Grace For The Journey
In today’s blog, “Encounter with Christ” series takes place in John’s Gospel, chapter 4, and beginning at verse 46, an encounter that takes one man from crisis to calm.
There are a lot of things going on in this passage
And the main thing is that we see the greatness of Jesus,
The Lord Jesus Christ who works miracles
And heals and brings glory to Himself.
Charles Spurgeon said this passage illustrates, “the rise and progress of faith in the soul.” And I would agree with that statement . . .
As we see the greatness of Jesus
We see also the progression
Of one man’s faith in Jesus.
What about faith? What do we mean when we talk about faith? Often the word is used simply to describe belief in general. Someone says he has faith that everything is going to be alright. He doesn’t say what substantiates his faith or upon what his faith is grounded. He just says, “Well, I have faith,” as though faith – in and of itself – were all that mattered.
Bible teachers frequently have illustrated right thinking about Christian faith by suggesting we imagine a man approaching a frozen pond. He is going to walk across the ice. And so here is a man weighing 250 pounds and he has faith that this pond of ice – just a half-inch thick – will support his 250 pounds as he walks across it. You are surprised and you say to him, “You’re going to walk across that ice? You realize it is only a half-inch thick?!” The man says, “Oh, yes! I have great faith, lots of faith, that the ice will support my weight.” So, you say, “Well, good luck with that,” and the 250 pound man immediately becomes all wet and cold as the ice does not even support his first step.
Contrast that with another man, weighing the same 250 pounds, but he is about to cross a frozen pond with ice 18 inches thick. This man approaches the ice with faith as well, and his faith is a tiny faith, a faith just the size of a mustard seed, but no matter . . .
Because it is not
The size of our faith
That is important, but
The thickness of the ice.
This ice will support his weight so he can walk confidently across it. He can place his faith on the sure and stable weightiness of the ice.
When we talk of faith,
It is not simply faith,
In and of itself –
A merely subjective faith
That we are after.
The Christian faith
Is an objective faith;
A faith that rests
Upon the stability
Of an actual object, namely
The person of Jesus Christ
As revealed in the Bible.
And Christians may have faith merely the size of a mustard seed . . .
Because it is not the size of our faith that matters,
But the size of the One upon whom
We are trusting, resting, and walking.
The Christian faith is an objective faith.
As we read back through this passage we note the progression of one man’s faith as he encounters Christ. Warren Wiersbe helps us think through this passage with four C-words, four words beginning with the letter C. I would like to share these four words with you because I think they are helpful in working through the text this morning and then I want to share some practical take-home points, as well.
First and foremost, we read of a: Crisis Faith – Verses 46-49.
A crisis faith is the kind of faith we have when something happens that is out of our control and bring heartache and hardship to our lives. A life storm of some kind that throws us into the critical tailspin of crisis. Crisis faith.
The Bible says in verse 46 that there is a man who has a son who is sick. This is his crisis. The man is described as, “a certain nobleman.” The word in the original Greek has to do with being a king’s assistant, so this guy is likely a worker for King Herod, Herod Antipas; the wicked king who had married his brother’s wife and cut off the head of John the Baptist.
So we’re told in verse 46 that Jesus has come into Cana of Galilee and there was this, “certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum,” and that’s Capernaum at Lake Galilee, some 16 miles away East of Capernaum. Verse 47 says, “When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.” So, the nobleman travels West to Cana in order to see Jesus. He is traveling west some 16 miles and verse 47 says, “He went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.”
The Bible says the man “implored” Him to come down and the verb tense indicates that this was a repeated request, something he asked more than once, something like, “Jesus, please come down to Capernaum, my son is at the point of death, please, please come down.”
