Summary: My first response when I learned of the passage I am to preach on this morning was a mild, "What will I say?" Jesus healed a boy, but so what? What possible use could this be to my life? What difference does faith make?
Sermon: Jesus, My Brother was Murdered.
Text: John 4:46-54
Occasion: Trinity XXI
Who: Mark Woolsey
When: Sunday, Oct 28, 2007
Where: Providence Reformed Episcopal Church
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
My first response when I learned of the passage I am to preach on this morning was a mild, "What will I say?" Jesus healed a boy, but so what? What possible use could this be to my life? I mean, let’s be honest. When I’ve had sick kids and I prayed for their recovery, the result seemed to be little different than if I had not prayed. If they have a cold and I pray for healing, they’re healed – in a few days. I also know parents who don’t pray for their sick children, and they were healed too – in a couple of days. I’m not necessarily asking for the children of unbelievers to die, but couldn’t God make it at least a little harder for them? Otherwise, what difference does faith make? What incentive is there to become a Christian? I think if I were organizing a meaningful religion I would put in the contract a guarantee that, on the average, children of the faithful would be healed at least one full day ahead of all others. Doesn’t God at least love His own?
On the other hand, there was a time in the recent past that will forever live in my memory. I had been working late when I received a phone call and was told to come to the hospital. Someone I loved, my brother, had been in a car accident. When I got there nobody on staff had heard of him. His name was not in the records. When I finally did manage to locate him, I learned that they knew him not as Ken, but as "Theta". This did not bode well. Every time I tried to enter his room several very long-faced people blocked my way. Was I praying for him? You bet I was, and fervently. When I was finally admitted into his room he was alive, but unconscious. My brother, who had been full of life, full of hope, fun to be with, was lying there, unable even to breathe on his own. It was not an accident that had put him here, but the bullet of a senseless person who apparently didn’t like the way his car was being driven. I prayed like the father in our Gospel story today, yet what was the result? My brother is gone, murdered. Couldn’t Jesus have saved him? Then why didn’t He? He healed the nobleman’s son at a distance. Has Christ lost His compassion, misplacing it among the many duties He has keeping this world spinning? Is His arm short and His power limited? Is His compassion jaded? Or are these verses simply a sweet story made up by a kind, but misguided religious zealot? Does today’s passage have any relevance to our lives in the "internet century"? Let us take a closer look to determine if there are answers to questions such as these.
II. Boring Jesus?
As we study this passage I’m struck by the talent that preachers, including –perhaps especially – myself, have to make Christ uninteresting. Many of us come to church on Sunday because we have to, but during the week, if we have two activities going on, say an optional church meeting or a party, which will we choose? How do you spell boring? C-h-u-r-c-h. Isn’t everyone glad that you only have to attend once or at most twice a week? Here we have this complex, fascinating figure and we’ve managed to tame Him to the point that He is almost invisible. It takes a great amount of learning and effort to accomplish this! How is Jesus interesting? One small example: If Jesus is God, then surely He knew of the child’s distress even before the father came to Him. If so, why didn’t He heal him then? Why does He wait until the father comes? But at least He does finally heal the boy; what about all the other boys from that time to this that are allowed to grow sick and die? Why did Christ choose to heal a few such people and not others? Or consider this: There are two other similar passages where Jesus is implored to heal a loved one some distance away from him. In one He immediately decides to come to him. Why does He comply so quickly in the latter request, but in our passage today He seems rather grouchy: "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will be no means believe."? And speaking of signs and wonders, why did John quote Jesus with that last quote, seeming to “diss” signs and wonders, yet at the end of the same book naming signs and wonders quite positively? Jesus defies explanation and yet His works demand it.