end of His gospel why he wrote it: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” John 21:30-31. So that’s our hope as we study Jesus’ second miraculous sign in John chapter 4. That we would believe in Jesus this morning.
The Problem of the Desperate Royal Official
This is what we read in John 4:46-47, “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. 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.”
Here is a powerful man; a “Royal official.” He was used to getting things done. This man’s son is sick. What do you think his first response will be? Well I’m guessing here, but I imagine the story went a bit like this. His son got sick and he thinks, well I’ll pay for the best doctor and we’ll get this sorted. His doctor comes, his doctor fails. His son gets worse. So he pulls a few strings and gets the king’s own physician. Still no improvement. Instead his son gets worse. Where does he turn? Well, maybe he’s got a contact at the imperial court who can put him in touch with the best of Roman medicine. Surely the Romans can sort this out. But they can’t. And his son is now on his death bed. It’s hard to think of something as tragic as a father planning the funeral of his son. It should be the other way around. Can you put yourself in the shoes of this otherwise powerful man? The royal official is brought to the end of his powers. And when you come to the end of yourself, that’s where faith comes. Because faith must mean you shift your allegiance. You used to trust something else, now you trust Jesus.
A Journey from the Shifting Sands to the Solid Rock
The man heard about Jesus. He leaves his son’s death-bed and makes the long journey from Capernaum to Cana. He had begun to make the journey from the shifting sands of his own resources and to put his trust in the solid Rock of Jesus.
Yet, John 4:50 is such a surprise. A day’s journey for this royal official, the worry about his son, the expectations about Jesus – what’s going to happen? Jesus simply dismisses him again in 5 words. “Go; your son will live.” The man said, “Come to Capernaum with me and heal my son!” but Jesus said, “Go; your son will live.” That’s not what the royal official expected.
The royal official takes Jesus at his word – and he acts on the basis of that faith. Then later this faith was confirmed – Jesus really was able to do what He said. This is how faith works. You trust Jesus. You move out in faith. You see how trusting Jesus makes sense of life and in that confirmation your faith increases and so you trust Him a bit more. And on it goes. Faith is continual.
This story reminds us of the story of the Syrian army captain, Naaman, who had leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-19). His servant girl, a Jewish slave, told him about Elisha the prophet, who could cure him of his leprosy. He was desperate, so he put together a nice reward and went to the prophet. He expected Elisha to come out to him, stand and call on the name of the Lord, wave his hand over him, and heal him. But instead, Elisha didn’t even come out of the house. He sent his servant out to tell this important man to go and wash in the Jordan River seven times and his leprosy would be cured. Naaman was furious. This wasn’t what he expected. Besides, the rivers in Syria were better than the lousy Jordan. So he went away in a rage.
But then his servants appealed to him and said (2 Kings 5:13), “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So Naaman went and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan River and was cured of his leprosy. He believed the word of the prophet, obeyed, and was healed. J. C. Ryle points out that Christ’s word is as good as His presence.
Friends, the royal official comes to Jesus with Galilean “faith,” looking for a miraculous sign, but ends up going deeper to believe in Jesus as the Christ. Do you realize that your biggest need this week is to trust Jesus? Think about it for a second. What do you think of as your greatest need for this week? Now think of all the possible saviors you might look to, to provide you needs. Money? Power? Intelligence? Beauty? Charm? Hard work? Family? Friendships. Well Jesus offers Himself to you again this week as you all in all. He says trust ME – I am the God who speaks and it happens. I am the God who raises the dead. I can handle this week, trust me. Continually. Our biggest need this week is to trust Jesus. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit! Amen!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, October 6, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor