Faith Enlarged

John 4:43-54 Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on December 31st, 2006

“The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”
C.S. Lewis; “Surprised by Joy”

Intro
A couple of weeks ago we left Jesus with the hated Samaritans, many of whom now believed in Him because of the words He spoke to them (John 4:39-42). We saw that God is not a tribal, area god that we see in many cultures, caring only for people of that race or ethnicity, but we see a God in the gospels who loves and saves people from every race, ethnicity and tribal groups (Revelation 5:9-10). There is no one who is exempt from the kingdom of God.

Jesus begins our narrative today leaving for Galilee and making a strange statement that, “a prophet has no honor in His own country.” This has left many puzzled in that the context is weird, since the stories surrounding it are positive. Whereas the other gospels report the same comment, they do so after His people have rejected Jesus. Most likely John placed the saying here to do two things; one to contrast the fact that Jesus is rejected by the religious institutions of His own (John 1:11) while at the same time accepted by prostitutes, sinners, Samaritans, etc. Secondly, it could refer to the disdain that people have for Him who are familiar with Him (ie. His brothers; 7:5). This could be true since verse 46 says that he went to Cana, a town near but away from His hometown of Nazareth. It’s interesting that we (Western church goers) are often the ones that are the least interested in loving and relating to Christ. How much have we taken Him for granted? In our passage today we see Christ’s second miracle in John, but more importantly John’s use of the story to once again show us that the true miracle in any of our lives is the one which forces us to see Christ as the prize, and not the result of the miracle itself.

From the Head…
The Setting (John 4:46-47)
These verses tell us a couple things. First that Jesus returned to Cana “Where he turned the water into wine.” Is this significant? Only in its connection to this story, the second miracle He did in Cana. At the heart of the Cana miracle is Jesus’ desire (And John’s desire actually) to communicate that Jesus is more than a miracle worker who gives good gifts, but He is the gift itself. In the Cana story, we are reminded that Jesus is ultimately our bridegroom, and he secures this by spilling His blood for our sakes. If we can only begin to understand this, we will live our current lives with far more joy and purpose. Secondly, Jesus returns to Cana (not Nazareth), which is a place He has limited honor (see John 4:44).

Cana is a place he is known, and honored at least for the work He has already accomplished there, and had heard of the work, which he had done in Jerusalem (Work which John does not make us privy to). It is here that a “certain royal official” (Basilikos “Petty King) came to him to ask him to come with him so that he could heal his son. We don’t know much about this official, but that he worked for Herod Antipas who killed John the Baptist, and who Jesus called a “fox” (In a bad sense, Luke 13:31). He worked for the enemy. He’s a son to the King who tried to execute Jesus. He’s also a half breed too since he has Edomite blood in him, but once again we are surprised by the fact that Jesus isn’t about His own countrymen, but abut His mission to seek and save the lost of all tribes.

Now the man’s son was “Close to death.” The man is distraught with grief, and asks Jesus to heal his son. This is the level of faith that he has. Jesus as healer and miracle worker, but as we will see Jesus is not earth bound, but eternal bound. He knows man’s needs before man can, and He works to expose those needs.

The Unthinkable Answer (John 4:48)
Here’s a man in anguish, and Jesus flippantly makes a statement in regards to his position before the Lord. He makes a statement regarding His faith. For many this statement seems cold and uncaring, but that is quite the contrary. Jesus sees beyond this man’s current grief, to reach to a future and even deeper grief; the grief of his soul. This man, like the many around him are looking for the temporal goods, and Jesus wants to provide them with the eternal goods. Jesus is not against miracles or signs, but man’s myopic condition. Interestingly, the “You” in verse 48 is plural. Jesus is speaking for everyone to hear. He is mercifully begging them to “Know” Him, to elevate their faith beyond their own temporal needs. God is not against giving us good gifts, but those gifts are to be enjoyed in juxtaposition to His greatest gift, which is Himself. Even our children are gifts from God to be wonderfully enjoyed, but never made into idols that jeopardize our relationship to Christ. In an earthly way there are far too many of us raising our children in child centered environments that ultimately are killing our kids. Our relationship with God must come first, and then our relationship with our spouses must come second, and then comes our relationship to our children. This is the healthiest priority we can model for our children, because when we have those relationships right, we can minister and serve our children from positions of health and love, and not need and guilt. It is when we idolize our children that we put them in harms way. It also expresses a plural community, instead of a self-centered universe, which is thoroughly biblical.

A Shot of Strength (John 4:49-52)
This man has already showed a degree of faith; at least a veneer of hope that this “Miracle worker” could possibly save his dying son. After all, he was a high-ranking official, who had humbled himself to “beg” Jesus for this miracle. He was not even deterred by Jesus’ previous statement. His faith was however limited to Jesus’ signs and wonders ability. He only knew this much about Jesus, and Jesus wanted him to know more. When we are stuck in a signs and wonders movement, we are stuck to only know what God can do for you, and not know who that God is.

The man requests that Jesus travel back to Capernaum with Him (About 18-20 miles), but Jesus forces him to trust His word. Most likely reluctantly, he turned for his journey back home, most likely anxious to know if Jesus “worked?” As the story goes he was met by his servants who gave him the good news that his son was well, and he started to recover about the 7th hour (1:00 p.m.), which was the time he was with Jesus.

At this point something radical was happening in this man’s life. He came as a believer, but left as something different. His “belief” was different. He no longer needed to see to believe, but he began to believe so that he could see. Jesus changed him. He began to live Hebrews 11:, which says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” Another translation reads, “Now faith means that we have full confidence in the things we hope for; it means being certain of things we cannot see.” This same chapter goes on to say, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised, they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance” (Hebrews 11:13). This man walked away believing at one level only to be elevated to another by Jesus.

“So that You May believe” (John 4:53-54)
We know that John uses Christ’s miracles to bring forth belief (John 20:31). The royal official believed it might be possible that Christ was who He said He was, but his belief changed to a saving faith in verse 53. Jesus’ desire to do miracles was never to pump up His ministry, but to validate it, so that many would believe. There are many that don’t believe in the midst of Jesus’ miracles, and even today deny miracles and pass them off as coincidence. The goal of everything Jesus did was to reach those that were His, and save them from their myopic vision. There are far too many charlatans who do “Miracles” for the sake of their own glory and financial reward. They perpetuate the idea that God exists for us, instead of the other way around. God loves us, and often provides us with miracles in the midst of our pain, but in reality, like this story, is calling us beyond the signs, to a saving faith that says “I believe when I can’t see.” In this world, even when God does a miracle to save a dying relative, they ultimately will die, which renders this life, a life to live strong, but purposeless unless there is something more. Jesus opens up those doors so that we can rise above our condition, and gather hope in the midst of pain.

…to the Heart
It is not enough to read these narratives and miss the reality in our lives. This official had to be hit over the head by a tragic event that finally led him to Christ, because God is, as one theologian once called Him, “The hound of heaven.” He is on our track, and desires that we know Him, so that our joy could be made complete. There is no temporal joy (Spouse, children, sex, food, money, etc.) that will ever fill the void left because of our separation from God. God is good to allow calamity so that we will turn to Him. Let’s not wait, let’s turn this new year into a year that we spend daily time with God in His word, and begin a relationship that may have dried up years ago. If you have a solid relationship with god, praise Him for His goodness, and stengthen your faith by placing your faith in Him further.

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3 comments so far

  1. mike on

    Please comment, it’s a free country!

  2. A. S. Moses on

    I have taken this for study purpose
    Thanking you

  3. sermonrant on

    Great! I hope it helps!


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