I find the statement that the child was at “the point of death” an interesting phrase. It is a truth that we cannot escape. We all will die. We all will come to the point of death. As each day passes, we are closer to that point. Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment.” Young and old die. It is not necessarily so that we all will reach a ripe old age of 90 or 100 and then die. I read Psalm 90 this morning in my devotion time. That’s the one where the psalmist writes, “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years” (Psalm 90:10), but even that is a general statement. We may reach 70, or 80, or older, but there is no guarantee. We may die young. Remember that the first grave dug in the Bible was not dug for an older mother, or father, but for a son.
It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment.
More important than
Anything else in life,
Is to be prepared for death.
The point of death. The nobleman has a crisis. His son is sick. Here is a reminder that even noblemen have troubles in this life. Riches and royalty are no safeguards, no guarantees that life will be free from the world’s problems. You may be rich, you may be poor, but you live in a world that is fallen, and so long as you have people in your life, family in your house, you will have problems. You will face a crisis and crises. Do like the nobleman and take your crisis to Christ.
The Bible tells us that he implored him, “My child is at the point of death. Come down before my child dies!” Then Jesus said to him responds with an unusual statement in verse 48, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” Not really what we’re expecting Jesus to say here. This pronouns are plural – Jesus is speaking both to the nobleman as well as to everyone else around him.
Jesus is mildly reprimanding those who see Jesus as merely a miracle worker, a kind of show to see.
Getting caught up with the miracles,
Rather than the Messiah Himself.
John writes about various “signs” in the life of Jesus. Signs are pointers to something else. Jesus did many signs and “wonders.” And . . .
The signs and wonders were not meant
To be an end in themselves.
They were pointers to the
Greater thing behind the sign.
The sign was meant to point to Jesus so people would come to know Who He is and trust in Him, rather than loving the miracles and wonders.
So. Jesus is rebuking everyone who is enamored only with the fireworks and lights and smoke and razzle-dazzle. He’s like, “Don’t fall in love with the miracles, fall in love with Me; Don’t be overwhelmed with the miracle, be overwhelmed with Me.”
Well, the nobleman is undaunted. He restates his plea in verse 49, “The nobleman said to Him, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies!’” It is a crisis faith, but at least it is faith. The nobleman does not deny that he sees Jesus as a worker of miracles. He doesn’t argue the point with Jesus. He simply restates his plea, “Come down before my child dies.” He had no doubt heard of Jesus’ healing others who were at the point of death, so he begs Jesus to come.
There is humility here in this royal official of Herod’s court. The nobleman gives no cause for Christ’s coming to Capernaum as though he were deserving of Christ’s healing. He does not say something like, “But of course I am a nobleman,” or, “I come as the king’s official,” and so on.
When we come to Christ, we come clinging to Him alone, bringing no merit with us. Rich or poor, educated or not, we come empty-handed when we come to Christ
It was a crisis faith, but it changes now in verse 50, “Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your son lives.’ So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.”
The nobleman moves from a crisis faith to a: Confident Faith – Verse 50.
He “believed the word that Jesus spoke to him.” Like a man stepping out onto the frozen pond, the nobleman begins walking, trusting, depending, believing the word that Jesus spoke to him. And he went his way. That’s confident faith.
It is not the greatness of the man’s faith,
But the greatness of Jesus.
It is the greatness of the word
That Jesus spoke to him.
The man rested in that word
And he went his way.
By going his way, the man now demonstrates that he is not at all like those who needed to see signs and wonders first before believing. He doesn’t need to see the fireworks of miracles and wonders. He doesn’t need to see the sign, he believes the One to whom the sign points, he believes in Jesus, believing the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. Confident faith.
Everyone has faith in something or someone. A skeptic may say your Christianity is just a crutch for you, something you are leaning on the way a man with a broken leg leans upon a crutch. And there is truth in that statement. We are broken and we are leaning on the everlasting arms of Jesus. We do well to ask our skeptic friend, “What are you leaning on?” Are you leaning on a god of your own imagination? Are you leaning on your own fallen reasoning? Are you leaning on something else? We are all leaning upon something or someone. The most important thing we must do is take Jesus at His word and go our way.
