Friday 13 December 2013

Your son will live (John 4:43-54)

After two days he left for Galilee. (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honour in his own country.) When 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.
John 4:43-45

     Jesus comes home, having spent a couple of days in Samaria where “many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him” (John 4:39) and “urged him to stay with them” (John 4:40).
     Before that, he had been to Jerusalem where many saw Jesus perform miracles and were impressed with him.
     Jesus was a success overseas, but how would he fare back home?
     Verse 43: Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honour in his own country.
     And yet the very next verse reads: The Galileans welcomed him.
     Was Jesus wrong in his prediction that he would be ignored back in his hometown?

     Jesus is helping us to understand the kind of response he received in Galilee. His friends were not welcoming him home as a prophet - much less as God’s chosen king. They were welcoming a pop star.
     Verse 45 tells us: They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem - meaning they saw the miracles he did (John 2:23). The miracles impressed them greatly and yet Jesus is telling us that isn’t the response he is looking for. If anything, Jesus is saying that miracles can lead to the wrong response.
     Well, why then did Jesus do those miracles in Jerusalem if he didn’t want this sort of attention? To reveal our hearts, for one.
But another, to get us to pay attention to what Jesus is saying about himself. Jesus’ works are there to get us to pay attention to his words. His miracles are there to authenticate his message.

Once 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 in Capernaum. When 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.
John 4:46-47

     This man was desperate. He wants Jesus to do something for him that he could not possibly do himself: He wants Jesus to heal his son.
     Verse 46 tells us he is a royal official. This man was powerful. He had money. He had a big house with servants tending to his every need. But in verse 47, the rich royal statesman begs Jesus for his help. Imagine a powerful businessman in an Italian suit falling to the ground before Jesus. He is begging Jesus for his help.
     This man is willing to travel an entire day’s journey to Galilee because he obviously loves his son; because no amount of money or power he has can help save his son from death. He humbles himself before Jesus.
     And yet what does Jesus do next? He rebukes him.

“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
John 4:48

     It sounds harsh but notice that Jesus is addressing the same response he got earlier from the Galileans. “You people,” he says. “Unless you people see miracles, you will never believe.”
     But Jesus is also speaking to the man begging him for help. To the royal official, it doesn’t matter whether Jesus is the Christ; whether he is the Son of God or some kind of magician. This man is desperate. He is willing to try anything: doctors, priests, voodoo, whatever. Anything as long as it works. He will try everything as long as his son is saved.
     Now that’s truly loving of this man as a father to be willing to do anything and everything for his son. But despite his sincerity - I have no doubt that he is sincere and humble in his request - he really doesn’t care who Jesus is. He just wants the miracle. He just wants the results.
     You see, here is an example of the best of motivations leading to the worst of  conclusions. If God is only there to meet my needs, then God is not God; then I am God. God is just a means towards my own ends.
     But to the man’s credit. He persists in humbling himself before Jesus and Jesus responds in an unexpected way. Instead of responding with a miracle, Jesus gives the man a promise.

The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son with live.”
The man took Jesus at his word and departed.
John 4:49-51

     Remember that what the man wants Jesus to do is to go with him. Verse 47: He begged Jesus to come. And in verse 49, he says, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
     But Jesus doesn’t go with him. If anything, he tells the man to leave. “You may go,” Jesus says. But Jesus doesn’t send him away empty handed. He gives him a promise: “Your son will live.”
     The man took Jesus at his word. Literally, he trusted the word and left. “Your son will live,” Jesus said. Jesus’ word was enough as a guarantee.
     It wasn’t what he expected, of course. He wanted Jesus to come with him. He wanted Jesus to do something. Instead what he got was a promise.
     It was a whole day’s journey back home. I’m sure he was worried. What if his son died while he was away? Should he have tried harder to convince Jesus? Should he have offered Jesus money or forced him to come with him?
     The reason I say that is because it’s obvious from the very next verse that this man was not expecting the news he got along the way.

While he was still on his way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.”
Then the father realised that this was the exact time at which Jesus said, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed.
John 4:51-53

     The precise moment at which Jesus gave his word, the miracle happened. The official’s son was instantly healed.
     Now he didn’t get to see it. The man was miles and miles away from home but it still the miracle happened.
     It is important to understand what did not happen. It wasn’t the case that this guy really, really, really believed in the miracle and therefore it worked. It wasn’t the case that this guy had enough faith in order for his son to be healed. That’s nonsense and the text tells us why it’s nonsense.
     How do we know that? Well, his son was not healed because of his sincerity. Jesus rebuked him. His son was not healed because - and we need to get this straight - he went home seemingly empty-handed. No, the son was healed because Jesus gave this man his word.
     The point is: the miracle was independent of the man’s faith or belief or sincerity. The miracle depended entirely on Jesus’ promise - “Your son will live”. The point is: the man did not see the miracle and therefore could not put his trust in the miracle. He went away trusting in the promise. That was the turning point.
     Verse 53: So he and all his household believed.
     From that moment, Jesus was no longer a miracle healer. Jesus was someone who kept his word. The miracles authenticated the message. The works proved the truthfulness of Jesus’ words.

