43After the two days he left for Galilee. 44(Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there. 46Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48″Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 49The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” 53Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed.
Let’s begin today with a quotation from the venerable Eugene Peterson who begins by noting that this short section contains the second sign that Jesus performed and that in this section there is both an affirmation and a criticism of signs. After the man comes and requests Jesus to heal his son Jesus says, negatively, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’ Now Peterson writes, “But the father, undeterred, persists, as if to say, ‘I don’t care about signs, I want you to heal my son!’ And then comes the interesting part: Jesus tells him, ‘Go; your son will live’; and ‘the man believed’ and left without any evidence of the healing, which is to say, quite apart from sign or wonder. The father responded believingly to Jesus without benefit of a sign, we might almost say without the distraction of a sign. Jesus’ word, not the sign, formed the man’s belief. It was not until the next day as he neared home—it was a twenty-mile hike between Capernaum and Cana—that he learned that his son got well at the very time of the day before that Jesus, in Cana, had said that he would.” (Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, 95)
So, even before the sign was complete, the man believed. This is amazing! And it is contradictory. It is contradictory because, nowadays especially, people tell us and, have others convinced, that what is necessary for forming faith is not the preached word but the recounting of someone’s ‘story’ or the recounting of how ‘Jesus has touched me’ and made my life meaningful, or satisfying, or the recounting of some experience based this or that of how Jesus loved me so much that I got over everything I ever feared or some such jabberwocky. It’s not that those things are wrong. Oh, don’t misunderstand me; what they are is rather insufficient. What they are is incapable of being a platform upon which to build a life of faith in Christ. They will not stand the fires of the furnace of trial and temptation. They are simple insufficient for building a life as a disciple. Yet there are plenty who want to insist upon relegating the difficult, doctrinal, and biblical preaching of theology in favor of these rather faddish techniques. If we can, some think, just tug at the heartstrings enough then we should find a crowd out there ready for Jesus.
In my estimation, this simply will not do. This will not produced disciples with the courage and conviction to stand in the face of persecution and defend Christ. But the kind of faith displayed by this man says this: ‘The Word of Christ is sufficient; so I go and expect to find my son well.’ This man knew Jesus in what way? Reputation? Rumor? Had he met him before? Either way, all we can say about this is thus: He trusted the Word of Jesus implicitly. He needed no other confirmation from anyone except the Word of Jesus. Will this sort of faith be found on the earth now? Will this sort of faith do in the church today? Is it enough for those who call on the Name of Christ to be their Savior for His word to be sufficient? Bruce Milne is surely correct, “Faith based on signs and miracles must not be mistaken for true faith, however, which is why Jesus does not encourage it. It fails to honour God, since by it he serves us rather than the other way round” (John, BSP, 92).
Let’s insist then that this is true for today as well. Let’s insist then that our faith be built upon that which cannot be trumped, overturned, corrupted or defeated. Let’s insist that while miracles and signs may carry some weight that they do not, in fact, form a proper substitute for true Biblically defined faith; faith of substance. Let’s insist that in the church the word of God be properly proclaimed—all of it, too! Verse 50 says this: “The man believed in the Word Jesus spoke to him, so he left.” Let’s insist that preachers preach the Word of Christ to us that instills such courage and faith that we, too, can and will believe the Word of Jesus the way this man did.
The irony here is that this man believed apart from seeing any sign from Jesus even after Jesus insisted that people would not believe unless they saw signs. I think Jesus said this to the man almost rhetorically. That is, Are you like everyone else who will not believe unless they see things like signs and wonders? And the man, judging by his response, insists that he believes regardless; he wants his son well again.
Some time ago I marked a note in the margin of my Bible in response to Jesus’ words, ‘You may go. Your son will live.’ I wrote: As if this is all the man needs: Your son will live. As if that’s all the man needs. As if that’s all the man needs. Do you get it?
I hope this 17th of 90 Days is Blessed for you in the Lord!
Soli Deo Gloria