Note thirdly how the man’s confident faith in Jesus is confirmed by what happens next as confident faith moves to: Confirmed Faith – Verses 51-53a.
Verse 51 says, “And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, ‘Your son lives!’” Imagine the excitement of these servants! They cannot wait for the nobleman to arrive home in Capernaum. They get on the road to meet him and give him the news, “Your son lives.” Now watch this as the nobleman’s faith, his confident faith in the word of Jesus, is confirmed. Verses 52 and 53 declare, “Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, ‘Your son lives.’ And he himself believed, and his whole household.”
The man asked the servants when his son began getting better and they answered, “Yesterday at the seventh hour.” By Jewish reckoning of time, the seventh hour is 1PM (the Jewish day began at 6AM, so counting to the seventh hour, 1PM) and note the word “yesterday” there in verse 52. They said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour (1PM) the fever left him.”
So the man thinks to himself, “Yesterday a the seventh hour; yeah, that’s precisely the time I was standing there talking to Jesus and He said to me, ‘Go your way; your Son lives.’ Seventh hour. Right on the dot.” And so, verse 53 states, “So the father knew it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, Your son lives.” It was a confirmed faith.
I am struck also by the growing calm of this man after his encounter with Christ. You get the sense at the beginning of the story that he is coming apart. He cries, “Lord! Come down before my child dies!” But when Jesus says, “Go your way; your son lives,” the man believed the word that Jesus spoke and he went his way, and the sense is that he has moved from crisis to calm. At first . . .
He is running desperately to Jesus.
Now . . .
He is walking delighted in Jesus.
As the prophet says in Isaiah 28:16, “He who believes in Him shall not make haste,” this phrase carries the idea of someone not rushing about hurriedly and afraid, but of someone who goes calmly, trusting in Christ.
You look at the map in the back of your Bible or just search Google maps and you can see the distance from Cana to Capernaum, as I previously noted, is just 16 miles. If the man were consumed with worry for his son, he would have rushed home at the very hour he left Jesus and probably would have arrived home late that evening, but that’s not what we read. We read that, when the servants meet up with the nobleman. they say his son began to get well yesterday at the seventh hour. Did you catch that? Yesterday. Either the nobleman is a very slow walker, or, more likely, the nobleman spent the night somewhere. He checked into the local Comfort Inn and went soundly to sleep, believing the word that Jesus spoke to him.
Confident, confirmed faith brings one from crisis to calm. The hymn-writer knew as much when he wrote:
Come, every soul by sin oppressed,
There’s mercy with the Lord;
And He will surely give you rest
By trusting in His Word.
There’s a final element of faith here. It is: Contagious Faith – Verse 53b.
And it is presented in the last phrase there in verse 53, “So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household.” His whole household; his entire family. When a dad encounters Christ and believes in Jesus, it changes the whole family. As the spiritual leader of his home, this nobleman believed Jesus and God graced the entire family with saving faith in Christ!
The Christian faith is a contagious faith. If our faith is real, others become interested in what we have. If our faith is genuine, it has an impact upon others. It does not always mean that everyone else will get saved and follow Christ as we have, but if our faith is authentic, there is a quality about it that inspires faith in others.
In the nobleman’s case, there were those at the house who were at the time unaware that Jesus was healing from a distance. There’s a sick boy there at the house, and his mother I suppose is brooding over him, maybe another woman helping with cool washcloths upon the little boy’s forehead, the royal official’s servants are nearby, too, waiting to see whether the nobleman would be successful in bringing back the miracle worker.
There they are waiting. Then, about the seventh hour, the boy’s fever suddenly breaks, and he is better. They can hardly wait for dad to get home so they can tell him the good news. In fact, they can’t wait! The servants began down the road in hopes of soon intercepting the nobleman on his journey home. They see him at a distance and run to tell him that his son lives.