This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.
John 4:54

     Why does the chapter conclude by telling us this is the second sign? Didn’t Jesus do many, many other signs in Jerusalem? He definitely did more than just two miracles. Why then does John call this the second sign?
     If you read through John’s gospel, you find seven major signs or miracles recorded in the book around which the whole account is structured. And with each of these signs, John reveals an important lesson about who Jesus is. There is something peculiar about the miracle John chooses to highlight in each instance; something that tells us who Jesus really is.
     In this miracle, we see a father begging Jesus for the life of his son. He has money, influence and power but to this man, his greatest possession is his son. He loves his son. He is willing to do anything for the sake of his son.
     The reason this account is so important in John’s gospel is because it shows us something of God’s love as a Father for his Son. Look across the page to John 5:20.

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.
John 5:20-21

     What does Jesus say to the man again in verse 50? Your son will live. Jesus has the authority to say that because of who he is. He is the Son to whom God the Father gives life. He is the Son who raises the dead.
     But also, verse 22 tells us, he is the Son who judges the living and the dead.

Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.
John 5:22-23

     What was the issue with the Galileans again? Honour. “A prophet has no honour in his own country.” Oh, they might see Jesus as a pop star; as a miracle-worker. But Jesus is saying, they reject him as God’s Son. In doing so, they reject God who is Jesus’ Father. “He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.”
     What the Galileans did in having a big surprise party for Jesus when he got home was not honour. It was a smokescreen. Similarly for us, it is entirely possible to make a big deal about Jesus while rejecting him in our hearts. It is possible to do that with Christmas - to make a big fuss about the turkey, the nativity play and the presents in an attempt to divert attention away from the fact that we don’t want Jesus ruling over our lives.

     Jesus says to them, “Unless you see miracles, you people will never believe.” But he says the same to the royal official. For some of us, our problem might not be making too big a deal of Jesus. It’s the opposite: our Jesus too small. He is a means towards an end. We go to Jesus driven by our desperation, our wants, our anxieties. If that’s you, Jesus offers something better than a quick-fix. He offers himself.
     If you asked the royal official what Jesus gave him, he would say, “He gave me my son back.” It wasn’t healing. It wasn’t money or power - all that was meaningless. It was his most precious love: his son.
     On the cross, God gave us his most valuable possession: his Son. God’s son dies on the cross. Unlike the royal official who could do nothing to save his son, God the Father sent his Son to the cross to save us. Jesus died to take our sin, to take our dishonour, to take our death - so that we will live, so that will be glorified, so that we will be justified. He dies so that we live.

     I wonder if you have ever been as desperate as this official? Have you ever felt so powerless, so useless, so desperate for God’s help?
     Another gospel writer, Matthew, tells us that when Jesus was on the cross - when he was helpless and dying on the cross - people were gathering around him saying, “Come down!” They wanted Jesus to prove he was the Son of God by coming down from the cross.

“Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”
In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save others! He is the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.”
Matthew 27:40-42

     They thought Jesus was helpless. He couldn’t come down from the cross (Greek: kathebe - the same thing the official asked Jesus to do - to “come down” to Capernaum)
     But the truth is: in order to save us, he couldn’t come down. In order to save us he couldn’t save himself. In order to give us life, the Son of God had to die.
     That’s the guarantee Jesus gives us. When we come to him in prayer and say, “Help me!” or “Save me!” how do we know with absolute certainty that God will answer that prayer? Because God did not save his Son on the cross. That’s the certainty Christians have in Jesus. We look at the cross. He hear Jesus say, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” and we know because Jesus was forsaken, I will never be forsaken. Because Jesus died, I will never die. By his wounds we are healed. Because he was condemned, there is now no condemnation for those we are in Christ.
     Because the Son dies, we can now be made alive as sons and daughters of God.

The mystery of the cross I cannot comprehend
The agonies of Calvary
You the perfect Holy One, crushed Your Son
Who drank the bitter cup reserved for me

Your blood has washed away my sin
Jesus, thank You
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied
Jesus, thank You
Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table
Jesus, thank You
(“Jesus, Thank You” - Sovereign Grace Music)

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