Imagine their surprise once the nobleman begins to share that it was the seventh hour when Jesus said to him, “Your son lives,” not your son will get better, not your son will gradually improve, but simply, “Your son lives.” And the servants are amazed. And they all get home and here is the mother and she’s running out to meet her husband, but not before the father’s little boy runs out the door and jumps up into his arms. And the father comes inside and tells them all about Jesus, all about his encounter with Christ. The Bible ends this wonderful event with the words, “And he himself believed, and his whole household.” What a difference Jesus made!
Here are three take-home points from this nobleman’s encounter with Christ:
1) God Often Uses Trials to Drive us to Jesus.
Think about this: What if the nobleman’s son had not gotten sick? Where would the nobleman be? Wouldn’t he just be going about his business as a nobleman, working in the king’s court, a lost man? A wealthy man, a royal man, but a lost man? Charles Spurgeon says, “Had he been without trial, he might have lived forgetful of his God and Savior; but sorrow came to his house, and it was God’s angel in disguise.”
Sorrows are often a grace of God.
God often uses trials to drive us to Himself.
C.S. Lewis said God speaks to us in our health but, “shouts to us in our pain.” It was a crisis in this man’s life (the sickness of his son) that led him to a direct encounter with Christ, and his encounter with Christ changed everything.
Don’t underestimate the trials you face. The Bible says in James 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” God often uses trials to drive us to Jesus.
Secondly, see from the nobleman’s actions that:
2) Bringing Children to Jesus is a Parent’s Greatest Task.
Whether our children are lost or saved, as parents we are their primary teachers and influencers of faith. The greatest thing we will do for our children and our grandchildren is to take them to Jesus.
There are times we will cry out to Jesus for help and God works through the feeblest of our prayers. It may be all we can say is, “Lord, come down before my child dies.”
I was reading a book by Jerry Vines recently and as he was preaching to his congregation he was telling them about looking at some of the young couples in his church and those cute little 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds, and he was telling them, “As long as you have children you will have trials of some kind. Right now you’ve got control of them. They’re 2 or 3, you can pick them up and put them here or pick them up and put them there, but they will get older and you won’t be able to control them like that anymore.”
Our kiddos will grow and make decisions that will not always be wise and they may break our hearts at times. Someone directed me to a quote by Pastor Stephen Schwambach, a pastor in Evansville. He wrote this and I have really appreciated the honesty behind it. He says, “I’ve had both kinds of kids, so I can testify: When God gives a parent an easy keeper you get way too much credit. When God entrusts a parent with a keg of dynamite dressed up as a kid, you get way too much blame. Think twice before you ask the parent of a seemingly perfect easy keeper how they ‘did it.’ If they’ve never tried to rear a keg of dynamite, they don’t have a clue.”
I appreciate that! But whether God gives us an “easy-keeper” or he gives us “a keg of dynamite dressed up as a kid,” as parents . . .
Our greatest task will always be
Bringing them to Jesus.
The nobleman was a dad going to Jesus for his son. Dads and moms, take the concerns of your children to Jesus.
Thirdly, and finally:
3) Trust Jesus to Carry You from Crisis to Calm.
Finding ourselves in a crisis from time to time is the byproduct of living in a fallen, sinful world.
We are all either in a storm, or
We have just come through a storm, or
We are getting ready to head into another storm.
That’s just the way it is. But the Christian can take his concerns to Jesus and leave them with Him. And when we do that rightly, we have calm.
The nobleman took Jesus at His word, rested in the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. He did not fret about anxiously. He simply trusted.
It is not always God’s will to heal of sickness. The nobleman’s son got well, but eventually he got sick again and died. Someone has said, “True faith is accepting whatever God gives us.” I agree. But we must believe in the character and integrity of God, that He is the God who always does right, every time without exception.
And our job is to take our concerns to Him in prayer and when we do that rightly, no matter how He answers our prayers, He will grant us peace. It is a promise that is stated in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
We have seen how an encounter with Jesus changes everything, even when someone is “at the point of death.” Trust Jesus Christ today as Lord and Savior and the point of death will become the point of life!
his is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”